Flooring Inspection Safari: Proper Carpet Cleaning

carpet cleaning | carpet expert Glenn Revere

I received an inspection request from a carpet manufacturer. The carpet had been installed for 3 1/2 years. It had been cleaned twice. The complaint was: “carpet looks terrible, appears soiled after cleaning.” My job was to see how the carpet was holding up and to check the soil/stain resistance of the fiber.

When I arrived at the well-maintained home, I saw that the main floor was ceramic tile. The carpet in question was installed on the stairs, and in the upstairs hallway and connecting master bedroom.

The last carpet cleaning had been done professionally, with a truck mount hot water extraction (“steam clean”) system six months earlier. The stairway carpet was almost black on both the treads and risers except for the edges where nobody walked. The upstairs traffic lanes were “grayed out”.

The homeowner told me that the carpet was cleaned the first time after it had been down about 18 months. She was happy with the results. The dirt was removed and the pile “fluffed up”. She went on to say that after the second cleaning (by the same technician), she could still see some dirt in the carpet and it did not look “fluffy”. The technician said he “did the best job” he could.

I saw that the tufts were still well twisted in all walkways, including the steps. So I knew that the carpet wasn’t matted and worn.

When I ran my hand over the carpet in various places, the pile felt sticky or tacky. When I separated the tufts I noticed that the carpet was clean looking right below the tuft tips. I used a lighted 5 power magnifier so I could see down to the carpet backing. I did not see any foreign material on the backing. I did not smell any unusual odors.

I misted a carpet spotting solution onto a small area on one stair tread. I gently blotted with a terry cloth towel. Soil immediately transferred to the cloth.

So now I knew two things: The carpet was holding up under traffic and the dirt would come out. Therefore, neither the wear warranty nor the soil/stain warranty would cover this complaint.

As a Certified Flooring Inspector, I am trained in all aspects of carpet and other flooring materials, including maintenance. I also cleaned carpets myself for 20 years. I know that if a cleaning technician leaves residues of cleaning chemicals in the carpet, the residues will quickly attract dirt (detergent is a soap “magnet”) and the carpet will look terrible in no time.

It could be that the chemical meter feed malfunctioned or was set too high. Too much chemical was used during the cleaning. In addition, the extraction process should include a “rinse” cycle to remove any cleaning chemicals from the pile. A properly cleaned carpet should remain clean for as long as it did when the carpet was first installed.

Since this home has ceramic tile on the main floor, dirt from shoe soles will, in effect, wipe off onto the carpet as one goes up the stairs. As carpet gets dirty, the soil “moves” along the carpet through the home. Clean areas gradually darken from the soil. That’s why the stairs looked much darker than the upstairs carpet.

I advised the homeowner to tell the carpet cleaner that she is unhappy with the way he cleaned the carpet. He should come back to re-clean the carpet. The cleaning should also flush out the excess cleaning residues that are the cause of this complaint. The carpet should look “like new” after a proper cleaning.


Who is Glenn Revere?

Glenn Revere has been a carpet expert since 1973. He’s a certified flooring inspector and the author of All About Carpets, the only book written to protect and inform you about your carpet choices, from carpet buying and carpet warranties to carpet care and maintenance. You can find him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.


Photo: Glenn Revere

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,