The purpose of carpet cleaning is to remove the maximum amount of dirt from the carpet while minimising the potential damage to the floor coverings. This is how the real professionals do it.
Before the cleaning method is decided upon, the construction, use, condition and amount of dirt is looked at. This information is used to best decide on the most appropriate method to be used in cleaning and how to best implement the method chosen. Because of the results that steam cleaning provides, this becomes the default process that is used. For more information, this can be found in our Steam vs Dry Carpet Cleaning article.
When cleaning, there are principles, which can only be gained through effective training of technicians, not through experience alone, to be employed during the cleaning process which make it effective. If adherence to these principles are ignored, the effectiveness of the cleaning can be greatly compromised. This article will give you an idea of what any carpet cleaner should be doing while cleaning your carpets as well what you can and should be doing to make sure you get the best results from the process.
The main and overreaching principles of the cleaning process are included below to give you an idea of what is going on when your carpets are being cleaned by a trained professional.
Point One: Dry Dirt Removal
When the carpet cleaner arrives at the property to do the cleaning, he does the following as part of the process:
In vacuuming, the cleaner goes over each part of the carpet in both a forward and backwards motion of the vacuum cleaner to increase the effectiveness of loose dirt removal.
Vacuum cleaner used should have a power head. This means it has a brush in its head that is driven by an electric motor and not by the air moving past it. This means that the brush is moving faster and with more force which lifts more particles from the carpet that would not normally be lifted by other types of vacuum cleaners.
The use of a vacuum cleaner also has the advantage of lifting the carpet pile when there has been crushing, matting or tangling in high traffic areas, pivot points where people walk and entry areas.
The removal of dry dirt particles is always done as a first step in the cleaning process. I have found that some carpet cleaners skip this step when doing steam cleaning thinking that, because the steam cleaner has powerful vacuums in it, this step could be skipped or the home owner is asked to do the vacuuming before the cleaner arrives. This is not the correct way of doing it and can hinder the result of the cleaning as well as the long term health of the carpet.
Point 2: Dirt Suspension
Dirt suspension is done to separate dirt which is adhered to the fibers that cannot be removed through vacuuming alone.
There are four factors which play a role in this step. All of which should be taken into consideration when cleaning carpets.
This is the use of effective chemicals which do the action of lifting the dirt off the carpet fibers. Care is taken to use the right detergent for the job at hand. Not too strong so as to damage the carpet fibers or leave toxic residues and not so mild as to be ineffective. From my estimations, about 30-35% of carpets in Australia have a wool content in them which needs to be taken into consideration when choosing the detergent to apply as a high PH detergent can damage the wool fibers.
Heat or temperature to accelerate chemical activity.
The warmer the cleaning detergent solution is as well as the cleaning process solution, the more effective the cleaning process is.
Agitation for proper chemical distribution.
This is particularly relevant to carpets which have been badly soiled. For carpet that is very badly soiled, scrubbing with a rotary scrubbing machine is often necessary. Otherwise, agitation of smaller soiled areas with a brush is sufficient.
Time for chemicals to function properly.
Time is needed for the detergents to work. Often it does not take very long to work but trying to use a detergent which is being sprayed onto the carpet as part of the later cleaning process instead of pre-spraying it as some untrained or lazy carpet cleaners do, greatly hinders the effectiveness of the cleaning process.
Regarding the above four factors which affect cleaning, if one is decreased for some reason, the cleaning process can still be effective by increasing the other factors. For example, if maintaining a high temperature is not possible, increasing the strength/amount of detergent could compensate for the lack of temperature.
The combined purpose of all four of these points is to loosen and suspend the dirt, ready for it to be removed.
Principle 3: Suspended Soil Removal
When the dirt has been loosened as much as what is possible, it needs to be removed. There are a number of ways this can be done including:
- Absorbing the dirt from the carpet (as in dry carpet cleaning)
- Wet vacuuming – this what is used in carpet shampooing
- Hot water extraction (more commonly called steam cleaning)
- Rinsing – sometimes done by submerging rugs in water
- Dry vacuuming – done after chemical cleaning is done (dry cleaning)
Principle 4: Carpet Grooming
While this is not actually part of cleaning the carpet and is not always necessary, it is worth noting. This is done with a brushed tool called a carpet rake. The reasons for doing this are as follows:
- It can improve the look of the carpet. While some like seeing the carpet steam cleaning wand marks on the carpet. This will go away with time. With a longer pile carpet, raking it can help the appearance.
- If protectors or deodorants are applied after the cleaning has been done, raking the carpet can be done to help distribute these.
- For some carpets with longer piles and a scrubbing process was used, grooming the carpet can minimize crushing and matting of the pile
- It helps a little in the aiding of evaporation, reducing the evaporation time
Principle 5: Drying
It is important to allow carpets to dry as quickly as possible after cleaning. Some of the reasons for this are as follows:
- Inconvenience of having wet carpets
- Carpets becoming dirty again by transfer from foot traffic
- The potential of people to slip and fall when going from the carpet to hard floor surfaces
- If the carpet takes a long time to dry, microbial growth can occur resulting in an odour
- Browning – this is the wicking of colour from the jute backing to the surface of the carpet, discolouring it. Not all carpet will be subject to this as nylon is also used as a backing in addition to jute.
- Not likely, but dyes may run
Things that can affect the drying time carpet include:
- The amount of water used in the cleaning process. Some cleaners use excessive water incorrectly thinking that the end result would be better.
- Air movement in the property
- Heating or cooling systems used in the premises
- The air temperature and humidity
- Application of treatments after the cleaning like deodorants and protection
- What the carpet is made of and how absorbent it is
- The thickness of the carpet pile and its density
- If there was excessive dirt on the carpet to start off with requiring additional water to remove
There are a number of things that can be done to minimize the drying time required. These include:
- Use a certified carpet cleaner who is not going to overwet the carpet to start with
- Using the property’s air moving systems like ceiling fans, turning on extraction fans in kitchens or bathrooms and other extraction systems where available
- Turning on heating or cooling systems to aid air movement
- Anything that helps to move the moisture out of the building and avoiding the air inside from getting saturated with moisture which slows the drying time like opening doors or windows.
This gives one an idea of what is involved in having your carpets cleaned and what to look out for when a carpet cleaner is cleaning. It is always a good idea to use a carpet cleaner that knows how to use this process to get the best possible result for you from the start. Our carpet cleaners are just such cleaners. If in Melbourne – we can do this service for you.