Services & Maintenance: Sustaining Carpet Is A Journey

By Lisa Malloy and Caren Klosterman
Published in the November 2003 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

As more sustainable carpets are introduced on the market, choosing such products may eventually become commonplace for facility professionals. However, in making the decision to “buy green,” facility managers face several components in the process. It just doesn’t begin and end with buying the product.

Properly selecting, maintaining, and recycling this type of carpet are all essential elements. Doing these things can extend its life cycle as well as have a positive impact on the environment.

Benefits of an effective, sustainable carpet program include:

  • Less stress on landfill space;
  • Lower overall energy consumption (versus energy consumption required to manufacture, install new, and remove and dispose of old carpet);
  • Long-term cost savings (average cost per year versus frequent replacements); o Less business disruption; and
  • Cleaner, fresher environment for employees and customers.

Choosing the right materials, establishing the right safeguards, and practicing proper maintenance are all part of a positive overall building management program that also improves IAQ.


When choosing a green carpet, a facility manager should look for a high performance product with third party certified environmental claims. For example, Emeryville, CA-based Scientific Certification Systems has its Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP) label for carpet face fiber and recycled content. This certification informs end users that vendor company claims are valid.

After selecting a suitable carpet, a sustainable installation should follow. The use of low environmental impact adhesives by technicians trained in sustainability methods means a cleaner, more efficient installation.

Keeping The Dirt Off

A consistent, well planned, maintenance or vitalization program prolongs carpet life and decreases environmental footprint and life cycle costs by removing soil and stains before carpet damage can occur.

On average, there are approximately 26 pounds of dirt per 1,000 employees tracked into a typical commercial facility each month. Preventing soil from entering the environment is easier and less expensive than removing it from the carpet.

Here are five simple steps in doing so:

  1. Keep outside areas clean. Outside maintenance helps minimize immediate sources of soil.
  2. Use soil barriers. Walk off mats, grates, and removable elevator carpets help collect soil before it can be tracked throughout the building.
  3. Protect desk areas. Chair pads prevent casters from crushing carpet and grinding in soil.
  4. Specify eating, drinking, and smoking areas. Confine difficult kinds of soil and stains by restricting these activities to limited areas. Make beverage lids available in food service areas.
  5. Maintain HVAC system. To remove many airborne particles before they are recirculated, regularly replace or clean filters on air handling equipment.

Routine Cleaning

This particular activity begins with vacuuming to remove abrasive, damaging soil particles before they can scratch and permanently damage carpet fibers. Use only dual motor, top fill vacuums-one motor to run the vacuum and one to run the brush.

While traditionally the schedule for routine vacuuming has differed for many reasons, high traffic areas such as lobbies, elevator cabs, and main aisle ways should be vacuumed nightly. Moderate and light traffic areas such as secondary aisle ways, conference rooms, or individual offices should be vacuumed on a weekly regular schedule.

Although liquid spills are inevitable, permanent stains do not have to be. Most stains can be removed by immediate or same-day treatment.

It is necessary to create an aggressive spot and stain removal program. Explain to all company personnel that it is imperative to point out spills, accidents, or other carpet problems immediately to maintenance staff.

End Of Life

A comprehensive approach to sustainability must also include end of life considerations. As the carpet reaches the end of its useful service life, reclamation will ensure that it is not simply discarded, but rather re-used or recycled into viable products. Facility professionals should make sure that specifications include reclamation procedures and they should request a third party certified reclamation program. The program should also provide a chain of custody verification that removes any landfill disposal liability from customers.

A more holistic view of sustainability in interior environments considers each phase of the product life cycle to make a positive environmental contribution. By choosing a green product, installing it in a sustainable manner, and proactively maintaining the carpet, a greater life cycle is realized for the product as well as a positive environmental impact is employed.

Klosterman is an environmental market development specialist for the Antron brand of INVISTA, formerly DuPont Textiles & Interiors. Malloy is president of maintenance services for The Inviromentalists, the Interior Services Company of INVISTA. =