Carpet Care 101: Prevention & Restoration

One of the most common complaints about the $1.9-trillion U.S. health care system is that it often overlooks the importance of prevention. Many experts believe that if more money and direction were spent on preventive treatment, the cost of treating illness in this country could decline dramatically.

A similar analogy can be drawn about carpet care in hotels, says Steve Williams, senior vice president of research and development for U.S. Products, manufacturers of professional carpet, floor and restoration cleaning equipment. Carpet care is often a major cost for hotels, which can have literally acres of carpet. To reduce these costs, Williams recommends implementing a carpet care program that includes preventive measures to help extend the carpet's attractive appearance. And, these same preventive measures can help reduce the overall time necessary to maintain carpets. This is possible because these measures help postpone restorative cleaning, which can be costly, time-consuming and labor-intensive, even with the best equipment.


Studies confirm that several pounds of sand, dirt and grit can be tracked into a hotel daily. This debris is walked in by employees and guests and can increase significantly during bad weather. In fact, some studies show that up to 24 pounds of dirt can be tracked in by just a thousand people coming through the entrance over a 20-day work period. At a busy hotel, this soil accumulation can develop much faster, often within a very few days.

A good carpet maintenance program starts at the front door with an effective matting system. This system helps increase the carpet's life because it minimizes soiling and helps present a consistently clean, quality appearance. And, it saves money, according to the International Sanitary Supply Association. ISSA found the cost to remove just one pound of dirt after it is tracked throughout a building can exceed $500.

As much as 15 to 20 feet of matting should be placed at all pedestrian entrances around the hotel, inside and outside entries, at garage entrances, and in shipping/receiving areas. Soil most frequently accumulates within the first five to 10 feet of the mat, especially in high-traffic areas; therefore, mats of this length can prevent soil from entering the facility. Also, mats should be frequently cleaned and vacuumed.


“Spot cleaning is essential in a carpet care program,” says Williams. “It's part of a daily carpet care routine and should be done with tools and chemicals specifically designed for this task; most importantly, spots should be addressed as soon as they are detected.”

It is common for an untrained housekeeper to try to remove spots with a general cleaner or another chemical that is not necessarily intended for carpet spotting. This can damage the carpet and make the spot more difficult to remove. Training is, of course, a vital component of all cleaning as well as a maintenance program, Williams says. Use spotting chemicals certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute under their Seal of Approval program.

Daily vacuuming is another component of an effective carpet care program. Again, the use of CRI-approved vacuum cleaners, which bear the Green Label certification, is recommended. This certification verifies the machines have met specific criteria as to performance, soil removal and dust containment to protect indoor air quality, all without harming carpet appearance.

Daily vacuuming helps prevent top surface dust and soils from being pressed deep down into carpet fibers. With proper matting, regular spotting and daily vacuuming, soil content in carpets is kept to a minimum and costly restorative cleaning measures are forestalled.


Although preventive measures can help delay restorative carpet maintenance such as hot-water extraction, carpets will eventually need to be thoroughly cleaned. However, Williams advises that restoration work should not be driven just by the carpet's appearance.

“The key is to clean carpets before they look or become soiled,” he says. In most cases, carpets begin to appear soiled because layer after layer of soil has become embedded in carpet fibers. This can make the carpet more difficult to clean and can damage the carpet as well.

For a hotel, Williams recommends using high-pressure, low-moisture carpet extractors with enhanced agitation systems. Using a low-moisture machine helps carpets dry within a few hours, because they use less water and solution to clean. This is critical in a busy hotel, and using less cleaning solution helps prevent re-soiling.

Also, all cleaning requires agitation to loosen soils so that they can be easily removed. Some low-moisture extractors now have nylon-loop agitators, instead of conventional brushes, which can better penetrate deep into carpet fibers to remove soils, yet are gentle on the carpet. And some systems heat the cleaning solution, which improves the effectiveness of the cleaning chemicals. With a low-moisture system, both dry and oily soils are extracted using a powerful combination of pressure, agitation and hot water.

The most effective cleaning maintenance programs place the greatest emphasis on prevention of soil build-up. Employing such a system for carpet care not only helps keep carpets looking their best for longer periods of time, but it also reduces overall carpet care costs. Even more, such a program helps protect the health of the indoor environment, which may be the ultimate benefit.

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