What you're looking at isn't always what you see.

Often floor care professionals are brought in to clean an area and a first inspection may conclude that the carpet is simply dirty. Or perhaps the carpet has been neglected for awhile and all it needs is a quick extraction to do the trick. However, what has caused the carpet to get to its current condition may be an underlying issue that can go far deeper than you think. Often, what you’re looking at isn’t always what you see.

Perhaps we’ve all seen those paintings in which an artist has hidden something – an object, a person or animal – in the painting, completely unnoticeable upon first glance. Well, flooring and its problems are often just like that – what you’re looking at isn’t always what you see.

It could be an issue similar to the following:

  • A quat walk off has created reverse saponification and it won’t release the soil.
  • A previously hired maintenance crew used a high pH cleaning solution not approved for nylon carpet. It stripped off the factory applied soil protection and removed the acid dye blockers.
  • Improper cleaning techniques, like using a soiled bonnet (which creates a sandpaper effect) has caused fiber abrasion “gray out”.
  • Colors in the lower tuffs that become more evident when the higher tuffs are matted down could indicate manufacturer defect.

If you are called in because the customer doesn’t like the way the carpet shows light and dark areas, consider:

  • Water Pooling
  • Apparent Soiling
  • Tufting Tension

If the carpet has changed color:

  • Fiber Bloom
  • More Visible Lower Tuffs Due to Higher Tuff Wear
  • Asphalt Walk Off
  • UV Fade or Ozone Issue
  • Subfloor pH Burn Issue

If spots continue to reappear, consider these issues:

  • Subfloor Migration
  • True Wick-Back
  • Continued Re-soiling (from trash bags continually placed in the same location by janitorial personnel)

Before you can resolve the situation, you often have to “paint a picture” or “map out” the entire scenario. This requires you to look at the issue at hand from a different viewpoint and gathering all the information provided to you. Each case will be different.

Consider all of these factors:

  • Installation Type
  • Product Type
  • Lighting
  • Current Chemistry
  • Currently Used Equipment
  • Facility Usage
  • Ancillary Chemistry Used to Clean Other Surfaces, like:
    • Deodorizers
    • Outside Influencers
      • Asphalt
      • Concrete
      • Ice Melts

And, obviously, the list can go on and on.

We often paraphrase Newton’s third law of motion, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And using Newton’s logic can be helpful in finding the solution to many of the problems faced while on a job. By working backwards, you can deduce how the problem occurred in the first place, and determine what the best course of action is in order to fix that problem. Or in short, “This is what I see, and I know these things occur when this happens, so this is the fix.”

Remember: You are called on as an “expert in your field”. It’s a pretty big title. Often, I say I’m a flooring junky that enjoys the pursuit of problem solving and resolving issues.

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Bill Luallen

Bill Luallen is the Director of Technical Sales for XL North, a division of Textile Rubber and Chemical Company. He is the IICRC RFMT TAC vice chair and participates on many panels and boards including the CRI and the League of Hard Flooring Professionals. When Bill is not traveling to work with customers or talking on the phone, he spends all his down time with his wife Cynthia of 30 years, outside enjoying this beautiful world.

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