Sustainable Carpet Care


By Stephen Ashkin

When cleaning carpets, extraction is typically recognized as the most effective and thorough method. However, as effective as it may be, the process uses a lot of water, typically one or more gallons per minute; a lot of electricity, especially if a heated carpet extractor is used; and if traditional detergents are used, a considerable amount of nonrenewable natural resources.

But there are ways building managers and owners can make carpet cleaning more sustainable and, as with most sustainability measures, likely save money as well.

First, mix more interim carpet cleaning methods in with extraction. A major New England hospital found they get successful results by cleaning carpets two or three times using methods such as shampoo, bonnet, or encapsulation cleaning, which use much less or no water and power. They use carpet extractors only for every third cleaning.

Next, select extractors that can contribute to sustainability. Most newer systems are low-moisture or low-flow extractors, which can reduce water use dramatically, usually to less than one gallon of water per minute. And carpets typically dry much faster, which helps prevent mold or mildew from developing.

In addition, cold-water extractors can prove satisfactory. This is because many of the detergents now produced—both Green and conventional—are designed to perform effectively using cold water. This can save a considerable amount of energy.

Also, switch to Green chemicals. Several manufacturers now have Green-certified carpet cleaning chemicals that meet if not exceed the performance standards of conventional carpet cleaning chemicals.

Finally, take care of the carpet cleaning equipment. Extractors are complicated pieces of machinery. As such, they need regular inspection, care, and attention. Mechanical issues with an extractor can develop slowly, and as they do, the machine may use more water and energy to operate. Keeping the machine up to speed ensures it uses both water and power most efficiently.