The Greening of Carpet Care
Although it does not get as much attention as other segments of the cleaning industry, professional carpet cleaning is making significant inroads in becoming Greener and more sustainable. Technicians are doing this in a number of ways, from choosing environmentally preferable chemicals and equipment to encouraging their clients not to have their carpets cleaned.
The following analyzes the Green journey the carpet cleaning industry has embarked upon. It should be noted, the word journey is used intentionally. Over time, new technologies, methods, and systems are likely to make carpet cleaning Greener still.
Probably the first step in Greening carpet cleaning was the introduction of environmentally preferable cleaning chemicals. As with other Green cleaning chemicals, these products have become more “high performing” over the years. “The chemistry today has improved considerably,” says Dave Howard, Director of Sales for JonDon, a national distributor of janitorial products and equipment. “[And] many of these products are just as effective as conventional cleaning products.”
While some Green carpet cleaning chemicals may cost more than conventional products, the differential has been minimized in the past few years. In fact, when discussing costs, many Green advocates say Green cleaning chemicals in general are “cost neutral.” By this they mean that if the environmentally friendly chemicals can reduce worker illness or absenteeism (and studies prove they can), as an example, the improved worker productivity that results will eliminate any cost differential.
Additionally, the way chemicals are applied to carpets in the cleaning process has helped make cleaning Greener. Instead of mixing large amounts of chemicals with water in the extractor, most technicians prespray the carpets with chemicals. This tends to reduce the amount of chemical used overall with more chemical used only where it is most needed: on spots, stains, and more soiled areas.
When it comes to Green equipment, the emphasis is on portable hot-water carpet extractors because these are the machines most commonly purchased by building owners and managers of all types of facilities. Further, when we consider the Green evolution of carpet cleaning equipment, we must consider both the portable hot-water extractor and the wand used to clean carpeting.
Older portable extractors can use more than 1.5 gallons of water per minute, and many had relatively poor moisture recovery systems compared to today’s machines. This opened the door for mold, mildew, and fungus to develop, damaging carpets and indoor air quality. Some portable extractors are now considered “low-moisture” machines, meaning they help carpets dry within 2 hours, compared to 24 or 48 hours with an older machine (as defined by the Low Moisture Carpet Cleaners Association).
This quicker drying time is accomplished because they use less than a gallon of water per minute and have advanced vacuum systems that more effectively remove moisture from carpets. Additionally, some portables heat the water/solution to 212 degrees (F) at the wand tip. The Green benefit: in addition to expediting drying times, heat improves the effectiveness of cleaning chemicals, meaning less may be required.
In addition to heating water/solution, the wand plays other crucial roles in Greening carpet cleaning. For instance, one new system employs a technology originally associated with aircraft. It is designed to smooth airflow through the wand, which helps boost moisture recovery. In one test comparing this technology to older conventional wands, the amount of moisture removed was as much as 50 percent more than with conventional wands.
One of the goals of Green cleaning is to reduce cleaning’s impact on the environment. And if no cleaning is performed at all, cleaning has no impact.
In most commercial facilities, carpets need to be cleaned only twice per year. More frequent cleaning may be unnecessary and increase the negative impact on the environment. A good example of this is carpet cleaning in the executive offices of a company. In some cases, the top executives are “pampered” by having their carpets cleaned as often as once a month. However, typically, the carpets in the executive offices of a company are the least soiled. Accordingly, reducing cleaning frequencies to a couple of times per year or as needed can also help Green carpet cleaning.
Finally, because we have already mentioned Green is a journey, one aspect of carpet cleaning that will soon become a part of that Green journey involves the ergonomics of the equipment. New machines are now being planned that are far more maneuverable, quiet, and easier to use than machines introduced just a few years ago. They work with the user helping to not only reduce cleanings impact on the environment, but on the user as well.
Mark Baxter is an engineer, product manager, and carpet cleaning expert working for U.S. Products, manufacturers of professional carpet cleaning tools, chemicals, and equipment. He may be reached through the company Web site at www.usproducts.com.