Communicating with your customer before the residential cleaning job

Great! Now you have the job booked! So what should you communicate with the Technician with customercustomer prior to the visit? There are different names for it, and many different ways to communicate it (a printed sheet when you book the job, direct mail, email, in social media, on your website); but essentially you are asking them to take some steps prior to your visit to make things on the job site go easier and faster. Now easier and faster is certainly a benefit for you. But you need to think about what is in it for your customer. Before you give them a long “to-do” list, part of this communication needs to be about explaining why taking these steps is a benefit to them.

imagejpeg_1001The most important benefit to having them prepare the home for your visit needs to recognize that reducing the amount of time the total job – from set-up to cleaning to tear down to drying- is a big advantage to them. They want their home back to normal as fast as possible. Reducing the time the job takes reduces the inconvenience of not being able to use their home in a normal manner.

So what can you include in your precleaning communication? Feel free to copy paste and use any or all of these into your own communication. Comments to each listing are in italics.

We are so pleased that you have chosen our company to provide your carpet and/or hard surface floor cleaning services. Prior to our arrival, there are a few steps we would ask you to take so that the cleaning process goes as smoothly as possible. These steps will allow us to provide you with a faster and more efficient cleaning and reduce the amount of time it will take before you can return to fully enjoying the comfort of your home:

  • Any carpet that we will be cleaning should be thoroughly vacuumed prior to our arrival. Removing the dry soils before we apply any cleaning solution greatly improves the cleaning results. If you’re unable to vacuum before we arrive for whatever reason please let us know so that we can set aside time to vacuum the carpet. (This should be edited to match how your company operates. Even if you pre-vacuum on 100% of the area you are cleaning, it is still a good idea to suggest this to your customer)
  • Another helpful consideration is that we would ask you remove any knick-knacks, breakables, collectibles, vases, lamps, pictures, small end tables, and plants out of the areas we’ll be cleaning before we arrive, and secure other breakables as well.
  • Our truck mounted carpet cleaning machine produces a cleaning solution that reaches temperatures of 200-230 degrees. Please ensure that you, your children and/or pets are out of the area we are cleaning or clear of our hoses while we are working. We want everyone to be safe in your home while we are working. (If using a portable or a low moisture system, adjust this wording)
  • Remove any small furniture items or fragile items that you are able to move, such as dining room chairs, magazine racks, ottomans, etc. Please pin up (or use a clothes hanger to hang away from the floor) any full-length draperies or skirts on upholstered furniture that may be touching the carpet.
  • Please make sure that children’s toys are picked up and stored in an area off the carpet or floor we will be cleaning.
  • Please note that your electronics, pianos, china cabinets, sectional sofas, beds, entertainment centers, aquariums, and antique and fragile furniture cannot be moved by our technicians. If you would like the carpet or floors under these areas to be cleaned, you should make arrangements to move these items prior to our arrival. Alternatively, we can clean carpet underneath such items when sufficient room is available, or we can clean right up to the edge of these items. (This is another item you will want to adjust to your specific policies. It is also a good idea to check with your insurance agent on what you are and are not covered for)
  • During our pre-inspection or pre-cleaning walk-through, please advise us if you have any areas that require special attention, and spots or stains or pet “accidents” that you are especially concerned about. (If you use a Seal-a-door or other door covering device during cleaning, this would be a good place to add that you do that and why – security and keeping warm in or out)
  • Be aware of and plan for your outside door being ajar during the cleaning process. Put your pets in a safe, quiet place where our cleaning crew won’t disturb them. (If you use a Seal-a-door or other door covering device during cleaning, this would be a good place to add that you do that and why – security and keeping warm in or out)
  • If it is convenient for you, we would appreciate being able to park our van close to the door in your driveway or parking lot where our hoses will be entering. Please note: For safety reasons – we will NEVER park inside a garage or carport. Our cleaning equipment is powered by a gasoline motor and outside parking will ensure proper ventilation. (If you are not using a truckmount, then you would eliminate this item)
  • As a general rule, so long as it is safe for out technicians to operate, we will continue to clean during rain or snow. In the case of severe inclimate weather, we may ask you to reschedule for safety reasons. (Adjust this to the climate you work in)
  • We prefer to hook up our truckmounted equipment to your outside water faucet. Please clear the area so we can access your faucet safely and easily. In special circumstances, if required we can access a faucet in your home. (Again, use this one only if you are operating a truckmount)

After completing your checklist, you want to reassure your customer what a smart investment they are making in having booked your company to clean their carpet or hard surface floors. You also want to reiterate that if they have questions or concerns before, during, or after the job, how to communicate with you and to encourage them to communicate with you.

Consider something along the lines of:

We are looking forward to the privilege of working with you as a valued client in providing you with a cleaner, safer, and healthier home. Our state of the art equipment and processes, operated by our trained and certified cleaning technicians, will provide you with the cleanest clean. Our reputation as a superior company is not just built on how well we clean your carpets and floors, but also in how we provide a superior hassle-free customer service experience. Please feel free to contact us at any time with any questions or concerns.

 

Consumer Series #1 – How to Care for Your Carpet

Soil Tracking Control

Place walk-off mats or grids at the entry points to your home or business. This will help prevent soil from being tracked from the outside onto the inside carpeting. Vacuum and/or clean these mats frequently. Once they become loaded with soil, their effectiveness is greatly reduced.

Vacuuming

Vacuum your carpet frequently using a vacuum with a high efficiency collection bag or system. In high traffic areas, carpet manufacturers recommend you vacuum at least once or twice a week.  Vacuuming removes the sharp and abrasive soil that can cut, scratch, and abrade the fiber causing premature wear. Particulate soiling left in your carpet has sandpaper like effect on the carpet. Much of this soil is not visible to the eye. Vacuum before the carpet looks soiled. Keep your vacuum in good working condition – check the belts and change the collection bag frequently. Confused about which vacuum to buy? One good source of information is the Carpet and Rug Institute. Click here for more information about the Carpet & Rug Institute’s testing program for commercial and residential vacuums. Another great resource is your local trained and certified carpet cleaning professional. They can provide you with clear recommendations based upon the carpet installed in your home or business the next time they clean your carpet.

Spot and Spill Treatments

Immediate spot removal is the key to a clean carpet. Great care also must be taken in how spot cleaning is performed. When a carpet is new, or has sufficient protector on it, plain tap water will remove many spots. However for those spots that will not move easily with water, you should use a spotting solution specifically designed for carpeting. We recommend getting your carpet spotting solution from your local cleaning professional. They have access to spotting solutions which have been formulated by the same companies who make their professional cleaning solutions. These types of spotters have been demonstrated to be more effective, as well as not to leave sticky residue which can cause your carpet to re-soil rapidly.

Most spot removers that are purchased over the counter at your grocery store or home improvement center leave too much sticky residue and can cause rapid re-soiling or yellowing. Avoid using foam carpet cleaners or any product that is not made specifically made for carpet. The longer the spot is allowed to dwell on the carpet, the more chance there is of permanent discoloration.

Blot up any excess spill. Apply spot cleaner sparingly to white cotton towel and gently massage spot causing it to transfer into the cloth. Never pour spot cleaner directly on carpet. Blot area with water. If the spot persists, consult your professional carpet cleaner. Some spots and spills require the professional equipment, cleaning solutions, and skills of a professional. Repeated attempts to remove the spot may set the stain or cause permanent damage.

Professional Cleaning

As a general rule for residential carpeting, cleaning by a professional, trained, certified firm should take place about once per year. For extremely heavy traffic areas, homes with pets, and homes with people with allergic sensitivities and immune-compromised individuals, more frequent cleaning is often required. Proper professional cleaning will not leave a sticky residue behind and can be done as many times per year as needed. Professional cleaning with truckmounted or high performance portable hot water extraction cleaning is the method most often recommended by cleaning industry experts and carpet manufacturers. Professional cleaning removes the damaging abrasive soil, along with sticky and oil based soil that vacuuming can not remove.

For commercial carpeting, periodic professional cleaning with hot water extraction may need to be combined with interim encapsulation low moisture encapsulation cleaning for maximum carpet appearance and performance. The frequency of cleaning will depend on the amount and types of soiling, the traffic load on the carpeting, carpet owner considerations, budget considerations and other indoor and outdoor environmental conditions.

Protective Treatments                                                      

 Residential carpets are treated with stain and soil resistant treatments when they are manufactured.  These protective treatments will wear and traffic off over a period of time. After a period of 1 to 3 years, carpet manufacturers recommend the re-application of a protective treatment such as HydraMaster Complete Guard Carpet Protector to enhance the performance of your carpet. Your carpet protector should provide your carpet with additional soil resistance for water and oil based spills and soiling, as well as protective barriers which prevent spilled liquids from staining your carpet. The soil resistance will help the soil slide off the carpet easier when vacuuming, spots will be easier to remove, and professional cleaning will be more effective.

Warranties

Copies of specific warranties on your carpet purchase may be available from your carpet retailer. Your carpet’s stain and soil resistant warranty, wear warranty, and texture retention warranty most likely requires periodic (at least every 12-18 months) professional hot water extraction cleaning by a trained, certified professional cleaner. Many warranties on your carpet provide coverage for five years or longer if your carpet is maintained according to the manufacturer’s directions.

 

 

 

 

How much should I charge?

By Doyle Bloss    Marketing and Brand Manager

HydraMaster/US Products Pro

Probably the most commonly asked question we hear from professional cleaners is “how much should I charge?” While the often quoted answer is “whatever the market will bear” may sound cute, it does not really answer the question. Why? Because within every market; within every service offering; there are several different “markets.” A lot of what your price should be is determined by the type of market you are going after. The biggest mistake that many new professional cleaners make is using the local competition to set up their price – either being slightly cheaper or slightly more expensive. So what are the most important factors that determine what to charge?

Your cost of doing business

The most important consideration is your cost of doing the service. You may be saying “duh” right now, but it continues to amaze me how many professional cleaners have no clue what their actual costs are. Charging 28 cents a square foot can launch one guy into retirement and send another to the unemployment line! – Everyone’s costs are different. Home based vs. facility, single vs. multi-truck, regional costs, etc.

A reasonable profit margin

If you can not make enough money to stay in business, you are doing your customers a big disservice. You have to be able to make money in order to provide the service that your customer wants and needs. If your customers are not willing to pay a price that allows you to make a reasonable profit, you have one of two choices – get new customers or get a new business.

Your competition

There is something to be said for what your competition is priced at – but not much. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Do they offer the same services you do? Really? Are you sure? What is your service level and how does it differentiate you from other cleaners? The value of your service as determined by your customers is more important than what the competition is charging. Why? Because there are different markets

Determining your market

Your market and the clientele you are directing your service at will greatly influence your price. There are at least three distinctive categories of residential customers who have their carpets professionally cleaned. Howard Partridge calls them KIA customers, Chevy customers, and Mercedes customers. The Mercedes Client (high end) is primarily concerned with your reputation and experience, and is looking for a client experience that goes well beyond having a clean carpet. The Chevy customer is concerned with the value they will get for their investment. The KIA customer is looking for the lowest price .In our industry they have also been defined as “bait and switch” customers, value customers, and high end customers. The wants, needs, and motivations of these three markets are decidedly different.

Reinvesting Strategies

Most people would say that reinvesting strategies would be the same as a “reasonable profit margin,” but not necessarily. This really relates to what type of business you are desiring to build long term. Are you looking to stay an owner operator or become multi-truck? Are you going to expand into restoration? Do you want to have a building dedicated to your business or are you happy with operating out of your home. Wanting your business to become something is not good enough. Planning for it to be something requires that you build in a profit margin to allow you to reinvest in the company toward that goal from day one. This does not preclude you from taking whatever job you can get when you are new or cash-starved. There are plenty of pricing and marketing strategies available to you that can be designed to build your price toward a stronger future and still get the business you need now to make the lease payment or put food on the table.

Your degree of professionalism

In order to reach high end clients, you have to be willing to “play the part.” This does not necessarily mean you have to wear a tuxedo as your company uniform. It does mean you have to make your client comfortable with how you dress, talk, walk, and even letter your van. Have you every heard the term “birds of a feather flock together?” People associate with people who are like them and make them comfortable. It comes down to conformity. If you pride yourself on being a “non-conformist,” that may limit what kind of clientele you seek and what kind of “mark-up” you can put on your services.

Business author Lawrence Steinmetz has defined nine reasons you do not want to deal with a customer who only buys on price. You will have to decide whether you are willing to make the steps in your business that allow you to move your price beyond the latest set of coupons in the local “Val-Pak.”

  • They take all of your time
  • They do all the complaining
  • They forget to pay you
  • They tell other customers how little they paid
  • They drive off good customers
  • They’re not going to buy from you again
  • They’ll require you to “invest up” to supply their needs – and then they’ll blackmail you for yet a lower price.\
  • They destroy the credibility of your price and your product (service) in the eyes of your consumers
  • They will steal any knowledge they can get their hands on so they can do the work themselves

Getting the right kind of advice

If you are relatively new to the cleaning business, you won’t find a shortage of strong opinions about how much to charge and the way to do it. You will find a whole slew of folks talking about how high a price they can get for their cleaning services and a whole other set complaining no one will pay those prices in “their town.” Just be careful about whose advice you listen to. If you determine your price by an unemotional, strategic evaluation like the one above, that needs to be your price. Spend less time asking how much to charge and more time getting advice on how to market your business to get the price you determined you must have to accomplish your personal and business goals.

Cleaning the “New” Softer Carpets

By:          Doyle Bloss, Marketing and Brand Manager, HydraMaster   Rick Evans, West Coast Regional Manager, HydraMaster

With the assistance of Charles Rollins and Darrell Hagan, Shaw Industries – Product Care and Maintenance

What are these “softer” carpets?

They are incredibly thin denier (thickness) cut-pile and loop carpets presented in a plush, high pile density format. They range in ounce size from 50-100 ounce (apartment grade carpet is generally 20-28 ounce). They are typically designed for high-end residential settings. However, some hospitality companies are considering for using in high end hotel rooms.

The formats for the carpets differ from carpet mill to carpet mill. Shaw Industries product is identified as Caress®, made of type 6 nylon. Invista manufactures StainMaster® Trusoft® which is made of type 6,6 nylon. Mohawk’s Smartstrand® is made of PTT polyester fiber. Beaulieu sells Bliss SoftSense® which is also made from Polyester.

They are relatively new product offering with Shaw introducing Caress in January of 2013. However, they are gaining market share in the carpet market rapidly. Many old-time carpet cleaners believe this is because they have finally identified and marketed one of the main reasons why people buy carpet – softness. The ads for these carpets reflect this, showing happy families with their pets playing, laying, rolling, and jumping on their new soft carpet. When you get a chance to visit a retail showroom and feel this carpet for the first time, the softness of the fiber strikes you instantly. With many of these carpets now being installed for over a year, your chances of having to clean one increase daily.

Difficulty in Vacuuming

This softer carpet provides obvious benefits to the homeowner, particularly one who enjoys the floor(s) of the room it is installed in. However, just as your hands and toes sink into the thick soft pile, so does the cleaning head of your typical vacuum cleaner. More power just means more fiber getting sucked into the head reducing or stopping airflow through the vacuum. This makes vacuuming more difficult to do.

The carpet manufacturers themselves have even a bigger concern than vacuuming taking longer. They are even concerned about texture damage to the ends of the thin carpet fibers themselves. In fact many of the same vacuums they have recommended in the past (such as those that have passed the CRI Seal of Approval Program for Vacuums – http://www.carpet-rug.org/CRI-Testing-Programs/CRI-Seal-of-Approval-Program/Vacuums/Certified-Vacuums.aspx ) they do not recommend for these softer carpets. For example, Shaw Industries now does specific testing of vacuums for use on Caress carpet, and they approve and recommend a specific group of vacuums  – http://shawfloors.com/tips-trends/luxurious-carpet/carpet-care/vacuuming/which-vacuum-models-are-recommended-by-shaw.

Here is an update on Shaw Industries research on vacuums from Darrell Hagan – the Manager of Product Care and Maintenance:

 “Vacuums work best when the brush roll is turned on vacuuming this soft carpet.  I believe the key is airflow, as you mentioned.  One thing in common with some of the vacuums is the plate underneath the vacuum head has slots which allow air to flow underneath the vacuum to keep it from sealing off on the carpet.  Also, vacuums are being modified to have pressure relief valves to reduce suction which allows the vacuum to move across the carpet.  The difference in the soft carpet vs. traditional carpet is that suction isn’t the key, we believe it is the agitation of the brush roll that is key to cleaning the soft yarn carpets.”

Potential Issues Related to Professional Carpet Cleaning

While the evaluation of issues that vacuums might have with this softer carpet pile can teach us some things related to how various carpet cleaning wands and agitation methods might work or not work on this type of carpet; this conjecture was not enough to satisfy the Product Care and Maintenance folks at Shaw Industries. Recently, Charlie Rollins and Darrell Hagan for Shaw Product Care and Maintenance flew to HydraMaster headquarters in Mukilteo, Washington to do some testing on the interaction of various cleaning tools (specifically hot water extraction wands and power wands) with this softer carpet. I had been in contact with Charlie and Darrell asking them questions about this, and with HydraMaster being one of the leading innovators and developers in carpet cleaning wand technology; it only made sense to start their testing here. Specifically, Shaw and HydraMaster wanted to look at three areas for evaluation:

  1. The use of Rotary Jet Extraction on these types of carpets with the RX-20.
  2. The Evolution Wand – how did the built in molded glides assist or restrict cleaning of these carpet fibers and what were the differences between a 1.5” wand and a 2” wand.
  3. Was there chemistry which stood out in performance to assist cleaning these carpets, specifically in the area of presprays used as a lubricating application to make the wand easier to move across the carpet?

Specifically, the testing team was looking to see the effects that cleaning these types of carpets with existing technology in truckmounted equipment and cleaning wands might result in changes in:

  • Productivity
  • Texture Change/Damage
  • Drying Time
  • Spots and Stains
  • Any Specific Tool Related Issues

 The Testing

  • 60, 70 and 100 ounce cut pile Shaw Caress carpets were used in the testing.

Picture of carpets

  • A HydraMaster Boxxer XL Truckmount was used. We were cleaning 150 feet from the truck, with the solution temperature at the wand constantly being monitored with an in-line pressure and temperature measuring device. Temperature settings on the machine were purposely varied from 180-245°F.

Boxxer xl

  • The first thing we tested were HydraMaster’s sister company, Advance Commercial Vacuums, leading models and how they performed on vacuuming the carpets.

Advance vacuum

  • We tested with various types of conventional scrub wands

Conventional scrub wand

  • We tested cleaning with both 1.5” and 2” versions of the Evolution Wand with molded glides

Evolution wand

  • Finally, we tested with the RX-20 Rotary Jet Extractor

RX20

Results and Findings

Overall, the results of our testing alleviated or reduced any fears or misgivings about the “cleanability” of these carpets. We found the carpets overall to be very responsive to vacuuming, cleaning, and spot and stain removal. Certainly one of the reasons for this is the high quality of the carpets themselves. A 60, 70, or 100 ounce carpet does not come inexpensively. I will tell you after completing the tests, everyone at HydraMaster involved in the testing were ready to go home and put this carpet down in their living rooms. The luxurious feel of these carpets can simply not be denied. We can see why these carpets are gaining market share fast.

Results

We did find that one of the things we anticipated held true. Certified and trained professional carpet cleaners have long known that plush cut pile carpets virtually always requires some specific care considerations. As with all plush, cut pile style carpeting, special attention must be given to monitoring the potential for scrub wand jet streaking.

Wand marks 2Wand marks 1

Variables include

  • Type and number of jets on the wand
  • Proximity of the jets to the carpet pile
  • Angle of jets to the carpet pile
  • Wear on the orifices of the jets themselves – make sure you replace your jets at regular intervals recommended by your wand manufacturer. If the orifice becomes too large, this can contribute to jet streaking.
  • Temperature of solution being produced at the wand jet tip
  • Taking a dry stroke or pass only
  • Post cleaning grooming

 

Productivity Best Practices

General cleaning considerations

These practices were developed after repeated tests to see how to increase cleaning speed, avoid any agitation/texture change related issues, and a very important item considering the plushness of these carpets – reducing drying times. Can you clean these carpets safely and effectively with “normal” cleaning procedures? The answer is yes. These procedures are designed to speed up the process without compromising quality cleaning.

  • Carpet grooming with Grandi-Groomer is highly recommended after cleaning (faster and more effective than grooming brush)
  • Carpet density mandates using airmovers post cleaning to reduce drying times

Using Cleaning Wands

  • 2” scrub wands are very difficult to move across a 100 ounce carpet connected to a truckmount.
  • Dry strokes (vacuum only wand passes) are absolutely necessary
  • Use of the Evolution wand reduced drying times in comparison to conventional wands.
  • Glided wands will be an absolute must! Slotting in the glide is important too.
  • A Continuous overlapping wet pass, followed by continuous overlapping dry pass cleaned the fastest, worked best, and dried the fastest

Using Rotary Extraction Tools Such As the RX-20 Rotary Jet Extraction® Tool

  • The RX20 worked extremely well on 60 and 70 ounce carpets. Use on a 100 ounce carpet required a great deal of strength and stamina. See chemical prespray directions below, as the use of a lubricating prespray helped considerably.
  • Swirl “marks” groomed out right away and are not a concern
  • There was no visible physical texture change from rotary action. Even at abuse level (no water lubrication) there was no pile texture damage visible. (Of course, we did this to measure “worse case scenario,” you should never operate any rotary extraction tool without water or prespray).
  • The use of a rotary extraction tool is highly recommended for productivity and reduced drying times on 60 and 70 ounce carpets.

Cleaning Solution Consideration

The use of a high quality carpet prespray is a must when cleaning these types of carpets. The prespray helps to lubricate the carpet so that the scrub wand or rotary extraction wand flows more smoothly across the carpet. As a general rule, detergent free or soap free formulas such as CleanMaster HydraFREE DFC will not provide the level of lubrication you want on these soft carpets. Since these carpets are made of either nylon or polyester, you can use most of your favorite carpet presprays. However, we had great results cleaning our test samples after soiling built up with CleanMaster Fast Break HD and CleanMaster PolyBreak as presprays. We also found that if you wanted to use an alkaline extraction rinse, HydraClean worked extremely well. If you prefer an acid neutralizing rinse, our studies showed that a solution which does have detergency in it, like CleanMaster ClearWater Rinse worked extremely well.

From a spot and stain removal point of view, the high quality of these carpets means that they are more likely to resist staining from common spills than an apartment grade nylon or polyester carpet. When a staining material such as children’s fruit drinks was applied, it usually extracted out during cleaning. When we purposefully tried to stain the carpet, and agitated the spilled material down into the carpet and waited 48 hours before treatment began, we had excellent results removing stains with CleanMaster RedBreak 1 or CleanMaster KnockOut 1, depending upon the composition of the staining material. At no time, other than with mustard was acceleration with heat from a steam iron or wallpaper steamer necessary. That certainly does not mean these carpets are “stain-proof,” and we know your customer’s children will answer the call to eventually provide a more difficult stain, but based upon the limited testing we did on these types of carpets, they certainly responded well to spot and stain removal treatments. We also found that using a sub-surface spotting extraction tool, such as a Water Claw® or FlashXtractor®, on larger liquid spills helped reduce any chances of spilled materials wicking to the surface of the carpet pile later.

One final thought and finding related to spot and stain removal – due to the plush nature of the carpet pile, if grease and oil spilled contaminants were rubbed into the carpet, or “ground-in” with foot traffic, it was important to agitate solvent spotters and gels into the affected area to increase speed and efficiency at removal. We believe this same principle would hold true if these carpets are subjected to long term high levels of oil based soiling and traffic; i.e., that using the right prespray, and mechanical agitation such as using a Counter Rotating Brush (CRB) will be necessary to increase cleaning speed and effectiveness, especially with those made of polyester carpet fiber.

So what is A Professional Carpet Cleaner to Do?

The good news is you are already likely equipped with all of the tools and chemistry needed to effectively clean this carpet. More importantly though, you may need to slow down and approach these carpets with a kinder, gentler set of procedures. You may have to clean them with a little more thought and observation as to how the cleaning tools are going across the carpet and what kind of texture change is occurring from your cleaning tools. Without a doubt, drying time is going to be extended if these carpets are allowed to reach an unacceptable soiling level. You can get them clean, but it will take more wet passes. The manufacturers of these carpets recommend cleaning every 12-24 month basis with hot water extraction cleaning. Some require this as a provision of their texture retention or stain resistant warranty. Educate your customers to this fact so that their cleaning frequency does not allow the carpet to become extremely soiled. This will allow them to get the full benefit of these soft, plush, and luxurious carpets. Then everyone is happy.

Cleaning Up from the Winter Grime

ImageA good portion of the country is about to emerge from one of the most prolonged winters in a long time. In many parts of the country residential carpet cleaning was brought to a virtual standstill for weeks on end. Preventive cleaning and maintenance rhythms of commercial accounts were disrupted. The main people who were happy were snow plow operators and ice melt manufacturers. The good news is that in many parts of the country, spring is poking it head out from behind the bushes. The even better news for carpet cleaners is that all of their customer’s carpets took an absolute beating from all the cold, foul weather and with a good marketing program in place; the phone will start ringing off the hook. “Spring cleaning” is going to be unavoidable this year for many carpet owners.

The grime of all of the outside soil, slush, ice melt and more being tracked onto the carpet has left it in what amounts to a filthy state. Now it is time for you to step up.

So what can you expect? First the level of particulate soiling being brought in on the bottom of boots and with all the snow and slush Imageon people’s shoes will require an extra vacuuming pass or two with a high efficiency vacuum. Obviously the carpet has been exposed to a higher level of soil than typical. CleanMaster Blitz with GreaseBreaker and Quake HD are your prespray answer for these extremely soiled carpets. My personal favorite is Blitz with GreaseBreaker . There is no better prespray for filthy carpets, and since it already has the “booster” built in you are ready to go. At less than 79 cents per mixed gallon it is cost effective too.

If you have a build-up of ice melt compound in the carpet, a few steps will effectively deal with that.  Ice Melt has a tendency to clean up well on first impression, but oily residues left behind not extracted will often lead the carpet to re-soiling. Following these exact steps will effectively remove these oxidized oils from the carpet. First, mix CleanMaster UPS one part solution to four parts water. Spray that mixture down over the contaminated areas and allow it to dwell for 2-3 minutes. Then extract with extremely hot water. Then add two ounces of CleanMaster HydraBoost CT powder to your mixed gallon of Blitz with GreaseBreaker, Quake HD, or FastBreak HD. Apply the boosted with oxidizer and effervescent prespray to the entire area to be cleaned and allow to dwell for 5 minutes. For commercial accounts, extract the area with CleanMaster HydraFree DFC or HydraDri. For most residential carpets, extract the area with CleanMaster ClearWater Rinse.

The time is right to turn the winter doldrums into the spring explosion of business. Do you have a soiling issue specifically related to the long winter? Let us know what it is, and we can provide you with the best steps to deal with it.

Carpets, Health, and Science – A New Understanding for the Residential and Commercial Carpet Owner

By Doyle Bloss and Robert Kravitz, HydraMaster, Inc.

In January 2014, a study was released in the United States that should put an end to any doubts cleaning professionals, carpet consumers in the residential environment, health care professionals, educational facilities, building owners,  and facility managers have about carpeting and indoor air quality. According to Dr. Bruce Mitchell, chairman/CEO of Airmid Healthgroup (which conducted the study), the findings of this nearly 200-page report “Challenge the long-held belief that carpet adversely impacts indoor air quality (IAQ). [Instead], effectively cleaned carpets have the capacity to trap allergen and microbial particles,” Mitchell continued, “making these particulates less available to become airborne and thus maintaining [enhanced] indoor air quality.

Mitchell goes on to add that these results will be very good news to the parents of children who suffer from respiratory ailments, Imageincluding asthma.  It is also good news for educational and other facilities that have long debated the benefits or drawbacks of carpeting as it relates to air quality, allergens, and health. In fact, this study’s conclusions may very well likely impact the flooring industry around the globe.

The History of the Debate

Sweden began removing carpets from government controlled facilities throughout the country more than 30 years ago. They believed that hard surfaces would contribute to a healthier indoor environment. Soon, the same thing happened in many areas of North America. Health Care, education and government facilities also began removing carpets, as did many other commercial facilities as well. Many websites and educational publications representing physicians and medical experts in the areas of allergy and asthma also took to the task of recommending carpets be removed from homes where children or immunocompromised adults lived.

The reason behind the removal of carpets and the installation of hard surface floors was concerns that allergens of all types, including Imagedust mites, molds, bacteria, germs, and other contaminants, would become lodged in the carpet’s fibers and are then released into the air as foot traffic occurs. In fact, in its recommendations on flooring and allergies, the Mayo clinic website still states: “Flooring. Remove carpeting and use hardwood or linoleum flooring or washable area rugs.”

However, follow-up studies by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) disputed these studies and stated that there was actually an “inverse relationship” between the installation of carpeting and an increased occurrence of allergic reactions. In fact, CRI had found that as carpeting is removed, allergic reactions among building users actually increase—hardly what you would expect if carpeting contributes to poor IAQ.

While CRI is certainly a respected organization, some parents and school administrators may have taken their findings with a grain of Imagesalt. After all, one of their key roles is to support the carpet manufacturing industry. However, it was not long before the Institute’s findings were backed up with some undeniable facts and figures. A Swedish study (and we must remember this was the same country that first began removing carpets from schools and other facilities) found that as carpet sales declined in Sweden and carpeting was replaced in many facilities with hard surfaces, the occurrence of allergic reactions dramatically increased.

This report, which was released by the Swedish Institute of Fiber and Polymer Research, found that in 1973 there were more than 15 million square meters (M2) of carpeting sold in Sweden and the number of people reportedly suffering allergy problems in the country amounted to about 1 million. By 1990, nearly 30 years later, only about 5 million M2 of carpeting were being sold in the country, yet the number of people reporting allergy problems had jumped to nearly 3.5 million.

Reviewing the 2014 Data

It can be hard to dispel misconceptions once they spread—especially if they involve children and their health. This has certainly been the case when it comes to carpeting and IAQ. While a variety of studies seemed to indicate that carpeting actually improves IAQ, the idea that carpeting led to increased risk of allergies among children appears to have had a life of its own.

Replacing Myths with Science

The results of a 2010 study conducted by Airmid Healthgroup, a leading research organization, were released earlier this year. The Imagestudy was termed a “definitive work” comparing the indoor health impacts of carpeted versus hard-surface flooring. Introducing the study, the Airmid researchers began by saying that historically, “many medical, educational, and patient bodies have arrived at the conclusion that carpets…represent a health hazard to individuals, especially those with asthma and allergic diseases.”

To see if this is true or not, the researchers built test facilities based on American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) specifications that allow for complete control over all indoor environmental conditions. The tests involved nine different floor plans or rooms: one room with a hard floor surface and the others carpeted with different materials as well as carpeting of different weights and piles.

Allergen test dust was applied to all floor surfaces. The rooms were allowed to equilibrate overnight before testing began. Then, after normal room disturbances and cleaning, airborne particulate counts as well as surface and allergen measurements were undertaken for each room type.

After performing their tests, among the conclusions the researchers reached are the following:

  • Different floor coverings have a significant impact on airborne particle concentration (which can potentially cause allergic reactions).
  • In general, airborne particle concentrations were lower with carpet as opposed to the hard-surface floor.
  • The pile height of the carpet and carpet fiber composition influenced the particulate retention capacity of the carpets.
  • Carpet made of 100 percent nylon medium pile height broadloom consistently performed best in terms of low levels of airborne allergens.

The results tell us that the carpets, especially 100 percent nylon carpets which are a common type, acted as a reservoir, capturing and trapping allergens and reducing airborne allergen levels overall in the rooms when compared to the hard-surface floor. In other words, the carpets would help reduce allergic reactions, not cause them.

The Cleaning Connection

While the researchers concluded that carpets do help protect health overall, they added that in order for carpets to continue doing this, they must be properly maintained. According to the report, “the findings also reinforce the desirability (or need) of regular carpet maintenance. [This includes] frequent vacuum cleaning and intermittent use of steam or water-based cleaning systems.”

As to vacuuming, the recommendation is to use machines with advanced filtration capabilities. This means that a filter, such as a ImageHEPA filter, has been placed over the machine’s exhaust, helping to prevent dust and potential pathogens from being released into the air.

As to the use of steam or water-based cleaning systems, the researchers suggest carpet extraction—and more specifically hot-water carpet extraction—is necessary to thoroughly clean carpets and remove deeply embedded soils and contaminants, helping to prevent them from becoming airborne.  According to the researchers, “results show that the proprietary hot water extraction cleaning process was highly effective in reducing allergen levels in carpets and soft furnishings. Surface levels of dust mite allergens on carpets, for example, were reduced by 91 percent, of cat allergen by 95 percent, and of dog allergen by 97 percent. The cleaning process also resulted in a marked reduction in airborne cat allergen exposure. The process also effectively reduced exposure to airborne mold.” 

While most cleaning professionals and building owners/managers can understand why high-performance vacuum cleaners are Imagenecessary to keep carpets clean and healthy, fewer may understand why “hot water” carpet extraction is so essential. Studies going back more than 100 years have proved the importance and value of using heat when cleaning. Hotter cleaning solution increases the chemical molecular activity of the cleaning chemical you are using (including water). This basic chemistry concept can be confirmed in basic science concepts by the Argonne National labs (http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/gen01/gen01759.htm) . Increased chemical activity means you will need to use less chemical to clean. Dr. Michael Berry, author of the book Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health, found that heat simply improves cleaning’s effectiveness. “Even without soap, small amounts of grease will dissolve in water, [but] the amount increases in hot water, sometimes ten-fold,” he says.

Hotter cleaning solution contributes to a healthier indoor environment.  Dr. Michael Berry and his associates, on behalf of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, did two groundbreaking studies measuring the impact of deep restorative carpet cleaning Image(utilizing hotter cleaning solution) in 1991 and 1994. The “Denver” Study in 1991 and the “Frank Porter Graham” Study in 1994 greatly advanced our understanding of the interaction between cleaning and the indoor environment. The “Denver” Study mainly looked at whether they could actually even measure particulates, gas phase organics, and biological contamination in carpeting before, during, and after carpet cleaning. The “Frank Porter Graham” Study was a collaborative effort that involved participants from the cleaning industry utilizing “best industry practices” and deep cleaning methods for on-going cleaning and maintenance in a Child Development Center on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Airborne dust contaminants were reduced by 52%. Total Volatile Organic Compounds decreased by 49%. Total bacterial was reduced by 40%, and total fungi declined by 61%

Other potential benefits of using hot water go beyond just cleaner carpets. Hotter cleaning solution also contributes to faster evaporation of residual moisture resulting in faster drying of the carpets and reducing “downtime.” Synthetic and wool carpet fibers tend to regain their original “fluff’ and “resilience” when a hot-water carpet extractor is used to clean the carpets. While this does not Imageimpact the health benefits of carpeting, the “like new” appearance of a carpet after it has been cleaned using a hot-water extractor is of great importance to many commercial and residential customers.

Time Will Tell

Only time will tell if this latest scientific study will help consumers and managers realize the key role carpets can play in keeping indoor air clean and healthy. It is undeniable that people are more concerned than ever about the health of the facilities in which they live, work, and play. With this in mind, more consumers and managers will realize there is little value in turning to myths when it comes to protecting human health, instead choosing proven science as their guide.

Further Information/Article Resources

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/in-depth/allergy/art-20049365

Sneeze-Free Zone” by Tanya Mohn, The New York Times,  January 10, 2011

Indoor Environment Characterization of a Non-Problem Building: Assessment of Cleaning Effectiveness, US Environmental Protection Agency, March 1994. (conducted at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, Chapel Hill, NC)

Indoor Environment Characterization of a Non-Problem Building: Assessment of Cleaning Effectiveness : Cole, E.C., D. L. Franke, K. E. Leese, P.D. Dulaney, K. K. Foarde, D. A. Green, R. M. Hall, and M Berry. Indoor Environment Characterization of a non-problem building: Assessment of Cleaning Effectiveness. Research Triangle Report Number 94U-4479-014, Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle, North Carolina. 202 pages. March, 1994.

Shaw Floors Press Release

The Airmid Health studies can be accessed at: http://press.shawinc.com/Airmid/

Related Links

AAAAI

ACAAI

Related Testing

http://www.airmidhealthgroup.com/industries-served/floor-coverings.html

http://www.airmidhealthgroup.com/services/climate-controlled-environmental-chamber-studies.html

http://www.airmidhealthgroup.com/services/environmental-field-studies.html

http://www.airmidhealthgroup.com/carpetcleaning

Carpets, Health, and Healthcare

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By Doyle Bloss and Robert Kravitz

A recently released study conducted by Airmid Healthgoup Limited, a leading biomedical research organization, finds that properly maintained carpets (using high performance vacuum cleaners and cleaned using hot water extractors) can trap foreign allergens helping improve overall air quality…and can do this far better than hard surface flooring. 

Similarly, a May 2008 study found that carpet can actually decrease the likelihood of infections being transmitted in a healthcare facility because of its ability to hold and trap contaminants.  The study said carpets help “sequester” biological contaminants, keeping them from becoming airborne or transmited.*

This is very important information and is of value in not only healthcare settings but also schools, office facilities, and many other types of locations where many building users are located, often in rather crowded situations. However, for healthcare facilities, this type of information can actually save lives.

Each year it is estimated that approximately 100,000 people die in the United States due to healthcare acquired infections (HAIs). Because we have an estimated 50 direct and indirect contacts with floor surfaces each day, if a hard surface floor in a medical facility is contaminated with germs and bacteria, having a carpeted floor installed that can “sequester” these pathogens may help stop cross-contamination and potentially reduce HAIs.

Another benefit, often overlooked, is that carpeting has natural anti-fatigue properties, especially if it has a very firm pad or cushion below the carpet. This is of great importance for those working in hospitals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses spend most of their days on their feet, and because of this, they are one of the top groups at risk for workplace-related injuries. Installing the proper carpeting, such as a modular carpet or a broadloom carpet with low pile construction, helps ensure that these important caregivers are productive, comfortable, and healthy.

Finally, carpets help quiet a facility. Anyone who has recently visited a hospital or similar healthcare facility with hard surface flooring installed knows these locations can be quite noisy. According to one study, conducted by Press Ganey Hospital, which works with healthcare providers to understand and improve the patient experience in medical facilities, the number one complaint among patients in American hospitals is that they are simply too noisy. Installing carpeting can help rectify this problem and could increase healthcare worker performance, improve patient morale, reduce medial errors, and even help prevent violent or erratic behavior of patients and staff due to stress.

However, there is one caveat to most of the benefits mentioned here, and that is that carpets must be adequately cleaned. Thorough and effective cleaning, which can only be accomplished through the use of truckmounted and high performance portable hot-water extraction equipment, is the only way to ensure that the “filter” (i.e; the carpet) has had the contaminants removed, and to keep indoor air quality healthier. Further, a clean, healthy carpet simply performs better, meaning it can also be more effective at reducing worker fatigue and workplace-related injuries and keeping facilities quiet as well. All of these benefits underscore the many health and healing properties of carpeting.

In addition, the proper use of carpet cleaning solutions ensures the maximum cleansing of the filter (i.e; the carpet) to eliminate potentially harmful contaminants, soil, and allergens. We recommend the consistent use of an effective carpet prespray like CleanMaster FastBreak HD, with the use of an “in-tank” solution through the extractor like CleanMaster HydraClean. Studies have also shown this combination of cleaning solutions removes the most amount of soil and leaves the least amount of residue.

To request your complete FREE cleaning reference guide that details step by step effective hot water extraction procedures, and the right cleaning solutions, simply click here.

 

* “Carpet, Asthma and Allergies—Myth or Reality” by Mitchell W. Sauerhoff.