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New Trends in Commercial Carpet Maintenance

New Trends in Commercial Carpet Maintenance
By Craig Jasper, IICRC Approved Instructor for Commercial Carpet Cleaning

The use of oscillating pad carpet cleaning machines (OP machines) for commercial carpet maintenance has risen drastically in the last couple years. This method has been used both as an interim and restorative cleaning system due to its highly efficient orbital action. It actually oscillates!

The system is not new. It's been around for over 30 years, but has gained tremendous popularity with improvements in the machine’s function as well as the chemistry that accompanies this process. The first oscillating machines were called “square buffs,” which weren’t actually square but rectangular in shape.

OP machines provide tremendous agitation. The use of an absorbent pad agitates the entire fiber, “absorbing and wiping the fiber completely clean. Using very low moisture and dry times in the 15 minute range, this is a relatively effective method for cleaning carpets.

Although the original machine did a great job of providing agitation, one of the drawbacks to this method is that it would “blossom” or fray the ends of cut pile carpets. With improvements in the design, the new machines were made round and look much like a buffer. However, instead of rotating, they oscillate. This design eliminated the tip blossoming of cut pile carpet. Because of this change, along with other advancements and encapsulation cleaning agents, this machine has become a big hit with commercial cleaners. Today’s OP machines are extremely fast at cleaning light soil carpet at the rate of 4,000 - 5,000 sq. ft. per hour. For restorative cleaning they also have a fantastic production rate in the range of 1,000 - 2000 sq. ft. per hour. In addition, some have become approved by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI).

There have been a few major design differences between manufacturers. Some clean by agglomeration. In this process, the cleaning solution causes the soil to clump together into large particles, making it easy to vacuum away as it dries. Other machines have more head pressure and use an absorbent pad. They not only agglomerate the soil, they also absorb the soil.

The machines that have more head pressure and absorb the soil are not quite as fast as the ones designed that only use agglomeration. This is because the pads have to be changed much more often as they become filled with soil. The advantage is that the carpet is free of all soil and stays clean much longer.

The encapsulate cleaning agents also help fill-in micro occlusions (scratches) in the carpet fibers, making them look more vibrant, while coating the fiber with the protector that helps resist soiling. Other advances in the system are the developments of pre-sprays for heavily soiled carpet. Both the pre-spray and cleaning solutions are made using green technology and are nontoxic biodegradable products.

In addition, new protectors have been developed for carpets that have been cleaned using encapsulation methods. Not only are these products green, some also have built-in anti-allergens. Recent developments have also led to products that can be sprayed on the carpet after which OP machines are used to help fill in abrasions on the carpets.

The benefits are not only fast dry times, but cleaner, better looking carpets that stay cleaner longer and extend the life of the carpet.

To learn more about new trends in commercial carpet maintenance, visit the IICRC website at  

Craig first joined the IICRC Board of Directors 2009.  A former First Vice President, Craig is currently chair of the Communications Committee. He is an IICRC-approved instructor and a Master Textile Cleaner, Master Fire and Smoke Restorer and Master Water Restorer.

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