Children and carpet go together, if the carpet is clean. Now here’s what to look for.
By Bill Yeadon
Day care or child care facilities are a mainstay of many churches and church-supported schools. The benefits of these facilities to parents are innumerable, including the assurance that their children are in a safe, nurturing environment under the care of supportive, qualified adults.
However, when a mother picks up her crawling baby from a church day-care or child care facility and notices soiled areas on the knees of the baby’s outfit, the positives can quickly shift to negatives. This happens every day in child care facilities — and to be fair, homes — across the country as a direct result of a poorly cleaned carpet. Considering that the soils and pollutants trapped in the carpet can include mold spores, fungi, weed killer, and animal fecal matter, in addition to clay, sand, leaves, and grass clippings, concerns can escalate.
Carpet has benefits
Carpet is the ideal surface for day care or child-care facilities with several benefits. It provides a comfortable environment for children and gives the room an overall warm feeling. The soft texture provides a measure of safety for inevitable tumbles. The sound deadening quality is a benefit to those adults and teachers who spend time in the company of many laughing, crying, highly vocal children. In colder climates or seasons, carpet retains warm air longer, an energy conservation benefit. It also absorbs spilled milk, juices, and other liquids quickly, preventing slips and falls.
The fact that carpet can hide soil well is both a strength and a weakness. Even when carpet looks clean, it requires a regular, well-designed maintenance program. Such a program requires five essential steps.
Step 1: Exterior maintenance. A maintenance program begins outside the building. Parking lots and entry ways should be cleaned and maintained. If a tree at the entryway has seasonal purple berries, those purple berries eventually will create purple stains on the carpet.
Step 2: Interior/exterior matting. The best defense is a good exterior and interior matting program. An ideal indoor mat allows pedestrians to take five steps before hitting another surface. These mats need their own maintenance
Step 3: Daily vacuuming with high efficiency vacuum and bags. Insoluble soils make up almost 80 percent of the total carpet soil load. These types of soils are best removed by daily vacuuming using a high efficiency vacuum. Consumers can find a list of tested and approved vacuums at www.carpet-rug.org/commercial-customers/cleaning-and-maintenance/seal-of-approval-products/vacuums.cfm.
The best type of vacuum uses high efficiency bags which can trap soil particles down to one micron or one millionth of a meter. This is important because the smaller the soil particle, the deeper it penetrates into our lungs. Inefficient bags allow these respirable particles to flow through the bag and enter the breathing zone. The best vacuum bags will state that they trap particles down to one micron in size.
Most insoluble soils are comprised of tiny particles that stay airborne for long periods and continually settle on all surfaces. This is why child-care facilities may need to be vacuumed even when no one has been in the room for several days.
Step 4: Prompt removal of spots. Drinks, foods, and body fluids need to be attended to immediately and cannot be removed by vacuuming. A small, one-gallon extractor can minimize many types of spills quickly and effectively. Most of these spots can be flushed with water, preventing residual soiling from chemical spotters.
Step 5: Periodic hot water extraction. Vacuuming and spotting address the majority of carpet maintenance needs, but every carpet needs a periodic deep cleaning. This is best performed using hot water extraction. This is the generic term for steam cleaning and is the most popular method for professional cleaners. Hot water extraction sprays a cleaning solution into the carpet and then extracts it, flushing the most soil. Small extractors can be rented for use by church maintenance staffs at hardware or grocery stores.
Proper drying of the carpet after hot water extraction is critical. Normally the carpet should dry in four to eight hours. It is very important that fans or the heating or cooling system are left running following hot water extraction. Lack of airflow during the cleaning process can result in a musty smell. If the carpet in a day care center is cleaned at the end of the day, it should be dry in the morning.
Extending Carpet Life
The sandy grit that is tracked on carpet causes scratches and abrasions on the carpet fiber, causing permanent damage that gives carpet a dingy, soiled appearance. The best way to avoid these microscopic scratches — and extend the life of the carpet — is to vacuum the carpet daily and a remove spots in a timely fashion.
Taking the five simple steps to keeping carpet clean will ensure that church-supported child care and day care facilities will have an indoor environment that is aesthetically pleasing and the healthiest choice for the children who will be spending the most time there.
Bill Yeadon is a certified carpet cleaning technician in Roselle, IL and co-chairs the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification’s revision of the carpet industry’s cleaning standards. [www.iicrc.org]