Carpet Clean-Up

Studio 5 Contributor and consumer expert, Teresa Hunsaker busts common carpet cleaning myths.

Feeling like it is time to clean those carpets…especially before the holiday company arrives, but don’t know which way to go? Join the crowd. There is a lot of differing information out there, and it is hard to come to some consensus. Hopefully this information will help.

First, carpet care should have started the minute you made the selection in carpet that you did, and as soon as you had it installed. Quality carpet—they fiber and the backing do make a difference in care. Look for a nylon fiber without olefin, and a backing of good stout latex, without bentonite.

One of your best defenses in cleaning is to vacuum, and vacuum often—daily. Go slowly enough to really pull up the dirt and grit. The second is to treat spots and stains immediately. The more dirt and dust particles we take care of first, the longer the life and overall quality of the carpet in the end.

The next point to consider is to not get trapped into thinking that the longer you put off having your carpet cleaned the better. That is not true. I have talked to a number of carpet companies and they recommend that even though you may take very good care of your carpet (vacuuming, spot removal, etc.) you should still have them cleaned every couple of years. There are dust, dirt and odors that you cannot see, trapped in the carpet.

Next, which type of cleaning do you choose? Here is where the fun begins.

The recommendation from the well known and reputable carpet companies that were interviewed for this segment all said that the most effective, least damaging, and deepest clean for carpets is the hot steam extraction method, or the hot water extraction method…but the professional kind that are done by folks who know what they are doing, and have a vehicle mounted machine…not the hand “Rug Doctor” type.

This industrial type professional cleaning method leaves less residue, lifts moisture out better and breaks down oils/fats. These truck mounted systems use a pressure wash that is able to get right down to the backing and can suck up the solutions and soils with a their high powered vacuum—all in one action. When done properly they remove up to 85% of the moisture, which then allows for quick drying time.
Oh, and another thing…this hot steam extraction method has improved through the years, and so has the carpet construction and fibers, so this does not shrink the carpet or “untwist” the yarns.

Sometimes we may think we will save some money, and just do it ourselves using a home carpet cleaning machine, or rent one from the local grocery store. These types of machines put a lot of water into the carpet but are not typically real effective in extracting it back out. The carpet therefore takes hours (days) to fully dry and the cleaners leave a residue that will then actually “attract” the dirt faster.
While these may be good for spot treating in limited spaces, they are not good for entire carpet care.

Another method for cleaning that is out there to choose from is the “dry” cleaning method. The foams or “bonnet” type dry methods may in fact clean the surface but are not effective in deep cleaning and dirt removal. Which makes sense if you think about it…how could you get the dirt out by spraying something over the top with little “sucking” action?

The largest carpet manufacturer, Shaw, does not recommend this method. Here is a quote from them:

“The bonnet system has very limited capability for soil removal and leaves much of the detergent in the pile since it employs no real extraction. As a result, rapid re-soiling often occurs. Another disadvantage is that the spinning bonnet may distort the fibers of cut pile carpet, fuzzing the pile and leaving distinct swirl marks.” (Source:

There have been folks who have combined cleaning methods, and feel that this option works for them. It may look something like this…a 2 to 1 rotation…two times they will use the dry method, then after that they will use the steam/hot water extraction method. Certainly this is an option too.

One last note: The best carpet cleaning companies are those that have been certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification, IICRC. The carpet cleaner must have earned this certification through study, experience, and successful formal written exams.

If you have any questions, contact Teresa Hunsaker at the Family and Consumer Science Education Department at the Weber County USU Extension office at (801) 399-8203 or online at

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