What is the best way to clean carpet? There are four basic methods for cleaning carpet:
- Carpet Shampoo
- Dry Powder Method
- Bonnet Cleaning
- Hot Water Extraction or Steam Cleaning
Carpet Shampoo Method
The theory in the shampoo method is to generate a lot of foam in the carpet, allow this foam to dry, have the resulting residue attract the soil and vacuum up the residue and soil the next day.
Carpet shampoo products must have the following characteristics which dictate their ingredients:
- Very high foam levels to reduce wetting.
- Very stable foam.
- High lubricity to reduce damage to the carpet fibers from the brushes. Too much agitation will distort the fiber yarns of the carpet.
- Dry to a non-sticky residue.
Therefore, a carpet shampoo must contain a very foamy chemical. The most common ingredient is sodium lauryl sulfate or one of its relatives. Sometime when you're taking a shower or bath, look at the ingredient statement on your hair shampoo bottle. It will say "Contains sodium lauryl sulfate" or some similar wording. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and its relatives exhibit a very high and very stable foam and are only fair detergents. The problem is that they dry to a soft, sticky residue which will cause resoiling. And on the subject of "fair" detergents, shampoo is meant to be mild, whereas a more aggressive detergent like laundry soap is more affective in cleaning heavily soiled fabrics.
Because of the resoiling problem, carpet shampoos will frequently also have an anti-resoiling additive such as a resin to reduce this resoiling tendency. But the bottom line is that unless thorough rinsing of the carpet takes place, leftover residue will cause the carpet to resoil much faster. For example, if you wash your hair and just dry vacuum it out of your scalp, you know how your hair will feel. It's no different with carpet fibers.
Because shampoos are actually very poor detergents and the machine basically just moves the soil around, this method of carpet cleaning is not recommended for long term cleaning maintenance.
Two primary types of machines are used for this process:
- Cylindrical Foam
- Rotary Shampoo
The Cylindrical Foam Shampoo machine uses an air compressor to create dry foam before the foam is applied to the carpet and the carpet is then agitated with a revolving cylindrical brush which combs the foam through carpet pile. This method will leave dirt trapped in the carpet pile. Carpet must be thoroughly vacuumed before and after cleaning.
The Rotary Shampoo method uses an ordinary rotary floor machine (the same kind used for stripping wax), sprays shampoo onto the carpet from a dispensing tank and a rotary brush whips the detergent to a foam. Most carpet mills and carpet fiber producers discourage the use of rotary brushes on carpet because of the potential damage that can occur. Overwetting is common with this method and no one likes to walk around on a sloppy wet carpet waiting for it to finally dry. Plus water, or moisture is the carrier of dirt, so leave the moisture behind, leave the dirt behind as well.
Shampoo methods are inferior due to poor cleaning plus resoiling problems. The Rotary Shampoo method can damage the carpet, especially cut pile (which is what most residential carpet is). Once the damage is done, it cannot be corrected. So, in our opinion, this is not the best carpet cleaning method in the long run.
Carpet Absorbent Cleaners
This method is often called "dry cleaning" since virtually no water is used.
In this method, dry absorbent compound (containing small amounts of water, detergent, and solvent,) is sprinkled over carpet or worked into the carpet with a machine. This purpose of this cleaner is to attract and absorb soil. Mechanical agitation from a brush works the cleaner through the carpet.
These products usually contain an absorbent carrier, water, detergent and solvent. The theory is that the liquids dissolve the soil and this soil/detergent/solvent mixture is absorbed into the carrier and is then vacuumed up. They are often used with a detergent prespray in heavily soiled areas.
The absorbent cleaner most commonly is organic, but may also be polymers. The compound is supposed to absorb the dislodged soil and is then vacuumed away. Carpet must be thoroughly vacuumed before and after cleaning. And to be honest, even a commercial grade upright vacuum is not going to remove all of the cleaning matter or powder.
Very thorough vacuuming should be used to ensure that most of the carrier comes out of the carpet. With the extremely fine powder types, indoor air quality can be reduced. If a white powder starts appearing on shoes and cuffs of pants, too much was used and it was not thoroughly vacuumed up. A common problem is for this white powder to reappear after wet extraction cleaning.
This cleaning method has the advantage of no drying time for interim maintenance, since little water is used. It's ok as a routine maintenance cleaner, but again, not the best carpet cleaning method, especially for "deep cleaning".
This method is sometimes called "dry cleaning", but it's not really dry, since water is used.
Bonnet Shampooing is simply an adaptation of hard floor spray buffing to carpets.
This method for carpet maintenance consists of the use of a rotary or oscillating brush adapted with a stiff brush or drive block designed to drive wet, damp or dry pads. The carpet can be sprayed with the cleaning solution and/or the pads can be soaked in the cleaning solution and squeezed lightly before placing the pad under the driving brush.
The maintenance brochure published by the world's largest carpet manufacturer, Shaw Industries, suggests not using this method, especially on cut pile, due to pile distortion and fiber damage. This method 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. Also, this distorting of the fibers shows up in the form of swirl marks on the top of the carpet which is permanant damage, and if your carpet is still under warranty, say goodbye to the warranty, it is now void. This too would not be considered the best carpet cleaning method, especially when the largest manufacterer of carpet flooring says, avoid it.
Sometimes, carbonated water is used to (in theory) give better soil suspension and bring down the pH. Companies using this method frequently use "scare" tactics to convince consumers that extraction cleaning or steam cleaning will destroy the carpet. But you would be surprised to know that many of these companies have in recent years started using a low moisture, but nonetheless, hot water extraction, or steam cleaning to their cleaning process.
Check with your carpet manufacturer because many leading carpet mills recommend against this method of cleaning.
Hot water extraction or steam cleaning is the best method of carpet cleaning, hands down, according to nearly all carpet manufacturers.
This method, the best way to clean carpet, is the cleaning method nearly all carpet manufacturers and carpet fiber producers recommend.
This is the only cleaning method classified as "deep cleaning". All the others are considered "light surface cleaning" or "interim cleaning" because they are incapable of removing soil deep in the pile. Also, all other methods leave large amounts of cleaning agent in the carpet after cleaning.
The maintenance brochure published by the world's largest carpet manufacturer, Shaw Industries, recommends this method, because its own research indicates that it provides the best capability for cleaning carpet and rugs.
This carpet cleaning method is frequently called steam cleaning due to the fine spray of water used to force dirt out of the carpet which is sucked up by the vacuum slot immediately in front of the spray. Seldom is real live steam used, however. This process consists of spraying a solution of water and detergent into the carpet pile and recovering the water and soil with a powerful vacuum into a holding tank. This can be done from a truck-mounted unit outside the home with only the hose and floor tool brought inside, or by a portable machine if the building being serviced is not accessable for a truck-mounted system.
From a health standpoint, the truck-mounted system is preferred because the dirty air and humidity are exhausted outside rather than recirculated around the house. Additionally, truck-mounted systems usually are more powerful than portable units and do a much better cleaning job and get the carpet dry more quickly.
Depending upon the equipment, temperatures for truck-mounted carpet cleaning can reach over 200 degrees F. Of course, with extremely high temperatures, there are dangers of scalding should a solution line break as well as the danger of damaging the carpet fibers. But this rarely happens ,especially if the company cleaning is a real professional cleaner. They usually are real prompt about keeping their equipment in good working order and maintained well. And trained carpet cleaners know what the safe temperatures for cleaning various carpets should be. In the finale, most carpet makers prefer the hot water extraction method by trained technicians as the best method for carpet cleaning.
Food For Thought:
The choice of the the best carpet cleaning method is extremely important. Some systems leave residues which promote re-soiling and defeat the whole purpose of cleaning. Some methods actually damage the carpet fibers and shorten the life of the carpet. Check with the carpet manufacturer for recommendations.
Carpet Cleaning Frequency:
If carpet is cleaned before it becomes too unsightly, the cleaning chore will be easier and more successful. Allowing the carpet to become overly soiled may result in irreversible damage. It is a common myth that cleaning the carpet before it is absolutely necessary will cause it to get dirty faster. This goes back to the days when the shampoo methods were the most common.
Carpet in a typical household should be professionally cleaned every 12 months, or more frequently if you have high traffic in the home from pets and children.
Professional Carpet Cleaning versus “Do-It-Yourself” Cleaning:
The maintenance brochure published by the world's largest carpet manufacturer, Shaw Industries, recommends professional carpet cleaning over “Do-It-Yourself” because of the potential problems that can occur from using rental equipment - such as yellowing, overwetting, fiber tip damage, severe resoiling, overuse of detergents, etc. Do yourself a favor and leave your carpet cleaning to the professionals to KleenSmart Carpet Cleaning in Fayetteville, Arkansas 72703. We have 24 years of expert experience as well as the proper equipment to clean your carpet correctly the first time.So for the best carpet cleaning method, as well as the finest service in Northwest Arkansas, call us at: 1-800-846-5608.