Why do I need to get my synthetic turf cleaned?

Written by Mark Fisher – Turf, Track & Court LLC

Ever step on a Lego hiding in the carpet?  We all know what that feels like – a moment of painful surprise and shock, some hopping around and maybe even some blood.  And possibly cursing.  That concept is the biggest reason to consider cleaning your artificial turf.  Although it’s not a Lego, it is likely to be a safety pin, earring, pen cap, screw, nail or the snipped end off of a zip tie waiting to inflict pain into the unsuspecting football, soccer, lacrosse or field hockey player that ends up on the turf.

Artificial turf is essentially a giant carpet.  It has a base, and fibers are sown into the base to make the field.  Unlike the carpet in your house, however, artificial turf has an “infill” which is usually made up of small rubber pellets and sand to create the feeling of playing on natural grass.  The space in those pellets is where all kinds of objects can fall and take up residence until that carpet gets cleaned and vacuumed. 

Cleaning your house carpets involves plugging in the vacuum cleaner and simply going over as many of those carpet fibers as you can reach with the vacuum.  The goal is to pull up all of the “extras” and clean the carpet to make it more aesthetically pleasing, and to remove the stuff that isn’t carpet.  That stuff might be pet hair, some crumbs from that last holiday gathering or maybe some dried up mud from the kids charging into the house without cleaning off their shoes first, or even the occasional Lego.  If you consider the motion used to vacuum the carpet, it’s of a back and forth motion – essentially going over every area twice.  Once forward and once backwards.  The carpet fibers then stand up a bit more and your carpet is clean!

Cleaning a turf field requires a vacuum, too.  That’s where the similarities end, however.  Since we don’t have a cord long enough to cover a football field, our vacuum is mounted to a tractor.  A turf field requires 3 steps in the cleaning process:

1)      Pulling the fibers vertical
2)      Sifting through the infill to pull out the hard contaminants
3)      Vacuuming the soft contaminants out of the field.

That’s a bit different than just vacuuming up the debris and not worrying about pulling up the carpet.  The first of that is accomplished by using a combination of roller and tines underneath our tractor mounted vacuum.  The roller smoothes out the naturally occurring lumps in the infill and the tines break up and “fluff” the rubber to make it more loose and easier for the brush to pull it into the sieve tray.  This process helps not only the performance of the field, but the aesthetics of the field. 

The second part of the cleaning process has the infill getting pulled into a vibrating sieve to separate the hard contaminants from the infill.  The infill is pulled onto the tray where a vibrating sieve does the dirty work of separating hard and dangerous from soft and fluffy.  The safety pins, bobby pins, earrings, bottle caps, track cleats and whatever else may be lurking in that field (maybe even a Lego!) are separated out from the infill and the pellets fall back into place on the field.  This is the safety portion of the cleaning process.  Imagine your own sports star coming off the field with a gash from a lone soccer cleat on the turn that no one could find. 

Part three of the process happens when a powerful vacuum removes dust/danger/pollen/fiber/hair out of the infill.  The soft particulates get removed from the infill and held in a bag (very much like the vacuum in your house), while the infill pellets are screened out to drop down and once again be reunited with their brethren to form the soft portion of the artificial turf.  And, again, like a house vacuum, we clean out the bag frequently of everything that accumulates so we are ready for the next cleaning. 

Essentially, our equipment scoops up the top ¼ inch of material and infill, separates the pellets from the hard debris, vacuums up all the soft stuff and drops the infill back onto the field.  It then spreads the infill out by means of a rear brush.  This all happens in a single pass of the tractor, but in order to get the turf fibers as upright as possible, we go over every square foot twice in opposing directions.  This is a lot like the back and forth motions used when you (or your significant other) vacuum(s) your house. 

When it comes to artificial turf, the recommendation is to groom the turf after every 100-125 uses, and do a thorough cleaning twice a year.  A “use” is a gym class, a sports practice, a home sports game, band practice, a community based sports league or some kind of ceremony or other special event (homecoming, parade, etc.).

Cleaning the turf is an essential part of yearly maintenance for your investment.  By scheduling the recommended cleanings, the turf is made safer, it extends the life of the field and helps protect the investment of the field owner.  Please call Turf, Track & Court LLC today to schedule your cleaning!  (717) 312-3012 or email info@turftrackandcourt.com for more information.

Some examples of soft and hard contaminants are below.  You can probably figure out which is which. 

Current projects in the works for TTC:

Track & Field Athletic Facility at Big Spring School District
Running Track at Lebanon School District
Running Track at Fairfield Area School District
Stadium Turf Replacement at York Suburban School District
Turf Replacement at Spring-Ford Area School District

Upcoming Cleaning/Maintenance/G-Max
Gettysburg Area School District
Millersville University
Derry Township School District
Central Dauphin School District
Warwick Area School District
Daniel Boone School District
Lower Dauphin School District
Elizabethtown College

Turf, Track & Court, LLC – who we are and what we do

Office, Sweet Office

Turf, Track & Court, LLC (TTC) was founded in 2010 by Landscape Architect Brian Bingeman, who discovered there was a real need for his area of expertise in Central Pennsylvania. Located in Hershey, PA, TTC is your one-stop shop for all things athletic facility related to the outdoors.

We provide three areas of specialized service: Professional, Maintenance and Testing.

Professional Services

TTC provides all required professional services for the planning and design of your athletic facilities projects. From existing facilities analysis to detailed construction document development, TTC is dedicated to providing creative, cost effective design services for all of your outdoor athletic facility needs.

TTC provides Facility Analysis and Feasibility Studies to identify all pertinent aspects of your project prior to the initiation of the design. Facility Analysis identify and document existing physical conditions, use patterns, spatial relations and maintenance procedures. Feasibility Studies outline and analyze all contributing factors and typically provide guidelines for the development of your athletic facility. Facility analytics and/or Feasibility Studies are generally prepared for new stadiums, stadium renovations as well as new or existing running tracks, tennis courts, multiple field complexes, etc.

Master planning / Design & Layout
Site planning is crucial to the maximization and functionality of your specific space. TTC’s planning process will identify all components of the facility, athletic venues, traffic patterns – both pedestrian and vehicular – parking needs, infrastructure requirements, environmental considerations, etc. The plan components will be assembled in a logical and practical layout which will lay the groundwork for the physical development of the athletic facility. Master Planning is a critical phase in the planning, design and construction of your athletic facility projects. The process will provide the most logical, cost effective, phased development plan.

Construction Drawings / Details / Specifications
Construction document preparation includes all aspects of the bidding process, contract negotiations, project conditions, specific construction requirements as well as concise plan drawings and detail required for the proper construction of your athletic facilities. Thorough construction documentation is imperative to educating the contractor of the parameters and specifications of the construction project. Written construction documents will be thoroughly prepared by TTC utilizing industry standard base documents tailored to each project’s needs. Plan drawings and details are prepared utilizing Auto CADD technology to identify specific tolerances and ensure dimensional requirements meet all of the governing body standards.

Examples of our awesome design work from 2016:

York Suburban School District Trojan Field Returf



Wow, even the sky is cooperating to make this look even more stunning!

Dover Area School District Tennis Court Renovations



The color combination Dover chose looks fantastic!

Spring-Ford Area School District Track Renovation



The wear and tear was replaced with a sparkly new running track!

Maintenance Services

Turf Maintenance 101
The synthetic infill turf industry has evolved over the past ten years, and so have the turf’s maintenance requirements. Contaminants of many forms find their way into the infill systems and detrimentally effect their integrity, which lessens the life of the turf. A typical grooming process redistributes contaminants throughout the

This could be hiding in your turf! Imagine falling on that? Also, Finders Keepers.

playing surface, rather than removing them. TTC’s service extracts field contaminants, de-compacts the infill and can potentially increase a new field’s usable life by 20-25%. Similar to panning for gold, only the opposite. The equipment used to maintain your turf’s life puts the gold (infill) back into the turf while removing the stones and other debris that could irreparably damage your investment.

Benefits of Turf Maintenance
• Removes hard, potentially dangerous contaminants (see above – ouch!)
• Extracts fine particles, such as pollen, dust and dander, as well as organic matter (ew), grass, leaves, hair and clothing fibers. (FYI, just because the sign says “No Dogs Allowed” doesn’t necessarily mean dogs are never on it)

• Grooms turf fibers vertical, thereby keeping the wear areas on the ends of the fibers and no on its sides.

TTC’s Turf Maintenance Services offer you a State of the Art deep cleaning, top dressing infill material, Seam/wrinkle repairs, field base repairs and line painting/graphics.

A few of the fields we maintain are: Alvernia University, HersheyPark Stadium, Derry Township School District, Daniel Boone Area School District,

Cleaning the field at Hempfield’s Georgelis Stadium.

Hempfield School District, State College Area School District, Spring Grove Area School District, Franklin & Marshall College, Elizabethtown College, Tulpehocken Area School District, Southern York County School District and many, many others.

Sounds like a good idea, right? Go ahead and give us a call or send an email to schedule a cleaning or for more information! 717-312-3012 or info@turftrackandcourt.com.

Saying “Astroturf” when referring to synthetic turf is like saying “Kleenex” when using tissues.  It’s a brand of synthetic turf but  it isn’t the ONLY brand.

G-Max Testing Services

G-Max 101
G-Max testing of athletic fields, both natural and synthetic, measures specific shock-absorbing characteristics. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has set standards for testing procedures and safety limits. Initial testing will benchmark conditions, and subsequent annual testing will allow comparative analysis. Testing results will potentially identify maintenance needs as well as projected field life cycles.

Playing surfaces typically get compacted with use and require maintenance for maximization of use. Over use, combined with minimal maintenance, may create a less than desirable playing environment. Annual G-Max testing will provide documentation of surface hardness as well as a record of safety compliance.

Benefits of G-Max Testing
• Verification and documentation of surface G-Max readings and infill levels are within manufactures specification
• Monitoring athletic surfaces to document safe play standards as established by the ASTM
• Identification of “wear” areas that may require additional maintenance to extent field life

G-Max Diagram

This is an example of what a report looks like, with a diagram of what work was done and the location, as well as the results of the G-Max impact tests and infill depth measurements.

Testing Units
The Clegg Impact Tester is a professional instrument to determine hardness of predominantly natural playing surfaces. The principle behind the Clegg Impact Soil Tester is to obtain a measurement of the deceleration of a free-falling object from a set height onto a surface to determine hardness. The impact of the “hammer” (what was dropped) produces an electrical pulse, which is converted and displayed on the control unit in gravities, or “G-Max”. The lower the number, the better the surface.

DID YOU KNOW? The NFL requires all playing surfaces to be G-max tested prior to every game.

The Triax2010 is a device used to test the resiliency of synthetic playing surfaces.  When properly configured and used by a trained operator (which we are!), the Triax2010 can be used to perform surface impact attenuation tests in accordance with the ASTM Standard Specifications.  This system consists of a hand-held controller, a hemispherical head form and a support tripod.   The operator will then drop the “missile” in several locations throughout the playing surface to test the resiliency and buoyancy of the surface area.

Protect your investments and give us a call today.  We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.

In the works for TTC:

YORK SUBURBAN STADIUM (TURF REPLACEMENT AT DICK MAY FIELD) – TTC previously managed the Trojan Field returf in 2016 (pictured above), and is now assisting the District in replacing the synthetic turf at Dick May Field, as well as making drainage improvements. Estimated completion late July 2017.

LEBANON SCHOOL DISTRICT (RUNNING TRACK RENOVATION) – Repair and resurfacing of synthetic running tracks, estimated completion late July 2017.

SPRING-FORD SCHOOL DISTRICT (MCNELLY STADIUM TURF REPLACEMENT) – Removal of synthetic turf and installation of new synthetic turf. Estimated completion August 2017.

BIG SPRING SCHOOL DISTRICT (TRACK & FIELD ATHLETIC FACILITIES) – starting fresh with site excavation, grading and drainage improvements for the installation of their new athletic facilities. Included with construction will be a new synthetic running track, as well as a new synthetic turf athletic field which will be used primarily for soccer and field hockey. Estimated completion August 2017.

Next Blog: We’re Parents, Too: G-Max testing – why it’s important and why you need it for your athletes.