Beauty is only [fiber] deep

Proper cleaning keeps carpets looking great ? and lets homeowners take pride in doing it themselves.

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Like a fresh blanket of snow, the first green grass of springtime or the white sands of an ocean beach, a clean carpet is a beautiful sight. While today?s carpets are designed not only to appear attractive but to hide soil and reflect light, the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) points out they still need to be cleaned regularly. CRI says proper cleaning can keep a carpet looking good for 10 to 15 years (protecting a homeowner?s investment and preventing carpets from being prematurely discarded in landfills).

It?s been said beauty doesn?t always come easily. But carpet cleaning isn?t as difficult as some of your customers might think. With a little encouragement, know-how and the right cleaning machine and chemistry, homeowners can effectively clean their own carpets - and it?s up to you to promote this idea. Here is some how-to information to pass along to those customers interested in taking matters into their own hands.

Deep cleaning a must

While frequent vacuuming is the most important cleaning activity, CRI says restorative, or deep cleaning, must be done to remove stubborn or embedded soil. Comparing the ?before? and ?after? stages of carpet cleaning, homeowners renting carpet care equipment for the first time are pleasantly surprised with the indoor transformation. Typically, however, ?before? and ?after? should not reveal drastic change because carpets should be cleaned before they become excessively soiled. CRI recommends deep cleaning every 12 to 18 months to remove embedded dirt and grime. Carpets might need to be cleaned more often, depending on how many people or pets are in the home. Carpet fiber and construction also impact cleaning.

The fiber factor

The type of fiber used and the way carpet is constructed determine how well it will stand up to spills, pets and traffic, according to CRI. ?Approximately 97 percent of all carpet uses synthetic fibers, such as nylon, olefin or polyester, designed to feature style, easy maintenance and outstanding value,? CRI says.

A homeowner might not know what his carpet is made of, but chances are it?s made of nylon, which, according to CRI, represents two-thirds of the pile fibers used in the United States.

Nylon fibers tend to be easy to clean and release soil the best, Greeley says. Olefin (polypropylene), on the other hand, is a little bit more challenging because it tends to have an affinity for oily soil, or petroleum-based soil, whether it?s from a vehicle or blacktop, he says. But overall, CRI says olefin fibers resist permanent stains and are easily cleaned.Polyester also cleans easily, according to CRI, and is inherently stain-resistant.

Typically more expensive than synthetic fibers, natural fibers like wool are generally more absorbent and have an affinity for all kinds of spots and stains. Natural fibers likely require the specialized care of a professional carpet cleaning contractor. Specifically silk and plant fibers (sisal, jute, coconut (coir), pineapple, ramie and hemp) are best left to carpet-cleaning professionals, according to CRI.

Carpet construction

Today?s carpet manufacturers give homeowners a variety of choices from conventional loop pile (yarn in uncut loops) to multi-level loop and cut-loop patterns. Often homeowners today talk about ?Berber,? which is often a level loop pile. While it?s a popular style and look for nylon and olefin, and sometimes wool, a loop construction tends to hold more soil and require more vacuuming and cleaning.

Shawn Wright, soft floor product manager for Clarke, Division of Alto U.S. Inc., explains cleaning a looped carpet is going to be essentially the same as a cleaning a cut-pile.

When using a carpet cleaning machine on a Berber, multi-level or looped carpet, home-owners should be careful not to get the carpet too wet because these types of carpet hold more liquid. Repeated passes with cleaning solution should not be used to clean these types of carpet. Rather, to clean a heavily soiled Berber, multi-level or looped carpet, homeowners should make sure the carpet is dry and then, if necessary, reclean.

These types of carpet also will require a little more time to dry. Homeowners can use fans, turn on the HVAC system or open windows to aid drying.

Tips for DIYers

Regardless of carpet construction, homeowners can get professional-quality cleaning by renting a carpet cleaning machine.

In fact, Wright points out that do-it-yourselfers have an advantage over contractors: they can take their time because they?re not under the same time restraint as a contactor, who needs to move quickly from one home to the next.

To help homeowners effectively clean their carpets, CRI offers publications and tips on its website ( First and foremost, CRI says, rely on the carpet manufacturer?s recommendations for cleaning.

Homeowners also need to remember to vacuum before deep cleaning. ?Get all the loose dirt or debris off the floor before you put water or a solution on top of that,? says Brian Strickland, director of rental sales for Clarke, Division of Alto U.S. Inc.

Next, homeowners can turn to you and rent a self-contained cleaning machine. With a hot-water extractor, it?s best to apply the cleaning solution to the floor with a pump sprayer, not put it in the carpet extractor, Strickland says. The extractor then can be used as an agitation and rinsing tool.

By using hot water, the water impacts soil with more energy than cold water to more effectively loosen soil from the carpet fibers, especially when oils are a concern.

In conjunction with a hot-water box extractor, customers might want to rent a ventilation system to assist with drying.

Another option you can offer your customers is the Host Dry Carpet Cleaning System. This low-moisture method leaves carpets clean and dry immediately after use. It is safe and simple to use, and there are no chemicals to mix, Greeley says. The system starts with the Host Dry Carpet Cleaner, an all-natural product containing a blend of moisture, detergent and a small amount of safe-to-use solvents. This dissolves, absorbs and traps greasy, oily dirt, spots and odors. Along with purchasing Host Dry Carpet Cleaner, customers can rent the company?s Dry Clean Machine, which works the cleaner through the carpet using counter-rotating brushes to loosen and dislodge embedded soil that would otherwise remain attached to the carpet fibers.

Regardless of the cleaning method chosen, CRI says to select cleaning agents sold especially for stain-resistant carpet cleaning. To begin loosening soil, which takes about 8 to 10 minutes, CRI suggests applying a pre-conditioning solution.

When using any carpet cleaning chemicals, homeowners must be careful to follow the directions for dilution and application. Too much soap, or leaving soap in the carpet, isn?t good, Wright emphasizes. The chemical, or soap, doesn?t quit working until it loads itself up with all the dirt it can, he continues. When left on the carpet, the soap will attract more dirt and appear dirty quicker. Make sure the cleaner is thoroughly rinsed from the carpet fibers to prevent residual soiling.

When using a wet-cleaning method, CRI recommends:

  • Remove furniture from the room, or place plastic film under and around the legs of furniture to prevent rust or furniture stains from forming on the carpet.
  • Do not get the carpet excessively wet.
  • Use proper ventilation or fans to assist drying.
  • All carpet should be dried fairly quickly to avoid mold growth, Strickland adds. Drying shouldn?t be a problem if the machine being used has a vacuum motor powerful enough to pick up most of the solution that?s been put on the floor, he says.

By offering basic information on the effects of fiber and construction, and a few helpful cleaning tips, you can boost customer confidence - and rentals.

That, too, is beautiful.