There have been several discussions in this publication and others about green carpet cleaning. However, what is often missing is the second half of green, and that is sustainability.
Not only can carpet cleaning technicians and others who clean carpet perform this task in a greener and healthier manner but they can also make it much more sustainable.
Before going further, we should clarify what we mean by sustainable. The term has evolved over the years to reference protecting people, the planet, and profits. However, the way we are using it here refers to how it was defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development back in 1987, and that is using natural sources in a way that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
So how can carpet cleaning technicians become more sustainable and protect natural resources today and for tomorrow’s generations? Fortunately, there are several ways, including the following:
Turn off idling engines: If using a truckmount that does not depend on the vehicle for power or heat, do not idle the motor while performing carpet cleaning. There simply is no reason for it. It is a waste of energy and money.
Use cold water: I am well aware of the different views regarding the use of hot or cold water in cleaning. However, in most cases, using a hot-water portable extractor does consume considerably more energy than a cold-water system. With new detergents designed to work effectively in cold water, there is no reason to use the energy needed to heat the water.
Purchase in bulk: Very often carpet cleaning technicians purchase chemicals in gallon sizes due to storage constraints in their vans. In fact, most chemicals are packaged this way in what manufacturers refer to as “primary packages.” A more sustainable option would be to select chemicals in five-gallon containers and technicians could refill their one-gallon containers as needed.
Significantly less packaging is required and often there is no paper or cardboard packaging with these larger containers. Further, the amount of fuel necessary to transport the chemicals from the manufacturer to the distributor and then to the purchaser is reduced, which lowers fuel consumption and, therefore, greenhouse gases. Manufacturers and distributors are also finding this can help reduce costs throughout the distribution channel, which is why price discounts are often passed on to you, the end-customer.
Extend extraction cycles: Floor care has changed dramatically in the past decade. Whereas managers typically wanted a high-gloss shine in the past, what we see more of today are floors with no finish applied whatsoever. If a finish has been applied, floor care technicians have incorporated procedures that stretch how often the floors need to be stripped and refinished, often from every three to six months to every couple of years.
The same is true with carpet cleaning. While this might apply more to in-house cleaning professionals, carpet cleaning technicians can also advise their clients on ways to stretch extraction cycles, from installing more effective matting systems to using interim carpet cleaning methods such as dry or encapsulation systems two or three times before extraction.
Also, in-house professionals should base carpet cleaning strategies not on cleaning schedules but on cleaning needs. There is no point in cleaning executive carpeted areas every three months if they do not get soiled. Concentrate on those carpeted areas that do need more cleaning attention. Not only is this a better use of time and resources, but by caring for the problem areas, technicians minimize the chance that soils from these areas will be tracked into other areas of the building.
Stephen P. Ashkin is Executive Director of the Green Cleaning Network a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating building owners and suppliers about Green Cleaning, and president of The Ashkin Group a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry. He is considered the “father of Green Cleaning” and is coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies.