Targeted Cleaning

June 1, 1998
Effective vacuuming preserves the life and appearance of carpet, while keeping the environment cleaner and healthier for building occupants. Following

Effective vacuuming preserves the life and appearance of carpet, while keeping the environment cleaner and healthier for building occupants. Following the Pareto dictum, vacuuming programs succeed when operators understand that effective vacuuming is achieved through a combination of the right machine and the appropriate scheduled carpet maintenance.

The Pareto principle of 80/20 suggests that 80 percent of vacuuming time should be spent vacuuming 20 percent of the carpet, and 20 percent of the time spent on the other 80 percent of the carpet. This is achieved through an effective vacuuming program.

Since carpet tends to hide dirt, cleaning based on appearance is short-sighted and ineffective. Developing a good carpet-cleaning strategy involves analyzing how specific areas in a facility are used, determining the frequency of vacuuming needed to prevent soil buildup in those areas, and setting up a vacuuming schedule that is strictly followed .

Analyzing usage Defining high-use areas for daily maintenance is not difficult, but follow-through vacuuming often is lacking. This is because carpet in well-traveled corridors can mask embedded dirt, tempting personnel to skip places that look clean. Setting up and following a plan based on actual use rather than appearance is vital. Pay particular attention to the 20-percent locations, such as:

*Track-off or wipe-off areas--exterior entrances, and areas where carpet and hard/resilient surfaces meet. Track-off regions average 90 square feet at building entrances, 10 square feet at main internal doorways and 40 square feet in main corridors 6-feet wide.

*Funnel areas or congested channels. Foot traffic often converges on a doorway or elevator, creating a soil area averaging 3 feet around a doorway to 10 feet around elevators. Other locations also are critical, such as in front of water fountains and main building directories.

*Central activity areas, busy corridors and traffic lanes. Also note the other 80 percent of floor space, which includes lesser-used areas such as offices, meeting rooms and utility rooms. These areas should be spot-checked daily, and vacuumed on a schedule that reflects actual usage. Dust settles on all surfaces, including carpet, and regular cleaning even in low-usage areas is important.

Generally, heavy-traffic areas should be vacuumed daily, medium-traffic areas twice each week and light-traffic areas at least once or twice a week.

There are preemptive measures that reduce or prevent soiling. For example, placing walk-off mats in entryways and elevators will collect dirt before it reaches the carpeted area. Also, keep approach areas to outside entries clean, which will prevent unnecessary tracking onto walk-off mats. In inclement weather, place extra mats at all entrances. Also, be sure there are plenty of trash receptacles at entrances and throughout the building.

Suction and filtration It is important to understand suction and filtration--that is, how vacuum cleaners remove dirt and retain it--and how those critical factors integrate with a good vacuuming system. Vacuum-cleaner suction and filtration are the 20-percent issues that affect 80 percent of a worker's ability to properly vacuum and maintain carpet.

Suction is a product of several variables. Ideally, a vacuum's internal fan is powered and proportioned to create vacuum for moving or suctioning a desired volume of air, which is measured as cubic feet per minute (CFM) in relation to the size of the tool head; the diameter and length of the airflow conduit; and the type, size and configuration of filter media.

Proper air volume and suction would be simpler to achieve and maintain if filtering the air and retaining the dirt were not necessary. Without filter media, including cloth and/or paper filters, HEPA, ULPA, and secondary types, to screen and hold particles of various sizes, air passing through a vacuum cleaner would meet little resistance, and suction would remain constant. The room environment also would be dirtier, since dust entering one end of the vacuum would be blown out the exhaust end.

Effective suction is the product of a system that permits constant airflow with practical filtration to trap small and large soil particles. The key component--Pareto's 20 percent--in a vacuuming system is the relationship between airflow and filtration. The two are somewhat at odds.

Excellent suction and filtration sometimes form an uneasy alliance. High-efficiency filters that trap more fine particles sometimes tend to clog more rapidly, choking airflow and suction, thus lowering cleaning ability. Good filters, unless cleaned or replaced regularly, reduce vacuum performance.

Filter efficiency, filter access and filter maintenance are important issues related to suction. Since indoor air quality affects health and maintenance concerns, consider four-stage filtration that captures at least 96 to 99 percent of dust 1 micron and larger--most airborne dust falls into the 1 to 10 micron range. Second, look for a vacuum that permits easy filter maintenance. If filters are difficult to change, operators will tend to allow them to clog, reducing suction. Also, train operators to clean vacuum filters regularly--after every few hours of vacuuming, or more often as needed to maintain optimum airflow and suction.

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