Dec. 1, 2005
With proper care, carpets can withstand the intrusion of winter weather.

Winter weather can be rough on carpets. Snow, rain, wind, and even the cold itself can take a toll. Now is a good time to better understand the havoc that winter weather can play on carpets and learn the steps that can be taken to protect them. Some of winter's worst carpet-care offenders:

  • Sand, rock salt and calcium chloride commonly are used as ice melters. These products are tracked onto carpets and can eat away at carpet fibers.

  • Tar and asphalt break down in the winter months. Ice melters can hasten the process. Together, they can cause black residue to gather on the bottoms of shoes and be tracked onto carpets.

  • Locked doors and windows are common during the winter. This can create musty conditions and odors that can be absorbed into carpets.

  • Powdered deodorizers sometimes are used to mask musty smells in winter carpets. However, the powders can become embedded in carpet fibers, potentially harming the carpet. And, if they become airborne, they may cause an allergic reaction.

  • Wood fireplaces can release tiny particulates into the air, which settle into carpets and can give them a grimy appearance.

Here are some steps that can be taken to minimize or eliminate these problems and help carpets survive the winter:

  • Install adequate matting systems

    The best way to prevent sand, rock salt and calcium chloride from being tracked onto carpets is with matting systems. A matting system should extend at least 15 feet in length and, if possible, should be installed outside the building as well as inside.

  • Vacuum frequently

    Vacuum often and in different directions to ensure as much dirt and dust is removed from carpet fibers as possible. Use a vacuum cleaner with a powerful air-filtration system to capture and trap these particulates. This prevents them from becoming airborne, which reduces allergic reactions and respiratory ailments common in winter.

  • Use a low-moisture carpet extractor

    With all the potential for dirt, airborne particulates, tar and odors to become absorbed in carpets this time of year, carpet extraction may be mandatory. Use a low-moisture system combined with high heat (212°F at the wand tip.) A low-moisture system releases less water into the carpets, so they dry faster. This reduces the possibility that mold or mildew will develop. The heat further reduces drying time and improves cleaning effectiveness.

Williams is an engineer with U.S. Products, makers of professional carpet, floor and restoration equipment.


Percentage of space carpeted in new K-12 facilities completed in 2004.

Percentage of space carpeted in new college facilities completed in 2004.

Percentage of school renovation projects, completed in 2004, that included carpeting retrofits.

Percentage of college renovation projects, completed in 2004, that included carpeting retrofits.

Source: American School & University's 31st Annual Official Education Construction Report, May 2005.

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