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Professional Carpet Cleaning 101

Carpet Doctors Plus

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The steam cleaning system

Carpet Manufactures recommends the hot water extraction system, which research indicates provides the best capability for carpet cleaning. This system is commonly referred to as “steam cleaning,” although no steam is actually generated. The process consists of applying a cleaning agent onto the pile and using water in the extractor to recover the used solution and soil. This can be done from a truck-mounted unit outside the home with only the hose and wand brought inside or, where a truck-mounted unit cannot reach, by a portable system brought into the home.

Professional carpet cleaners

It is to your advantage to use professional cleaners because their experience enables them to do a better job than you can do yourself. Their equipment has more extraction power than the rental units available to you, and the carpet should dry more quickly. True professionals have also made the investment in training to understand the equipment, to know the proper cleaning agents for the situation at hand, and to recognize the differences in fibers and carpet construction. One way to locate a professional cleaner is to contact the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) at 1-800-835-4624. This organization maintains a national directory of independent professional cleaners who are trained and certified in a variety of cleaning specialties.

Bonnet Cleaning Systems

Bonnet cleaning systems employ a rotating bonnet of terry cloth or other absorbent material to agitate the carpet pile and absorb soil. A detergent solution is sprayed onto the pile and then worked with the bonnet attached to a rotary floor polisher. Carpet manufactures do not recommend this cleaning system. The bonnet system has very limited capability for soil removal and leaves much of the detergent in the pile since it employs no real extraction. As a result, rapid re-soiling often occurs. Another disadvantage is that the spinning bonnet may distort the fibers of cut pile carpet, fuzzing the pile and leaving distinct swirl marks.

Do-it-yourself systems

If you decide to rent a steam cleaning machine and do it yourself, check several cleaning systems before making a selection. Most rental units available do not adequately clean and may actually damage the carpet. Consider the following:

  • Some rental companies have cleaning equipment that is similar to what the professionals use. The cleaning equipment should have enough vacuum power to allow the carpet to dry within 6 to 12 hours after cleaning. Avoid rental units found in many retail and grocery stores that do not have enough power to extract the cleaning solutions from the carpet adequately and which may actually damage the carpet due to over wetting.
  • Avoid over wetting the carpet. Prolonged dampness may promote growth of mildew and bacteria in the carpet or cause separation of the backing. A carpet that is wet for more than 24 hours could develop a growth of mold and mildew. This is controlled by a combination of proper equipment and operator training. Most problems in do-it-yourself carpet cleaning are due to over wetting and use of excessive detergent.
  • Use a cleaning solution with a pH less than 10, preferably near 9, and with a minimum of non-sticky residue. The attraction between the detergent and the particles of soil and oil is critical during the cleaning process. However, the detergent residue continues to attract the particles after cleaning. Increasing the amount of cleaning solution beyond the recommended level does not greatly increase cleaning performance, but makes the removal of detergent more difficult. Because buildup of detergent residue is the most common cause of accelerated re-soiling complaints, do not use extra cleaning solution. Carpet manufactures recommend a clear water rinse after cleaning your carpets.
  • Carpet with stain resistant treatments must be cleaned with products formulated for this purpose, or the stain resistance will be impaired and the warranty voided. Do not use cleaning or spotting solutions that contain bleaches or optical brighteners because they can discolor the carpet.

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