We’ve all seen it. When winter arrives, the rock salt and ice melt products come out and ground-in, matted down areas with those signature white salt stains seem to crop up overnight on business entryway carpets. Efforts to prevent them seem futile, and attempts to get the stains out sometimes result in even more stains and permanent damage.
We thought it would be helpful to offer some advice for improving the appearance of your commercial carpet and extending its life — yes, even through a Wisconsin winter. Before we get started, however, it’s important to understand why those stains occur and why traditional cleaning products may not be the best solution.
The Science of Salt
Rock salt and other products used to melt snow and ice contain various types of chemicals including sodium chloride, calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. While its widely assumed these harsh chemicals are acidic, they actually have very high pH levels (ranging between 7–11), meaning they are highly alkaline.
Why is this differentiation important? When moisture caused by ice and snow evaporate, it leaves behind a white, chalky residue caused by these chemicals. The first inclination is to treat the familiar stains with a traditional commercial cleaner. Therein lies the problem.
Most commercial cleaning solutions also have high alkaline pH levels. Instead of neutralizing the stained area, they introduce additional alkaline chemicals into an already alkaline-saturated environment. As more cleaner is applied, the salt combines with those molecules to strengthen its attachment to the carpet fibers. While it initially appears that the commercial cleaners lift the white salt residue, the stains will likely reappear as soon as the area dries.
Tips for Preventing Salt Stains on Carpet
Being proactive is always the best approach when it comes to preventing salt stains. Follow these steps to minimize the damage.
- Keep your walkways and entryways free of snow and slush by frequently clearing away snow. This minimizes the amount of moisture that is tracked into your business and it also reduces the use of ice melt products.
- Vacuum frequently to remove as much salt and dirt from carpets as possible. This debris is extremely abrasive and, when ground into carpets by foot traffic, it can permanently damage fibers and leave them frayed and matted down.
- Provide an area where workers can change shoes near employee entrances and have boot racks or trays available.
- Invest in welcome mats – one or two outside where guests can stomp their feet, and additional mats inside doorways to protect flooring.
- Hang a sign encouraging guests to wipe their feet. Sounds simple, but it’s effective.
- Use runners or commercial floor mats along heavily trafficked hallways and rooms.
- Consider working with a commercial cleaner to have a protective coating applied to your carpet after cleaning.
Tips for Cleaning Salt Stains on Carpet
Don’t reach for traditional cleaners. Instead, opt for the following solutions:
- Clean the area with a high-powered steamer to remove any ice melt or salt residue.
- If cleaners are used, make sure they have a low pH, such as a vinegar-based solution.
- Work with a professional carpet cleaner that can perform routine carpet cleaning, and has the proper equipment to perform a thorough extraction of debris and chemicals.
Check out additional tips for protecting your commercial flooring during winter, and reach out to the experts at Jack’s Maintenance. We’ve got the professional cleaning solutions, equipment and people to get the job done right and to preserve the look and life span of your commercial carpets.