Consumer Series #1 – How to Care for Your Carpet

Soil Tracking Control

Place walk-off mats or grids at the entry points to your home or business. This will help prevent soil from being tracked from the outside onto the inside carpeting. Vacuum and/or clean these mats frequently. Once they become loaded with soil, their effectiveness is greatly reduced.


Vacuum your carpet frequently using a vacuum with a high efficiency collection bag or system. In high traffic areas, carpet manufacturers recommend you vacuum at least once or twice a week.  Vacuuming removes the sharp and abrasive soil that can cut, scratch, and abrade the fiber causing premature wear. Particulate soiling left in your carpet has sandpaper like effect on the carpet. Much of this soil is not visible to the eye. Vacuum before the carpet looks soiled. Keep your vacuum in good working condition – check the belts and change the collection bag frequently. Confused about which vacuum to buy? One good source of information is the Carpet and Rug Institute. Click here for more information about the Carpet & Rug Institute’s testing program for commercial and residential vacuums. Another great resource is your local trained and certified carpet cleaning professional. They can provide you with clear recommendations based upon the carpet installed in your home or business the next time they clean your carpet.

Spot and Spill Treatments

Immediate spot removal is the key to a clean carpet. Great care also must be taken in how spot cleaning is performed. When a carpet is new, or has sufficient protector on it, plain tap water will remove many spots. However for those spots that will not move easily with water, you should use a spotting solution specifically designed for carpeting. We recommend getting your carpet spotting solution from your local cleaning professional. They have access to spotting solutions which have been formulated by the same companies who make their professional cleaning solutions. These types of spotters have been demonstrated to be more effective, as well as not to leave sticky residue which can cause your carpet to re-soil rapidly.

Most spot removers that are purchased over the counter at your grocery store or home improvement center leave too much sticky residue and can cause rapid re-soiling or yellowing. Avoid using foam carpet cleaners or any product that is not made specifically made for carpet. The longer the spot is allowed to dwell on the carpet, the more chance there is of permanent discoloration.

Blot up any excess spill. Apply spot cleaner sparingly to white cotton towel and gently massage spot causing it to transfer into the cloth. Never pour spot cleaner directly on carpet. Blot area with water. If the spot persists, consult your professional carpet cleaner. Some spots and spills require the professional equipment, cleaning solutions, and skills of a professional. Repeated attempts to remove the spot may set the stain or cause permanent damage.

Professional Cleaning

As a general rule for residential carpeting, cleaning by a professional, trained, certified firm should take place about once per year. For extremely heavy traffic areas, homes with pets, and homes with people with allergic sensitivities and immune-compromised individuals, more frequent cleaning is often required. Proper professional cleaning will not leave a sticky residue behind and can be done as many times per year as needed. Professional cleaning with truckmounted or high performance portable hot water extraction cleaning is the method most often recommended by cleaning industry experts and carpet manufacturers. Professional cleaning removes the damaging abrasive soil, along with sticky and oil based soil that vacuuming can not remove.

For commercial carpeting, periodic professional cleaning with hot water extraction may need to be combined with interim encapsulation low moisture encapsulation cleaning for maximum carpet appearance and performance. The frequency of cleaning will depend on the amount and types of soiling, the traffic load on the carpeting, carpet owner considerations, budget considerations and other indoor and outdoor environmental conditions.

Protective Treatments                                                      

 Residential carpets are treated with stain and soil resistant treatments when they are manufactured.  These protective treatments will wear and traffic off over a period of time. After a period of 1 to 3 years, carpet manufacturers recommend the re-application of a protective treatment such as HydraMaster Complete Guard Carpet Protector to enhance the performance of your carpet. Your carpet protector should provide your carpet with additional soil resistance for water and oil based spills and soiling, as well as protective barriers which prevent spilled liquids from staining your carpet. The soil resistance will help the soil slide off the carpet easier when vacuuming, spots will be easier to remove, and professional cleaning will be more effective.


Copies of specific warranties on your carpet purchase may be available from your carpet retailer. Your carpet’s stain and soil resistant warranty, wear warranty, and texture retention warranty most likely requires periodic (at least every 12-18 months) professional hot water extraction cleaning by a trained, certified professional cleaner. Many warranties on your carpet provide coverage for five years or longer if your carpet is maintained according to the manufacturer’s directions.





Carpets, Health, and Science – A New Understanding for the Residential and Commercial Carpet Owner

By Doyle Bloss and Robert Kravitz, HydraMaster, Inc.

In January 2014, a study was released in the United States that should put an end to any doubts cleaning professionals, carpet consumers in the residential environment, health care professionals, educational facilities, building owners,  and facility managers have about carpeting and indoor air quality. According to Dr. Bruce Mitchell, chairman/CEO of Airmid Healthgroup (which conducted the study), the findings of this nearly 200-page report “Challenge the long-held belief that carpet adversely impacts indoor air quality (IAQ). [Instead], effectively cleaned carpets have the capacity to trap allergen and microbial particles,” Mitchell continued, “making these particulates less available to become airborne and thus maintaining [enhanced] indoor air quality.

Mitchell goes on to add that these results will be very good news to the parents of children who suffer from respiratory ailments, Imageincluding asthma.  It is also good news for educational and other facilities that have long debated the benefits or drawbacks of carpeting as it relates to air quality, allergens, and health. In fact, this study’s conclusions may very well likely impact the flooring industry around the globe.

The History of the Debate

Sweden began removing carpets from government controlled facilities throughout the country more than 30 years ago. They believed that hard surfaces would contribute to a healthier indoor environment. Soon, the same thing happened in many areas of North America. Health Care, education and government facilities also began removing carpets, as did many other commercial facilities as well. Many websites and educational publications representing physicians and medical experts in the areas of allergy and asthma also took to the task of recommending carpets be removed from homes where children or immunocompromised adults lived.

The reason behind the removal of carpets and the installation of hard surface floors was concerns that allergens of all types, including Imagedust mites, molds, bacteria, germs, and other contaminants, would become lodged in the carpet’s fibers and are then released into the air as foot traffic occurs. In fact, in its recommendations on flooring and allergies, the Mayo clinic website still states: “Flooring. Remove carpeting and use hardwood or linoleum flooring or washable area rugs.”

However, follow-up studies by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) disputed these studies and stated that there was actually an “inverse relationship” between the installation of carpeting and an increased occurrence of allergic reactions. In fact, CRI had found that as carpeting is removed, allergic reactions among building users actually increase—hardly what you would expect if carpeting contributes to poor IAQ.

While CRI is certainly a respected organization, some parents and school administrators may have taken their findings with a grain of Imagesalt. After all, one of their key roles is to support the carpet manufacturing industry. However, it was not long before the Institute’s findings were backed up with some undeniable facts and figures. A Swedish study (and we must remember this was the same country that first began removing carpets from schools and other facilities) found that as carpet sales declined in Sweden and carpeting was replaced in many facilities with hard surfaces, the occurrence of allergic reactions dramatically increased.

This report, which was released by the Swedish Institute of Fiber and Polymer Research, found that in 1973 there were more than 15 million square meters (M2) of carpeting sold in Sweden and the number of people reportedly suffering allergy problems in the country amounted to about 1 million. By 1990, nearly 30 years later, only about 5 million M2 of carpeting were being sold in the country, yet the number of people reporting allergy problems had jumped to nearly 3.5 million.

Reviewing the 2014 Data

It can be hard to dispel misconceptions once they spread—especially if they involve children and their health. This has certainly been the case when it comes to carpeting and IAQ. While a variety of studies seemed to indicate that carpeting actually improves IAQ, the idea that carpeting led to increased risk of allergies among children appears to have had a life of its own.

Replacing Myths with Science

The results of a 2010 study conducted by Airmid Healthgroup, a leading research organization, were released earlier this year. The Imagestudy was termed a “definitive work” comparing the indoor health impacts of carpeted versus hard-surface flooring. Introducing the study, the Airmid researchers began by saying that historically, “many medical, educational, and patient bodies have arrived at the conclusion that carpets…represent a health hazard to individuals, especially those with asthma and allergic diseases.”

To see if this is true or not, the researchers built test facilities based on American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) specifications that allow for complete control over all indoor environmental conditions. The tests involved nine different floor plans or rooms: one room with a hard floor surface and the others carpeted with different materials as well as carpeting of different weights and piles.

Allergen test dust was applied to all floor surfaces. The rooms were allowed to equilibrate overnight before testing began. Then, after normal room disturbances and cleaning, airborne particulate counts as well as surface and allergen measurements were undertaken for each room type.

After performing their tests, among the conclusions the researchers reached are the following:

  • Different floor coverings have a significant impact on airborne particle concentration (which can potentially cause allergic reactions).
  • In general, airborne particle concentrations were lower with carpet as opposed to the hard-surface floor.
  • The pile height of the carpet and carpet fiber composition influenced the particulate retention capacity of the carpets.
  • Carpet made of 100 percent nylon medium pile height broadloom consistently performed best in terms of low levels of airborne allergens.

The results tell us that the carpets, especially 100 percent nylon carpets which are a common type, acted as a reservoir, capturing and trapping allergens and reducing airborne allergen levels overall in the rooms when compared to the hard-surface floor. In other words, the carpets would help reduce allergic reactions, not cause them.

The Cleaning Connection

While the researchers concluded that carpets do help protect health overall, they added that in order for carpets to continue doing this, they must be properly maintained. According to the report, “the findings also reinforce the desirability (or need) of regular carpet maintenance. [This includes] frequent vacuum cleaning and intermittent use of steam or water-based cleaning systems.”

As to vacuuming, the recommendation is to use machines with advanced filtration capabilities. This means that a filter, such as a ImageHEPA filter, has been placed over the machine’s exhaust, helping to prevent dust and potential pathogens from being released into the air.

As to the use of steam or water-based cleaning systems, the researchers suggest carpet extraction—and more specifically hot-water carpet extraction—is necessary to thoroughly clean carpets and remove deeply embedded soils and contaminants, helping to prevent them from becoming airborne.  According to the researchers, “results show that the proprietary hot water extraction cleaning process was highly effective in reducing allergen levels in carpets and soft furnishings. Surface levels of dust mite allergens on carpets, for example, were reduced by 91 percent, of cat allergen by 95 percent, and of dog allergen by 97 percent. The cleaning process also resulted in a marked reduction in airborne cat allergen exposure. The process also effectively reduced exposure to airborne mold.” 

While most cleaning professionals and building owners/managers can understand why high-performance vacuum cleaners are Imagenecessary to keep carpets clean and healthy, fewer may understand why “hot water” carpet extraction is so essential. Studies going back more than 100 years have proved the importance and value of using heat when cleaning. Hotter cleaning solution increases the chemical molecular activity of the cleaning chemical you are using (including water). This basic chemistry concept can be confirmed in basic science concepts by the Argonne National labs ( . Increased chemical activity means you will need to use less chemical to clean. Dr. Michael Berry, author of the book Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health, found that heat simply improves cleaning’s effectiveness. “Even without soap, small amounts of grease will dissolve in water, [but] the amount increases in hot water, sometimes ten-fold,” he says.

Hotter cleaning solution contributes to a healthier indoor environment.  Dr. Michael Berry and his associates, on behalf of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, did two groundbreaking studies measuring the impact of deep restorative carpet cleaning Image(utilizing hotter cleaning solution) in 1991 and 1994. The “Denver” Study in 1991 and the “Frank Porter Graham” Study in 1994 greatly advanced our understanding of the interaction between cleaning and the indoor environment. The “Denver” Study mainly looked at whether they could actually even measure particulates, gas phase organics, and biological contamination in carpeting before, during, and after carpet cleaning. The “Frank Porter Graham” Study was a collaborative effort that involved participants from the cleaning industry utilizing “best industry practices” and deep cleaning methods for on-going cleaning and maintenance in a Child Development Center on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Airborne dust contaminants were reduced by 52%. Total Volatile Organic Compounds decreased by 49%. Total bacterial was reduced by 40%, and total fungi declined by 61%

Other potential benefits of using hot water go beyond just cleaner carpets. Hotter cleaning solution also contributes to faster evaporation of residual moisture resulting in faster drying of the carpets and reducing “downtime.” Synthetic and wool carpet fibers tend to regain their original “fluff’ and “resilience” when a hot-water carpet extractor is used to clean the carpets. While this does not Imageimpact the health benefits of carpeting, the “like new” appearance of a carpet after it has been cleaned using a hot-water extractor is of great importance to many commercial and residential customers.

Time Will Tell

Only time will tell if this latest scientific study will help consumers and managers realize the key role carpets can play in keeping indoor air clean and healthy. It is undeniable that people are more concerned than ever about the health of the facilities in which they live, work, and play. With this in mind, more consumers and managers will realize there is little value in turning to myths when it comes to protecting human health, instead choosing proven science as their guide.

Further Information/Article Resources

Sneeze-Free Zone” by Tanya Mohn, The New York Times,  January 10, 2011

Indoor Environment Characterization of a Non-Problem Building: Assessment of Cleaning Effectiveness, US Environmental Protection Agency, March 1994. (conducted at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, Chapel Hill, NC)

Indoor Environment Characterization of a Non-Problem Building: Assessment of Cleaning Effectiveness : Cole, E.C., D. L. Franke, K. E. Leese, P.D. Dulaney, K. K. Foarde, D. A. Green, R. M. Hall, and M Berry. Indoor Environment Characterization of a non-problem building: Assessment of Cleaning Effectiveness. Research Triangle Report Number 94U-4479-014, Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle, North Carolina. 202 pages. March, 1994.

Shaw Floors Press Release

The Airmid Health studies can be accessed at:

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