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.





Common Misconceptions about Carpet Cleaning Chemistry – Part 6 of 7



Misconception #6 – Acid rinsing or fresh water rinsing leaves the least amount of residue in carpet after cleaning

What chemical solution do you run through your portable or truckmounted carpet extraction unit when you clean? The CRI SOA coined the term “In-tank” solution. Over the years, we have called these solution extraction detergents, rinses, and even souring agents. There are really four choices commonly applied these days:

1)      An alkaline powder or liquid carpet extraction detergent

2)      An acid neutralizing rinse. Some are detergent free and some contain detergent.

3)      Fresh water rinsing. Running nothing but tap water through your machine and rinsing the carpet with fresh water.

4)      Modified or energized water rinsing. Using some kind of electronic or ionizing treatment to modify the water to be more effective at soil removal and leaving less residue behind

Before you dig into this discussion, you may want to review our previous discussion of Misconception #5 – No residue, low residue. Good residue, bad residue. Our discussion here is going to concentrate on the idea that leaving the least possible residue behind is the goal of the carpet cleaning technician. Which rinsing or extraction method works best at achieving that goal?

Traditionally, dating back to the literal birth of hot water extraction, utilizing an alkaline powder or liquid carpet extraction detergent was the in-tank carpet cleaning solution of choice. In fact, the real old timers will tell you that carpet presprays are the new kid on the block, and that for many years the in-tank alkaline powder or liquid carpet extraction detergent was the only carpet cleaning chemical they used. Many cleaners started out utilizing these types of solutions and they remain their in-tank solution of choice.

After presprays became the most important part of carpet cleaning chemistry, other options for the in-tank solution sprang up. The idea of using fresh water only through your equipment was an easy concept to market from day one, especially if you went to the trouble and expense of installing a water softener on your carpet cleaning truck. Being from Colorado, the idea of the using “pure, fresh rocky mountain spring water” has been drilled into me by the local beer producer for years. It sounds logical that if you want to leave the least amount of residue, rinsing your prespray out with fresh water would work well.

The idea of ionizing or ozonating or electronically stimulating water to be more molecularly active and turn it into a better cleaning solution without the use of any other chemicals (last time I paid attention in chemistry class, H2O is made of chemicals) has proven to be a very effective marketing concept too. The less chemical you use, the less chemical residue you have to worry about seems to be a simple enough concept.

Acid rinsing has always been around in carpet cleaning. In the early days of hot water extraction, when so many carpets had jute backings which could easily develop cellulosic browning, a post cleaning topical spray with an acid anti-browning agent was often called for. That is where the term souring was used. Later, once again after presprays became the main carpet cleaning chemical, the idea of using an acid rinse was introduced for the purpose of preventing browning and chemical yellowing, and stabilizing colors and dyes. Then when stain resistant compatible chemistry was introduced (see our previous misconception discussion – Misconception #3 – You must use “Stain resist compatible” chemistry only on warranted carpets), there was a lot more focus on the pH of the cleaning solutions being used. Using an acid rinse or an acid detergent rinse to neutralize the alkaline residue left by the carpet prespray became very popular, particularly with trainers and chemical formulators who were promoting the use of a carpet prespray whose concentrated pH was above 10 (see our previous misconception discussion – Misconception #4 – Where is pH measured? Concentrated or ready-to-use pH), and they wanted to make sure the stain resistant carpet was left in a state where the residue did not have a pH higher than 10. Somehow out of the concept of pH neutralization, it was expanded to say that acid rinsing left the least amount of residue. The two concepts (pH neutralization of residue and leaving the least amount of residue) actually have very little, if nothing to do with each other.

Let’s start with what we do know.  First, there is no evidence that has been shown to me that alkaline, neutral, or acid residue left in the carpet are more or less likely to cause rapid re-soiling. The pH of the residue is not related to attracting soil or being sticky. Second, we need to operate on the same definition of what residue is. Residue is any matter foreign to the construction of the carpet. That includes soil (and all of its components – particulates, biological contaminants, and gas phase organics). It also includes any chemical or moisture we added to the carpet during the cleaning process that we do not extract out or that does not evaporate away. So if our claim and our goal are leaving the least amount of residue behind, then we measure total residue both in unextracted soil and cleaning solution left behind.

There are two ways that has been measured. The easiest for you to test yourself is by weight. Using a sensitive enough scale simply clean an area of carpet that has been accurately weighed before it has been exposed to any soil. Then uniformly apply soil and traffic it in. Weigh it again. Then clean the carpet with the system you think works the best. Completely allow the carpet to dry (if you want to be more scientific use a probe moisture meter and bring the carpet back to the exact same level it was before you added the soil or cleaned the carpet). The second measurement used by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) in their Seal of Approval (SOA) program is by measuring particulates left behind after cleaning with an XRF analyzer. In their own words, here is how that works, “Since 2005, under The Carpet and Rug Institute’s Seal of Approval program, a new test to measure cleaning effectiveness has been used by applying the Keymaster’s XRF analyzer technology to carpets. Scientists from KeyMaster Technologies worked with Professional Testing Laboratory to design a special “soil” mixture that mimics actual soil found in carpet. The designer soil contains particles of five different types, each with a unique elemental composition. The range of particle types reflects the fact that soil composition differs in various parts of the country. Under carefully controlled conditions, laboratory testing staff use the XRF analyzer to measure the amount of soil in the carpet before and after cleaning with a vacuum or extractor. The test report presents the precise amounts and types of soil removed. The results from this new test are being used today to rate the performance of extraction machines. They provide important insights about the types and amounts of soil that are removed.” Now the purpose of this discussion is not to debate the relative merits or shortcomings of the CRI SOA testing. But here is what you can take away from this. First, XRF testing is not used in their evaluation of cleaning chemicals. It is used in their evaluation of cleaning systems. This is where side by side you can see how much of their lab soil was removed when comparing systems side by side. All four systems mentioned above are used in the system testing by various companies and franchises (alkaline, acid, fresh water, modified water). Note first, that all of the systems that earned Gold or Platinum status used a carpet prespray.

Having been a participant of many of the first kind of test (weight) and seen side by side actual measurements of the different systems tests (XRF), we can draw some conclusions about what “system” leaves the least amount of residue.

The answer is alkaline extraction detergent rinsing. Now before you get all hot and bothered, understand we are talking about minute, tiny differential measurements. All four systems properly applied do a fantastic job. What we were able to identify is that the amount of soil being removed is the biggest differentiator in the systems. Deep down imbedded, and stuck sticky soils in the bottom part of the carpet and primary backing are clearly the culprit. While a high quality prespray certainly starts the process of soil separation, emulsification, or dissolving, it is the flushing of the carpet with the alkaline detergent rinse that did the best job of removing that deeply imbedded soil and finishing the soil extraction. Properly formulated alkaline rinses, like CleanMaster HydraDri and HydraClean Carpet Extraction Detergent leave the least amount of total residue in a heavily soiled carpet. True fresh water rinsing leaves the highest amount of residue, likely because there is no cleaning power to remove the last traces of soiling deeply imbedded into the carpet.

Since the differences are so minute, we would rather have you marketing what you do well than worrying about which system is best. Just know the facts and benefits of your particular system, and don’t overstate the facts. All of the following three summaries below assume you used a high quality prespray on the carpet to begin with:

Alkaline Extraction Detergents like CleanMaster HydraDri, HydraFree DFC, HydraClean, and RinseFree with OxyBreak do the best job of cleaning, removing and extracting the most amount of soil and leaving the least amount of residue.

Acid Rinses, like CleanMaster ClearWater Rinse or RinseOut help prevent browning and chemical yellowing, stabilize colors, and perhaps most importantly to your customer leave the carpet softer to the feel and touch. For carpet cleaning, we recommend ClearWater Rinse because the detergency in it helps remove some of those last traces of deeply imbedded soil.

If you are using a modified water rinse, you have likely already bought into a system which does a great job of describing the benefits of the system. Maximize those benefits in your marketing. Be careful about ozonating processes and claims there. There are several peer reviewed scientific studies which call into question whether the ozone really has time to treat the water when it is flowing at the solution flow rates of a truck mount. If you are using ionized or electronically altered water, the growth of your system or franchise speaks volumes about how consumers feel about the cleaning performance. Promote that.