Carpet and Hard Surface Cleaning Protocols as We Emerge from the COVID-19 Pandemic

As states are beginning to open-up, professional cleaning contractors are now faced with a new challenge. How do you make your residential and commercial carpet cleaning customers feel safe and secure when you are entering their premises? If you “overplay” protective personal equipment (PPE), you may add to and enflame their existing fears. At the same time, you want to demonstrate to them the precautionary steps you are taking to let them know their safety and security (as well as the safety and security of you and your technicians) is first and foremost in your mind.

I think a great deal of it has to do with your overall approach that you have taken during the pandemic to add to your existing knowledge on how to deal with COVID-19. The more that you have learned about the virus, the more confident you have become in the contributions of periodic deep cleaning to be an important part of the solution. You no longer fear the virus, but you do respect it. Until there is a vaccine, it will remain a threat to health. But you have learned a great deal about how to reduce that threat. What you are now “selling” is not fear, but instead it is respect and confidence.

The new normal starts with taking precautions before every job.

  1. You make sure that everyone who works for your company fully understands as much as you appreciate their dedication, if they are not feeling well, you do not want them to come to work. There should be a greater willingness to reschedule work if you must. This might include taking their temperature each day before the work begins, or it might just be an understanding we do not want to take any chances.
  2. A second consideration is paying more attention than ever to the cleanliness and safety of the cleaning tools, hoses, wands, and sprayers you are going to bring into the home or business to clean with. You can use a cleaning tool for those hoses like a Hoser®, and you can apply an EPA N list disinfectant to all the tools, wands, and sprayers before each cleaning job.
  3. You can provide to each customer a “Certificate of Treatment” before each job that signifies these extra safety steps you company is undertaking prior to the job. For an FREE downloadable example of this certificate, click here.
  4. Update your pre-cleaning guidelines or checklist to include that you are taking these extra steps. The pre-cleaning guidelines are a communication you amil or email to your customer after the job is booked and before your arrival that provides your customer with a list of items to help the cleaning job go smoother. You can download a FREE version of the pre-cleaning checklist by clicking here. You can add verbiage specific to the present challenges such as this.
    1. “We will be carefully following guidelines established by the Center for Disease Control, OSHA, and the EPA to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases. Prior to entering your home, our technicians will be cleaning and/or sanitizing the hoses and cleaning tools we will be bringing into your home. Our technicians will arrive at your home wearing protective face masks, gloves, shoe “bootie” covers, and in some cases protective eyewear. These extra steps are being taken to protect your family and our technicians and we take safety very seriously. It is important that all people and pets are kept away from the areas being cleaned and treated both during the cleaning process and during the drying process. If someone in your home is feeling ill, we encourage you to contact us and re-schedule the cleaning for a later date. We look forward to restoratively deep clean your carpeting, rugs, hard surface floors, or upholstery fabrics in accordance with generally accepted industry standards of care with professional cleaning solutions that dissolve, dislodge, and extract soil and other unwanted substances utilizing cleaning solution temperatures that maintain 145-160º F across all surfaces we are cleaning. This provides you with additional reassurance you are doing everything you can to maintain a safer and healthier home environment”

So what steps are you taking on the cleaning job in the new normal?

  1. You should continue to take steps to protect the customers property and belonging on every cleaning job. What do these steps have to do with the COVID-19 challenge? Showing professionalism and care on every job demonstrates to your customers that your credibility in all your safety claims is high and that your advice can be trusted. Some examples would be:
    1. Corner or stair guards or Duk® guards to protect corners, paint and drywall from being damaged by your vacuum and solution hose being pulled throughout the home or building (Note – these are a great place to put additional reminders of the customer as an “ad” right on the guards about the extra protective and precautionary steps you are taking
    2. Hose hooks on stairs to keep hoses from sliding back and forth
    3. “Wet carpet” signs that define the slip and fall dangers of moving from a wet carpet to a hard surface floor
    4. Warnings signs about hoses that extend through areas where people are walking to prevent slipping and falling
  2. Protecting you and your technicians from the customer and protecting the customer from you and your technicians. Your technicians will be wearing:
    1. Protective facemasks. These are a great branding opportunity for your company. Have face masks made in your company color with your logo on them.
    2. Shoe booties
    3. Gloves
    4. Consider protective eyewear
  3. Keep customers and pets (residential jobs) completely out of the work area during the cleaning job and for a minimum of 20-60 minutes afterwards. You do not want to come across as un-friendly, but now it is more important than ever to keep curious kids out of the work area. You simply can’t allow customers to look “over your shoulder during the job. It is an important safety step. This may require you to spend a few minutes explaining what you are going to do with the machine turned off to answer their questions before you start.
    1. Provide your customers after the job is completed with an updated “After-Care Procedures” Card. These cards outline the steps that need to be taken to ensure your customer gets the most “bang for the buck” from the cleaning job. This card covers questions about drying time and reminds customers about slip and fall hazards when walking from a moist carpet onto a hard surface floor. It explains to the customer to leave in place any protective foam blocks or protective foil squares your technicians placed under furniture to prevent wood stains until the carpet is completely dry. It can even provide an explanation of what wicking is in case they see some post cleaning job wicking. You can download a FREE example of an After-Care Procedures Card here. The information we suggest you add to this communication is now:

“One of the best ways to reduce the time it takes for your carpet, rugs, or furniture to dry is to have it professionally deep cleaned on a more frequent basis.”

“In accordance with guidelines established by agencies of the federal government and in the interest of your family and pet’s safety, it is best to keep everyone completely out of the area being cleaned or treated during the cleaning, and for a minimum of one hour after the cleaning is complete”

What about the cleaning job itself? Does the new normal in the emerging COVID-19 environment mean any new of different specific steps in cleaning?

  1. Pre-Vacuuming – Since there is some concern about dispersal of droplets being a  potential issue with transferring the COVID-19 virus,  a reasonable safety step to take would be if you do pre-vacuum, make sure your vacuum is equipped with HEPA filtration.
  2. Presprays – We have learned that the COVID-19 virus has a lipid envelope that is very susceptible to inactivation by detergents and surfactancy. This means that your favorite prespray is likely just fine. You can use HydraMaster MAXXTREME, Blitz with GreaseBreaker, FastBreak HD, Quake HD, PolyBreak, or Release with OxyBreak with confidence. The only exception would be carpet or hard surface floor cleaning solutions that purposefully advertise themselves to be “detergent or surfactant free. “This might be a good time to avoid using products on a daily basis like HydraMaster HydraFREE, simply because they purposefully do not include surfactants or detergents.
    • As always, if using injection, pump up or electric sprayer, keep spray tip below the knee when applying the prespray.
  3. Hot Water Extraction
    • Maximize the heat of your cleaning solution you are flushing through the carpet or across the hard surface floor by paying special attention to your wand strokes. Make sure your heat exchanger has time to supply you with the hottest water possible. On smaller truckmounts equipped with heat exchangers, avoid “continuous spraying” with your wand. Take dry strokes and give your heater time to keep up with you.
    • Clean with as hot of water as safely as possible for the carpet or hard surface floor being cleaned. Maintaining temperatures above 150-165ºF is important for the effects of cleaning on any allergen or biological contamination in the carpet or on the floor.
    • Since we know we want detergency in cleaning, use an alkaline or acid detergent extraction rinse through your truckmount that contains detergency. You can use HydraMaster ClearWater Rinse, HydraDri, HydraClean, or RinseFree with Oxybreak with confidence
  4. Post cleaning processes
    • Speed Drying – So long as you keep customers out of the cleaning area, using an air mover to speed dry the carpet is a great idea.
    • Grooming – You should use the same considerations as you do know to decide when carpet cleaning whether to groom the carpet with a grooming tool or leave the carpet with “wand strokes or marks.”
    • Research microbiologists have theorized that while an air-scrubber would not do anything to inactivate a virus, the fact that they are equipped with a HEPA filter means that they would “grab onto and hold onto” virus droplets in the filter. Running an air-scrubber as a post cleaning step would certainly only add to the “healthfulness” of the indoor environment.

Perhaps the most important understanding that needs to be developed as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic is the absolute necessity for greater frequency in deep cleaning procedures for all floors both residentially and commercially. How often does a carpet need to be deep cleaned? Well without getting too scientific on this, I think the solution starts with trying to get residential and commercial customers to understand what is already recommended. Cleaning frequency guidelines you can quote are readily available on carpet manufacturer websites in the maintenance sections. Both Shaw and Mohawk, the two largest manufacturers, post frequency recommendations for deep cleaning.  The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) has published cleaning frequency guidelines in their carpet cleaning standard S100. Dr. Michael Berry published cleaning frequency guidelines for indoor health protection in his groundbreaking book Protecting the Built Environment – Cleaning for Health in 1993. He updated those recommendations in his 2017 article in the Journal of Cleaning, Restoration, & Inspection entitled “Characteristics of High-Performance Carpet Cleaning,” In the residential setting, deep cleaning is recommended every 6 to 24 months, depending upon the level of soiling, the type of carpet, and other considerations. Even more frequent cleaning is called for in homes with immune-compromised individuals and those most vulnerable. For commercial carpet cleaning, deep cleaning frequency recommendations range from weekly to every 3-6 months depending upon the environment it is installed in, soiling exposure conditions, and the type of carpet. The truth is, if one outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic was to move society to a greater acceptance of deep cleaning as a health issue rather than just an appearance improvement concept, we would be one step close to reducing the effects of future pandemics. Let us make prioritizing cleaning frequency a a greater emphasis in how we market and price cleaning.

The major benefits of deep cleaning a carpet or hard surface floor more often include:

  1. Reduced exposure to potentially harmful microorganisms – the removal and extraction of “unwanted matter”
  2. Reduced drying times – reduced soil loads require less “extra” wet passes
  3. Extending the useful life of the flooring investment
  4. Demonstrates a commitment to maintaining a healthier and more professional atmosphere
  5. Appearance improvement

What about post cleaning treatments as we emerge from the pandemic?

As far as carpet stain and soil protectors nothing has changed. Their benefits remain. The make the carpet or floor easier to maintain, resist stains, and extend the life of the floor itself.

As far as a post deep cleaning application of an EPA registered disinfectant, the truth is that the deep cleaning process itself has been scientifically measured to eliminate or reduce harmful microorganisms, including viruses. Applying a disinfectant/sanitizer as an ADDITIONAL step beyond deep cleaning, and directly applying a disinfectant to all common “touch points” may provide a higher level of “peace of mind” and confidence of the people who are going to live/work/shop in the home or building being treated. It is a very visual step to restore confidence in the healthfulness of the environment. Just make sure you follow the proper protocol:

    1. Use disinfectants that are on the EPA N list only. Follow this link to see if the product you want to apply is on that list or consult with the manufacturer. These disinfectants have demonstrated effectiveness on viruses in the past.
    2. Apply the disinfectant specifically in accordance with the manufacturer directions. Do not fog the disinfectant unless the product directions clearly state you can do it and how to do it. Wiping or spraying is the most often recommended application.
    3. Follow all safety directions and precautions called for by the product label and the Safety Data Sheet. Applicators should wear any recommended personal protective equipment.
    4. Find out if your state requires you to be licensed as a pest control applicator to apply disinfectants. Follow this link for more information.
    5. Understand your insurance coverage. Make sure you are properly covered if you are spraying a disinfectant.
    6. Make sure you carefully word the language in your marketing materials and on your invoicing. You are “applying a disinfectant or sanitizer.” You are not guaranteeing the surface or environment is free of unwanted matter or completely disinfected.

Has COVID-19 led to additional steps that need to be taken to provide a safer and more secure job for you and your customers? It certainly has. But these additional steps can be turned into a positive with the right marketing messages. Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, even when others may not be. Learn more by looking at all of our resources for guiding you through this challenge by following this link


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