Many carpet cleaning technicians are faced with a dilemma when it comes to marketing their services to commercial facilities.

They know their services help keep facilities clean and healthy. And they also know they can help preserve and protect the often large investment building owners and managers make in the building’s carpeting.

However, while most owners and managers will agree that carpet cleaning does keep facilities “clean and healthy,” they may not be as enlightened about the second point. Rather than thinking of it as an investment, they often look at carpet cleaning as a cost, and often an expensive one at that.

We are here to help you handle this dilemma and educate your client on the value of proper carpet care. For the bottom line, it is clear: Proper and effective carpet cleaning not only helps preserve and protect carpet, but it does this so well it should be viewed as an investment in building assets.

According to Alan Bigger, former director of building services at the University of Notre Dame, carpet in a commercial facility can last up to 15 years before it has to be replaced. While there are several variables impacting how long carpet lasts, without question, one of the most important is how well it is vacuumed, cleaned and maintained on a regular basis.

To prove his point, Bigger offers the following scenario:

Say we have a 20,000-square-foot carpeted office space. If the installed carpet cost $20.00 a square foot including installation, the total purchase would be $400,000. 1

With the carpet extracted twice per year and vacuumed daily, it likely will last 10 years before it needs to be replaced. If the building is used for 50 years and the carpet is replaced five times during that period, that means the carpet will cost $2 million over the life of the building.2

Continuing with our scenario, let’s say the facility cuts back on the number of times carpet is vacuumed from five times per week to just two times per week. In addition, extraction is scaled back to once per year or less.

Because the increased soil buildup negatively impacts the life expectancy of the carpet, it now has to be replaced every six years, or at least eight times over a 50-year period. This means that the cost to carpet that facility over the life of the building is now $3.2 million.

If charged 15 cents to 25 cents per square foot to clean the carpet,3 these charges would prove minuscule compared to the more than $1 million the facility would save to have the carpet cleaned on a more frequent basis.

Had the administrators been made aware of this, they would have realized that cleaning is not a cost but an investment and, at least in this case, could have saved over a million dollars over time.

 

WELL-MAINTAINED CARPET POORLY MAINTAINED CARPET
Total carpeted area 20,000 square feet Total carpeted area 20,000 square feet
Cost per square foot $20.00 Cost per square foot $20.00
Total cost to carpet area $400,000.00 Total cost to carpet area $400,000.00
Life expectancy of building 50 years Life expectancy of building 50 years
Carpet replacements over life of building 5 Carpet replacements over life of building 8
Cost of replacements $2 million Cost of replacements $3.2 million
More thorough carpet care would save this facility approximately: $1.2 million

 

Fewer numbers…similar results

We can also point to how more thorough carpet cleaning proves to be a savings using a major North American insurance company as an example. However, this time you can put your calculators away. We’ll just discuss what happened and the results.

Steve Spencer, now a well-known cleaning expert, was called in to help this insurance company reduce its operating costs. The insurance company was replacing millions of square feet of carpeting every year in its offices and buildings, costing the company thousands of dollars annually.

To help them reduce this expenditure, Spencer paid very close attention to how the carpet was cleaned and maintained.

His recommendation was first met with surprise. He suggested that the insurance company increase the amount they invested in cleaning and maintaining carpet. In fact, he suggested they almost double the amount they were investing on a square-foot basis.

Considering the company was trying to cut costs, the thought of paying more for carpet care was not what they wanted to hear. However, Spencer was right and the payback proved substantial.

The life span of the carpet doubled. This significantly lowered the amount the insurance company was paying to replace carpet, and even though the company paid more to have the carpet cleaned and more thoroughly maintained, the savings still proved significant.

Less tangible benefits

An investment in cleaning can pay off in many other ways. For instance, according to ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association, an investment in cleaning helps in:

  • Reducing absenteeism,
  • Reducing illness,
  • Improving productivity,
  • Improving customer satisfaction.

It also helps minimize accidents, especially slip-and-fall accidents, “and the regular removal of soil, debris and trash can help minimize pest control bills,” another cost savings, adds Bigger.

Large cleaning contractors are very focused on helping their clients realize cleaning is an investment. Many astute building and facility managers are now well aware that proper cleaning can protect human health. But now we know it can also prove to be an asset. As Bigger says, “A quality cleaning program is a vital part of a total cost of ownership program.… The life expectancy of a building can be enhanced through quality cleaning and maintenance.”

Notes:
1 Most carpet in the United States is sold by the square foot, a 1-foot by 1-foot square. However carpet in large commercial spaces may be sold by the square yard, which is a 3-foot by 3-foot area (9 square feet). Due to consumer complaints about over charging, the Federal Trade Commission would like all carpet sold in the U.S. to be sold by the square foot. Due to this, to help simplify our calculations, and because carpet cleaning is normally charged on a square-foot basis, we will use square footage for measurements. 2 According to the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute, the expected service life of a commercial building built in North America is as follows:

  • A masonry-constructed building, 77.5 years,
  • Wood, 51.6 years,
  • Concrete, 87.2 years,
  • Steel, 77.3 years.

3 According to cleaning consultant Bill Griffin, the charge to clean commercial carpet in the U.S. is between four and 25 cents per square foot. The wide range is typically the result of frequency and community. If carpet is cleaned frequently by the same technician, a discounted rate is typically part of the agreement. As to community, what technicians charge in New York City, for instance, would likely be far more than what is charged in Tulsa, OK.

 

Doug Berjer has written extensively on cleaning, carpet cleaning and water conservation issues. He is now regional manager with CFR, Continuous Flow Recycling extractors, and Tornado Industries. He may be reached via his company web sites at www.cfrcorp.com or www.tornadvac.com.

Peer Reviewed by Scott Warrington, Interlink Supply, August 10, 2015