Two Decades of Commercial Carpet Maintenance
By Jim Smith and Graham Bedwell
Commercial carpet maintenance has undergone significant changes in the last 20-plus years. But first, what does commercial carpet maintenance include?
Commercial carpet maintenance is more than the science of cleaning. Cleaning professionals need to know and understand what they are cleaning, the installation type, the fiber type, and more.
The past two decades have seen many changes in carpet maintenance. It’s a great business, but entering into this vertical is difficult. Back when we started, one needed extraordinary business skills, friends in high places, or both, but things have changed.
20-plus years ago
The commercial carpet maintenance methods of 20-plus years ago primarily consisted of using portable hot water extractors for the first 10 feet from a hard surface followed by absorbent pads (such as bonnets) for most other areas. But then something new happened that turned this industry upside down.
DuPont Flooring entered the commercial carpet business using an unusual method of cleaning. This method’s chemistry was something that seemed inconceivable. In a matter of a few months, DuPont captured a sizable amount of market share. They had noticeably better cleaning results. They were more than competitive. What were they doing?
It was the introduction of encapsulation cleaning. It was faster than bonnets, had superior appearance retention, was more profitable, took much less skill, and eliminated most of the wicking issues. The big bonus was that there were fewer issues with carpet manufacturers’ cleaning specifications.
Thus, the encapsulant introduced a new form of chemistry to the carpet cleaning industry. The primary difference was that hot water extraction and bonnets used surfactants, which suspended soil, while encapsulants formed films. When similar products were introduced to these companies, you either joined the technology or lost your business to someone who did. The problem was that industry educators should have paid more attention even though revisions were made to update training in 2002.
The COVID-19 era
We hit a second major transformation in commercial maintenance in 2020 that changed a lot of things. It was called COVID-19. Many offices were closed, and employees worked from home. If you did go into an office, there were new social distancing and masking rules. Thus, commercial carpet maintenance significantly declined, but an opportunity of significant importance arose.
A few commercial carpet companies experienced their greatest success yet. They started sanitizing with new technologies. These innovative technologies included extraordinary oxidizers such as chlorine dioxide and peracetic acid. In addition, newer technologies in UVC lighting were introduced to the marketplace. For example, using a UVC light could achieve more than 90% efficacy
in 15 minutes compared to 70% effectiveness with four hours of cleaning by four highly trained technicians. Do the math! This made the revenues from entering the age of encapsulants look like pocket change in comparison.
But how do we get ourselves educated in the latest technology? Currently, education is kicking around methods of cleaning and whether we will be able to keep our “wear warranty” from the carpet maker. Unfortunately, education has not grown to where it needs to be. There are so many opportunities and so few well-trained companies.
Focus on maintenance
In the meantime, as we wait for education to catch up with technology, our focus should be on maintenance.
When you have a new car, do you wait till it breaks down before maintaining it? No, of course not. You maintain the car regularly, such as by changing the oil every so many miles. The same is true in commercial carpet cleaning. Cleaners must understand their customers’ needs.
Many carpet cleaners have commercial jobs where they clean a heavily soiled carpet for a customer once a year. To convert this to a maintenance program, the cleaner needs to say to the customer: “Let’s put a program together to maintain your carpet so it will always look clean.”
Show the customer how a maintenance program works
When explaining to your customer how a maintenance program works, first walk the complete facility and determine:
- Where all the traffic areas are, such as the main areas, the secondaries, and so on
- Where the pivot points are
- Where the coffee stations are located
- Where food might be served.
Once these areas are determined, a color-coded floor plan can now be created. This will allow you to review the benefits of an ongoing maintenance program with the customer. There are excellent programs available via the internet that can be adapted for your use. There are also consulting companies that can come to your aid.
Commercial carpet maintenance has certainly evolved over the years, but its purpose is still the same: to keep customers’ carpet clean through a regular program of maintenance, no matter how time moves on.
James “Jim” B. Smith is an IICRC-approved instructor and a senior practicing inspector, with nearly 50 years of experience. His educational studies come from Texas A&M University and the University of Houston. Learn more at www.carpetinspector.com/jbs or email him at jsmith@ carpetinspector.com.
Graham Bedwell is the director of Bedwell Consulting, providing IICRC certiﬁcation and commercial maintenance consulting. With more than 30 years of experience, he is an IICRC-approved instructor and senior inspector. He is also a past IICRC board member and past Carpet and FabriCare Institute (CFI president.