Recommendations For Cleaning And Drying Carpets
It’s no secret carpets require regularly scheduled cleaning to maintain their appearance and prolong their lifespan. But sometimes carpet cleaning programs overlook the importance of drying carpets after cleaning them. And carpets that remain damp for too long can attract more dirt, harbor unpleasant odors, or — even worse — create a breeding ground for mold. “Drying the carpet is as important as cleaning the carpet,” says John Poole, a consultant with the American Institute of Cleaning Science in Atlanta, Georgia. “If you leave the carpet wet, you’ll set off mold and mildew, so it’s critical to clean and dry it thoroughly.” Toward this end, the first step is to identify what type of carpet the staff is cleaning. “You need to understand that carpet because the wrong chemical or system can damage it,” says Poole. To avoid a possible violation of the carpet warranty, he suggests calling the manufacturer to determine the recommended maintenance schedule. Soil level and climate will also factor into how the carpet is cleaned and dried. Some carpet care experts advocate hot water extraction for heavily soiled areas or deep cleanings, with low-moisture methods, such as encapsulation, used on an interim basis to maintain the carpet. “Step one is to extract the maximum moisture using a machine vetted by The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI),” says Allen Rathey, president of The Healthy Facilities Institute, Boise, Idaho. “Carpet extraction equipment awarded the CRI Seal of Approval is designed to remove most of the moisture that results from a wet cleaning process.” While low-moisture carpet cleaning procedures will result in dry times that are faster than extraction, the techniques and equipment used to speed up the drying process are essentially the same.
Once carpets have been cleaned, the best way to speed up the drying process is to introduce and circulate air. “All moisture has to wick,” notes Bill Yeadon, senior instructor at Jon-Don Inc., Roselle, Illinois. “We can make wicking go faster anytime we move air across the surface of the carpet.” This can be as simple as opening a window or a door — if weather permits. “Ventilate with fresh air when the outdoor air is dryer than indoors, and when building security systems or other protocols permit,” says Rathey. “Directing outdoor air into and out of the structure will enable faster drying.” Additionally, the use of air movers and HVAC systems can cut dry times significantly — especially when used in tandem. “Air conditioning is probably the best dehumidifier we have, because its purpose is to pull the moisture out of the air,” says Yeadon. When cleaning carpets in the evening hours, Poole recommends leaving fans and HVAC on overnight whenever possible. And those times when it’s not hot enough to turn on the air conditioning or cold enough to turn on the heat, or when outdoor air is not an option, custodians may have to rely solely on air movers. “If it has been raining and/or the outdoor ambient air is damp, or if ventilation is not appropriate, fans should be used to direct drier air over and through the carpet,” notes Rathey. “Also, fans suffice for situations when carpet is properly extracted and interior relative humidity is low enough that fan-drying — perhaps coupled with air conditioning or central heat and (with care) space heaters — will dry the carpet within several hours.” According to Rathey, properly cleaned and extracted carpets should dry within a few hours. Even in the most extreme situations, carpets should be dry within 12 to 24 hours. It just comes down to the number of fans and their placement, which depend on ambient air conditions and the fan’s capacity. As a rule of thumb, when drying carpet in a hallway, Poole recommends placing air movers on opposite ends of the area immediately after extraction. For a room measuring approximately 25 by 25 feet, Yeadon suggests two to three standard fans, pointing toward the middle of the room, or one fan that pushes air out in a 360-degree circle positioned in the center of the room.