Cleaning and disinfecting is the best way to remove germs from surfaces and to prevent illness from occurring in your facility.
In any facility, the two main types of surfaces are hard and soft surfaces.
Most EPA-registered disinfectants clearly state their ability to be used on “hard, nonporous surfaces.” This leaves many questioning how to disinfect soft surfaces. While some disinfecting chemicals have a claim for “soft surfaces,” this is actually a sanitizing claim.
Sanitizing and disinfecting are two different procedures. Sanitizing reduces the number of bacteria and germs that are identified on the product’s label. Sanitizing reduces germs by 99.99% but the .01% they leave behind can allow thousands of germs to remain. Disinfecting destroys or inactivates 100% of bacteria and viruses listed on the product’s label preventing them from spreading.
There is actually no way to disinfect soft surfaces.
Soft surfaces include carpet, privacy curtains, upholstery, couches, bedside chairs, mattresses, cots, drapes and linens.
Disinfecting soft surfaces is not possible because of the difficulty to effectively kill all, or 100%, of the germs throughout the surface or item.
On hard surfaces, disinfectant products can be applied on the surface and left to dwell. Unlike on hard surfaces, the product can soak into soft surfaces, like carpet, and fail to achieve the proper dwell time.
This does not mean that carpet can not be effectively cleaned and sanitized to reduce the number of germs to a safe level.
Below, we’ll go over the most effective way to clean and sanitize carpets.
How to Sanitize a Carpet
The best method of carpet sanitation is hot water carpet extraction.
However, not all carpets are tolerant of heat. If this is the case in your facility, regular carpet extraction is the next best sanitizing approach.
Carpet extractors use agitation to remove soils and germs from the carpeting.
To sanitize, you must first clean the area. The first step to clean a carpet is vacuuming.
Pro Tip: Always begin carpet extraction procedures with vacuuming. If you do not remove dry soils with a vacuum before using a carpet extractor, the carpet extractor will create a muddy solution. When the carpet begins to dry, soils that were not removed will experience a “wicking” from the carpet backing.
Step 1: Vacuum
Vacuuming is the most important component of carpet maintenance. Routine vacuuming removes the soils and debris from the floor.
Vacuuming should occur as often as possible to capture soil, allergens, and bacteria, but in general the Carpet and Rug Institute recommends:
- Vacuum daily in high-traffic areas.
- Vacuum twice weekly in medium-traffic areas.
- Vacuum weekly in light-traffic areas.
- Use attachments at carpet edges and above the floor surfaces as needed.
With the right vacuum you can remove a significant amount of indoor allergens and particulates.
To achieve the best clean, select a vacuum with HEPA filtration that has third-party certifications, CRI’s Seal of Approval.
One of the most widely sought features of vacuums today is HEPA filtration.
HEPA, which stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air, is a designation used to describe filters that are able to trap 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger.
HEPA filters reduce the amount of soils that can move through the vacuum cleaner and back into the air. They ultimately help to purify indoor air quality.
CRI Seal of Approval
The most important certification to look for is CRI Seal of Approval. CRI is an independent third party approval program. The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) offers a Seal of Approval (SOA).
“Seal of Approval/Green Label (SOA/GL)” ensures that the piece of equipment removes a specified amount of soil from the carpet without causing damage to the carpet.
There are three CRI standards: bronze, silver and gold. The minimum performance standard for soil removal is the bronze seal, which certifies 40-49% of soils are removed from the carpet.
The more soil and particulates that are removed from your carpet, the cleaner it will be.
Step 2: Apply Alkaline Carpet Cleaner
After vacuuming, use a pump up sprayer to apply carpet cleaner directly to the carpet.
Dirt and debris is usually acidic. Dirt is the most common contaminant of carpets because it is tracked in on people’s shoes from outside. You should use an alkaline cleaner to clean the carpet.
Do not add the carpet cleaner to the carpet extractor. The extractor should only hold water and extraction rinse.
Step 3: Let Dwell
Let the cleaner sit on the carpet for the recommended dwell time. Dwell time will vary by manufacturer, but is typically between 5-10 minutes.
Step 4: Rinse
After applying the carpet cleaner, add the extraction rinse to the tank of the carpet extractor. Extraction rinse is an acidic product and will neutralize any soap residue left in the carpet.
Use the carpet extractor to pull the soap and soils from the carpet.
It is critical to the appearance of the carpet to remove as much soap and water residue as possible. Any soap that is left behind will attract dirt, causing your carpet to get dirtier faster.
Step 5: Let Dry
Make sure the carpet is completely dry before replacing furniture or walking on the surface.
If you do not let a carpet dry completely, the carpet will attract dirt and become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria.
Choosing a good performing carpet extractor can increase cleaning efficiency and produce better cleaning results. Similar to vacuums, you should be looking for a carpet extractor that is CRI certified.
Pro Tip: You can use an air mover/blower to decrease drying times.
Step 6: Apply Sanitizer (Optional)
Although it is not best practice, you can choose to apply a cleaning product with soft surface sanitizing claims to large area carpets and upholstery for an added layer of protection.
The chemical is typically applied using electrostatic sprayers.
Cleaning and sanitizing is the best way to reduce the amount of germs in your carpet. Vacuuming is the first step, and extraction will be the final and most effective step.
EBP has been a leading provider of commercial cleaning solutions for over 100 years, and we offer a variety of commercial cleaning supplies and janitorial cleaning equipment including commercial carpet cleaners and carpet extractors to help you build a successful carpet care program.
Contact one of our Equipment Specialists for help reviewing your commercial carpet program and identifying the best equipment for your needs.