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The 10 how-to's of good carpet care: tips from an experienced professional. (Feature Article).

Rigorous round-the-clock facility use is the maintenance challenge of healthcare facilities--be it hospital, clinic, nursing home or other extended-care facility. Success and profit hinge, in part, on keeping virtually all furnishings--particularly carpet and tile flooring--in use 24/7, available to residents and guests on a constant-use basis. Facility managers are under pressure to deliver these benefits, and they deserve solid, practical advice on how to accomplish this.

Let's start with the facts: (1) The appearance or performance of carpet in common areas is often disappointing, particularly in lobbies, hallways and lower-floor entrances to elevators; (2) build-up of odors (from incontinent residents) and spots/stains from medication and food spills are a constant concern and challenge; (3) turnaround time on dining areas, individual rooms and other guest/resident spaces is critical; (4) preventing mildew, mold and/or bacterial growth in rooms is crucial; and (5) often, the carpet is cleaned intermittently, after soil has built up and can be seen.

Carpet has the ability to hide dirt so that we don't see it until it is too late. Changing the flooring system does not change the amount of dirt that is brought into the facility. So, from a practical, day-to-day maintenance point of view, where does the cleaning manager begin? Here are 10 recommendations that will make a significant, immediate difference in keeping carpet clean and contributing to a healthy physical environment:

1. Trap dirt outside. By keeping parking lots, sidewalks and adjacent exterior areas clean, less dirt ends up inside. More than 90% of dirt on indoor carpets is tracked in on shoe soles.

2. Use walk-off mats at all entrances. These should have pile, be at least 20 linear feet long and be able to trap both dry dirt and moisture. It is important to include these mats in the daily vacuuming activities, which will remove a great deal of the dirt being tracked in. In winter, vacuum more often and replace mats that are wet.

3. Vacuum daily. This is the single most important step. Vacuum all high-traffic areas, entrances, main hallways--all areas where a lot of guests and residents are walking-every day. It might even be necessary to vacuum some entrances twice a day. The more vacuuming you do, the less cleaning you will need to do. Remember, most of the dirt that comes into the building is dry dirt and is removed most effectively through vacuuming.

4. Lift pile. Many carpet manufacturers recommend pile lifting as an important step in maintaining carpet. This opens the yarns and stands them up vertically, so that regular vacuuming is more effective.

5. Remove spots daily. Establish a simple spot removal program that encourages and makes it easy to clean up and remove spots every day. An incredibly simple technique is to use a dry extraction cleaner. Brush the safe, nontoxic and biodegradable cleaner through the spot and vacuum it up; no mixing of chemicals, no risk of damage-and spots do not reappear. Since the best time to clean a spot is "right now," consider placing a bag of dry cleaner at each nurses station. This way, spots can be addressed quickly. Effective spot removal is critical; done correctly, the spots do not reappear, odors from the spills do not build up, and the appearance of the entire carpet is maintained.

6. Clean areas of carpet based on usage. You don't have to clean all the carpet all the time, just the areas of greatest use. While wall-to-wall cleaning is occasionally needed, concentrate your resources on the areas of greatest use. These include the high-traffic areas (e.g., lobby, guest and resident seating areas, food service areas). A dry-extraction cleaning method is excellent for this, because it can be localized in this manner. What's more, these areas can be opened to traffic immediately, since little moisture is used. An individual room can be returned to use in less than 20 minutes.

Transition areas-where carpet meets hard floor surfaces-are easy to maintain with this strategy, too. No need to put up "wet floor" or "slippery" signs. Rather, the carpet can be dry-cleaned and returned to use immediately, and users can continue to walk safely from the clean carpet onto the hard surfaces. Following this approach relegates overall cleaning to an "as needed," less frequently performed activity.

7. Use effective vacuums. Make sure that your vacuums are in good operating condition. Check belts, beater bar and brush agitators, vacuum bags and filters. The brand of the vacuum cleaner is less important than its care and maintenance.

8. Focus on the lower floors. Spend more time and effort cleaning and vacuuming the ground floor areas. The dirt comes from outside at ground level, and the more cleaning you do there, the less is needed on the upper floors.

9. Carpet the elevators. Experience shows that carpeting elevators goes a long way toward preventing the spread of dirt to upper floors. Be sure to vacuum these carpets every day and dry-clean them at least weekly. Dry cleaning allows quick turnaround of the elevator so that there is less inconvenience to residents and staff.

10. Develop a maintenance plan. An effective plan guides both where and when the cleaning equipment should be used; the equipment available should not drive the plan. Observing this distinction is critical for those managers who are committed to being in charge of carpet maintenance. Display your cleaning and vacuuming schedule in the housekeeping office to send the message that you are serious about cleaning. Stick to your plan, and watch others in the building begin to respond. (They might even help out by clearing areas or picking up after themselves!) A clean facility is, after all, an all-employee responsibility.

Through daily maintenance, buildings and the furnishings in them are kept in a high state of cleanliness year round. Carpet stays on the floor, yet every day it looks clean and user-friendly. A planned, proactive approach to cleaning that focuses on the areas of carpet that are most used can extend the useful life of the carpet. It means that monies that would normally go into carpet replacement can be used to maintain the perfectly good carpet and furnishings you already have.

Geoffrey Greeley is director of technical services for HOST/Racine Industries, Inc., the manufacturer of the HOST Dry Extraction Carpet Cleaning System. For more information, call (414) 637-4491, fax (414) 637-0558 or visit
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Author:Greeley, Geoffrey
Publication:Nursing Homes
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2002
Previous Article:A talk with Paul R. Willging, PhD, President and CEO, Assisted Living Federation of America. (Assisted Living Review).
Next Article:Compact full-capacity dryer. (Product Focus: Housekeeping/Maintenance).

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