On the Right Foot

Carpet maintenance often gets short-changed in the retail environment. Apart from some quick fly-by vacuuming, it often takes place on an “as-needed” basis. That’s a mistake. Today’s carpets are manufactured to hide dirt—but just because it may be invisible to the naked eye does not mean it isn’t there. Soiling is a cumulative process that, if allowed to go too far, cannot easily be reversed. By waiting until a carpet looks dirty before it gets cleaned, the end user runs the risk of the carpet being beyond repair.

There is no mystery to carpet upkeep in the retail environment: A well-designed carpet-maintenance program performed by qualified, properly trained personnel is the key to optimal long-term performance, from both an appearance and investment perspective.

Experts advise planning the maintenance program before installing the carpet so that budget, personnel and areas of special consideration can be taken into account. Identifying the areas of heavy soiling is particularly important in the early stage of planning. Three areas to look out for are:

Track-off regions: Areas where carpet collects tracked-in soil from the outdoors or hard-surface floors. Track-off regions average 90 sq. ft. at building entrances, 10 sq. ft. at internal doorways and 40 sq. ft. in corridors 6 ft. wide.

Congested channels: A concentrated channel of foot traffic, such as a doorway or drinking fountain area. A congested channel averages 3 ft. around a doorway to 10 ft. around elevators.

Traffic lanes: Areas with the largest amount of foot traffic. An effective carpet-maintenance program should include three components: preventive measures, daily measures and restorative measures.

Preventive: Preventive maintenance consists of minimizing the dirt that is tracked in from the outside and protecting carpet from moisture and dirt already inside the store. It is largely accomplished with the use of inside mats (mats that extend 6 ft. to 15 ft. inside the entrance will trap 80% of soil and moisture from the first five or six steps, according to the Carpet and Rug Institute, or CRI).

Outside mats that scrape debris off shoes are another effective preventive measure.

Daily: Routine vacuuming is a must for commercial carpet performance, and is considered the most important part of any maintenance program. Vacuuming should be scheduled according to the amount of potential soil building up in a particular area, or to high, medium and low traffic areas. High-traffic areas should be vacuumed daily, or more frequently as the need arises.

In terms of equipment, it’s important to consider efficient filtration. The CRI warns that a vacuum cleaner that has an extremely high air flow (suction) has very little value if the dust and other contaminants pass through the vacuum bag and become airborne. Efficient vacuum cleaners offer high-airflow, high-efficiency filtration and an adjustable rotating-brush agitation for more effective soil removal.

Spot cleaning is the other critical element of daily maintenance. Removing spots and spills on a daily basis will help maintain the carpet’s appearance.

Restorative: Restorative measures, which consist of deep-extraction cleaning, will remove accumulated or embedded soil overlooked during daily maintenance. The CRI recommends that deep cleaning be done at least twice a year. A slight dulling of color in heavy-traffic areas indicates a build-up of soil, which requires more frequent restorative cleaning.

Special attention: Many retailers utilize a combination of hard flooring and carpet in their stores. The resulting transition areas—the areas where the carpet and hard floors meet—can be a challenge in terms of upkeep. Here are some suggestions from the CRI:

Many of the cleaning agents used to maintain hard floors can cause damage to carpet. Keep them off the soft surfaces.

After wet-mopping hard surfaces, make sure they are completely dry before allowing traffic onto carpet.

When using rotary equipment on hard surfaces next to carpet, be careful not to allow pads or brushes to come in contact with the carpet and abrade the pile.

Don’t set equipment used for the maintenance of hard floors on the carpet as residues may cause soiling or staining.

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