The R.E. Whittaker Company New!
Categories: Member ProfilesBy ISSA Today Staff | April 14, 2021 << Back to Articles
In 1961, bold, colorful carpet in orange, gold, and green hues and patterns were becoming all the rage in interior design. Tweed and sculpted carpeting would soon make way for additional styles and textures, such as shag carpet featuring higher pile.
Once just a favored floor covering for enhancing comfort at home, carpet was becoming popular throughout offices, airports, and other facilities to achieve a bright and welcoming look. Along with the evolution of carpeting, new ways of maintaining it have continued to unfold over the years.
That same year was also the beginning of R.E. Whittaker Company, founded by entrepreneur Richard E. “Dick” Whittaker in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Whittaker’s journey in the cleaning industry would evolve significantly over time. His pioneering spirit soon led to innovations that would position R.E. Whittaker Co. as a leading authority for low-moisture carpet cleaning systems.
A native of New Castle, Whittaker graduated from Westminster College in 1951. After working as an auditor in the banking industry, he purchased a wholesale paper company. In 1963, his business diversified into janitorial supplies, with the hope of providing cleaning companies in Pennsylvania with the necessary products and tools to ensure their success. Then, in 1965, R.E. Whittaker Co. became a member of ISSA to forge industry connections and create new opportunities for the business.
In 1980, Whittaker narrowed his focus to carpet care, which made up a large portion of the market but offered the tremendous potential for improvement. At the time, carpet cleaning was time-consuming and inconvenient, especially in commercial applications. Recognizing a need for a more efficient and effective carpeting cleaning method, a trip to Europe inspired him to develop “a better way.”
Among the shortcomings of traditional carpet cleaning methods was that the process used a lot of water to pull soils from the fibers. This resulted in long drying times that could be disruptive or even lead to mold and mildew growth if the carpet wasn’t properly dried. Additionally, many of the chemical formulations used to clean carpet resulted in sticky residues that actually attracted dirt after the carpet had been “cleaned.” This meant that the carpet continually appeared dirty. After more than a quarter century in business, Whittaker turned the approach to carpet care upside down.
A new method emerges
To accomplish this goal of a better way to clean carpeting, Whittaker began to focus more on new product development and innovation. He realized that low moisture carpet cleaning was the answer. Whittaker began aggressively pursuing patents and trademarks and developed new procedures that are used to improve cleaning to this day.
In 1988, Whittaker pioneered the use of low-moisture agitation and crystallization for cleaning carpet. The company’s Crystal Dry® encapsulation cleaning technology and cleaning machines were introduced as a more effective, safe, and environmentally responsible method. By crystalizing soils into a clear polymer, facilities can remove surface and embedded soils from carpet without the use of large volumes of water.
Many customers and carpet mills soon became raving fans of this method to prolong the lifespan of carpet and improve its appearance. This includes facilities such as the University of California in Riverside, California and the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, Maryland; building service contractors like Boston Building Maintenance and Relay Resources, which services Portland International Airport in Oregon; and carpet manufacturers like Interface Inc. and J&J Flooring Group LLC. Whittaker was also a sought-after expert who worked closely with organizations such as The WoolSafe® Organisation, Green Seal®, and ISSA.
Cleanliness is paramount
Carpet is often the first thing visitors notice when they enter a hotel or convention center, and many retail stores, educational facilities, and airports also have to maintain carpeted flooring. The pandemic has increased the impact that cleanliness has on customer satisfaction and brand reputation. Meeting guests’ expectations in this new world is crucial.
Joe Bshero, the director of technical services with R.E. Whittaker Co., explains: “The moment a facility installs carpet, its lifespan begins. Carpet is built to withstand daily wear and tear for many years, but it requires ongoing care to ensure its history of foot traffic, stains, and other faults aren’t obvious to visitors. Failing to keep carpet clean can negatively impact an organization.”
According to a 2020 Harris Poll from Whittaker, 93% of Americans say dirty carpet would negatively impact their perception of a business. There are many short- and long-term effects associated with encountering dirty carpet. More than half of Americans (58%) would assume the facility is not clean, while 56% would look for an alternative facility to use/go to. Additionally, 47% of Americans would tell friends, family, or colleagues about the facility’s lack of cleanliness.
Many facilities have made a conscious decision to make cleaning more visible during the pandemic. The low-moisture method of carpet care is ideal for times when guests are present. This is because employees can easily and quickly clean with ergonomic machines, and the carpet dries within 30 minutes. With a comprehensive approach to carpet care that includes vacuuming, low-moisture encapsulation, and occasional hot water extraction, facilities can set the right first impression, improve indoor air quality, extend the lifespan of the carpet, and achieve cost sustainability savings.
Membership in ISSA provided Whittaker with a platform to showcase products and introduce new cleaning methods like low moisture carpet cleaning to a broader customer base. Whittaker strongly believed that the information and training made available by ISSA is unmatched and trusted industry-wide. From the founding of the R.E. Whittaker Company in 1961, Whittaker grew the business from a local janitorial supply distributor into a globally recognized carpet cleaning system manufacturer, thanks in part to ISSA.
Today, the company’s carpet care system still leverages the unique formulations that Dick Whittaker brought to the market. After many years of service and his subsequent retirement from the business, Whittaker passed away in 2019. His family is dedicated to carrying on his entrepreneurial legacy. His son Tom Whittaker serves as president. His grandsons, Derek and Trent, also work for the business, continuing to introduce new solutions that enable cleaning professionals to conquer carpet care in facilities of all types and sizes.
For more information about R.E. Whittaker Co., visit www.whittakersystem.com.
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