Blog / Focus: Environmental Services

Tackling difficult carpet stains

By Joe Bshero / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
June 11, 2020

While common carpet stains include spots from spilled beverages, muddy shoes or food, there are other frequent stains that don’t get the attention they deserve. These are caused by bodily fluids like blood, vomit and urine. From long-term care facilities to pet-friendly hotels, there are numerous types of facilities that can experience these difficult carpet stains.

Avoiding the topic can lead to larger problems, as proper and safe removal of these types of spills require specific equipment, chemistry and knowledge. Without these essentials, these tough stains can potentially spread germs, cause unpleasant odors or become permanent. It’s important for employees to take certain precautions when conducting carpet cleaning in these situations.  

Cleaning with caution

When an accident occurs, it is vital to clean bodily fluids from floors immediately and with caution. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), facilities must follow federal, state and local laws and regulations to clean up and dispose of any potential blood borne pathogens.[1] To avoid further contamination, workers should wear personal protection equipment (PPE), such as rubber or disposable gloves.

It is also important to read and follow the care instructions and warnings provided by the carpet manufacturer before beginning cleanup. In addition to taking precautions to protect employees, bodily fluid stain removal requires the proper chemistry and equipment.

To address difficult bodily fluid spills and stains, it’s best to follow industry best practices:  

• Use a black light. While some spots may be easy to see with the naked eye, some can be more difficult to locate, especially urine stains. Use a black light before addressing the stain to identify how large the spot is, as well as after cleaning to ensure the entire affected area was addressed.

• Blot first. When any spill occurs, the best thing to do is act immediately and blot with a white paper towel. Try to remove as much moisture as possible and scrape up any solid materials as needed.

• Avoid added moisture. Adding excessive moisture to a bodily fluid stain may make odors stronger and spread the stain further into carpet fibers.

• Apply the right chemistry. Not all carpet cleaning products have the right ingredients to tackle odor and protein stains. Use products that are specifically formulated for bodily fluid removal and feature digestive enzymes to eliminate odor-causing contaminants.

• Use spotting techniques. To help ensure the spot is properly removed, spray a spotting agent directly on the spot and agitate the area with a spotting tool.

• Vacuum the area. Once the area has dried, vacuum to remove any dried substances left behind.

• Clean equipment after use. Properly clean and disinfect carpet cleaning machines and tools after they’ve been in contact with bodily fluids. Overlooking cleaning increases the risk of cross-contamination. Remove the machine’s collection tray and empty any contaminants into a disposable bag. Remove the brushes and sanitize as recommended. Wipe the smooth areas of the machine with a disinfectant wipe or other approved solution.

To keep carpet looking its best, facilities should create a comprehensive carpet cleaning program that utilizes low-moisture encapsulation methods. This type of cleaning uses polymers   to encapsulate and crystallize stains for an almost immediate visual improvement.  This method allows carpet to be back in use within 20-30 minutes and can be used regularly to lengthen carpet lifespan. 

Maintaining carpet

With small spills, it isn’t realistic or cost-effective to remove and replace carpet. However, it’s vital that facility managers and their employees understand which products to use to thoroughly clean dirty carpet. Some products may leave behind a residue and attract soil, while others may affect the performance of cleaning chemistries used to remove spots. Closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions, test the chemistry on a small area first and watch out for any signs of incompatibility.

When needed, perform deep cleaning through hot water extraction. Water must be at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. However, be aware that these high temperatures can liquefy and break apart carpet adhesives, so it’s important to follow the carpet manufacturer’s guidelines when using hot water extraction methods.

A better process

Bodily fluid carpet stains may be uncomfortable to talk about, but should be taken care of promptly. Employees will see the best results if they use industry best practices and the proper tools and equipment. Having a predefined cleaning process in place can take the headache out of cleaning the least desirable stains and keep carpet clean.

Joe Bshero is the director of technical services with R.E. Whittaker Co. Visit whittakersystem.com.

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