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Carpet Care

Cleaning Frequency

June 01, 2011
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Your carpet cleaning customers and prospects may commonly seek you out as a source of advice on carpet cleaning topics.

Perceived as the expert, you have probably been asked, “How often should I have my carpet cleaned?”

Of course, you hope they decide on frequent cleaning, but you want to give them a fact-based reply. Where can you turn for reliable documentation to support your answer? This article will explore industry sources in the search for a consensus.

Documented advice

Back in 1993, professional cleaners were surprised to see that Dr. Michael Berry, in his book Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health, said that the principle of cleaning for health recommended residential cleaning as often as every three months if there were children and pets in the home.

In my carpet cleaning business I was happy with anyone who rescheduled once a year — and I considered them good customers.

In the 2002 revision of the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) S100 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Carpet Cleaning, there is a residential cleaning frequency chart that suggests professional cleaning every 12 to 18 months for heavy use areas and every two years for the remainder of carpet in the home when light soiling conditions prevail.

Normal soiling increases the frequency to six to 12 month intervals for heavily used areas and annually for other carpeted areas in the home.

Special conditions, such as families with pets, occupants who smoke and homes with large families, all merit cleaning in traffic lanes as often as every two months and entire house cleaning four times a year.

It is likely that few — if any — of your regular clients have their carpet cleaned four times a year. Informal surveys of carpet cleaners indicate that their typical repeat client has their carpet cleaned approximately every 18 months.

On the commercial side, Dr. Berry''s book suggested commercial carpet cleaning schedules that ranged from annually to as often as daily! The daily recommendation was for daycare carpet during time of epidemic. Weekly or monthly cleaning was indicated for many businesses. Charts used in our industry advise interim and restorative cleaning frequencies from weekly to semi-annually, depending upon traffic level.

The carpet mills say…

When communicating with carpet mills regarding cleaning frequency, there is a distinction between what is required to comply with the warranty and ideals of how often they would prefer carpet to be cleaned.

A statement from Shaw says this: “Our requirement is that carpet be cleaned at least once every two years in order to maintain warranties. Ideally, a carpet should be cleaned every 12 to 18 months, depending on the family and home.”

Many manufacturers provide extensive information on commercial carpet cleaning. The Total Solution Carpet Care Guide from Beaulieu Commercial states that “… carpet must be proactively maintained before soiling becomes noticeable.”

The guide goes on to explain that carpet cleaning includes preventive maintenance through the use of walk-off mats, daily spot and spill clean-up, vacuuming daily or even more often. It suggests interim cleaning frequency ranging from weekly to twice a year and deep cleaning from quarterly to “only when required.”

Cleaning frequency is based upon traffic levels that range from a one person office to an excess of 2,000 traffics per day. (The term traffic refers to one person walking across an area. Twenty people walking across an area once or the same person walking across the same area 20 times a day would be 20 traffics.)

Beaulieu Commercial recommends hot water extraction for periodic deep cleaning.

J & J Industries, a manufacturer of commercial carpet, has produced the Carpet Maintenance Handbook. The cleaning frequency chart included with this guide suggests interim cleaning and pile lifting be done at either one month, three month or six month intervals. Restoration cleaning should be done after three months, six months or annually.

The different time frames depend mainly upon the volume of traffic. The handbook points out that certain factors, including color choice, pattern, density, fiber and a viable maintenance program between cleanings also affect the carpet''s appearance.

J & J promotes hot water extraction systems for restoration and deep cleaning, and lists encapsulation and dry powder methods for interim cleaning, which should include pile lifting.

The CRI

If you visit the Carpet and Rug Institute''s (CRI) website, www.carpet-rug.org, and read its Carpet Maintenance Guidelines, you will see that this publication states that deep cleaning should be done quarterly, every six months or annually, depending upon traffic levels.

The Carpet Maintenance Guidelines define interim cleaning as the “…scheduled frequency appearance cleaning for all traffic areas.” However, the only schedule given is for deep cleaning.

The guidelines stress the importance of soil containment, scheduled vacuuming and spot and spill removal as key elements of a maintenance plan. The approach is summed up with this highlighted expression “If you don''t maintain it, you can''t expect it to stay clean.”

The variety of sometimes conflicting information or lack of information on residential cleaning frequency may lead you to conclude that there is no right answer or that any answer will do.

The challenge

One thing should be obvious: There is no one correct response to the question, “How often should I clean my carpet?”

Major voices, including carpet and fiber manufacturers, the IICRC, carpet cleaners and the public in general all have different ideas and standards.

However, there are some key areas where a consensus has been reached.

  • Proper professional cleaning will extend the useful life of the carpet

  • If carpet looks dirty, it is already past the time it should have been cleaned

  • Cleaning for health has a bigger impact on people''s lives than merely cleaning for appearance

  • The carpet in most homes and businesses would benefit from cleaning more often than it is being cleaned now.

So, how should you respond? Can you get the key points across?

The following is some advice from leading companies and consultants. Once again, you will fail to find consistent agreement on the answers, but the information may help you formulate your own action plan.

“Your carpet should be cleaned at least once a year, more often if there are active children, pets or smokers in the home,” says one well-known trainer and owner of a large cleaning firm.

A businessman who owns carpet cleaning companies in several cities trains his techs to respond this way: “It is recommended that you clean your carpet based on how often you vacuum. If you vacuum at least once a week, it is recommended that you clean every 12 to 18 months. If you vacuum less often than that, we recommend that you clean your carpet every six to nine months.”

One cleaning professional believes that almost any answer will be viewed by the homeowner as self-serving. Despite concepts like cleaning for health, most folks will decide their carpet needs cleaning when they look down and see that it is dirty.

One long time professional likes to stick with the 12 to 18 month cycle suggested by several manufacturers. Recognizing that environmental tobacco smoke lingers and poses a health issue for children, and pet stains and odors get worse with neglect, he does suggest more frequent cleaning when those conditions are present.

A multi-truck operation in the Midwest gives a very broad range. This is because it depends upon the volume of foot traffic from outside the home, the local environment (rural areas may be muddier than city locales), lots of oily cooking, messy husband and kids, smokers and so forth. Carpet may need cleaning every three or four years or — in the case of “neat freaks” — every three or four months.

After completing each cleaning, they ask the client when they would like to schedule the next cleaning and book an appointment at that time.

Salesman versus consultant

When questioning owners of carpet cleaning companies on this topic, one idea was repeated several times: Become their consultant.

Look at the individual factors of the situation and give a personalized recommendation. The potential customer no longer sees the cleaning technician as a salesperson, but more as a trusted advisor.

The same approach works for your commercial prospects as well. Look at traffic patterns. Traffic from outdoors may track in oils from parking areas. Observe how each area is used.

The area around the office coffee pot will be subject to different spills than the carpet in a conference room. Check the carpet fiber, color, construction and installation. Each of these factors will influence how frequently it needs to be cleaned.

As a consultant, advise them of how preventive maintenance techniques, such as extended walk-off mats and keeping exterior sidewalks clean, can increase the time between carpet cleanings.

If they have an in-house maintenance staff, consider the vacuuming routine. Inspect the vacuums and explain how daily maintenance affects carpet cleaning frequency. Offer to train their employees on proper spotting techniques so that spills and tracked in soils can be handled promptly.

When they appreciate the value added service you provide, you will win a lot more contracts without allowing price alone to be the determining factor.


Scott Warrington has more than 40 years of experience in the carpet cleaning industry and related fields. He serves as the technical support specialist for Bridgepoint Systems and Interlink Supply. He can be contacted at scottw@bridgepoint.com.

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