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.

The 7 Most Common Misconceptions about Carpet Cleaning Chemistry – Part 3


Misconception #3 – You must use “Stain resist compatible” chemistry only, on warranted carpets


When Du Pont introduced Stainmaster® (now owned by Invista) carpet in 1987, the spot and stain warranty that was tied to it really forever changed the carpet cleaning industry. It was really the first time that the downstream performance of a carpet was actually tied to a cleaning related measurement. The chemistry used to make the carpet stain resistant was not permanent, and using the wrong cleaning chemistry could actually reduce its performance and useful life. The carpet cleaning chemical world was basically divided into two worlds – stain resistant compatible chemistry and that which was not (generally measured by a pH above 10). Cationic surfactants and optical brighteners were also eliminated from chemistry referred to as “stain resistant compatible.” Virtually all residential carpet sold since 1987 is warranted for stain resistance. Some is made of nylon (like the original Stainmaster®) and some today is made from polyester, olefin, or triexta fiber. Most of these carpets still have warranty provisions which recommend or require using carpet cleaning chemicals with a pH below 10.


So what does a professional cleaner really need to know and understand? Is your world still divided between stain resistant compatible chemistry and that which is not? Well the truth is the chemistry used to make a nylon carpet stain resistant has changed quite a bit since 1987. It is probably time for a fresh study of what affects higher pH solutions and cationic detergents may still have on the chemistry that makes the carpet stain resistant. In addition, today many carpet manufacturers refer to the Carpet and Rug Institute Seal of Approval testing program to find approved carpet cleaning chemistry that is “approved” for use on their carpet. Some of these cleaning solutions and some of the cleaning solutions used in the “system” testing that have passed CRI SOA testing have a pH above 10.


Our recommendation for cleaning residential carpet, especially nylon is simple. Quit worrying for a moment whether the chemical is stamped or marked with a stain resistant compatible claim and use some common sense. You can safely assume that virtually all carpets installed in a residential setting now have had a stain resistant warranty tied to them at one point. If the carpet you are cleaning is less than five years old, then it may or may not still have a warranty tied to it. The warranty is only an issue however, if the homeowner has “lived up to” the other provisions of the warranty. Those same warranties also often require the carpet be professionally cleaned every 12-24 months. The fact is that if a carpet is professionally cleaned on a periodic basis by a certified and trained professional cleaner who knows what they are doing, utilizing cleaning chemistry with a pH under 10, or “green” carpet cleaning chemistry is likely going to get it clean and looking great every time. However, if you are being asked to clean a carpet that is 3 years or older, and it has never been professionally cleaned, the warranty is likely irrelevant. They have already violated provisions of their warranty. Remember don’t make the warranty your problem. It is the carpet manufacturer’s warranty to deny or accept. Simply explain to your customer the recommendations or requirements for periodic cleaning that are likely tied to their carpeting. You are likely going to be judged by your customer by appearance improvement at that point. Use the chemistry that you know will do the best job of getting the carpet cleaned.


Our advice is quite simple, if the carpet is professionally cleaned on a regular basis, use CleanMaster FastBreak HD Traffic Lane Cleaner or CleanMaster Release with OxyBreak as your prespray. If it is an olefin, polyester, or triexta fiber and it has not been cleaned in more than two years, use CleanMaster PolyBreak as your carpet prespray, and CleanMaster HydraFree DFC as your extraction detergent. If it is nylon, and it has not been cleaned in more than two years, use CleanMaster Quake HD or CleanMaster Blitz with GreaseBreaker as your prespray. If it is wool, and it is being properly maintained on a periodic basis, use CleanMaster WoolMaster Rug and Fabric Cleaner as your prespray. If it has not been cleaned in more than two years, use CleanMaster FastBreak HD as your prespray. If you just want to carry one prespray on the truck and keep it simple, use CleanMaster FastBreak HD as your prespray on virtually everything.



Can A Carpet Cleaning Chemical Really Be Soap and Detergent Free?

Detergent free. Soap free. There are a lot of terms being used to describe this type of carpet cleaning chemical technology. But there is most often more to it than just the fact the solution does not contain any surfactants or detergents. There are a multitude of products from industry manufacturers that fit this category. But truth be told, these solutions remain quite a mystery. If they don’t contain any detergents or surfactants, butyls, or soaps, how do they clean? Some contain no solvents whatsoever. Why do some cleaners swear by them and others swear about them? Like most things, there are advantages and disadvantages to using these types of cleaning solutions. The key is understanding them and when they work best, and getting past some of the hype that often leads to bashing other types of products while disguising characteristics of their own.

In most cases, their main ingredient is a type of phosphate. In fact, that is what most of them are primarily composed of. Yet some are identified and certified as green. But you may have thought phosphates were considered anything but green. It can get confusing.

The main idea behind the origin of these products was the removal of detergents, soaps and surfactants. Now unless you live in a cave, you already know that soaps have not been used in carpet cleaning formulas for years. Surfactants? That’s another story. Surfactants have long been one of the backbones and mainstays of a carpet cleaning solution, whether it be a prespray or an extraction detergent. But surfactants can be sticky and hard to rinse from the carpet, depending upon their make-up. They were often fairly or unfairly identified as a culprit in rapid resoiling of carpets. Add to that fact that many of the most common nonionic detergents used were petroleum derived, and that one commonly used family of surfactants, the “nonyl-phenols” (say that fast 5 times) have been on city wastewater management hit lists for years because they are hard for sewer treatment systems to deal with. Thus, the soap free or detergent free revolution was launched. This lack of surfactants makes these formulas excellent at not causing any rapid resoiling, one of the reasons they do so well in the CRI Seal of Approval cleaning solution tests.

They do have a weakness though – Oil based soiling. Because many have no solvents to dissolve oily soils and no surfactants or detergents to emulsify oily soils, they often do not perform as well in residential and commercial environments that have a large build-up of oily based soling. (That is why they have no trouble with the CRI SOA cleaning test – there are no oily components in their test soil, yet.) But for maintained residential and high end commercial carpet cleaning, they can be very effective.

So what about the green thing? Well, since most of them contain only a few ingredients, there are not a lot of ingredients in these formulas that would have to qualify as green. One green testing organization allows for up to .5% phosphorus levels in the final use formula (diluted or ready-to-use), and can still be called green. If you think about how much we dilute a powder carpet extraction detergent when it is run through a truck mount (start at 1/320), their in-use formulas will often fall below the .5% threshold. Their other ingredients are usually rated green. Thus that is how they receive their “green certification.”

I don’t want to pretend to speak for other manufacturers, but let me tell you how new HydraFree from HydraMaster works, and why you will find a large segment of your customer base will love it. The phosphate helps it be a great cleaner. Many products stop there. But we go several steps further. One, we add a non-voc solvent that is listed on industry “green approved” lists to help strengthen the solution against oily soils. Second, we have an oxygenated powder that provides the formula with the cleaning and boosting power of oxygen. Finally, we add in a powder which makes the cleaning solution active and bubbly, some call it activated, others call it effervescent. Either way, it helps the soil come out easier. Together all these ingredients work to be a very effective cleaner and leave a residue free, squeaky-clean surface.

HydraFree represents the newest technology in soap and detergent free carpet cleaning. Extraordinary cleaning results can be your expectation, while the soap and detergent free formula leaves the carpet squeaky clean and the free rinsing solution leaves the carpet refreshed with no sticky residue. HydraFREE contains no harsh chlorinated solvents, soap, detergents, surfactants, butyls, enzymes, or bacteria, yet it provides excellent cleaning results on carpet that has been exposed to high levels of soil and dirt. It is odor-free at use dilution and leaves no sticky soap or detergent residues that can contribute to rapid re-soiling of the carpet after cleaning and spotting wickback. HydraFree also uses the cleaning power of activated oxygen combined with a bubbly, effervescent additive to assist in activating other ingredients, soil suspension and extraction.  It cleans the grimiest and dirtiest of carpets while still meeting warranty restrictions for residential stain resistant carpet when diluted according to directions. HydraFREE is a versatile cleaning agent also. While it was designed as an extraction rinse for portable and truck mounted extractors, its unique formula makes it also effective as a hot water extraction prespray and spotting agent. It works well with hot, warm, or cold water cleaning applications. If you’re looking for one extraction agent that’s strong enough for carpet but safe enough for upholstery, you found it! It can be used virtually on any synthetic fiber. It’s also safe for your equipment! Best of all, HydraFree qualifies for the prestigious HydraMaster SafeClean designation. While this product meets industry guidelines for green cleaning solutions, it has not been evaluated by any independent third party certification group or agency. You can get more information or order HydraFree by clicking here.