The Environment’s Invisible Enemy

In the Contract Cleaning industry many of our Green efforts are focused on using less aggressive chemicals or introducing equipment such as foam generators and low-pressure steamers, which maximise cleaning results while minimising chemical inputs. But we also need to have regard for the impact our processes can have on the environment.

Consider for example the phenomenon that our Bane-Clene Carpet cleaning division call “Uglied Out”

Most carpet specifiers and major users don’t realise that carpets are actually designed to hide dirt. When I was a child in the 50’s, the majority of carpeting in most homes was a square of patterned woollen carpet surrounded by a perimeter of “lino”. Once a year the carpet would be taken outside, hung over the washing line then literally beaten to release the dirt and grit that had been absorbed even though the carpet had been ”Hoovered” regularly. It would then be wet cleaned either by hand scrubbing or if you were high-tech using 1001 carpet cleaning detergent. Forget hot water extraction, I don’t think it existed then and if you were going to scrub a commercial installation it was a case of using a high foaming detergent and a low speed polisher fitted with a scrubbing head and tank.

dirty carpet

Now most carpeting is made with new generation fibres and man made backing materials. Whereas dust and grit has always fallen to the base of the pile tufts with this new generation, often triangular shaped fibres, the soil is even more hidden from the naked eye. The result is that instead of doing an annual “Spring Clean” now, carpet cleaning only gets done when the carpet can’t physically absorb any more dirt and it becomes visible to the naked eye.

Unlike the natural fibres of yore the dirt and soil abrades the new generation fibres causing them to lose their lustre and distort. The net result is dirty dingy traffic lanes set into a carpet packed with pounds of dirt and grit to the square metre. This is the point where we say the carpet has “uglied out” not worn out. And it’s all due to the lack of a basic maintenance programme.

What happens next though is the environmental disaster. With the carpet past the point that a restoration clean can save it, the only option is dumping it to waste. But unlike natural fibre carpets whose final journey could often be to the bottom of the garden where it was used as a weed suppressant or compost cover, new generation fibres and backing do not degrade and get absorbed back into the soil. Just like plastic bags it is estimated that they can take up to 50 years to rot and disappear.


How can you help stop this waste of resources and damage to the natural environment? Well if up to 80% of the contaminants in a carpet are dry soil, the simple answer is the use of vacuum cleaner on as regular basis as your premises needs. Pay double attention to entrances and high traffic zones, use dust mats to trap dirt and reduce the amount being tracked into your building in the first place. Above all though implement a proper planned maintenance-cleaning programme. Just because your carpets can look clean doesn’t mean that they are.

Columbus Dixon

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