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How Often Should I Clean School Carpet?

Carpeted floors offer many benefits in a school building. They reduce noise, provide a slip-free surface to reduce falls and injuries, and offer young children a warm and comfortable place to sit and play. When properly selected for durability, a carpet also adds lasting beauty to a room while requiring relatively little upkeep. Carpets are definitely not maintenance-free, however. They are magnets for dirt and dust, and can become breeding grounds for bacteria, mildew, and other fungi if not properly cleaned. Dirty carpets pose a number of health risks, including the spread of contagious illnesses and increased hardship for students with asthma or allergies. Implementing an appropriate cleaning schedule for your school’s carpets is essential to ensure that children have the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe, healthy, comfortable environment.

Cleaning

The buzzwords for carpet maintenance are Clean and Dry. Achieving the first objective is straightforward: all that is required is a regular schedule of vacuuming, interim cleaning, and deep cleaning. We’ll look at how to devise such a schedule in a moment. But the second objective, dry, presents a challenge in Singapore. That challenge is obvious during the monsoon seasons, but even the drier periods of the year pose difficulties due to the island’s consistently high humidity. Interim and deep cleanings must also be scheduled to allow for sufficient drying time, at least two days. No good can come of children prancing about on damp carpets. At a minimum, the carpet will rapidly become soiled, necessitating another cleaning. At worst, the trampling will trap moisture deep in the carpet’s pile, increasing the risk of exposing children to harmful mildew.

If you are installing new carpet in your building, give some thought to the best fiber material for long-term durability and minimal drying time. If your building already has carpet, try to learn its composition. Here are the main fiber types found in carpets:

• Wool: Wool is a durable, resilient, and beautiful natural fiber. It is also self-extinguishing in the event of a fire, a great safety benefit. However, as anyone who has ever been caught in a downpour wearing a wool sweater knows, wool dries very slowly.
• Nylon: By far the most common carpet fiber, nylon has excellent durability, cleans rapidly, and dries much more quickly than natural fibers.
• Olefin: A synthetic fiber, olefin is very resistant to sun fading and holds up well against chemicals, but is less durable overall than nylon. It may therefore be a nice choice for a sunny, quiet space or a science lab. Its drying time is similar to that of nylon, but even shorter because it is a lighter fiber.
• Triexta: Triexta is the newest fiber in the carpet world. Its properties and performance are similar to nylon, but early indications are that triexta can outlast nylon when subjected to heavy traffic.

To devise a cleaning schedule for a school’s carpets, it is necessary to begin by asking a few questions:

• How much foot traffic does the carpet bear? Carpets in entryways get trampled daily, while quiet classroom corners where receive relatively little traffic.
• How frequently is the carpet exposed to outdoor air? Outdoor air carries pollen, dust and other allergens that can settle deep into a carpet’s pile. This risk intensifies during windy periods of the Singapore year, such as January and February.
• Will students be walking directly from the outdoors onto this carpet? The closer a carpet is to an entrance, the more mud and dirt will be deposited on it on a daily basis.

It should be immediately clear that carpets in entry areas are of special concern. It is highly recommended for schools to have rubber-backed mats and area rugs in these areas. They can be easily removed for deep cleaning and inexpensively replaced when worn.

Couch Cleaning

One last thing we need to do before setting up a cleaning schedule is define our cleaning terms:

• Vacuuming: Make sure to use a vacuum and setting designed specifically for the type of carpet being cleaned. Many vacuums have a “pile-lift” feature that pulls fibers upright. That lift helps prevent the trapping of dirt and allergens deep in the pile.
• Interim cleaning: As its name suggest, this is a level of cleaning designed to maintain a carpet between deep cleanings. An excellent, very portable tool for the job is a hot water extractor. Scrub cleaning machines are older, heavier, and less efficient, but still do a nice job.
• Deep cleaning: Deep cleaning requires the use of some variety of steam cleaner. Steam machines are bigger and heavier than hot water extractors, but they are the gold standard for ensuring safe, sanitary conditions in your school. Many steam cleaners make use of cleaning chemicals. Unless you have olefin fiber carpet, try to minimize the quantity of chemicals used to avoid undesirable residue. When possible, it is best to use machines that employ ElectroChemically-Activated (ECA) water, which leaves behind no residue at all.

Because both interim and deep cleaning will leave a carpet damp, it is very important to be mindful of drying time. Except during the wettest periods of the year, a weekend should generally provide sufficient drying time after an interim cleaning. Reserve deep cleaning for longer school vacations, to allow up to a week for thorough drying. For example, if a carpet requires two deep cleanings per year, schedule those cleanings during the long breaks in December and June.

Here then, are some typical guidelines for a carpet cleaning schedule:

LIGHT TRAFFIC AREAS (quiet corners in classrooms, offices, special-use rooms):

• Vacuum two to three times per week, ideally with pile-lift feature.
• Spot clean daily or as needed. Spot clean stains immediately if possible.
• Perform interim cleaning once or twice annually, perhaps during weeklong breaks.
• Deep clean once or twice annually.

MODERATE TRAFFIC AREAS (classrooms, side hallways, etc.):

• Vacuum daily, ideally with pile-lift feature.
• Spot clean daily or as needed. Spot clean stains immediately if possible.
• Perform interim cleaning monthly or every two months; allow a weekend for drying.
• Deep clean at least twice annually.

HEAVY TRAFFIC AREAS (entryways, main hallways):

• Vacuum daily, twice daily where needed, ideally with pile-lift feature.
• Spot clean daily or as needed. Spot clean stains immediately if possible.
• Perform interim cleaning twice a month or weekly; allow a weekend for drying.
• Deep clean at least four times per year, more frequently if suitable drying time can be allowed.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure your students’ safety and comfort throughout the year.
 
 

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