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Carpet Care: Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

Last updated 6 years ago

This article was originally published by Clean Link

By Alan S. Bigger

How can a custodial manager maximize the return on investment for one of the more expensive items in the facility? It's a good question because when it comes to floors, no matter what type of covering is installed, it will be an expensive investment.

For example, about 20 years ago a mid-sized university decided to invest in an effective carpet care program — including quality vacuum cleaners, spot cleaning equipment and a variety of carpet cleaning machines — and established a routine cycle of cleaning for carpets throughout its buildings, especially in residence halls. Carpeting installed in the halls was used and often abused around the clock. Mainly because there previously was not an effective and proactive carpet cleaning program in place, many were being replaced around the seven-year mark. Some had even "uglied out" earlier than that.

After initiating an aggressive maintenance program, not only did the hallways look better, the life of the carpet was often extended by several years. In times of tightening fiscal issues, the routine cleaning cycle was worth its weight in carpeting. It extended the life of the carpet and increased customer satisfaction, all while saving on replacement costs for new flooring.

Just extending the replacement cost of carpeting for one year can result in significant savings. However, there is a tendency for custodial managers to look at the short term gains and savings by minimizing such a program (pennies wise), while forgetting the long term potential savings by increasing life expectancy and increasing customer satisfaction (pound foolish).

Understanding Carpet Warranties

Before starting any carpet cleaning program, facility managers should familiarize themselves with the warranties of the carpeting installed in the building. The best way to collect this data is to go to the source, the carpet manufacturer and the manufacturer's published literature. Review these warranties carefully. Ideally, when carpet is installed, the custodial manager should obtain the warranty and cleaning information from the project manager. Keep these instructions on file for the life of the carpet.

Warranties from manufacturers may vary, however. Generally there are exclusionary statements for items such as excessive wear and tear, improper cleaning and maintenance, wetting or flooding of carpeting and cleaning of carpeting by inexperienced or uncertified carpet cleaners. As a service to custodial managers, the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) provides detailed information about a variety of floor care certification programs.

Managers can also utilize the Carpet and Rug Care Guide, available from the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). It provides a form for documenting information about newly purchased and installed carpet. Proper maintenance of carpets starts from the day it is installed. This proactive cycle of maintenance will enhance the beauty of the carpet while also extending its life.

Clean Carpets Start With Vacuuming

Effective carpet cleaning is a process that begins in entryways. According to industry statistics, an estimated 70 to 80 percent of dirt is tracked in through the front door. That said, custodial managers are advised to stop the dirt before it enters a building.

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Alan Bigger is a former facility executive, APPA Fellow and industry consultant based in South Bend, Ind.


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