Like many industries today, "green" is all the rage - and it's no different with carpet cleaning. Manufacturers in this industry believe strongly in the concept. But what does it mean exactly?
Green carpet cleaning encompasses both the equipment (ergonomic designs and environmentally friendly construction) and the method of cleaning (conservation of water and smaller amounts of chemical used).
"'Green' is the whole process," says Paul Albrecht, national rental sales manager for Clarke US. "From the design of the carpet cleaner to the way it's used to the chemicals that are used in the machine."
Russ McKay, channel manager with Windsor Industries, agrees. "As manufacturers, we're looking at what our products are made of - is it recyclable? Are they ergonomically friendly?" he says. "We're even looking at the manufacturing process. We're trying to reduce waste in both creating the product and shipping the product."
The role of ergonomics
Both Windsor and Clarke have invested in the green movement. McKay says Windsor consulted with experts in ergonomics, sound acoustics, muscular & skeletal fatigue and operation safety to design its products.
"Ergonomics is crucial because we want operators to be safe from strain," says McKay. "Our Chariot line of products was designed by ergonomic experts to reduce injuries caused by muscular and skeletal strain."
One example of designing ergonomics into the equipment involves measuring the stride distance from the handle to the machine to reduce fatigue caused by improper operator position.
Other examples include multiple-position handles which allow adjustment for operator height and repositioning to reduce muscular and skeletal strain. Comfort grips on the handles help reduce vibration and help to correctly position hands to lessen muscular fatigue.
Clarke also offers ergonomic-friendly products. Its extractors feature proprietary back-saving belts in the ErgoEx line that reduce back and shoulder strain.
In addition to ergonomics, chemical and contaminant removal is a big "green" issue. "The chemical aspect is the biggest change in the industry," says Albrecht. "The green movement has hit chemical manufacturers the most in our related industry, because they have to produce more people- and environmentally-friendly products."
These two manufacturers are offering several new transformations when it comes to retrieving chemicals and contaminants from carpet.
"Clarke has several innovations that are green motivated," says Albrecht. "The Wash & Rinse System on its extractors is a metering system that accurately measures and dispenses the proper amount of chemical, while the separate rinse system washes more of the chemical out of the carpet than other units."
Windsor offers the DUO line of deep extraction interim cleaning equipment and iCapsol encapsulation chemicals. Designed to remove soil and other contaminants, the iCapsol chemical breaks down, then surrounds the soil and other detergent residue from previous cleaning. It dries into a hard, non-sticky crystal, encasing the soil in about 20 minutes.
"The iCapsol chemical process does not leave behind any sticky detergents or chemicals that will attract dirt and result in rapid resoiling," says McKay. "The dried crystals can easily be removed during regularly scheduled vacuuming.
"It used to be that every time you cleaned the carpet, it was a deep cleaning process," he continues. "This had a tendency to leave chemical in the carpet. The DUO interim system is designed to clean the carpet between the deep cleanings. This system uses less water and less chemical than deep cleanings."
Of course one way to eliminate retrieving chemicals is by not using any to begin with. Products like Windsor's Zephyr steam cleaner protect the environment by cleaning hygienically without chemicals. And Clarke's BEXT hot water extractors reach a temperature of 212 degrees F, which can help sanitize the carpet without chemicals.
Seal of approval
How do you know the carpet cleaner you're about to add to your inventory is really a green machine? It's important to research your purchases and make sure they exceed the standards for carpet cleaning effectiveness.
The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) offers a Seal of Approval for machine's that pass their testing process. The first phase of the Seal of Approval program for cleaning equipment tests "restorative" extractors designed for deep cleaning to remove as much of the soil from the carpet as possible.
To qualify for the Seal of Approval, extractors must undergo a stringent testing process at an independent laboratory. Extractors that exceed average soil removal standards receive a bronze rating.
Clarke's BEXT 300 portable extractor and the Clean Track Series have both earned the bronze Seal of Approval from the CRI, certifying that they meet the high performance standards for carpet cleaning effectiveness.
Windsor has 11 products that are either gold or silver rated by the CRI, including the Mini Pro which is ideal for rental operations.
What all this means to you
While all this "greening" is great for the environment, what does it mean to you as a rental business operator?
Sources explain that in many areas of the country, facilities, including schools and hospitals, are getting certified 'green' in order to receive tax credits. These facilities will need to have access to products that can stand up to the 'green challenge' - can the machine clean while conserving water and electricity? Can it extract most of the chemicals out of the carpet? "There's going to be big push for more green carpet cleaners, and rental businesses need to be ahead of the curve on this," says McKay.
The carpet cleaning industry - like most industries and people - is becoming more environmentally conscience. The future holds more state and Federal regulations and more mandates requiring equipment to meet higher cleaning standards.
"We'll see chemical manufacturers creating even more biodegradable chemicals that clean better than yesterday's caustic chemcials but are as safe as water," predicts Albrecht. "And equipment manufacturers will create carpet cleaners that will clean deeper than before while using less chemical and electricity."
"Going green" is more than a buzzword; it's a reality. As a rental business, going green with your carpet cleaning equipment is about more than being a good neighbor - it's about good business.
Another green alternative - dry carpet cleaning
HOST/Racine Industries offers a unique alternative to the typical wet cleaning machines. The HOST Dry Carpet Cleaner is a Green Seal certified cleaning product that is USDA-certified as biobased, which means it is made from natural and renewable resources. It's safe for people, pets and the environment, requiring no special disposal, and it can be composted.
"One cleaning with the HOST machine and the HOST Dry Carpet Cleaning has been shown to reduce dust mites by 78 percent, dust mite allergen by 75 percent, and mold spores and cat allergens by 85 percent," says Geoff Greeley, director of marketing & training at HOST/Racine.
The HOST Dry Carpet Cleaning System is a low moisture carpet cleaner that deep cleans the carpet while leaving it dry and ready to walk on. The system is a combination of a dry clean machine and the HOST Dry Carpet Cleaner.
The HOST Dry Carpet Cleaner is a natural processed fiber that is similar to a sponge. These sponges are mixed with a unique blend of water and special cleaning agents that are safe and environmentally preferred. The sponges carry the cleaning agents to the carpet and the machine works them through the carpet.
The dry clean machine incorporates two counter-revolving brushes which work the HOST Dry Cleaner through the carpet while lifting and grooming the carpet pile. The sponges absorb the dissolved dirt and spots. After brushing, the sponges are vacuumed from the carpet and when the job is done the carpet pile is restored and the carpet is clean and dry.
"The biggest point of difference with other cleaning methods is the fact that HOST uses very little moisture to clean and leaves the carpet dry and ready to use," says Greeley. "For the rental dealer, HOST offers a machine that is ready to rent in minutes, requires no repairs (if the machine breaks, we send a replacement right away) and has no hoses or dirty water receptacles to rinse and clean."