There are some carpet cleaning methods that have become widely accepted but when broken down, just don’t make sense. Carpet cleaning, in my opinion, is one of them. Carpet is a difficult surface to keep clean. It is very dynamic and is actually an air filter for most buildings, capturing and holding a lot of microscopic debris from the air. It is estimated that the average carpet will double in weight over its lifetime because of accumulated soils. This makes all aspects of keeping it clean very important, but with the true nature of how carpet is made, we struggle to understand what is really going on when carpet is cleaned. In my last post, I discussed carpet cleaning chemicals and why more is really not better. With the chemicals being addressed, now lets take a look at one of the most common methods of carpet cleaning, wet extraction.
Wet Carpet Cleaning Methods
Wet extraction. This is the most popular of carpet cleaning methods. It has the least short-term cost. It can be done with relative ease and there are hundreds of models and styles of wet carpet cleaners available ranging from small spotters to large heated units that are mounted in trailers and vans. This is viewed as the standard in carpet cleaning.
It works like this, water is pumped into the carpet and then, once the dirt has become suspended in the solution, it is vacuumed up. In most cases a detergent is used to aid in loosening the soils and often the water is heated which helps break down any grease. This basic methodology is standard in the majority of carpet cleaning equipment, big and small. Once the dirt is vacuumed up, any remaining moisture is left to evaporate.
This way of cleaning carpet, while accepted throughout the industry, has several major issues that are commonly overlooked or unknown.
Why Wetter Is Not Better.
The first issue with the wet extraction carpet cleaning method is that carpet is not intended to ever be wet. It is a horizontal platform with millions of vertical surfaces intertwined that kind of forms a mesh. This mesh catches and holds dust and dirt particles. When they are dry, they can be removed easily with regular vacuuming. When they get wet, these light-weight specs become saturated, clump up and follow gravity with the water to the bottom of the carpet, instantly. Then, an extractor vacuum attempts to pull the dirt and water mixture back through this wet mesh of carpet fibers.
Anyone who has ever cleaned carpet knows that when the carpet cleaning machine is done, the carpet is still wet, and expected to air dry. The carpet may appear to be clean, but what has really happened is the dirt, that was visible on the surface, has been pushed and packed down deep in the carpet by the water. As the water evaporates, it draws or wicks some of the dirt back up to the surface. This can take days depending on the humidity level and how fast the moisture in the air can escape the room.
Ever have a spot in your carpet disappear when cleaning, only to have it return the next day? This is why that happens.
Unfortunately there have not been any front-runners that have broken through with alternative carpet cleaning methods although there are several that are making a dent in the perception vs. reality when it comes to maintaining carpeted surfaces. If you know of or have used an alternative method of carpet cleaning, I would love to hear about your results in the comments below.