In addition to frequent vacuuming, it is essential to clean your carpet regularly. Cleaning systems will remove the oily, sticky soil that vacuums can’t take out, and will help keep your carpet looking great over time.  Cleaning systems target the soils that result from cooking vapors, air pollution, and tracked-in dirt. The particles of oily soil deposited on carpet fibers can cause gradual but significant dulling of colors. The color isn’t lost but is hidden under the film. If this type of soil is allowed to accumulate, it begins to attract and hold the dry soil.

Over the years many Homeowners and Commercial Facilities personnel have asked me what the best method is when cleaning carpets.  While you are given choices when choosing a company and the method they use to clean carpets, it is good to have an understanding of these methods. In this article, I will list five popular methods used in the carpet cleaning industry.  Each of them may have their time and place to be used.

Hot Water or Steam Extraction.  

This is the most commonly chosen method for cleaning carpets and is widely recognized as the best way to remove most soiling.  Commonly referred to as deep cleaning because it is the only cleaning method known to remove up to 97 percent of the dirt and bacteria from the carpet.  Hot water extraction cleaning typically involves the application of cleaning agent on the soiled surface, in heavily soiled situations an agitation of carpet with a brush followed by rinsing.  After the cleaning agent is given a bit of dwell time, it will then be “washed” by carpet cleaning equipment used to rinse the cleaning agent thoroughly and extracted.  There is a misnomer by consumers that hot water or steam cleaning ruins your carpet.  This is incorrect, and in fact, most carpet manufacturers recommend this method of cleaning to maintain your carpet and the warranty.

Dry Chemical and Dry Compound Carpet Cleaning

The advantage of this method is a short downtime as very little moisture is used when employing this method.  The technician will place a dry chemical compound or cleaning solvent on a carpet, and they will break down stains and soil.  The name of the dry-cleaning method is misleading because professionals use a small amount of moisture in the form of application solutions, which complement the dry compounds used. Specialized equipment is then employed to agitate and scrub the compound and after drying the soil laden media is then vacuumed up.

Encapsulation Cleaning

This method of cleaning is typically an interim carpet maintenance method. There have been great strides in the chemistry involved with this process making it more effective. The encapsulating chemical is sprayed onto and then brushed into the carpet using a cylindrical or counter-rotating brush machine and then vacuumed up after drying. Since this is a low-moisture system, it’s a good choice when an area can not be closed to traffic for very long.

Carpet Shampooing

Shampooing carpet is probably the oldest method of carpet cleaning and can be effective at removing heavily soiled carpets as well as stains.  Carpet shampoo will be applied to the carpet and generate a foam that loosens the embedded dirt.  The foam breaks the bond of dirt to the carpet fiber that is created by a static charge.  The shampoo has a lubricating agent that protects the fiber during the heavy agitation created from the brushes of the machine.  This method is not commonly used any more due to the sticky residue that can be left behind, causing carpets to re-soil quickly.

Bonnet Cleaning

This method of cleaning is typically used in commercial buildings as an interim maintenance method.  Bonnet or spin cleaning uses a rotary machine and utilizes a pad that has a cleaning solution applied to it.  As the pad moves across the carpet and loosens the embedded dirt, it is then transferred to the cleaning pad. It is a low moisture method that cleans the face fibers and does not typically remove the deeply embedded dirt that other methods can.

How often should I clean my carpets?   A good general rule for the average household is to vacuum twice a week, and have your carpets professionally cleaned once a year. For high-traffic households with pets, children, or smokers, I recommend cleaning your carpets twice a year. A commercial facility may require more frequent cleanings such as quarterly or in extremely heavy traffic areas even more often.  Don’t wait until the carpets show heavy soiling or dirty traffic patterns to call a professional. At this point, the damage is already done. It’s much better to pick a regular interval  and stick with it regardless of the appearance.   

 Whatever method you choose, make sure you follow the recommendations outlined in your warranty.  When selecting a company to clean, it is a good idea to do a little research to see if they are a qualified organization and most preferably certified in their profession.  Most of the negative aspects of carpet cleaning methods can be attributed to operator error.