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The Benefits of Low-Moisture Carpet Cleaning
By: Dawn Shoemaker

While hard-surface flooring materials—including tile, stone, and new sustainable options, such as bamboo—have recently become more popular, many church facility administrators still prefer carpeting.

One of the key reasons for this preference is that carpeting absorbs sound, while hard-surface flooring can actually cause noises to reverberate throughout a facility—potentially causing a serious distraction, especially in a large setting with many people.

Carpeting also offers another benefit to busy church facilities. While hard-surface floors are likely to show soiling and spills, carpeting acts like a sponge, absorbing soils. Contaminants typically seep down into carpet fibers or are hidden from view because of the pattern, design, or texture of the carpet.

Carpeting offers other benefits, as well. Some studies indicate that carpeting is easier to maintain than hard-surface flooring and, in the long run, more cost-effective.

But one thing is certain: carpets must eventually be cleaned. They can act as a sponge for only so long before beginning to appear soiled and becoming unhealthy.

There are many ways to clean carpets today, some more effective than others. Much depends on the type of carpet, how it is constructed, traffic conditions and use, temperature, humidity, and even location. While there are many ways to clean carpeting, the current trend is to use low-moisture cleaning methods.

There are some cleaning professionals who believe that the best way to remove stubborn soils, even in carpeting, is to use more water in the cleaning process. The reason for this is that many believe water flushes out contaminants, leaving carpets cleaner.

But, this is not necessarily the case. While there is a place for water in carpet cleaning—and, in fact, it is necessary when the most effective techniques are employed—using lots of water can cause a number of problems.

Water Issues
Using excessive amounts of water during carpet cleaning can result in what is called "wicking" or "wick-back." This is when soils that have not been flushed away come up to the surface of the carpet as it dries.

Excessive amounts of water can also cause the following problems:

* Stretching, a condition in which the carpet does not lie flat on the floor in some areas
* Damage to the adhesives used to secure the carpet to the floor or at seams
* Rapid resoiling, which occurs when traffic is allowed on the carpet before it is fully dry; the moisture and cleaning chemicals act as a magnet, drawing soils back into the just-cleaned carpet
* Unusually long drying times, which can force areas of a facility to remain out of service and increases the potential for the growth of mold and mildew
* Moisture seeping underneath the carpeting and into the pad or subfloor below

The last two items are of particular concern.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the risk of mold or mildew developing in a carpet after cleaning increases if the carpet has not dried in 48 hours or less.

This can negatively impact indoor air quality and cause a variety of health-related problems. Once mold and mildew develop, church administrators will have no choice but to take serious action to protect the health of the church facility.

Low-Moisture Carpet Cleaning in a Nutshell
The problems that can be caused by using excessive amounts of water have spurred many cleaning professionals—and the carpet cleaning industry in general—to move toward low-moisture carpet cleaning methods.

 According to Mark Warner, president of the nonprofit Low-Moisture Carpet Cleaning Association, "Low-moisture carpet cleaning refers to methods and/or procedures that allow carpet fibers to dry to their natural state in two hours or less."

Warner is quick to point out that "every carpet exists in a unique environment," which means that such things as temperature and humidity can impact how quickly the carpet dries. But, regardless of conditions, the goal is for carpeting to dry in a short amount of time.

There are a number of carpet cleaning procedures that qualify as low-moisture cleaning. Much depends on whether the carpet needs what is called "interim" cleaning, or if more thorough "restorative" cleaning is necessary.

Interim cleaning is considered to be routine maintenance, meaning the carpet is not overly soiled. Interim cleaning methods include thorough vacuuming, using "dry" or encapsulation cleaning methods, and shampooing or bonnet cleaning.

Using interim carpet cleaning methods benefits church facilities because they help remove surface soils, minimize the development of "traffic lanes" (visibly soiled areas) in busy walkways, and maintain the carpet's appearance.

Restorative Low-Moisture Carpet Cleaning
How does restorative low-moisture carpet cleaning differ from interim methods?

According to Mark Baxter, an engineer with U.S. Products, a manufacturer of professional carpet cleaning equipment, restorative cleaning refers to the kinds of methods that are necessary to clean carpets that "are either loaded with soils, spots, and/or stains, or have not been cleaned for a long time—several months or more. Restorative cleaning is a much more effective form of cleaning…necessary to remove deeply embedded soils [in carpet fibers]."

Typically, the carpet cleaning method used in restorative cleaning is hot-water extraction. This method is available in either truck-mounted systems or portable machines. If your church is cleaned in-house, a portable system will probably be used.

"Fortunately, some [portable] extractors are quite powerful," said Baxter, "offering the cleaning power of a truck-mount in a portable."

But, what qualifies a hot-water extractor as a low-moisture machine? After all, these systems do require water in order to clean.

The amount of water used, along with the power of the equipment and even the type of cleaning wand used, are what qualifies a machine as low-moisture.

"Some [low-moisture] systems use less than a gallon of water per minute to clean," Baxter said. "This is considerably less than conventional machines and many older [carpet] extractors."

In a nutshell, using less water, powerful vacuums and wands with advanced airflow are the features that qualify some machines as low-moisture carpet cleaners.

Most Like It Hot
Using heated water contributes to low-moisture carpet cleaning, as well, for several reasons. First, using hot water (at temperatures of 212ºF or more) helps carpeting dry more quickly.

Additionally, using heated water can improve the effectiveness of cleaning chemicals. This often means less water and chemical may be necessary to clean heavily soiled areas.

Heat has other benefits that can prove valuable to church facilities in particular.

According to Jeff Bishop, a carpet cleaning expert and administrator of Clean Care Seminars, which offers instruction in carpet cleaning and other cleaning systems, heat not only improves carpeting's appearance but also improves the health of the indoor environment, protects indoor air quality, and makes facilities healthier places to visit and use—something all church administrators want for their facilities.

Dawn Shoemaker is a writer for the professional cleaning industry. Images within article are courtesy of U.S. Products.










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