Steps to keep retail store carpets clean before and after holiday shopping.
According to CNN Money, larger — and younger — crowds jammed the nation’s malls and big box stores during Black Friday 2011, proving that a new generation of buyers, long accustomed to purchasing online, like to shop in brick-and-mortar retail stores just like their elders. Many stores around the country opened at midnight to accommodate these hordes of younger shoppers.
For store and mall owners, it was a welcome sight. But for cleaning professionals — the ones who must care for those floors trampled on by the shoppers, especially the carpeted floors — it was another tale indeed.
Before and shortly after the holiday season is typically the most difficult time for retail store carpets. Soil, ice melt, food, spilled drinks — just about everything and anything imaginable — can get tracked in by busy shoppers and ends up on all floors, hard surface and carpets, waiting to be removed by cleaning workers.
However, there are steps cleaning professionals can take to protect floors, specifically carpeted floors, so that they better weather the holiday season. These steps also promote safety and maintain the longevity of the carpet floor coverings.
Daily Carpet Care
There are no rules when it comes to selecting floor coverings in retail facilities. Some retailers prefer tile, stone, cement, wood, wood laminates or a variety of other hard surface floors in their stores. But invariably carpeting is still found in ample amounts. Carpets can weather the holiday season better than many retailers and cleaning professionals may realize, and some studies even indicate that, overall, carpets are easier, less time consuming, and less expensive to care for than hard surface floors. Further, deep soiling, in which carpets are significantly stained or soiled, is both preventable and correctable, if proper, decisive cleaning and maintenance steps are taken as soon as they occur.
As to prevention, and this is for both carpeted and hard surface flooring, the best defense is a “high performance” matting system. High performance generally refers to mats of a higher quality, which can better catch and hold soils and moisture so they are not are tracked into a retail facility. This keeps the entire store cleaner, not just the floors.
Often, retailers will have a few feet of matting placed at key entries. For the holiday season, this should be doubled if not tripled. Often referred to as the “Rule of 15,” many cleaning experts suggest as much as 15 feet of matting should be installed outside and inside a busy entry. If high performance matting is in place, as much as 80% of the soil and moisture is absorbed into the matting — and not tracked into the store.
Specifically, when it comes to daily carpet care, vacuum frequencies must be increased during the holiday shopping rush. Depending on foot traffic, vacuuming should be increased to several times per day, if possible, with a HEPA-filtered unit. This helps prevent dust and soil from becoming airborne, harming the health of shoppers and staff, and ending up on store displays and merchandise.
An important consideration when vacuuming is to look for spots. Spots, typically, can be removed using proper spotting techniques and chemical spotters. A well-versed janitorial distributor can help select the most effective spotters for use. However, if a spot is left too long on a carpet, the spot can become a stain, actually discoloring the carpet. Although there are still ways to treat and remove a stain, it is invariably far more difficult than removing a spot.
When a spot is detected, the following steps should help remove it quickly and safely:
• Vacuum the entire area to remove dry soil.
• Identify the spot (oil or ice melt, etc.) and use the appropriate remover; if the spot cannot be identified, start with an all-purpose spot remover (or even dish detergent and warm water).
• Apply the spotter from the outsid e to the inside, blotting with cloth or towel.
• While blotting, apply some weight or pressure to the area.
• Replace the cloth or towel if it becomes soiled; rinse the entire area with fresh water and allow to dry.
Restorative Carpet Care
Before, during and after the holiday shopping season, carpets should also be cleaned using a carpet extractor. This is referred to as restorative cleaning and does far more than just keep carpets looking their best. It removes the soils, grit and contaminants that can actually eat away at carpet fibers. This means ongoing, restorative carpet care, especially during the holiday season, can increase the lifespan of carpets significantly.
Typically, portable carpet extractors are used to clean carpets in retail facilities because they can more easily be moved from area to area. A problem some cleaning professionals have with these machines is that they must be emptied and refilled frequently. Even under the best of conditions, this empty/refill task can take about 15 minutes. In a large retail location, it can be much longer, which means cleaning the carpets can take much longer and be more labor intensive, which all translates into increased cleaning costs.
An option many retailers now have is to use recycling carpet extractors. Introduced several years ago, these recycling extraction systems recycle cleaning solution up to seven times before needing to be emptied. This means they use significantly less water and chemical than conventional portable carpet extractors, making them far greener and more sustainable than conventional extractors and also reducing the amount of time it takes to clean carpets.
After the holiday season, retailers are anxious to tabulate their sales and see how well they did. When it comes to carpet care, cleaning professionals must also tabulate how well they handled the season. If the carpets appear clean and healthy, with minimal (if any) spotting, they have done well. If problem areas are evident, they may have to reevaluate their carpet maintenance program so that they are better prepared for next year’s shopping season.
— Doug Berjer is a carpet cleaning expert and the brand manager for CFR, manufacturers of recycling carpet cleaning extractors and other carpet cleaning tools and equipment.