If your office or workspace has lots of carpeted areas it is likely these are the first areas to look tired, worn, and, dare we say it – grubby! Today we look at ‘KYC’ of carpets, or ‘know your carpets’ as we’ve dubbed it – in a bid to help you keep your carpets looking, feeling and smelling their best.
Carpets add texture, richness, and comfort to workplaces and they have an important noise-cancelling purpose too. They do, however, require a substantial investment that not everyone is prepared for. Carpets come in all forms and materials, and some materials have better cleaning properties than others.
Carpets are trickier than other surfaces to keep clean, hygienic and smelling fresh. There’s also more to the science of carpet cleaning than you might think. The best way to preserve carpeted areas and ensure they have a long life is to really know what you are dealing with when it comes to cleaning them. Preferably you should know your carpet before you start cleaning it, as the first attempt at carpet cleaning can be make or break for stain and stain removal.
Once you fully understand the carpet/s you have, only then can you create a proper tailored maintenance and upkeep plan for them. Either failing to understand your carpets or failing to maintain your routine carpet cleaning schedule will see carpeted areas age, wear, and reputationally, that’s not a welcome look for any business.
First we need to know the type of carpets you have and their material makeup:
1 | What fibres does my carpet use?
Generally, commercial carpeting falls into one of three categories:
– animal (wool)
– vegetable (cotton or jute)
– synthetic (including nylon, polypropylene, polyester, rayon, acrylic, etc.)
Animal fibres are durable and resilient. You might be able to tell a animal based carpet fibre based on its low static (a giveaway for synthetic carpet fibres). They are so absorbent that they hide superficial soiling and respond well to cleaning but present more challenges for drying times post-clean.
Vegetable fibres are fairly uncommon in commercial settings because they can be more challenging to clean and dry.
Most popular due to cost and their hard-wearing capabilities, synthetic fibres are super strong, colour-fast, and resilient to wear, tear and mildew. Because of their man-made nature, these carpets are more likely to build up static in high-footfall areas.
In many carpets, manufacturers use a blend of wool and synthetic fibres to achieve the best of both worlds and maximum durability.
Cleaning synthetic carpets can pose some challenges. They don’t absorb soiling and this means they are likely to show stains, spots, and other dirt quicker than a wool-based carpet. Water stains can be removed fairly easily but oil is the enemy and wherever possible, such stains need tackling immediately on synthetic carpets.
2 | Is my carpet woven or non-woven and what type?
Generally, a woven carpet is durable and high quality, especially if using high-purity wool.
Woven carpets are constructed of three distinctive layers:
Face pile yarn
This is how you will generally know your carpet – its face value. It may have a loop or cut pile. Cut pile (where the top of the loop is cut to make exposed ends) is more open to staining and wears less well than the looped pile. Loop pile is much denser and creates a more even wear, with soiling kept more at the surface where general vacuuming can be very effective.
This is what the yarn pile is pushed through and you can usually see it by parting the fibres of your carpet. It’s often made from clear polypropylene but in the past jute was commonly used.
This final layer is bonded to the back of the carpet with an adhesive – they come in lots of different materials (like foam or even hessian). This layer is important to understand even if it’s invisible to the eye, because of the adhesives used. Not all backings respond well to cleaning solvents and if affected by over-cleaning or wetting, the pile may loosen over time affecting the performance and look of your carpet. Whenever cleaning carpets of this type try to reabsorb as much of the liquids used in the process as possible (especially solvents).
There are three common woven carpet types:
Wilton-style carpets (usually plain colours) use wool in their backing making them stronger (they have a smooth backing).
Axminster carpets by contrast are the priciest because of their individual tufts and vibrant patterns. These carpets usually have an obvious ribbed texture to their backing.
Woven carpets are overall the most durable, easy to clean and may cost less to maintain so provide a good option for buildings that want to combine quality and longevity.
NB: Wherever you suspect jute or hessian is present in your commercial carpets, be aware they need special treatment. They deteriorate rapidly when wet meaning mildew and brown stains can appear. These stains need pre-treatment and extra care taken to dry carpets thoroughly and promptly after cleaning.
Non-woven & tufted carpets
Non-woven carpets are common because they are faster to make and cheaper to buy. They are a bit like a sandwich of layers (similar to those in a woven carpet) except the fibres are bonded to a backing made of bitumen or polypropylene. Cut or loop fibres are poked through the backing. They are great for any carpet that needs to be really flat (e.g. wall-to-wall carpeting and floor tiles).
Most commercial carpeting is likely to be tufted unless it’s a very high-end finish. Tufted carpet is versatile but not as hard-wearing as some good quality woven carpets. As technology evolves the gap between woven and non-woven carpeting is closing, but woven carpets still have the slight advantage from a cleaning perspective.
Colourfast, quick to dry, and resistant to stains, soiling and sunlight, needle-punched carpet is much like tufted carpet (with slight differences in the manufacture process and tools). They are most commonly reserved for barrier matting and areas with very high moisture levels.
Understanding you carpet construction and the fibres used within it will make future cleaning, upkeep and maintenance easier. And by answering these questions before determining a carpet cleaning and care plan, you can confidently inform the following key cleaning questions:
– How frequently should I vacuum?
– What should our approach to reactive care be for spots, stains or serious soiling?
– What type of vacuum and carpet cleaning equipment do we need to buy?
– What products are safe and effective to use on our carpets?
– How frequently should we deep clean our carpets?
– What deep cleaning method should be employed (shampooing, extraction, bonnet buffing)?
– When should wet carpet cleaning ideally take place (to avoid downtime during drying)?
– Where do we need to introduce more barrier matting to prevent carpets being soiled so much?
– When and where do we need to replace carpets vs. clean them?
And perhaps even –
– What carpet type, colour and material should we use next time for this area, with hindsight?