Carpet-cleaning technicians tell me one of the most frequently asked questions they receive from clients is, “How long it will take the carpeting to dry?” Technicians need to be knowledgeable about how carpets dry and how they can speed up the process when and where possible.
But why is drying time so important? Of course, customers want to be able to use their just-cleaned carpeted areas as quickly as possible. But there is also a health issue involved. Carpets that take longer than 24 hours to dry can become a breeding ground for mold, mildew, and bacteria. Damp carpets also resoil rapidly, which can create an unhappy outcome for both clients and technicians.
Cleaning technicians also should be aware that wet carpeting can pose a serious safety hazard. Walking between areas of damp carpeting and hard-surface flooring can be very dangerous. Moisture, along with any chemical residue left on the carpet after cleaning, can make shoe bottoms slick and increases the likelihood of a slip-and-fall accident.
Most cleaning professionals know that opening windows, improving ventilation, and turning up air conditioning or heating systems can all help carpets dry more quickly after cleaning. What they may not know is that certain other factors can significantly increase drying times.
These include humid weather, using too much moisture during the cleaning process, and failing to effectively remove the cleaning solution when work is complete. In these situations, enhanced ventilation may not be enough to speed along drying times. This is because the air directly above carpeting can become saturated with moisture quite quickly after cleaning. This slows down the evaporation process significantly.
Effective, properly placed air-moving equipment can alleviate the problem. “It cannot be over-emphasized that there must be sufficient airflow [over the carpets] to dry carpets quickly after cleaning,” says Doug Heiferman, owner of DH Seminars and an Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) trainer who works carpet cleaning technicians. “Air movers used after cleaning carpets increase the airflow above the carpet, allowing drier air to circulate and improving evaporation rates.”
Of course, just like everything else in carpet cleaning, there is a science to proper air-mover placement. Knowing what type of machines to use and where and how to place them can be crucial to speeding up drying times.
“The first issue to consider is how many air movers are needed,” says Mike Englund, product manager for Powr-Flite. “A good rule of thumb is using one air mover for every 200 square feet of carpet. For a moderately sized bedroom, for example, technicians should use at least two air movers.”
In most cases, placing air movers against a wall and in a corner will work effectively in any square or rectangular room. “Technicians should be careful to leave some room behind the unit so air can be drawn into the machine properly. Oddly shaped rooms may require more air movers to ensure adequate air movement over all areas of the carpet,” advises Englund.
Centrifugal air movers, which have a snout-like shape, are the most commonly used air movers for drying carpets. Their design allows them to blow air over carpeting rather than on it. This is important, since moving air across the carpeting is necessary to achieve maximum air circulation.
“Technicians using multiple air movers often encounter issues with blown circuits,” adds Englund. “Some manufacturers have addressed this issue by developing systems that draw far less power than older systems. This also comes in handy when performing disaster restoration work, such as cleaning up after the recent hurricane on the eastern seaboard of the United States. In such situations, power usage may be at a premium, so the less power needed, the better.”
While centrifugal air movers tend to be the most commonly used models, some technicians also choose axial air movers, which look more like conventional fans. According to Englund, technicians often use these machines in more difficult drying situations, such as after a disaster. Since they can be tilted up, down, or even be positioned to blow directly onto surfaces, axial systems are especially useful for focusing on specific problem areas—as is often necessary during disaster cleanups.
Answering customers’ questions with confidence is important to the success of any cleaning business. When customers ask how long it will take their carpets to dry, carpet cleaning technicians who use air movers can answer with reasonable certainty that carpets should dry in three to six hours, or possibly even faster.