A recent survey of building service contractors indicated that most locations BSCs now clean are equally divided between carpet and hard-surface flooring. When asked if they expect one or the other to be installed more often in years to come, no dramatic change was expected.
Because of this, BSCs may need to reconsider having separate maintenance programs for carpet and hard-surface flooring. “What might better serve their needs and the cleaning and maintenance requirements of their customers is a complete floor-care maintenance program,” explains Kyle McCabe, engineering administrator at Tornado®, a leading manufacturer of professional vacuum cleaners, floor machines and carpet extractors. “This puts greater emphasis on an all-encompassing program of preventive, daily and interim care for both types of floor surfaces.”
According to McCabe, although hard-surface floors and carpets have different maintenance needs, certain elements of cleaning and maintenance can serve both. Among the components of an effective floor-care program, he says, are the following:
Education: A well-designed floor-care program starts with properly trained personnel. This is key to the optimal care of the floors and carpets, their longevity and the health of the entire facility. BSCAI and other accredited organizations offer several avenues for training and certification.
A Good-Neighbor Approach: Crews must respect the transition areas between hard-surface and carpeted floors. For instance, after wet-mopping hard-surface flooring, make sure the floors are completely dry before allowing traffic to cross from the hard surface to carpeting. Additionally, do not place or store equipment used for one type of flooring on the other.
Vacuuming: Vacuuming can be more effective than dust mopping at removing soils from hard-surface flooring and is healthier for the environment. However, when pressed for time BSCs often vacuum as quickly as possible or only on an “as-needed” basis. “This can be a serious mistake because carpets and porous flooring can hide soil,” explains McCabe. “Soiling is a cumulative process that can cause more problems if it is allowed to go too far, usually requiring restorative maintenance. A proper floor-care maintenance program requires that all floor surfaces be vacuumed properly, regularly.” Proper Equipment: More than 50 percent of those responding to the previously mentioned survey are considering selecting a backpack vacuum cleaner over the traditional upright. With facilities being fairly evenly divided between hard and carpeted surfaces, a backpack, which can be readily used on both, may be a wise option. “Without question, backpacks can improve worker productivity,” says McCabe. “According to one study, an upright vacuum cleaner can clean about 3,200 square feet per hour, but a backpack can clean as much as 7,400 square feet per hour. That’s more than twice as much area in the same amount of time.” **
High-Performance Matting Systems: Effective matting systems can trap and prevent as much as 85 percent of outdoor soil and other pollutants from “walking in” a facility. For this reason, McCabe advises placing six to 15 feet of high-performance matting inside and outside major building entries. The outdoor mats scrape debris off shoes, while the indoor mats collect smaller particles and dust, and both mats absorb moisture. “They must also be vacuumed regularly to prevent soil from accumulating and to keep the mats performing properly,” he adds.
Appropriate Scheduling: According to McCabe, the scheduling component of an effective floor maintenance program has two parts. First, divide the facility into three sections depending on soil accumulation. Those floor and carpet areas that are most heavily trafficked, such as lobbies and major corridors, receive the most cleaning attention. Areas that have less soil buildup, such as offices, receive more moderate attention, and rooms with little use receive the least attention. “Remember, all floor surfaces must be cleaned regularly and thoroughly,” he says, “but scheduling can improve worker productivity and place a greater emphasis on where time and attention are most needed.”
Second, perform restorative care on a schedule, not on an as-needed system or based on the appearance of the flooring. “The Carpet and Rug Institute recommends carpet extraction at least twice per year or more often in busy walkways and common areas,” says McCabe. “And, hard-surface floors should be refinished before they start to dull. This can be a sign that soils and grit have worked their way into the pores and surface of the floor.” McCabe adds that when cleaning, we must consider the big picture of the entire building. “If only one area or part of a facility is well maintained, then really the entire facility suffers,” he says. “We must look at the parts of the facilities we clean as totally interrelated, realizing that the appearance, maintenance, and health of the facility require that all areas be cleaned and maintained properly.”
* Tornado e-Poll, June 2007
** Jim Harris, former BSCAI president