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Carpet is everywhere!

People who understand carpet know that its immense success and consumer acceptance is not due to chance. Few construction materials offer the advantages that carpet does. Carpet is colorful, comfortable and yet easy to maintain. Even though it appears expensive, it is often the most economical choice for floor covering. Carpet and rugs found on the floors of residences and commercial buildings still represent a substantial investment. In light of this, is it not wise to maintain them correctly?

Like all textile materials, the beauty and life of a carpet depends largely on the care that it is given. Proper maintenance can add years of attractive life. Specific maintenance procedures for carpet are determined by where the carpet is installed. In general, proper maintenance involves regular vacuuming and periodic cleaning by methods such as hot water extraction, shampooing, bonnet cleaning, foam cleaning, etc.

Regular vacuuming is essential as it removes particulate soil that damages the fibers. Vacuuming maintains the surface appearance of a carpet and keeps the level of soil in the pile at an acceptable level. Vacuuming should be done at least once every two weeks, preferably once each week and even twice per week in soiled or heavily trafficked areas. It is important to use a well-maintained, good quality vacuum. Vacuuming removes only particulate soil and surface dirt; therefore, other methods of cleaning are periodically required to improve the appearance of the carpet. Wet cleaning methods are better for removing oils, greases and other forms of matter that cause soiling on carpet. These methods are mostly used by professional cleaners and trained personnel, but smaller, less powerful units, can also be rented for use by customers.

Brief Description of Carpet Cleaning Methods

It has been said that ignorance is bliss. Sometimes, maybe, but not always. Before having a carpet cleaned, you may find it helpful to understand some of the carpet cleaning methods. The best method for cleaning a particular carpet is dependent on a range of factors. All carpet cleaning methods offer various advantages, but also have some limitations. No single method is superior to all others. Properly performed under appropriate conditions, each method can provide satisfactory results. Often, several methods can be combined to achieve the desired results. The following are some of the more prevalent carpet cleaning methods. (Note: There is no significance to the order in which these techniques are presented.)

Hot Water Extraction or “Steam” Cleaning

In this method, hot water cleaning solution is sprayed on the carpet and immediately extracted (along with the dissolved soil) by a wet vacuum. Extraction equipment can be portable or truck-mounted, the latter being more powerful in terms of spray pressure, heating capabilities and power of the vacuum pumps. Hot water extraction is often referred to as “steam” cleaning. In actuality this is a misnomer as the temperature of the heated solution never reaches the point to generate steam.


In this process, the cleaning solution is showered onto the carpet through several openings in a circular brush. The rotary action of the brush whips the detergent into a foam and provides agitation or rubbing action on the carpet. This suspends the soil, and the wet/dry vacuuming that follows removes it.

Bonnet Cleaning

This method resembles the shampooing process described above. It employs a rotary floor machine on the bottom of which is attached a round absorbent pad (shag pad). The detergent is sprayed directly on the carpet. As the machine is operated, the shag pad rotates on the carpet. This removes the soil as it is absorbed on the shag pad. The shag pad can also be moistened with detergent. When one side of the pad becomes soiled, the pad is reversed until both sides are soiled, at which time it is replaced.

Foam Cleaning

This system uses detergent in the form of a foam. Machines are available that generate foam, which is agitated on the carpet by brushes. The foam is then removed, with trapped soil, by an extraction-vacuum pickup.

Dry (Absorbent Compound) Cleaning

In this process the cleaning agent, an absorbent dry compound (containing solvents and detergents) is sprinkled on the carpet and worked into the pile by a machine. It is vacuumed off after about half an hour, removing the soil suspended by the compound.


As explained earlier, vacuuming alone, although essential, cannot maintain the appearance of a carpet at an acceptable level for long. Depending on various factors, the appearance of any carpet will ultimately reach an unacceptable level. At that stage, cleaning is necessary by one of the methods mentioned above. The frequency of such cleaning will depend on a carpet’s use conditions, soil conditions, fiber type, constructional specifications, color, etc. In general, residential carpet requires cleaning within one to one and one-half years; certainly before two years of use (and possible abuse).

When deciding to have a carpet cleaned, consumers have two basic choices:

1) clean the carpet themselves by D-I-Y (do it yourself) rental units or consumer products, or

2) have the carpet cleaned by a professional/specialist in cleaning and restoration.