by Mark Cannon — September/October issue of “Cleaning & Maintenance Magazine”
In just a few short months, facility managers across the country have had to become cleaning experts. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a new urgency to cleaning and disinfecting that simply wasn’t there before. Facility managers are studying guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, developing strict cleaning protocols, and partnering with their building service contractors (BSCs) to ensure their buildings are as safe and healthy as possible.
One thing they all have learned is that different surfaces have different cleaning requirements. Carpet can be particularly challenging to clean even in non-pandemic times: Muddy feet trample all over it, coffee gets spilled on it, and food crumbs settle into it. Worst of all, pathogens like bacteria and viruses get trapped in it. While area rugs and upholstered chairs can be removed, it is simply too impractical—and expensive—for most facility managers to remove all the carpet in their buildings and replace it with an easier-to-clean flooring type.
Despite the challenges, carpet can be part of a healthy environment with the proper care. Here are five things facility managers should keep in mind to ensure their carpets are cleaned as thoroughly and safely as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Carpet cannot be disinfected, only sanitized.
Cleaning is not the same as sanitizing, and sanitizing is not the same as disinfecting. These terms are often used interchangeably, but there are some clear distinctions between them. In fact, carpet cannot be disinfected, only sanitized. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only registers disinfectants for hard, non-porous surfaces. As a porous surface, carpet contains small pores, or holes, that can collect dirt and germs. The good news is porous surfaces are less hospitable to viruses like SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Because viruses are trapped in the holes of the surface, they are less likely to transfer to other surfaces and therefore don’t survive for very long.
Whether sanitizing or disinfecting any surface, the first step is always to clean it. This prevents pathogens from hiding under layers of dirt and dust. When it comes to carpets, this involves removing loose soil and other substances, like tar or paint, before deep cleaning and sanitizing.
2. The right vacuum makes all the difference in carpet care.
A vacuum is essential for keeping carpet clean and healthy—but it is important to select the right one for your needs. A dual-motor upright vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration system can be a vital tool for fighting COVID-19 in any facility. With one motor dedicated to creating the suction and the other motor dedicated to turning the brush, these powerful tools are extremely efficient, allowing the user to thoroughly vacuum a space in a single pass. Some prefer upright vacuums because the weight of the vacuum sits directly over the surface being cleaned, making it easier to suction out dirt and debris buried deep in the carpet. Others may choose backpack or canister models with HEPA filtration for ease of use and mobility.
About the author
Mark Cannon is the vice president of operations for APEX Surface Care, a 23-year-old Certified B Corporation® and national specialty surface care company headquartered in Texas. APEX has provided infection control services for over a decade and across tens of millions of square feet. For more information, visit goapex.com.