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FAQs About Cleaning

How often should I clean my carpets?

When communicating with carpet mills regarding cleaning frequency, there is a distinction between what is required to comply with the warranty and ideals of how often they would prefer carpets to be cleaned.

A statement from Shaw says this: “Our requirement is that carpet be cleaned at least once every two years in order to maintain warranties. Ideally, a carpet should be cleaned every 12 to 18 months, depending on the family and home.”

If you go to The Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) website, www.carpet-rug.org, and read its Carpet Maintenance Guidelines, you will see that this publication states that deep cleaning should be done quarterly, every six months or annually, depending upon traffic levels.

One thing should be obvious: There is no one correct response to the question, “How often should I clean my carpet?”

Major voices, including carpet and fiber manufacturers, the IICRC, The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, carpet cleaners and the public in general all have different ideas and standards.

However, there are some key areas where a consensus has been reached:

  • Proper professional cleaning will extend the useful life of the carpet
  • If carpet looks dirty, it is already past the time it should have been cleaned
  • Cleaning for health has a bigger impact on people’s lives than merely cleaning for appearance
  • The carpet will never suffer from too much cleaning and often the more frequent the cleaning the less aggressive the cleaning can be.

So, my best answer is that, “Your carpet should be cleaned at least once a year, more often if there are active children, pets or smokers in the home with more emphasis on areas such as family rooms, halls and stairs with less often in areas that are not used very often such as spare bedrooms etc.”

What is the best method to clean my carpets?

Steam Extraction

This method is often call “Hot Water Extraction”, and is the cleaning method nearly all carpet manufacturers and carpet fiber producers recommend.

This is the only cleaning method classified as “deep cleaning”. All the others are considered “light surface cleaning” because they are incapable of removing soil deep in the pile.

The maintenance brochure published by the world’s largest carpet manufacturer, Shaw Industries, recommends this method, because its own research indicates that it provides the best capability for cleaning.

This method is frequently called “steam” cleaning due to the fine spray of hot water and the cleaning solution used under high pressure to force dirt out of the carpet which is sucked up by the vacuum slot immediately in front of the spray with a powerful vacuum into a holding tank.

There are both truck mount and portable equipment used in this process. Although the truck mounts offer more power, after the long lengths of hoses needed to connect to the house they lose a tremendous amount of their heat, pressure and vacuum capabilities. The portable equipment which will not encounter these issues also has the advantage of changing the type and strength of cleaners used room by room to adapt to both the fibers and the level of soiling conditions, giving you an overall superior out come.

What is the best type of carpet to buy?

Carpet Fiber Characteristics

Not every carpet is created equally. Various fibers and how they are used in carpet dictates how easy the carpet will be to clean, and how long it will last and retain its bulk, texture and color.

Of equal importance is knowing each fiber’s characteristics. Each fiber has it’s “pros and cons.”

Most choices in carpet are based on color, with texture and style following close behind.

There are four main fiber types in modern, broadloom carpet. They are:

  • Nylon (about 60% of market)
  • Polyester (about 30% of market)
  • Olefin (about 10% of market)
  • Wool (less than 1% of market)

This technical bulletin will address characteristics of each of these fibers.

Use this information to explain the cleavability of specific carpet types, and also to help specify which type of carpet is best for each application.

Nylon and Durability

Nylon is known as a durable fiber. It’s a good choice for heavy traffic areas.

Nylon’s favorable qualities include:

  • Great resiliency
  • Accepts wide range of colors
  • Relatively colorfast
  • Easy to clean (with excellent results)
  • Not attracted to oily soils

Nylon’s unfavorable qualities include:

  • Easiest of synthetic fibers to stain with typical food and beverage spills (fabric protection helps fight this problem)
  • Will lose color in presence of bleach, especially chlorine

With this information, think about where nylon would be a good choice in a home or business.

You might suggest to your customer to install nylon in a heavily-used living room, hallway, stairs, etc.

But you might think twice about suggesting nylon for bathrooms or areas where moisture is a concern, and especially when chlorine bleach might be used, such as a room close to an outdoor swimming pool, as the chlorine can be tracked onto the carpet.

Olefin and Stain Resistance

Although olefin does not have the “strength” of nylon and tends to mat down and “ugly out” faster, it has some excellent qualities.

Olefin’s favorable qualities include:

  • Water resistance (including water-based spills)
  • Colorfastness (will not lose color like nylon because the color in olefin is “locked in” due to solution dyeing.
  • Chemical resistance (you can use very strong chemicals when cleaning olefin)
  • Olefin’s unfavorable qualities include:
  • Poor resiliency, abrades and “uglies out” rapidly
  • After cleaning, tends to wick to the surface
  • Has low melting point
  • Attracted to oily soils

Olefin is a good choice in areas where moisture is prevalent, such as in a basement or around a swimming pool. It’s naturally stain resistant, which means it’s a good choice when kids and Kool Aid is in abundance.

But it’s a bad choice for areas where oils and greases will be prominent, such as in a room close to a garage or right off a city street or paved parking area.

If olefin carpet is installed in such an area, you need solid cleaning techniques.


Polyester holds a healthy second place of market share, mainly due to the new designation of triexta.

Polyester’s favorable qualities include:

  • Good hand (soft to touch)
  • Colorfast
  • Semi-resistant to bleaches and chemicals
  • Naturally stain resistant
  • Not attracted to acid dyes

Polyester’s unfavorable qualities include:

  • Poor resiliency
  • Attracted to oily soils
  • After cleaning, tends to wick

Polyester is a good choice for low-traffic areas, and areas that have spot and stain concerns. Because it has a soft hand, it’s often chosen due to texture.

Wool — The Natural Fiber

Although wool holds such a small amount of market share (less than 1%), you have to remember that billions of yards of carpet are produced each year.

That means that 1% is still a significant number.

Wool’s favorable characteristics include:

  • Naturally resilient
  • Resists abrading
  • Accepts wide range of colors
  • “Warm” fiber
  • Fire resistant
  • Hides soils
  • Repels moisture
  • Easy to clean

Wool’s unfavorable characteristics include:

  • Expensive fiber
  • Dissolves in chlorine bleach
  • Some cleaning and stain removal is difficult
  • Does not react well with strong chemicals, which can limit your cleaning procedure
  • Color loss (bleeding and crocking)

Wool is obviously a favorite fiber for many, and because of its natural resiliency will last many years in a home or business.

There are also other fibers used in much smaller quantities such as linen and silk or rugs made from a combination of natural fibers such as wool and silk together. These carpets can require a very skilled technician to clean them.

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