Why and how best to clean senior living community carpets

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Mark Siegel
Mark Siegel

It may come as no surprise that carpet is one of the safest flooring options for older adults, and as such, commonly is found in most senior living communities. Offering better traction than bare surfaces, carpet reduces the chance of slips and falls that can result in bruises and broken bones. Carpet also is warmer than bare floors, acting as insulation in a room and helping to retain heat in the space more efficiently.

In addition, carpet acts as a giant air filter by trapping as much as one pound of dirt, allergens and bacteria per square foot, which can significantly reduce the symptoms of allergy sufferers and minimize the spread of germs. In fact, indoor air, on average, contains twice the level of pollutants as the air outdoors, despite the common misconception that outdoor air has more of these unhealthy particles.

Although carpet has many benefits, it must be properly maintained to serve its role as air filter most effectively. Some best practices to help ensure that carpets in senior living communities retain their longevity and efficiency:

Identify your level of need.

Although many rooms in a senior living community may be carpeted, they all do not require the same maintenance schedule. Categorize rooms and areas within the building to help create a schedule of necessary intervals for easy, regular maintenance.

Areas of a community with heavier foot traffic, such as the lobby, hallways and first-floor rooms, should be deep cleaned quarterly. The dining room, which is visited at least three times a day, also may be considered for additional or more regular cleanings. Other areas, such as resident hallways and common areas on higher floors, should be attended to semi-annually or based on the population and usage. It typically is necessary to clean individual resident rooms annually or on an as-needed basis, such as for incidents or turnover.

Consider drying time.

For residents' safety, it is important to let a deep-cleaned carpet fully dry before allowing people back into an area. If an older adult were to walk on a seemingly dry — but actually still wet — carpet and then transition onto a tiled surface or slick hardwood floor, an increased risk of slipping and falling would exist.

Traditional steam-cleanings can take up to two days to fully dry, which can be problematic for common areas in heavily populated facilities. Other processes can use less water. A shorter drying time not only cuts down on the risk of mold and mildew growth that can occur with carpets that are saturated by steam cleaning; it also allows safe access to those common facility spaces much sooner, and with less disruption for staff and residents.

Use senior-friendly solvents and soaps.

The water used in traditional steam-cleaning may be filled with detergents that leave behind a soapy, sticky residue. The leftover residue can be irritating and can create a harmful environment for the elderly, who are more susceptible to allergies and irritation. It also can attract dirt more quickly on the carpet, necessitating more frequent cleanings.

Look for companies that use green-certified and all-natural cleaning solutions, which are designed to help reduce the risk of allergic reactions to create a safer and more comfortable environment.

With proper maintenance, carpets can be a long-lasting, economical and healthful option for senior living communities and their residents.

Mark Siegel is vice president of national accounts for Chem-Dry. He has almost two decades of experience in the cleaning industry. A graduate of the University of North Texas, he is a member of the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association.

Chem-Dry's Hot Carbonating Extraction cleaning system is designed to use 80% less water than a typical steam-cleaning process and does not need or contain any soaps or detergents. In an independent study, according to Chem-Dry, the process was found to remove an average of 98.1% of common household allergens from carpet and upholstery and, when combined with a sanitizer, it was found to remove an average of 89 % of airborne bacteria and 82.3% of bacteria from carpets.

McKnight's Senior Living welcomes Marketplace Columns on subjects of value to the industry. Please see our submission guidelines for more information.

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