"We started this whole carpet research program because we were working too hard to make only marginal improvement." - District Custodial Coordinator, Florida School District
A Sustainable Model for High Performance
A unique, hands-on study, called simply The Manual, documents how one Florida school district's Plant Manager's Executive Committe developed a radical, high-performance program that turned commercial soft floor maintenance and cleaning wisdom on its head. The manual is available via PUR-O-ZONE for $45 plus shipping/handling.
The management model drives every aspect of soft floor maintenance within the district. The top ten steps reflected in the detailed how-to guide are:
1. Get Organized
Buy-in from management allows you to organize and take on tasks.
2. Identify the Problems or Needs
There is probably a better way to do what you are charged to do. Identification of the need is the starting point for gradual change.
3. Conduct Research
Find and consult with other organizations wrestling with the same things you identify as issues.
4. Gather the Data
Numbers help you clarify and focus.
Based on the data, make a plan. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it does have to be started.
6. Request the Budget
Thorough preparation. Thorough preparation. Thorough preparation.
7. Orient Users for Buy-In
Let those who will implement know what is coming and why.
Hands-on training with supervision makes the difference between theory and practice.
Follow up and identify where to re-train. You get what you measure.
10. Assess Sustainability
What works in testing may not be sustainable in your actual environment under "real world" constraints. Plan for improvement, then start the process gain.
This Executive Summary will help you understand the value of Host's guide.
To order The Manual, for $45 plus $12.35 shipping/handling, notify us here, and we will contact you directly.
Why emphasize sustainable cleaning for the built environment?
Sustainable solutions are not just better for the environment, they are a sound business strategy.
Here are 6 reasons why:
#1 Sustainable approaches are all about extending the life of your building surfaces and fixtures.
If you restore and replace less often, your expenses are lower. Labor costs are reduced. The cost of replacement or restoration occurs less frequently. Sustainable approaches make all this possible.
#2 Risks and liabilities are reduced.
Risk management calls for using safer processes to clean and maintain buildings. Manufacturers have responded with more effective, yet safer formulations and equipment. Many reduce toxicity, others reduce slip/fall risks and yet others require less musculoskeletal demands on the cleaner. In many cases, ergonomics and sustainability go hand-in-hand to produce better working conditions and lowered worker compensation insurance costs.
#3 Employees are more efficient and more effective.
Your staff works more productively using formulations that have fewer unpleasant side-effects and equipment that is less demanding to control. They complete more work with less fatigue, illness and fewer compensation days. Ultimately, this reduces overall payroll.
#4 Water is saved.
Many processes PUR-O-ZONE recommends and educates custodians to perform require less water, which has important benefits to the bottom line:
- Moisture is a time-intensive component in cleaning. Waiting for cleaned carpets, hard flooring, upholstery and surfaces to dry slows down labor and places a drag on productivity. Labor represents 95% of most cleaning budgets.
- Moisture can lead to additional cleaning and restoration required. When moisture leads to mildew or damage to surfaces either being cleaned or nearby, the cost of cleaning can increase greatly. So low- and no-moisture processes are a good investment, even if they add cost on the supply side.
- Water is on its way to becoming a much more expensive resource. While 20th Century generations came to think of clean water as a relatively "cheap" commodity, those times are rapidly approaching a close in the early 21st Century. Scarcity of municipal potable and agricultural-use water will lead to significantly increased future costs. Learning to do with less today will pay big dividends tomorrow.
#5 Improves imagery and is good for business.
Your organization, institution or business is more likely to be seen as sensitive to green issues if you use and promote more sustainable methods in your built environment. A June 18, 2014 Neilson study says North Americans view sustainability so positively that 42 percent are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact. If you sell globally, that commitment increases to 55%.
#6 It is the right thing to do.
The long-term costs of harm to the environment we live in are, in the final analysis, incalculable. Much of what we lose to environmental degradation cannot be replaced. Each business, governmental body, church and institution owe it to current and future generations to attempt to tread more lightly in this unique planet upon which we live.
Cleaning Sustainability Certification Groups
Gym floor refinishing demonstration including all phases of completion, graphics time lapse.
Courtesy of ProTeam.
In the early 1960’s, 3M developed Tartan Brand floor covering, a rubber-like polymer promoted as a durable substitute for wood floor gymnasiums and running surfaces.1 Manufacturing involved mercury as a catalyst2 to help the end product retain its soft texture. 1 The 3M Tartan product became popular until discontinued in 1980. Polyurethane flooring is manufactured by combining two liquid resins to form a durable, resilient surface. 3
Since 3M’s introduction, rubberized sport surfaces have been manufactured by several other companies, including, but not limited to:
- Athletic Polymer Systems
- Dynamic Sports Construction (Versaturf)
- Crossfield Products (Dex-O-Tex)
- Mondo Rubber
- Pitzer, Inc.
- Robbins Sport Surfaces (Chem Turf & Pulastic Systems)
- Selby Battersby & Company
- Surfacing Systems
- Whittaker Synthetic Surfaces (Chemothane)3
Some of these manufacturers produced floors similar to the 3M Tartan product as late as the early 2000s.
What are the potential issues with these floors?
Mercury is the only common metal that remains liquid at room temperature. It also slowly evaporates at room temperature.4 Long-term exposure to mercury vapor affects the central nervous system3 of humans.
The on-going release of mercury vapor can be of concern if it exceeds Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or state guidelines. The product itself becomes of concern when removed for replacement with another flooring type creating a disposal issue. According to the flooring manufacturers and test data, the finished flooring typically contains 550 to 1,100 parts per million (ppm) of mercury when first installed. Vapor levels on warm days in gymnasiums with mercury-containing floors may reach 1 to 5 micrograms per cubic meter of air, or 100 to 500 times that of normal, ambient air levels. 3 The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry considers mercury vapor concentrations at or below 1 microgram per cubic meter an acceptable level of exposure in a residential setting. 3 Levels for industrial and institutional settings are not established.
Bottom line, the ongoing vapor levels may require removal of these floors for health reasons, and the amount of mercury used by a particular manufacturer may require management of the debris as hazardous. Unfortunately, there is no technology for treating mercury-catalyzed polyurethane flooring to remove and recover the mercury so that the rest of the flooring material can be managed as solid waste without restriction.
Where to Start?
First, determine if your flooring is a mercury-catalyst polymer floor to begin with. There are other types that are similar that do not involve mercury. You may need to contact the original manufacturer.
If you have a mercury-catalyst polyurethane floor in your school or facility, specialists have recommended having the floors tested by an independent, certified lab. The EPA provides testing standards for both the vapor levels and amount of mercury present in the floor itself, should it need to be removed.2
Once the levels have been tested, the testing firm may offer more than one potential approach. There may be no need to take further action based on safe vapor levels. If the floor is aging, it may be worthwhile to consider ongoing continued management of the floor in place to avoid the costs of removal. Depending on total and leachable vapor levels, there may be an option that involves covering the floor with the replacement flooring if the polymer floor is exhausted from a usability standpoint. In some cases, a ventilation system may provide an adequate reduction in vapor levels, allowing continued safe use. Only a certified, well-qualified testing facility or industrial hygienist familiar with this issue should make recommendations based on your circumstances, and both state and federal requirements.
3M, in a January 2006 letter to the Oregon Environmental Toxicology Program, agreed with the OETP recommendation that a qualified industrial hygienist be involved in studying what levels of personal protective equipment may be required for workers removing MCPF.5
If You Keep the Floor: Maintenance Issues
Testing facilities that qualify and are certified to perform vapor and content mercury testing may be able to perform in-use testing during actual maintenance procedures. If the plan being considered includes continuing to maintain the existing floor, it may be necessary to test under conditions that disturb the floor structure, such as screening, to find how much vapor is released during those procedures.
Every floor and environment offer different challenges. State laws vary. This is why qualified testing is important to your plan. Testing labs should also be qualified to provide cost estimates of the various options they find available.
1 Ohio Bureau of Environmental Health, “Mercury Exposure, Tartan Brand Polymer Flooring”
2 Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, “Disposal guidance for mercury0catalyzed polyurethane flooring and subflooring”
3 Gandee & Associates, Inc., “Mercury Contamination of Polyurethane Flooring”
5 Oregon Dept. of Human Services, “Health Consultation: Salem-Keizer School District, 3M Flooring”
The information in this article is deemed accurate, but no article can substitute for the incorporation of professional testing and advice. The goal of this article is to increase knowledge of the issues and encourage measurement of any potential mercury health issues.
Traditional carpet cleaning involves large amounts of water. Water is injected deeply into the carpet, often reaching even floor underlayment. Only a portion of that water can be extracted back out. Then the race is on to air dry enough of the remaining water out of the carpet before mold or mildew can form.
Ultra-low moisture cleaning using Host Sponges® is a different approach. Instead of applying cleaner both before and during application of water, the Host method uses a material that looks something like sawdust to absorb and remove soils from carpet. The material has a very low amount of moisture in it; so low that the area can be returned to use nearly immediately following cleaning.
Not only is the method of lifting soil different, but the dry extraction method is different as well. Host utilizes some of the strongest and most effective vacuums ever built to remove both the sponges material, along with dirt from layers much deeper in the carpet than normal vacuuming can remove.
Host carries the liquid ingredients necessary to the carpet fibers in a controlled way through the Sponges material. The soft, organic, natural Sponges contain all the necessary liquid to dissolve and absorb both water-based and oil-based dirt. Oil-based soiling is harder for primarily liquid-based wet-cleaning processes to remove.
Chemical and mechanical action together remove the soiling. This is why Host vacuums have counter-revolving cylindrical brushes and extremely powerful motors. The result, when combined with the action of the cleaning Sponges material, is very clean carpet that is ready to use without waiting hours for fans to blow-dry fibers.
So what are the ten perks to ultra-low moisture carpet cleaning?
- Carpets are ready to be used in minutes, not hours
- Low-moisture method improves indoor air quality
- No soapy residues left behind
- Super-low chance of mold
- Super-low chance of mildew
- Safe for all types of carpet
- Reduces dust mites by 70%
- Reduces mold spores by 97%
- Reduces animal allergens by 85%
- Environmentally friendly and conserves water
Choosing the right pad for the automated maintenance job you are getting ready to handle involves knowing the types of pads and what they do best. That is summarized, in general at least, by a color code system. Most manufacturers follow the basic color code, but there are nuances. Each manufacturer produces some unique pads. There are also color codes for brushes. Brushes have a great return on investment. For more on brush selection, see this how-to guide on changing from pads to brushes.
What sounds confusing, 3M has boiled down to a wall chart, and we are boiling that chart down just a bit more to give you a quick guide for reference. It is easy to print this article by selecting PRINT at the top of the blog. For access to the original full wall chart, download here.
The Pad Selection Basics
You need to know what you want to do, the speed of the floor unit you are using (in some cases, this is in general terms - see the chart below) and then you can select the appropriate pad for the job. The full chart includes some alternative pad choices, but in the spirit of keeping things simple, we offer this quick guide:
Download full version of Pad Wall Chart
“Carpets are a sink hole for toxins of all kinds that are brought into the home (or business) on shoes and boots, including pollens, lead, pesticides, and more. The cumulative levels of chemicals can become quite significant given that it is hard to clean carpets frequently and well enough, to remove the pollution buildup.”
Green living author, Amy Bond, writing for the Dr. Frank Lipman Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York
Download Carpet Cleaning Basics training program
Download 8-Step Vacuuming Guide
Carpet has been described as “the largest filter in your facility.” In a zone of under an inch just below your feet, there is an entire world of activity going on between strands of carpet fibers. Carpets trap dirt and moisture, which leads to mold and mildew. Germs can also thrive there.
PRINCIPLE: Carpets are huge sponges that tend to retain what you leave on and in them.
GETTING AHEAD OF THE CURVE
Cut pile carpet can hide up to a pound of soil per square foot. Once soils and particulates have moved from the upper surfaces where they are easily removed by a commercial-quality vacuum, to the lower layers and under the carpet backing where suction is severely restricted, they become part of the carpet’s semi-permanent micro-environment.
PRINCIPLE: If the first three rules in real estate are location, location, location - the first three rules in getting ahead of carpet problems by vacuuming are frequency, frequency, frequency.
Longevity of carpet is also affected by frequency of vacuuming. When sand and grit are present, carpet fibers are crushed and worn between them as shoes apply pressure from above. If the carpet is clean, fibers rub against other fibers. If the carpet is full of soils, the fibers are ground like flour in a stone mill.
According to Mertel Carpets, average non-commercial carpet life in a family of 2-4 persons is 3-5 years. However, daily vacuuming in high-traffic areas and vacuuming every 2-3 days in low-traffic areas will “add many years” to the carpet lifespan. If that is true for a family of 2-4, certainly high-traffic areas in a building should be vacuumed beginning at a minimum of daily, and probably several times each day in high-traffic zones. The investment in daily care goes against the very large costs of restoration and replacement.
PRINCIPLE: Once the carpet has reached the point of appearing dirty, much damage is being done and it is time for restoration. Restoration is hard on carpets, expensive to perform, and therefore, something we want to move out into the future as far as possible.
WINTER MEANS SOGGY CARPET
Although water can become a problem when too much is using during summer extraction, most problem moisture occurs in winter. Particularly if your matting system is inadequate at entryways. Then your carpet becomes the entryway mat extension.
Moisture promotes the life of germs, molds and mildews. Dr. Charles Gerba, of the University of Arizona, reports 5,000 bacteria can cling to one square inch of shoe soles. Gerba found that the same scraping, cleaning and drying actions 3-stage matting systems provide can also remove most of the germs at the door.
PRINCIPLE: Just as for hard floors, damage and staining of carpets can be reduced tremendously in winter by application of adequate entry mat systems and good clean-in-place principles. What is an adequate entry mat system? Click here for seven tips.
Are you ready for fall and winter? Really ready? A little prevention could save you a bundle.
Grocery stores are one place where long mats are needed. Grocers often line their vegetable aisle with mats to avoid slips and falls. As vegetables dry out, the water pressure drops within the cells and the vegetables become softer and look wrinkly. The overspray of water can end up on the floor, reducing traction.
Rental mats are one solution to this issue. Here is a common layout of the longest rental mats available to cover a 60' vegetable aisle.