Carpet is everywhere! People who
understand carpet know that its immense success and consumer acceptance is not due to
chance. Few construction materials offer the advantages that carpet does. Carpet is
colorful, comfortable and yet easy to maintain. Even though it appears expensive, it is
often the most economical choice for floor covering. Carpet and rugs found on the floors
of residences and commercial buildings still represent a substantial investment. In light
of this, is it not wise to maintain them correctly?
Like all textile materials, the beauty and life of a
carpet depends largely on the care that it is given. Proper maintenance can add years of
attractive life. Specific maintenance procedures for carpet are determined by where the
carpet is installed. In general, proper maintenance involves regular vacuuming and
periodic cleaning by methods such as hot water extraction, shampooing, bonnet cleaning,
foam cleaning, etc.
Regular vacuuming is essential as it removes
particulate soil that damages the fibers. Vacuuming maintains the surface appearance of a
carpet and keeps the level of soil in the pile at an acceptable level. Vacuuming should be
done at least once every two weeks, preferably once each week and even twice per week in
soiled or heavily trafficked areas. It is important to use a well-maintained, good quality
vacuum. Vacuuming removes only particulate soil and surface dirt; therefore, other methods
of cleaning are periodically required to improve the appearance of the carpet. Wet
cleaning methods are better for removing oils, greases and other forms of matter that
cause soiling on carpet. These methods are mostly used by professional cleaners and
trained personnel, but smaller, less powerful units, can also be rented for use by
Brief Description of Carpet Cleaning Methods
It has been said that ignorance is bliss. Sometimes,
maybe, but not always. Before having a carpet cleaned, you may find it helpful to
understand some of the carpet cleaning methods. The best method for cleaning a particular
carpet is dependent on a range of factors. All carpet cleaning methods offer various
advantages, but also have some limitations. No single method is superior to all others.
Properly performed under appropriate conditions, each method can provide satisfactory
results. Often, several methods can be combined to achieve the desired results. The
following are some of the more prevalent carpet cleaning methods. (Note: There is no
significance to the order in which these techniques are presented.)
Hot Water Extraction or "Steam" Cleaning
In this method, hot water cleaning solution is sprayed
on the carpet and immediately extracted (along with the dissolved soil) by a wet vacuum.
Extraction equipment can be portable or truck-mounted, the latter being more powerful in
terms of spray pressure, heating capabilities and power of the vacuum pumps. Hot water
extraction is often referred to as "steam" cleaning. In actuality this is a
misnomer as the temperature of the heated solution never reaches the point to generate
In this process, the cleaning solution is showered onto
the carpet through several openings in a circular brush. The rotary action of the brush
whips the detergent into a foam and provides agitation or rubbing action on the carpet.
This suspends the soil, and the wet/dry vacuuming that follows removes it.
This method resembles the shampooing process described
above. It employs a rotary floor machine on the bottom of which is attached a round
absorbent pad (shag pad). The detergent is sprayed directly on the carpet. As the machine
is operated, the shag pad rotates on the carpet. This removes the soil as it is absorbed
on the shag pad. The shag pad can also be moistened with detergent. When one side of the
pad becomes soiled, the pad is reversed until both sides are soiled, at which time it is
This system uses detergent in the form of a foam.
Machines are available that generate foam, which is agitated on the carpet by brushes. The
foam is then removed, with trapped soil, by an extraction-vacuum pickup.
Dry (Absorbent Compound) Cleaning
In this process the cleaning agent, an absorbent dry
compound (containing solvents and detergents) is sprinkled on the carpet and worked into
the pile by a machine. It is vacuumed off after about half an hour, removing the soil
suspended by the compound.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD CARPET BE CLEANED?
As explained earlier, vacuuming alone, although
essential, cannot maintain the appearance of a carpet at an acceptable level for long.
Depending on various factors, the appearance of any carpet will ultimately reach an
unacceptable level. At that stage, cleaning is necessary by one of the methods mentioned
above. The frequency of such cleaning will depend on a carpet's use conditions, soil
conditions, fiber type, constructional specifications, color, etc. In general, residential
carpet requires cleaning within one to one and one-half years; certainly before two years
of use (and possible abuse).
When deciding to have a carpet cleaned, consumers have
two basic choices:
1) clean the carpet themselves by D-I-Y (do it yourself) rental units or consumer
2) have the carpet cleaned by a professional/specialist in cleaning and restoration.
Like most decisions, the choice between having a carpet
cleaned professionally and D-I-Y cleaning is based frequently on financial considerations.
Electing to use a rental unit rather than a professional cleaner may be penny wise and
pound foolish. Before deciding to do it yourself, several points should be considered.
Contrary to common belief, carpet cleaning is an
intricate process. When spots, stains and traffic patterns have made carpet unsightly,
cleaning by D-I-Y methods may not enhance the appearance to the desired level. Consumers
in most cases have had little or no previous experience operating the machines. Therefore,
there is a good possibility of misuse and/or overuse. Machines can be rented for D-I-Y
cleaning that utilize one of the various methods already mentioned (shampooing, hot water
extraction, dry absorbent compound, etc.). Shampooing machines, for example, leave some
residue on the carpet. If the carpet is shampooed many times the residue can accumulate
leading to various problems, such as severe foaming on later cleaning, stickiness etc.
Rental machines that use hot water extraction
("steam") cleaning are the most popular for residential use. Successful cleaning
by these machines is largely dependent on the experience of the operator. Improper use can
leave the carpet overly wet, causing possible backing delamination, odor from development
of mold-mildew-fungi, cellulosic browning, color run, shrinkage, and other related
problems. This can happen especially in areas of repeated, high volume use, or
"traffic lanes". One or two passes of the cleaning wand may not be sufficient to
enhance the appearance of such areas. Attempts to clean them over and over again can cause
overwetting and its attendant problems.
D-I-Y cleaning by the dry-absorbent compound method
will not cause such problems as overwetting, color run, shrinkage, etc. But it, too, can
mean some headaches. If the final vacuuming operation is not thorough, some of the powder
will be left in the carpet pile. With repeated cleanings, enough cleaning compound can
accumulate to cause some discoloration by its own presence.
The obvious conclusion is that carpet cleaning by D-I-Y
methods is not a substitute for professional cleaning. It can, at best, merely postpone
the need or reduce the frequency of professional cleanings. Rental units lack adequate
power, and consumers usually lack the expertise to succeed in properly maintaining carpet
and prolonging its attractive life.
Selecting the Right Carpet Cleaner
Having established that professional carpet cleaning is
essential for extending a carpet or rug's attractive life, the next question is how does
one go about choosing the right person or firm to do the job?
There is no magical, single method for carpet cleaning.
All methods have advantages as well as disadvantages. Moreover, different people can
achieve different results while cleaning the same carpet with identical equipment. No
method can compensate for an inept operator. Therefore, it is more important to select the
right cleaner than the right cleaning method.
Not all cleaners are alike. In fact, the difference in
the quality of service from one cleaner to another can be astounding. However, with so
many claims, counterclaims and a diversion of equipment and technology available, how do
you go about choosing the right person or firm? It can be difficult because there are so
many choices available. There are a few guidelines to follow that can help you make the
1. Affiliation with Professional Organizations
Carpet cleaning is an ever-changing field. Each year
new cleaning systems, cleaning chemicals and extra services are introduced. Good professional
cleaners keep abreast of such changes and constantly improve the services they offer.
It's much like medicine. Would you like to be treated by a doctor who is not aware of the
new medications and advancements in their field.
Affiliation with professional trade associations goes a
Ask the cleaner for names of previous customers. Gauge
how reluctant or eager they are in granting your request. Call the references and find out
about their cleaning experience. Ask about the cleaner's appearance, their manner of
presentation, the condition of their equipment, their ability to answer questions, etc.
Find out if the overall cleaning experience was pleasant and if they would go back to the
3. Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Check with the local BBB to find out if any complaints
are registered against the firm you are considering. If yes, how good and efficient was
the firm's response to the complaint? Did they remedy the problem to the consumer's
4. Watch Out for the Low End
Misleading advertising and glib sales tactics leave
cleaners who offer quality service at a disadvantage. Advertisements promising carpet
cleaning at unbelievably low prices (like $5.95 a room; or two rooms for $10.95) are
prevalent these days. If you think they are too good to be true, you are probably correct.
Have you been left with an overwet and still dirty
carpet? Have you ended up paying several times more than what you thought you would be
paying? If yes, then you have had firsthand experience with such cleaners.
Quality service requires investments and takes time. It
is not possible to offer good service at ridiculously low prices. Do not fall victim to
low pricing or Bait and Switch tactics.
5. You can Contribute to the Success of a Cleaning
Cleaning chemicals and procedures can be altered to fit
the specific needs of the carpet being cleaned. Describe the use and conditions of the
carpet and all previous home and professional cleanings to your professional cleaner. For
example, if the carpet has been shampooed several times before, it is reasonable to expect
the presence of some detergent residue. With this information, your cleaner may change the
cleaning solution to compensate for this.
If your carpet has stains, point them out to the
cleaning crew. Tell them how long the stains have been there and what may have caused
them. Some spots and stains, such as those from bleaches, urine, mildew, etc., may be
impossible to remove even by the most proficient cleaner. Knowing about them will prevent
disappointments resulting from unrealistic expectations.
Do not remove furniture protectors placed under
furniture legs until the carpet is completely dry. Mahogany, redwood and other kinds of
wooden furniture can bleed color onto carpet. Metal legs may rust if placed on the
floorcoverings that are still wet.
Remember, if properly selected, your cleaner is an
expert professional, so follow care instructions he leaves behind after cleaning. In order
to insure the best appearance retention of your carpet, we recommend that you follow these
1. Circulate the air to speed up drying time. If
possible, slightly open a window to let in fresh air.
2. Do not allow children or pets to crawl or walk on
cleaned carpet for at least 24 hours- preferably longer - until carpet is thoroughly dry.
3. Do not walk on freshly cleaned carpet for at least 4
hours or more until dry to touch.
4. Do not remove aluminum or plastic pieces that have
been placed under legs of furniture until carpet is absolutely dry.
5. Vacuum after carpet is dry and then vacuum on a
Protect Your Investment