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Carpet Care and COVID-19 Pandemic – 3 Things You Should Know

Many people in Singapore know that the name ‘Big Red’ is synonymous with the provision of highly professional decontamination, cleaning, sanitising and disinfection services, for over three decades, in Singapore and the South-East Asian Region. However, over the 37 years that ‘Big Red’ has been dispensing their services, they have also been gaining unparalleled technical knowledge and expertise within the industry sector and as such, are often asked for their professional opinion on a wide range of technical issues.

Most recently, the technical team at ‘Big Red’ have been asked what level of risk carpets pose in terms of Coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission, therefore in this article, we will be presenting a candid objective view on the infection control measures that need to be adopted to preclude carpets acting as a potential reservoir for COVID-19 transmission and re-infection.

Risk Assessment For Carpet Cleaning During COVID Pandemic

Of course, the science and the empirical evidence on the transmission and spread of the COVID-19 virus is now fairly clear; once a person becomes infected with the virus, whether they show symptoms or not, they will begin to shed huge numbers of contagious viral particles into the air when they cough, sneeze, talk, shout or sing.

Then, the infectious viral material is spread primarily through either direct physical contact between people themselves or via airborne transmission in the form of contagious aerosol droplets containing pathogenic viral particles which are suspended in the air. Although the airborne droplets and particles are capable of remaining suspended on interior air currents for many hours, the immutable laws of physics mean that gravity will draw these contagious particles inexorably downwards to settle on objects, surfaces and of course, floors and carpets.

The scientific data also indicates that once deposited, COVID-19 viruses can survive on various surfaces for extended periods of time that could be of several days in duration. Therefore, from a risk perspective, there is indeed a chance that carpeted floor coverings can provide harbourage to infectious viral particles. In this regard, Prof. Martin A. Blake ‘Big Red’s’ resident infection control specialist stated:

It has become very clear over the last twelve-months that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a highly contagious, virulent infectious disease and it is extremely capable of both direct and indirect transmission, hence its rapid spread from country to country, place to place and person to person. It’s a propensity to spread so easily is the distinguishing factor that has enabled it to move from a single city in China to become a global pandemic. Therefore, wherever there is a possibility that a particular surface might harbour the COVID-19 virus, it is prudent that we should take all the necessary steps to eliminate any viral load that we know might be lingering somewhere as a potential reservoir of disease transmission

The risk that Prof. Blake is referring to is that if a carpet, by virtue of being the lowest point in any room or public space, is going to be the primary repository of a droplet and airborne contamination emanating from people actively shedding the COVID-19 virus, then there is also a tangible risk that the infectious viral particles lingering there might be disturbed and become airborne again or even transferred from the carpet to other surfaces or a person’s hands.

Therefore, if there is a plausible public health risk that carpets might harbour a potential reservoir of infection, then there is also a public health imperative to eliminate that risk and ‘Big Red’ suggest a simple three-step treatment process as outlined below:

The 3-Step Treatment Process for
Possible-Contaminated Carpets

Step One – Initial Remedial Cleaning and Disinfection Treatment

If there is any chance that the carpeted area in question could have viable COVID-19 viruses harbouring within its fabric, DO NOT dry vacuum as the first step. It is essential not to cause any disturbance that could lead to infectious material becoming airborne again and thereby actually increasing the risk of further infection.

Instead, all carpeted areas should be initially ‘damped down’ and disinfected by misting with an appropriately diluted product included on the EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 as the disinfectants on this list have been rigorously tested and evaluated to ensure they have significant efficacy against the COVID-19 virus.

The carpets should then be ‘deep cleaned’ and further disinfected using a hot water extraction carpet cleaning process (more commonly known as steam cleaning) while the carpet is still damp from the pre-spray. According to the technical experts in ‘Big Red’, this is the optimal technique for killing both bacteria and viruses that might be lurking within the carpet fibres as the high temperatures involved, in addition to the ‘N Listed’ disinfectant will eliminate them immediately.

However, it must be noted that all such treatments will only render the carpets completely free from risk up until the next COVID-19 positive person shedding infectious viral particles re-contaminates them again. Therefore, ‘Big Red’ also advocates a further second step of long-term residual antimicrobial protection.

Step Two – Long Term 24/7 Antimicrobial Protection

Once the carpet has been effectively cleaned and disinfected in accordance with Step One above, it can be considered effectively risk free as a potential infection control hazard, but the carpets in question will only remain completely risk free of being a reservoir of infection until such time as they become re-infected again. Therefore, ‘Big Red’ also recommend treating the entire area (including other porous and non-porous surfaces) with a residual antimicrobial surface protection treatment such as ‘BRShield’ to provide complete protection from viral recontamination and onward transmission on a 24/7 basis for 180 days following the application.

‘BRShield’ is an organo-silane based, broad-spectrum antimicrobial treatment that chemically bonds to all surfaces (including textiles and fabrics) at the molecular level and endows all treated surfaces with semi-permanent antimicrobial properties. This means that any ‘inbound’ new pathogens arriving on the surface (including treated carpeting) will be killed immediately upon arrival and therefore not given any opportunity at all to create a potential future reservoir of infection. Once this second step has been successfully implemented, ‘Big Red’ simply advise on basic routine housekeeping procedures being followed to maintain the treated carpet in an optimal condition for infection control purposes.

Step Three – Ongoing Routine Maintenance

Once the first two steps above have been completed, there only needs to be minimal ongoing routine maintenance to keep the ‘BRShield’ coating appropriately energised to be efficient and effective in killing inbound pathogenic microorganisms. The protocol below is therefore recommended:


As is often the case with infection control measures, there is no such thing as single ‘silver bullet’ to kill pathogenic microorganisms and protect ourselves from highly contagious diseases such as Coronavirus (COVID-19) which is why ‘Big Red’ has wisely recommended a fully integrated approach to treat potentially infected carpets, which in itself is also part of a wider, overarching integrated infection control strategy.

Recently, ‘Big Red’ (who have over three decades of professional and technical experience in fighting infection and disease in Singapore and the SE Asia Region) published a short but very informative article on how carpeted areas and other fabrics might act as reservoirs of disease and contribute to the overall risk of onward transmission of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Following an overwhelmingly positive response to that article, with many questions and requests for help, ‘Big Red’ have asked their resident expert in Preventive Medicine and Infection Control, Professor Martin A. Blake to address some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) in this follow up article.

People also ask

  • How does the COVID 19 virus get into carpets and fabrics in the first place?
  • When a person contracts COVID 19 they begin shedding very large numbers of infectious viral particles from their respiratory tract. This happens when they breathe, talk, shout and of course, when the cough or sneeze. Whist these very tiny microscopic particles may remain airborne for some considerable time, they will eventually be drawn to settle downwards due to the effects of gravity. Therefore, the majority of these viral particles will end up on the floor and other horizontal surfaces. In the case of carpets and fabrics, they will harbour these potentially infectious viral particles either until they are transmitted else-where or they die naturally over a period of time. It is in this intervening period, between deposition and death that the carpet or fabric can harbour these highly contagious viral particles and thus act as a potential reservoir of infection.
  • Once deposited in a carpet, how long can the virus survive before it dies naturally?
  • The science is now very clear that the Coronavirus (COVID 19) can survive outside the human body for periods between a few hours to several days. Whilst there has been no laboratory investigations specifically into carpets, it would be prudent to accept that the virus can survive for an extended period of time once it lands in the carpet material or the fabric of upholstery.
  • So, if a carpet might be contaminated with COVID 19 viral particles, should we just vacuum the carpet to remove them?
  • Definitely not! Whilst some vacuum machines are capable of capturing small particulate matter, we all know the very process of vacuuming raises dust and we certainly do not want to release the viral particles now resting on the floor back into the air, therefore it is better to use a ‘wet cleaning’ process than a dry mechanical process in the first instance.
  • What is the first thing we should do if we feel a carpeted area might have been contaminated with COVID 19 viral material?
  • If the area is large, the first thing you should do is call in a professional contractor as they have the experience, the chemicals, the machines and the ‘know-how’ to mitigate the risk of disease transmission efficiently and effectively.
  • What is the first step in treating a potentially contaminated COVID-19 carpet?
  • The first step will be to contain any potentially infectious material where it is and prevent its accidental spread elsewhere, especially back into the air where it poses a greater risk of transmission and contagion. Additionally, your contractor will want to immediately kill any pathogenic organisms freely residing on the surface of the carpet. The number one objective in the first step is to contain and kill the virus. This will be accomplished by lightly misting the entire area with a water based disinfectant solution to prevent any particles rising back up from the floor and also to kill the organisms exposed on the surfaces in question.
  • What kind of disinfectant solution is used for this initial damping down process?
  • Because fabrics are involved, your contractor will not suggest using bleach-based disinfectants or anything else that might discolour or harm the fabric of the carpet. They will instead ‘damp down’ and disinfect the areas in question by misting them with a product included on the EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 as all the disinfectants included within this list have been tested to ensure they can eliminate the COVID-19 virus.
  • Once the risk of raising dust and any viral particles resting on the surface of the carpet have been eliminated, how can we deal with pathogenic microorganisms that might be lurking deeper in the fabric of the carpet?
  • Here your contractor will suggest a cleaning and disinfection regime based on high temperature moist heat at a temperature in excess of 77o Centigrade. This high pressure, high temperature extraction process is then effectively coupled with a detergent and disinfectant solution to both clean the carpet and kill any residual pathogenic organisms lingering deep inside the fabric of the carpet itself.
  • Once the carpet has been cleaned and disinfected using high temperature steam and a conventional detergent and disinfectant mixture, how long will the carpet remain free from infectious material?
  • Unfortunately, no matter how efficiently we clean, disinfect or even sterilise a surface using conventional heat and traditional chemical-based disinfection, the surface will only remain completely safe until it is re-contaminated once again. Therefore, in order to ensure complete safety and peace of mind, once a carpet or fabric has been rendered clean and free of pathogenic organisms, we should then apply a long-term antimicrobial agent to ensure ongoing protection.
  • What is a long-term antimicrobial agent?
  • A long-term antimicrobial surface protection agent is a product that once chemically bonded to the surface upon which it has been applied (in this case a carpet or a fabric) it will endow that surface with semi-permanent anti-microbial properties meaning that even if infectious microorganisms are deposited there, they will be killed immediately on arrival therefore eliminating the future risk of the carpet in question acting as a potential reservoir of infection.
  • How long do antimicrobial surface protection agents remain active?
  • That depends on the product itself and the dilution ratio as well as the skill of the contractor. In the case of ‘Big Red’ they are so confident that their antimicrobial product called ‘BRShield’ will provide ongoing protection on a 24/7 basis for 180 days that they offer a ‘no quibble money back guarantee’ on their workmanship and the efficacy of the product.
  • Once an antimicrobial surface protection agent has been applied to a carpet, is there anything that needs to be done to ensure its ongoing efficacy?
  • Yes, once a carpet has been rendered safe and a low risk surface by the treatments recommended above, the carpet then just requires standard routine vacuuming and cleaning as normal. If possible, it is always better to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter as this greatly reduces the possibility of physical dust and potential allergens being released back into the air.
  • In your opinion, who is the most experienced and trusted contractor in SE Asia to undertake all the tasks outlined above?
  • I can only answer that by pointing out that I have personally chosen to work with ‘Big Red’ in Singapore as they meet my own very high standards of professionalism.

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