Cleaning the “New” Softer Carpets

By:          Doyle Bloss, Marketing and Brand Manager, HydraMaster   Rick Evans, West Coast Regional Manager, HydraMaster

With the assistance of Charles Rollins and Darrell Hagan, Shaw Industries – Product Care and Maintenance

What are these “softer” carpets?

They are incredibly thin denier (thickness) cut-pile and loop carpets presented in a plush, high pile density format. They range in ounce size from 50-100 ounce (apartment grade carpet is generally 20-28 ounce). They are typically designed for high-end residential settings. However, some hospitality companies are considering for using in high end hotel rooms.

The formats for the carpets differ from carpet mill to carpet mill. Shaw Industries product is identified as Caress®, made of type 6 nylon. Invista manufactures StainMaster® Trusoft® which is made of type 6,6 nylon. Mohawk’s Smartstrand® is made of PTT polyester fiber. Beaulieu sells Bliss SoftSense® which is also made from Polyester.

They are relatively new product offering with Shaw introducing Caress in January of 2013. However, they are gaining market share in the carpet market rapidly. Many old-time carpet cleaners believe this is because they have finally identified and marketed one of the main reasons why people buy carpet – softness. The ads for these carpets reflect this, showing happy families with their pets playing, laying, rolling, and jumping on their new soft carpet. When you get a chance to visit a retail showroom and feel this carpet for the first time, the softness of the fiber strikes you instantly. With many of these carpets now being installed for over a year, your chances of having to clean one increase daily.

Difficulty in Vacuuming

This softer carpet provides obvious benefits to the homeowner, particularly one who enjoys the floor(s) of the room it is installed in. However, just as your hands and toes sink into the thick soft pile, so does the cleaning head of your typical vacuum cleaner. More power just means more fiber getting sucked into the head reducing or stopping airflow through the vacuum. This makes vacuuming more difficult to do.

The carpet manufacturers themselves have even a bigger concern than vacuuming taking longer. They are even concerned about texture damage to the ends of the thin carpet fibers themselves. In fact many of the same vacuums they have recommended in the past (such as those that have passed the CRI Seal of Approval Program for Vacuums – ) they do not recommend for these softer carpets. For example, Shaw Industries now does specific testing of vacuums for use on Caress carpet, and they approve and recommend a specific group of vacuums  –

Here is an update on Shaw Industries research on vacuums from Darrell Hagan – the Manager of Product Care and Maintenance:

 “Vacuums work best when the brush roll is turned on vacuuming this soft carpet.  I believe the key is airflow, as you mentioned.  One thing in common with some of the vacuums is the plate underneath the vacuum head has slots which allow air to flow underneath the vacuum to keep it from sealing off on the carpet.  Also, vacuums are being modified to have pressure relief valves to reduce suction which allows the vacuum to move across the carpet.  The difference in the soft carpet vs. traditional carpet is that suction isn’t the key, we believe it is the agitation of the brush roll that is key to cleaning the soft yarn carpets.”

Potential Issues Related to Professional Carpet Cleaning

While the evaluation of issues that vacuums might have with this softer carpet pile can teach us some things related to how various carpet cleaning wands and agitation methods might work or not work on this type of carpet; this conjecture was not enough to satisfy the Product Care and Maintenance folks at Shaw Industries. Recently, Charlie Rollins and Darrell Hagan for Shaw Product Care and Maintenance flew to HydraMaster headquarters in Mukilteo, Washington to do some testing on the interaction of various cleaning tools (specifically hot water extraction wands and power wands) with this softer carpet. I had been in contact with Charlie and Darrell asking them questions about this, and with HydraMaster being one of the leading innovators and developers in carpet cleaning wand technology; it only made sense to start their testing here. Specifically, Shaw and HydraMaster wanted to look at three areas for evaluation:

  1. The use of Rotary Jet Extraction on these types of carpets with the RX-20.
  2. The Evolution Wand – how did the built in molded glides assist or restrict cleaning of these carpet fibers and what were the differences between a 1.5” wand and a 2” wand.
  3. Was there chemistry which stood out in performance to assist cleaning these carpets, specifically in the area of presprays used as a lubricating application to make the wand easier to move across the carpet?

Specifically, the testing team was looking to see the effects that cleaning these types of carpets with existing technology in truckmounted equipment and cleaning wands might result in changes in:

  • Productivity
  • Texture Change/Damage
  • Drying Time
  • Spots and Stains
  • Any Specific Tool Related Issues

 The Testing

  • 60, 70 and 100 ounce cut pile Shaw Caress carpets were used in the testing.

Picture of carpets

  • A HydraMaster Boxxer XL Truckmount was used. We were cleaning 150 feet from the truck, with the solution temperature at the wand constantly being monitored with an in-line pressure and temperature measuring device. Temperature settings on the machine were purposely varied from 180-245°F.

Boxxer xl

  • The first thing we tested were HydraMaster’s sister company, Advance Commercial Vacuums, leading models and how they performed on vacuuming the carpets.

Advance vacuum

  • We tested with various types of conventional scrub wands

Conventional scrub wand

  • We tested cleaning with both 1.5” and 2” versions of the Evolution Wand with molded glides

Evolution wand

  • Finally, we tested with the RX-20 Rotary Jet Extractor


Results and Findings

Overall, the results of our testing alleviated or reduced any fears or misgivings about the “cleanability” of these carpets. We found the carpets overall to be very responsive to vacuuming, cleaning, and spot and stain removal. Certainly one of the reasons for this is the high quality of the carpets themselves. A 60, 70, or 100 ounce carpet does not come inexpensively. I will tell you after completing the tests, everyone at HydraMaster involved in the testing were ready to go home and put this carpet down in their living rooms. The luxurious feel of these carpets can simply not be denied. We can see why these carpets are gaining market share fast.


We did find that one of the things we anticipated held true. Certified and trained professional carpet cleaners have long known that plush cut pile carpets virtually always requires some specific care considerations. As with all plush, cut pile style carpeting, special attention must be given to monitoring the potential for scrub wand jet streaking.

Wand marks 2Wand marks 1

Variables include

  • Type and number of jets on the wand
  • Proximity of the jets to the carpet pile
  • Angle of jets to the carpet pile
  • Wear on the orifices of the jets themselves – make sure you replace your jets at regular intervals recommended by your wand manufacturer. If the orifice becomes too large, this can contribute to jet streaking.
  • Temperature of solution being produced at the wand jet tip
  • Taking a dry stroke or pass only
  • Post cleaning grooming


Productivity Best Practices

General cleaning considerations

These practices were developed after repeated tests to see how to increase cleaning speed, avoid any agitation/texture change related issues, and a very important item considering the plushness of these carpets – reducing drying times. Can you clean these carpets safely and effectively with “normal” cleaning procedures? The answer is yes. These procedures are designed to speed up the process without compromising quality cleaning.

  • Carpet grooming with Grandi-Groomer is highly recommended after cleaning (faster and more effective than grooming brush)
  • Carpet density mandates using airmovers post cleaning to reduce drying times

Using Cleaning Wands

  • 2” scrub wands are very difficult to move across a 100 ounce carpet connected to a truckmount.
  • Dry strokes (vacuum only wand passes) are absolutely necessary
  • Use of the Evolution wand reduced drying times in comparison to conventional wands.
  • Glided wands will be an absolute must! Slotting in the glide is important too.
  • A Continuous overlapping wet pass, followed by continuous overlapping dry pass cleaned the fastest, worked best, and dried the fastest

Using Rotary Extraction Tools Such As the RX-20 Rotary Jet Extraction® Tool

  • The RX20 worked extremely well on 60 and 70 ounce carpets. Use on a 100 ounce carpet required a great deal of strength and stamina. See chemical prespray directions below, as the use of a lubricating prespray helped considerably.
  • Swirl “marks” groomed out right away and are not a concern
  • There was no visible physical texture change from rotary action. Even at abuse level (no water lubrication) there was no pile texture damage visible. (Of course, we did this to measure “worse case scenario,” you should never operate any rotary extraction tool without water or prespray).
  • The use of a rotary extraction tool is highly recommended for productivity and reduced drying times on 60 and 70 ounce carpets.

Cleaning Solution Consideration

The use of a high quality carpet prespray is a must when cleaning these types of carpets. The prespray helps to lubricate the carpet so that the scrub wand or rotary extraction wand flows more smoothly across the carpet. As a general rule, detergent free or soap free formulas such as CleanMaster HydraFREE DFC will not provide the level of lubrication you want on these soft carpets. Since these carpets are made of either nylon or polyester, you can use most of your favorite carpet presprays. However, we had great results cleaning our test samples after soiling built up with CleanMaster Fast Break HD and CleanMaster PolyBreak as presprays. We also found that if you wanted to use an alkaline extraction rinse, HydraClean worked extremely well. If you prefer an acid neutralizing rinse, our studies showed that a solution which does have detergency in it, like CleanMaster ClearWater Rinse worked extremely well.

From a spot and stain removal point of view, the high quality of these carpets means that they are more likely to resist staining from common spills than an apartment grade nylon or polyester carpet. When a staining material such as children’s fruit drinks was applied, it usually extracted out during cleaning. When we purposefully tried to stain the carpet, and agitated the spilled material down into the carpet and waited 48 hours before treatment began, we had excellent results removing stains with CleanMaster RedBreak 1 or CleanMaster KnockOut 1, depending upon the composition of the staining material. At no time, other than with mustard was acceleration with heat from a steam iron or wallpaper steamer necessary. That certainly does not mean these carpets are “stain-proof,” and we know your customer’s children will answer the call to eventually provide a more difficult stain, but based upon the limited testing we did on these types of carpets, they certainly responded well to spot and stain removal treatments. We also found that using a sub-surface spotting extraction tool, such as a Water Claw® or FlashXtractor®, on larger liquid spills helped reduce any chances of spilled materials wicking to the surface of the carpet pile later.

One final thought and finding related to spot and stain removal – due to the plush nature of the carpet pile, if grease and oil spilled contaminants were rubbed into the carpet, or “ground-in” with foot traffic, it was important to agitate solvent spotters and gels into the affected area to increase speed and efficiency at removal. We believe this same principle would hold true if these carpets are subjected to long term high levels of oil based soiling and traffic; i.e., that using the right prespray, and mechanical agitation such as using a Counter Rotating Brush (CRB) will be necessary to increase cleaning speed and effectiveness, especially with those made of polyester carpet fiber.

So what is A Professional Carpet Cleaner to Do?

The good news is you are already likely equipped with all of the tools and chemistry needed to effectively clean this carpet. More importantly though, you may need to slow down and approach these carpets with a kinder, gentler set of procedures. You may have to clean them with a little more thought and observation as to how the cleaning tools are going across the carpet and what kind of texture change is occurring from your cleaning tools. Without a doubt, drying time is going to be extended if these carpets are allowed to reach an unacceptable soiling level. You can get them clean, but it will take more wet passes. The manufacturers of these carpets recommend cleaning every 12-24 month basis with hot water extraction cleaning. Some require this as a provision of their texture retention or stain resistant warranty. Educate your customers to this fact so that their cleaning frequency does not allow the carpet to become extremely soiled. This will allow them to get the full benefit of these soft, plush, and luxurious carpets. Then everyone is happy.

Cleaning Up from the Winter Grime

ImageA good portion of the country is about to emerge from one of the most prolonged winters in a long time. In many parts of the country residential carpet cleaning was brought to a virtual standstill for weeks on end. Preventive cleaning and maintenance rhythms of commercial accounts were disrupted. The main people who were happy were snow plow operators and ice melt manufacturers. The good news is that in many parts of the country, spring is poking it head out from behind the bushes. The even better news for carpet cleaners is that all of their customer’s carpets took an absolute beating from all the cold, foul weather and with a good marketing program in place; the phone will start ringing off the hook. “Spring cleaning” is going to be unavoidable this year for many carpet owners.

The grime of all of the outside soil, slush, ice melt and more being tracked onto the carpet has left it in what amounts to a filthy state. Now it is time for you to step up.

So what can you expect? First the level of particulate soiling being brought in on the bottom of boots and with all the snow and slush Imageon people’s shoes will require an extra vacuuming pass or two with a high efficiency vacuum. Obviously the carpet has been exposed to a higher level of soil than typical. CleanMaster Blitz with GreaseBreaker and Quake HD are your prespray answer for these extremely soiled carpets. My personal favorite is Blitz with GreaseBreaker . There is no better prespray for filthy carpets, and since it already has the “booster” built in you are ready to go. At less than 79 cents per mixed gallon it is cost effective too.

If you have a build-up of ice melt compound in the carpet, a few steps will effectively deal with that.  Ice Melt has a tendency to clean up well on first impression, but oily residues left behind not extracted will often lead the carpet to re-soiling. Following these exact steps will effectively remove these oxidized oils from the carpet. First, mix CleanMaster UPS one part solution to four parts water. Spray that mixture down over the contaminated areas and allow it to dwell for 2-3 minutes. Then extract with extremely hot water. Then add two ounces of CleanMaster HydraBoost CT powder to your mixed gallon of Blitz with GreaseBreaker, Quake HD, or FastBreak HD. Apply the boosted with oxidizer and effervescent prespray to the entire area to be cleaned and allow to dwell for 5 minutes. For commercial accounts, extract the area with CleanMaster HydraFree DFC or HydraDri. For most residential carpets, extract the area with CleanMaster ClearWater Rinse.

The time is right to turn the winter doldrums into the spring explosion of business. Do you have a soiling issue specifically related to the long winter? Let us know what it is, and we can provide you with the best steps to deal with it.

Common Misconceptions about Carpet Cleaning Chemistry – Part 7 of 7


Misconception #7 – Wool carpet is delicate and requires extreme caution to clean

This misconception has always boggled my mind. Maybe it is because my grandmother had a 40 year old wool carpet installed in her living room that we played on every Christmas as children. All of her grandchildren (and there were plenty of us) did everything imaginable to this carpet and it still looked good. Wool carpet is NOT wimpy.

So why are there special formulations for cleaning wool, special directions, stand-alone registry’s and certification programs and more? Well the first thing we have to do here is differentiate between wool fibers in rugs, sheep+003and wool wall to wall carpet. We are going to be talking about wool wall to wall installed carpet. We will leave the discussion of wool rugs to another misconception series. The second thing we need to do is get a little historical perspective. At one time, most tufted wool carpets used jute backing. Jute is simply raw, less processed cellulosic material. Wool is very absorbent. It holds onto water better than a synthetic (plastic) carpet, so if you overwet it, it takes longer to dry. Well actually, even if you don’t overwet it and you apply airmovers, it still takes slightly longer to dry than a comparable synthetic carpet. Back then, extraction systems were mostly portable. If the carpet was extremely soiled, multiple wet passes were usually required to get the appearance improvement necessary to please the customer. Combine an overwet carpet, poor drying conditions, and jute backing and you were asking for trouble. The carpets would often develop cellulosic browning (from the jute backing, not the wool. Sheep are not a plant). Sometimes, the jute backing would actually shrink (again, the backing not the wool).

Side note: Wool does not likely shrink. Don’t believe me? Soak your wool sweater in a sink full or water. Get it soaking wet. Now throw it in the dryer on the hottest heat setting. Then pull it out. The wool shrank, right? Your XL sweater is now a small. Nope. The wool did not shrink. The weave of the fabric shrunk. You can stretch the sweater back to the old XL size. The wool is all still there. Unfortunately it won’t look very good. It will look stretched out and ruined, but nothing bad actually happened to the wool fiber itself, only the weave. Weigh it before and after your little experiment. It will weigh the same. The wool is all still there. If wool really shrunk when it got wet, why don’t the sheep get smaller after it rains?

So the problem in those carpets was never the wool. It was the jute backing. Most tufted wool carpet today in the United States uses polypropylene backing, hence the fear of and danger of browning or shrinking is greatly reduced or virtually eliminated. (If you are reading this and you clean carpets in Australia, the United Kingdom, or virtually the rest of the world, most of your tufted wool carpets still use jute backing, so be forewarned).

We also know that tufted wool carpet is often the carpet of choice in large Las Vegas casinos. It wears great and does not conduct electricity – important with all of those electronic gambling machines. Some of the higher Casino Carpetend casinos in Las Vegas clean some of their wool carpet daily…with hot water extraction. Wool is NOT wimpy.

So what do we know about cleaning procedures, chemistry and cleaning tufted wool carpet. Let’s look at some of the “rules” you may have heard.

  1. Wool should not be cleaned with carpet cleaning formulations that contain optical brighteners. Not a worry. Optical brighteners have not been used by reputable formulators in carpet cleaning solutions since the late 1980’s. The only reason you need to worry about this is if you are buying an el cheapo chemical from the big box store, the home improvement center, or the local jan-san house.
  2. Wool can be damaged by prolonged exposure to oxidizing bleaches. So can Nylon. How long is prolonged and how strong does the oxidizer have to be? The large majority of carpet cleaning solutions do not contain oxidizing agents (presprays, extraction detergents, acid neutralizing rinses) so that is not a huge concern. No reputable chemical formulator adds strong oxidizing bleach like chlorine bleach to any carpet cleaning solution because of the effect it could have on nylon carpets also. Cleaning or stain removal products that contain hydrogen peroxide are usually identified as that. Does a peroxide based stain removing mixture allowed to dwell on the wool carpet for a few minutes actually damage the wool fiber itself? What is worse – the unsightly stain or the slight effect on the fiber?
  3. Wool smells really bad when exposed to reducing bleaches. True, it does unless you like wet dog/decaying egg smell. But once it is cleaned out, did it damage the wool fiber itself?
  4. Both reducing agents and oxidizing agents in a carpet cleaning solution can cause bleaching or alteration of carpet colors. Same as the discussion above for damage to the fiber. The large majority of carpet cleaning solutions do not contain oxidizing or reducing agents (presprays, extraction detergents, acid neutralizing rinses) so that is not a huge concern. Cleaning or stain removal products that contain hydrogen peroxide or a reducing agent are usually identified as that. Does a peroxide based stain removing mixture or a reducing agent based stain removing mixture allowed to dwell on the wool carpet for a few minutes usually cause color loss, reduction or bleaching of colors? The same can be said for residential nylon carpet. When using a reducing or oxidizing stain removal mixture, there is always a potential for some color loss. What is worse – the unsightly stain or the slight risk of color loss on the fiber?
  5. Wool should not be cleaned with a total alkalinity that is too alkaline. This is again true for nylon, especially residential stain resistant nylon carpet.
  6. Wool exposed to high alkalinity over an extended period of time or repeated applications can damage the skin (epidermis) of the wool fiber. It can result in “felting.” The Las Vegas casino wool carpets do not appear to be disintegrating right before our eyes. How long? How many times?
  7. Wool should not be cleaned with temperatures greater than 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Are they talking about the temperature of the water striking the carpet or the temperature of the wool fiber itself? Testing by DuPont in the late 1980’s proved it is practically impossible to raise the temperature of the fiber itself above 150 degrees Fahrenheit, even with a fire breathing dragon of a truckmount. What happens bad if you clean a tufted wool carpet with your truckmount set at 200-220 degrees Fahrenheit? No one has answered that question with any demonstrated measurements that I am aware of.
  8. The carpet cleaning solution should not alter or affect the flammability rating of the carpet. One of the best things about wool carpet is that it is naturally flame resistant, without the addition of any kind of flame retardant. Water based carpet cleaning solutions are not going to make a wool carpet more flammable. They are not going to remove the flame retardant because there was not any applied. The only thing that could potentially alter the flammability of a wool carpet would be the use of a solvent cleaning solution that was non-volatile (it did not evaporate after use). Your favorite presprays, extraction detergents, and neutralizing rinses do not contain any kind of solution which could cause this issue.
  9. The carpet cleaning solution should not contain any agents which lead to rapid re-soiling of the carpet after cleaning because they leave behind some sticky or soil attracting residue. The same holds true for all synthetic carpets too. Sticky residues left in any carpet can cause rapid re-soiling.

The purpose of our discussion here today is not to disparage any organization or agency which provides cleaning advice or information on how to safely and effectively clean wool carpeting. Certainly there is value in having a product independently tested for its cleaning effectiveness and its propensity to contribute to rapid re-soiling. The problem is how the testing protocol is implemented. Does “lab soil” emulate properly the characteristics of real soil? Why does one testing organization not accept the findings of another testing organization?  If you review the cleaning rules above, most apply to nylon and wool carpeting. In a small industry like the professional carpet cleaning industry who ultimately pays for all of this testing? The carpet cleaner that purchases the tested product that is who.Commercial Wool CarpetsWool is a fabulous carpet fiber. It is soft. It wears well. It is naturally flame resistant. It is sustainable and renewable. It cleans up effectively when properly maintained on a periodic basis. It is NOT wimpy, or delicate, or hard to clean. A trained and thoughtful cleaning professional always practices reasonable caution when cleaning any carpet. Don’t be afraid of wool carpet! Embrace it as the high end carpet that it is. Clean it with confidence.

For residential wool carpet that is being properly maintained on a periodic basis, use CleanMaster WoolMaster Rug and Fabric ImageCleaner as your prespray and CleanMaster Clearwater Rinse as your neutralizing detergent. If it has not been cleaned in more than two years, use CleanMaster FastBreak HD as your prespray, and CleanMaster HydraClean as your carpet extraction detergent. For commercial wool carpet, use CleanMaster FastBreak HD as your prespray, and CleanMaster HydraClean as your carpet extraction detergent. It is always a good idea to use airmovers to assist in rapid drying of any wool carpet.