Carpets. They're everywhere you look, but often unnoticed until sensed by your feet, sinking into a plush pile, or until wine is spilled, leaving a stain that stubbornly draws the eye. Stews are eagle eyed about every detail of a yacht's interior and few mishaps are likely to bother them more than a problem with the carpet, which is costly, difficult to replace and untreatable with standard cleaning products.
We speak to Richard Perkins, a carpet specialist and Master Cleaner, who, by furnishing his expertise to the Luxe app, is on a mission to help interior crew take expert care of the luxury carpets onboard yachts.
OnboardOnline: Tell us a little bit about what you do and how you got started?
Richard Perkins: I started in the yachting industry in 1978, initially as a steward and then as chief steward. By 1985 traditional wood walls and carpets were being replaced by silk, nova suede and expensive custom carpets. However, there was no one company in the US or in Europe that specialized in maintaining these luxury fabrics, which gave me the idea to start my own business. I obtained formal education to learn about all types of fabrics, how they are made and how to clean them properly without damaging them, and then I launched Interior Technology Services.
I became a Certified Master Cleaner & Certified Master Restorer in 1992 with the Institute of Inspection Cleaning Restoration Certification (I.I.C.R.C.) which is the highest qualification you can get. The I.I.C.R.C. is the governing body that sets the standards for carpet and upholstery cleaning, carpet installation, water and fire damage, colour repair and so on. I was then recruited by Edward Fields Carpets as their preferred cleaner in south Florida, Atlanta and at the factory in New York.
These were the most expensive hand tufted carpets in the US, custom made for clients and also copyrighted. They became very popular with the yachts and the company is now owned by Tai Ping Carpets.
Around 2010 I expanded into the European market. The office is in Amsterdam and it services The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France and Italy and in 2013 we became the first company to provide this service in the US.
OO: What are the current trends in carpet installations?
RP: There seem to be many new ideas in carpets recently; some are good and some are bad. The good is a synthetic product called Sylka which has the feel and touch of a silk carpet but it’s made from nylon. The bad is Viscose (artificial silk, bamboo silk, banana silk, etc.). It is actually rayon, which is cotton and wood pulp spun together, with the look and feel of silk, but it’s not a good product.
OO: How easy are these carpets to maintain?
RP: Sylka carpets clean beautifully. On the other hand, many carpet manufacturers have headaches with Viscose as it doesn’t clean well and it often needs to be replaced in a few years which doesn’t make for happy clients. To give you an example, because of the wood pulp in the fibre, if you spill a glass of water it turns brown and this cannot always be reversed. Treating it with flame retardant can also be a problem because it’s water based. Equally, if the vessel has a problem with exhaust lines at doorways and edges, you cannot clean it properly because you can’t be too rough with it.
Fitted carpet and rugs on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
OO: What is the most common mistreatment of carpet and how can it be avoided?
RP: We see several ways that carpets are being mistreated. For example, when crew clean the carpets themselves, using an improper cleaning method or an unqualified cleaner (which is 90% of the cleaning industry), using clear plastic sheeting to protect carpets, not using a top-quality installer and pulling the carpets up themselves to get to a hatch and not properly reinstalling them. The worst mistreatment we see is the use of ‘home remedies’ for cleaning that are passed around on yachting social media. Proper chemistry is extremely important so as not to damage these expensive fabrics and many of these ‘home remedies’ can cause permanent damage.
OO: Why did you agree to be an expert for Luxe?
RP: I was attracted to Luxe for several reasons. First, when I started in yachting we only had spiral binders and a pen, we did not have inventories, manuals or computers. So I see Luxe as a complete package that is very much needed for the yacht and the crew to educate and organize themselves. Second, education is everything. This has been the basis of my business since I started 33 years ago. If I am working on very expensive fabrics, then I want to be highly educated on what they are and what can be done to them. I see so much bad advice on the crew chat sites and I feel that Luxe is a much better resource, giving them proper advice.
OO: What is your best tip for interior crew in relation to carpet care?
RP: If you are not sure of a spot on the fabric, then do not attempt to clean it. I always recommend they send us a picture and tell us what happened, and we can then talk you through it. We can always be reached by email or phone and via our web site.