Carpet cleaning, for beautification, and removal of stains, dirt, grit, sand, and
allergens, is achieved by several methods, both traditional and modern. Clean carpets
are recognized by manufacturers as being more visually pleasing, potentially longer-lasting
and probably healthier than poorly maintained carpets.
Currently, Steam Cleaning (or Hot Water Extraction) is the most popular and widely
accepted process, the other methods also have their merits. Carpet cleaning chemical
manufacturers have spent the last 20 years+ creating new carpet care technologies.
Particularly, Encapsulation dry-cleaning and Green based chemicals have been the
talk of the carpet cleaning industry for the last few years. Below are the different
methods that are available.
Steam Cleaning / Hot Water Extraction
Steam Cleaning initially involves the application of a detergent based solution.
After appropriate dwell time, a pressurized manual or automatic cleaning tool (aka
wand) passes over the surface several times to thoroughly rinse out all residue and
Heavily Soiled areas require the application of pretreatments, preconditioners, or
"traffic-lane cleaners", which are detergents or emulsifiers that break the binding
of soils to carpet fibers over a short period of time, are commonly sprayed onto
carpet prior to the primary use of the dry-cleaning system. One chemical dissolves
the greasy films that bind soils and prevent effective soil removal by vacuuming.
The solution may add a solvent like d-limonene, petroleum byproducts, glycol ethers,
or butyl agents. The amount of time the pretreatment "dwells" in the carpet should
be less than 15 minutes, due to the thorough carpet brushing common to these "very
low moisture" systems, which provides added agitation to ensure the pretreatment
works fully through the carpet.
Many dry carpet cleaning systems rely on specialized machines; Dry carpet cleaning
machines include those manufactured by Brush and Clean, Host Dry, and Whittaker System.
Dry carpet cleaning systems are mostly technically "very low moisture" (VLM) systems,
relying on dry compounds complemented by application cleaning solutions, and are
growing significantly in market share due in part to their very rapid drying time,
a significant factor for 24-hour commercial installations. Dry-cleaning and "very
low moisture" systems are also often faster and less labor-intensive than wet-extraction
An absorbent, biodegradable powder and cleaning compound may be spread evenly over
carpet and brushed or scrubbed in. For small areas, a household hand brush can work
such a compound into carpet pile; dirt and grime is attracted to the compound, which
is then vacuumed off, leaving carpet immediately clean and dry. For commercial applications,
a specially designed cylindrical counter-rotating brushing system is used, without
a vacuum cleaner. Machine scrubbing is more typical, in that hand scrubbing generally
cleans only the top third of carpet.
In the 1990s, new polymers began literally encapsulating (crystallizing) soil particles
into dry residues on contact, in a process now regarded by the industry as a growing,
up-and-coming technology; working like "tiny sponges", the deep-cleaning compound
crystals dissolve and absorb dirt prior to its removal from the carpet. Cleaning
solution is applied by rotary machine, brush applicator, or compression sprayer.
Dry residue is vacuumable immediately, either separately or from a built-in unit
of the cleaning system machine. According to Cleaning Specialist, evidence suggests
encapsulation improves carpet appearance, compared to other systems; and it is favorable
in terms of high-traffic needs, operator training, equipment expense, and lack of
wet residue. Encapsulation also avoids the drying time of carpet shampoos, making
the carpet immediately available for use.
The use of encapsulation to create a crystalline residue that can be immediately
vacuumed (as opposed to the dry powder residue of wet-cleaning systems, which generally
requires an additional day before vacuuming) has recently become an accepted method
for commercial and residential carpet maintenance.
After club soda mixed with cleaning product is deposited onto the surface as mist,
a round buffer or "bonnet" scrubs the mixture with rotating motion. This industry
machine resembles a floor buffer, with an absorbent spin pad that attracts soil and
is rinsed or replaced repeatedly.
The bonnet method is not strictly dry-cleaning and involves significant drying time,
and usually only addresses the top third of carpet, making it a quick solution rather
than a deep cleaning of dirt or odor as considered suitable for valuable carpet.
To reduce pile distortion, the absorbent pad should be kept well-lubricated with
Wet shampoo cleaning with rotary machines, followed by thorough wet vacuuming, was
widespread until about the 1970s, but industry perception of shampoo cleaning changed
with the advent of encapsulation. Hot water extraction, also regarded as preferable,
had not been introduced either. Wet shampoos were once formulated from coconut oil
soaps; wet shampoo residues can be foamy or sticky, and steam cleaning often reveals
dirt unextracted by shampoos. Since no rinse is performed, the powerful residue
can continue to collect dirt after cleaning, leading to the misconception that carpet
cleaning can lead to the carpet getting "dirtier faster" after the cleaning.
When wet shampoo chemistry standards converted from coconut oil soaps to synthetic
detergents as a base, the shampoos dried to a powder, and loosened dirt would attach
to the powder components, requiring vacuuming by the consumer the day after cleaning.
Other household carpet cleaning processes are much older than industry standardization,
and have varying degrees of effectiveness as supplements to the more thorough cleaning
methods accepted in the industry.
Vacuum cleaners use air pumps to create partial vacuums to suck up dust and dirt,
usually from floors and carpets. Filtering systems or cyclones collect dirt for later
disposal. Models include upright (dirty-air and clean-air), canister and backpack,
wet-dry and pneumatic, and other varieties. Robotic vacuum cleaners have recently
become viable as well.
Tea leaves and cut grass were formerly common for floor cleaning, to collect dust
from carpets, albeit with risks of stains. Ink was removed with lemon, or with oxalic
acid and hartshorn; oil with white bread, or with pipe clay; grease fats with turpentine;
ox gall and naphtha were also general cleaners. Ammonia and chloroform were recommended
for acid discoloration. Benzine and alum were suggested for removing insects;
diatomaceous earth and material similar to cat litter are still common for removing
Carpet rods, rattan rugbeaters, and carpet-beating machines for beating out dust,
and also brooms, brushes, dustpans, and shaking and hanging were all carpet-cleaning
methods of the 19th century; brooms particularly carry risks of wear.
The concept that walking barefoot on a carpet may lead to damage from body oils has
not been supported or dis proven by standardized reports or testing or by industry