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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Question

We have a newly constructed facility--opened 1 Aug 10. The custodial agreement reads "The dry foam cleaning method shall be used when it will thoroughly remove all streaks, stains, and spots. When the dry foam method is not sufficient or appropriate, the water extraction method shall be used. Also, the contractor shall use the water extraction method after a carpet or rug has been dry foam cleaned three consecutive times". I went to the site yesterday to observe the carpet cleaning and saw that they were using the extractor type machine with water being sprayed on the carpets. Just would like to make sure that this is ok..... My understanding of the contract was that they would use an extractor ONLY if the foam method did not take out the stains. This is a new building and the carpet looks brand new...


Answer

This is a case of specifying product or procedure rather than end result. Not usually a wise way to go. The loophole is in the phrase, “When…not sufficient or appropriate…” In whose judgment, the contractor’s, an experienced dry foamer’s, or yours?
Basically, this spec says, “Use one carpet cleaning method, but if that doesn’t work, try another.” Duh!
However, there may be a reason dry foam is specified. Using a low moisture method, such as dry foam, places the carpet back in use more rapidly. Or, the carpet manufacturer may have stipulated this as a cleaning procedure for their product to keep the warranty intact. Not likely in a commercial setting, but who knows?
Whatever the reason, dry foam is an effective carpet cleaning method, as long as the user knows what he or she is doing. For some insight into the intricacies, check here: www.foamerscorner.com/tips.html.
Now, the contract says what it says and the contractor is not following that guidance. It is unlikely that, in three months (August thru October), the brand new carpet has been cleaned three times by dry foam or anything else. Nor is it going to be soiled enough to require a shampoo and rinse extraction approach, so the hot water extraction is premature. Why was this being done?
Simply put, the contractor may not know enough about proper dry foam application to do it, or he may not have the right equipment and foam products and doesn’t want to invest the funds. He probably hopes no one notices his substitution. Or, he may have missed the spec entirely.
Was he even doing the extraction correctly? Was he using just plain water in the extractor? Had he done a pre-spray and then rinsed? Did he pre-vacuum?
I find many building service contractors know little about carpet cleaning and prefer to leave it to the carpet cleaning pros out there. You need to speak with this contractor and learn his capability in this regard. Assume that there is a good reason for the spec to read as it does and insist the spec be followed. If he cannot do what is asked, he should subcontract the work to those who can. And you should qualify them!
One final suggestion. Before you approach the contractor, run an Internet search on “dry foam carpet cleaning” so that you are familiar with the procedure and products and can ask intelligent questions about the whole process. You will then know what a brittle drying polymer is even if the contractor doesn’t.

Lynn E. Krafft, ICAN/ATEX Editor
lekrafft@juno.com