It seems that carpet for some reason, perhaps because dirt and grime is not always as visible as it is on hard surface flooring, has become the industry’s Rodney Dangerfield in terms of getting no respect. I’m told that if something spills on hard surface it’s cleaned post-haste but a spill on carpet is often left to languish perhaps because it’s often hidden and not as obvious. Carpet fibers, after all, are designed to disguise soils and stains.
I frequently hear the automobile analogy that no one ever buys a car thinking it has forever oil in the crankcase. They know and the owner’s manual reminds them to have the oil changed every ‘x’ amount of miles. The automobile companies and dealerships now even send cards, emails and texts as reminders. But this doesn’t appear to be the case in the carpet sector and the result often leaves broadloom dingy and grubby and, in some cases, no doubt drives away the desire for the user to ever want to buy the product again.
Carpet can last an extraordinarily long time when it’s maintained properly. But making carpet owners aware that proper maintenance is a necessity and on top of that ensuring them the maintenance they select for their beautiful new product is actually removing damaging dirt, grime and stains—that’s a horse of a different color.
We invited Bill Yeadon, training facilitator at JonDon, on the FloorRadio program to talk about carpet maintenance and learn why much of the carpets we see in commercial buildings are not a glowing endorsement that will drive facility managers to specify new carpet. The following are some excerpts from this conversation that you may find interesting. You can find the complete interview by going to Floor Trends’ website, floortrendsmag.com, and clicking on the Floor Radio link.
TF: In your travels around the country you see a great deal of commercial carpet. What would you say is the condition of it that you most often see in commercial buildings?
Yeadon: Of course there are exceptions to the rule. Some of the carpets in higher-end hotels look fabulous, but there are other high-end properties where it looks dreadful. As you move down the economic strata and move into healthcare and other types of facilities, the carpet is in pretty bad shape. Overall I would say there is more that is in bad shape than there is in good shape.
TF: I have to imagine that a certain percentage of the facilities you’re talking about have old worn-out carpet that needs to be replaced, but I suspect that a greater portion is not that old. The poor looking carpet that is not necessarily that old, would you say it is being cleaned, just not effectively, or is it just being neglected all together?
Yeadon: On average, it is being neglected and then being cleaned infrequently. Most of the time what happens is someone will say: This place really looks bad, call a carpet cleaner. Get some prices. Then they usually have a parade of contractors come and look at the project. I feel if they didn’t really value the carpet to let it get in this state, they don’t really place a high value on the cleaning and, as a result, will probably select the cheapest provider.
The cheapest provider is usually the guy that doesn’t follow the principles of cleaning properly. He’s not as well trained and is usually not using the best chemistry available. That means the carpet never really gets that clean and most likely they are really just adding more residue back into the [broadloom].
TF: So a great deal of the carpet you see has been cleaned on a regular basis it just hasn’t been cleaned effectively?
Yeadon: If the carpet is indeed being cleaned on a regular basis, it often depends on whether it is being cleaned in-house, or if they are bringing in outside people, and if the crew cleaning it has been properly trained, and if they use the proper equipment and chemistry.
TF: Is it your observation that most carpet you see—whether professionally or noticing it in public spaces in your travels—is subjected to some sort of regular maintenance?
Yeadon: [Let’s use the] Indianapolis and Tampa airports [as examples]. I know both of these facilities have a planned maintenance program and the carpet looks good in both places. I’ve been in other airports where the carpet was just pathetic. I was in the Portland, Ore., airport a couple of months ago. It was five in the morning and there was a guy using this huge, walk-behind/sit-on hot water extractor and he also had a number of air movers going.
As I walked by I could smell the carpet because it had been hot water extracted prior to this cleaning and it had been allowed to remain wet for too long. When this happens, the odor that developed in the carpet in the prior cleaning was reactivated by the water in the current cleaning. So while the facility may have been subjected to regular maintenance, it was just not done correctly.
TF: Set me straight here. I’ve watched hot water extraction and have noted the water being extracted from the carpet is extremely dirty. They place these dryers strategically to dry the water they don’t extract, which is as dirty as the water that I watched go in the tank, correct?
Yeadon: That is correct, but you have to remember, a good system, a truck mount for example, will recover about 90% to 95% of the water that has been applied to the carpet. It doesn’t take a great deal of dirt to make water look murky.
TF: My observation is that a great deal of the carpet in use today is dirty. It’s my guess that’s because either the carpet is not maintained sufficiently on a regular basis or the maintenance program practiced is spotty and ineffective. I understand that most commercial facilities either have an in-house maintenance staff whose job is to clean the carpet or there is a contracting firm that is assigned that task. What is your take on the basic skill and knowledge level of the crews that are cleaning the carpet in the United States? As a general rule, would you say they are getting the carpet clean?
Yeadon: No. I hate to paint the entire industry with a broad brush, and when I’m called in to a particular situation it’s because there is a problem, so I see the negative side of the situation most of the time. But having said that, first the problems I most often see are the result of a lack of training. Often an individual is hired to maintain the carpet, they tell him the machine is over there in the closet, they tell him to fill it up with water, dump in these chemicals, spray [x] on the carpet and then suck it up. Too often that is the way it plays out.
I’ve seen situations where a portable unit was being used and someone forgot to close the dump valve, which is the way the dirty water is emptied. Because the operator was not properly trained the entire job was performed with greatly reduced [vacuuming suction], leaving a great deal of the solution in the carpet. Instead of removing 90% they were removing only about 40%.
TF: So the prime problem would be the technicians are not trained properly. What are some of the additional reasons?
Yeadon: I would say the second most frequent problem is the equipment is not maintained properly. And the third most common shortcoming is the chemistry. If the chemistry is incorrect or overused it will probably cause a quicker resoiling.
TF: You mentioned earlier that much of the carpet you see in your travels is pretty dingy. I suspect in many of those places the facility manager feels the carpet—even if it looks unclean—is about as good as it’s ever going to look, because they have subjected it to some kind of regular maintenance. They are just unaware their program is an ineffective one. Is this something you see playing out in the field?
Yeadon: All the time. I look at a great deal of carpet for manufacturers. I visit a particular site and am told frequently that this carpet just doesn’t clean. I inspect the carpet and perform a simple test and tell them that, well yes, it seems to clean just fine for me. Then they ask me, “What are you doing?” And I tell them nothing really tricky.
Carpet maintenance is not difficult. There are some basic principles. Good chemistry, good equipment and training are all that is really needed. Carpet is an amazing fabric. When the right carpet is installed in the right location with the right colors and the right maintenance program, that carpet will last for years and years.
Editor’s note: As mentioned, there is a great deal more to this interesting conversation than space permits. To listen to it in its entirety visit FloorRadio.com, and scroll down to the part titled, “Bill Yeadon, Dealing with Tracked-In Salt in Wintertime.”
We’d also love to hear your feedback of this and other conversations you’ve watched or listened to on the site, as well as any ideas of people or companies you’d like to see interviewed. You can contact either Dave Foster at email@example.com, or Matthew Spieler at firstname.lastname@example.org.