Know-How: Floor/Carpet Equipment

Keeping school floors clean is a never-ending battle for custodians and maintenance workers. The key tools to keep dirt out and deterioration at bay are vacuum cleaners and buffers.

A vacuum cleaner is one of the most common pieces of cleaning equipment found in a school custodian's supply closet. The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) recommends that whether the floor is hard surface or carpet, schools should use vacuum cleaners that have powerful air flow, adjustable brushes, an enclosed vacuum bag — and that a high filtration, disposable bag (less than 1 micron filtration) be used. A high-efficiency bag is essential to hold vacuumed dirt in the bag instead of blowing it back into the room.

“A vacuum that has an extremely high airflow (suction) has very little value if dust and other contaminants pass through the vacuum bag and become airborne,” the institute says.

Another key to increasing the efficiency of vacuuming is changing the filtration bag frequently. A bag that is too full can reduce a machine's airflow and its ability to remove soil.

Entrance or barrier mats help remove soil before it gets tracked into a building. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Indoor Air Quality Tools For Schools program, recommends that schools vacuum each barrier mat daily using a beater-brush or beater-bar vacuum, and vacuuming in two directions — in line and side to side.

The CRI suggests an alternative. Rather than trying to clean those heavily trafficked mats, the institute encourages schools to change the barrier mat regularly rather than trying to clean the same mat continually. In a climate such as a Minnesota winter, where moisture is high and tracking is constant, schools should rotate their entrance mats as often as twice a week. In other times, rotate them every week to two weeks.

Buffers are another indispensable tool for keeping school surfaces clean. Depending on the attachment used, a buffer can clean or shampoo a carpet, or strip and polish hard-surface floors. The International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) says an important consideration is making sure the machine's size matches the workers who will be using it.

The association also suggests that before using a buffer, maintenance workers familiarize themselves with the machine by practicing in a garage or a large open area where nothing can be damaged if the machine veers off in its own direction.



Minimum number of times a day to vacuum a high-traffic area of a school.
Source: Carpet and Rug Institute

90% to 95%

Amount of dry soil that can be removed from carpets by following a regular vacuuming schedule.
Source: Carpet and Rug Institute.

40% to 60 %

Recommended relative humidity range to prevent buildup of contaminants in a carpet.
Source: Carpet and Rug Institute.

13 to 25

Typical range of sizes, in inches, of buffer pads.
Source: International Sanitary Supply Association.

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