Steps to Making Carpet Cleaning Healthier and More Sustainable
While “green” cleaning in schools and offices is common, less is known about green carpet care. This is unfortunate because, in many facilities, carpet is the largest surface used on a daily basis, and some carpet cleaning methods have the potential to negatively impact the environment.
Let’s define green carpet care to help facilitate the discussion. A working definition may be as follows:
Green carpet care involves using systems, products, and procedures to help keep carpets clean and healthy with the least impact on the cleaning worker, building users, and the environment.
The goal of green carpet cleaning can be accomplished when the following three key principles are employed.
Building User Involvement: Green carpet care is a shared responsibility. This means building users must do their part by immediately pointing out stains, spots, and soiled areas of the carpet to cleaning professionals. Why is this important? Stains and spots have a tendency to attract more soils and contaminants like a magnet, making the carpet unhealthy and removal of the spot or stain all the more difficult. Attending to a problem area quickly also can mean that less chemical will be necessary. Whenever less chemical is used in any type of cleaning, it is better for the health of the user and the environment.
Appropriate Chemical Selection: Similar to other cleaning products, carpet care chemicals have evolved over the years. There are now many green-certified carpet cleaning chemicals. Many of these products’ effectiveness improve when a heated carpet extractor is used. In turn, this can mean that less chemical is necessary, helping again to lower the chemical’s impact on the user and the environment.
The problem with some older or more conventional carpet cleaning chemicals is that they may release high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the air. They also contain a number of ingredients that we now know can cause a variety of health-related problems. For instance, some traditional chemicals have been identified as triggering asthma attacks in children.
When transferring from conventional to Green carpet cleaning, facility managers and cleaning professionals must be aware that all Green-certified chemicals are not alike. Some chemicals may work better in different situations and on certain types of carpet. Trial and error may be called for; however, a chemical solution will invariably be identified that is not only effective but also environmentally preferable. This is true of spotters as well, removed to remove carpet spots and stains.
Equipment Selection: Along with proven environmentally preferable cleaning chemicals, portable carpet extractors have advanced over the years and now contribute significantly to making carpet cleaning greener and healthier. What is often termed “low-moisture” carpet cleaning is a crucial green component. While climatic and other conditions can impact drying results, the ultimate goal of low-moisture carpet cleaning is for carpets to dry in about two hours after cleaning. This helps prevent mold and mildew as well as any resoiling that can occur when carpets are left damp for too long. And, of course, blocked-off areas can be opened to foot traffic more quickly with low-moisture cleaning.
Achieving low-moisture carpet cleaning does not necessarily require the use of extractors that actually use less water. Instead, some of today’s more advanced machines employ a combination of powerful vacuum motors and more effective wands, which apply water/cleaning solution to carpets and recover (extract) it so quickly that moisture never rests on the carpet. The process is often referred to as “atomization” and it can help ensure carpets dry as quickly as possible, helping to meet the goal of low-moisture carpet cleaning.
Ultimately, these steps can help make the largest used surface in a facility healthier and greener. With consistent use, they can serve to make the entire facility healthier and greener as well.
Doug Berjer has written extensively on cleaning, carpet cleaning, and water conservation issues. He has worked for a large JanSan distributorship in St. Louis, MO, as their equipment specialist and has also worked as the operations manager for a large building service contractor that specialized in servicing shopping malls and anchor store retailers throughout North America. Doug is now brand manager for CFR, Continuous Flow Recycling extractors and Tornado Industries, both based out of West Chicago, IL.
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