New carpet can improve the appearance of any room, but how can carpet that is walked on every day continue looking new? To keep your carpet clean, it's necessary to vacuum regularly with a strong, well-functioning and properly-filtered vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately, due to traffic, children, pets and normal wear, carpet fibers inevitably become soiled, and a dull appearance results. And no matter how much you vacuum, eventually you will need to call a professional carpet cleaner.
Regular professional cleaning using a IICRC technician is as important to your carpet as having a trained mechanic perform routine tune-ups on your car. While your carpet may appear clean on the surface, periodic cleaning by a certified technician can remove what you can't see and help your carpet retain its fresh, beautiful appearance.
“Cleaning Carpet Can Be a Dirty Business” “Not All Scum Is In the Carpet” “Don’t Let them Pull The Rug Out From Under You” “Clean Your Carpets Without Cleaning Out Your Wallet” “Don’t Get Taken To The Cleaners.” These clever phrases have appeared recently in newspaper articles and televised news programs across the nation warning consumers about carpet cleaning scam operations. The media has related horror stories of trusting consumers who have responded to low-price carpet cleaning specials only to become victims of unethical cleaners who refuse to honor the advertised price, intimidate the consumers and do poor quality work.
Bait-and-switch operators are prevalent in many industries, and the carpet cleaning industry is no exception. This does not mean that all carpet cleaners are rip-off artists. How do you know who is and who is not? The professional carpet cleaning industry has cited these scam activities as a major industry concern and is taking action to help eliminate unprofessional workmanship and unethical tactics. One of the leaders in this campaign is the IICRC, an international, non-profit organization that certifies cleaners who meet prescribed levels of technical proficiency and pledge to operate by a Code of Ethics.
To help educate consumers so they will not become victims of fraudulent practices within the cleaning industry, the IICRC has released a list of guidelines to consider when selecting a carpet cleaner.
- Price – If an advertised price sounds too good to be true – it is! Often carpet cleaners advertise a low price just to get their foot in the door. Use common sense; a low price usually equates to low quality for any product or service. Legitimate business people have expenses they must cover, including license, taxes, insurance, employee wages, and benefits, and quality tools of the trade. A professional carpet cleaner who must cover all of these business expenses and make a profit to stay in the business cannot afford to drive to your house for $5.95, much less clean a room of carpet when there.
- Quality – Never should the price of cleaning services be the sole criterion for selecting a carpet cleaner. A price that sounds high may not be a signal of a rip-off. In all professions, quality work deserves a quality price.
- Truth in Advertising – Read the fine print in advertised specials to find out exactly what the price includes, and request a firm price in writing before the work begins.
- Training – Professional cleaning firms require management and employees to engage in formal training in a variety of cleaning disciplines, and these educational efforts will be ongoing. Consumers should ask about the formal training background of technicians who will be cleaning their carpet.
- Certification – Professional firms require technicians who have certification from organizations like the IICRC or through comparable franchise or independent training and testing organizations.
- Experience – The years of experience a firm has, combined with formal training programs, contribute significantly to the experience and proficiency of its employees.
- Knowledgeable – Professional firms employ and train technicians who have the ability to answer basic questions regarding carpet performance and maintenance, as well as spotting and cleaning.
- References – Consumers should ask for references from previous customers, and they should consult friends and business acquaintances about the reputation of the cleaning firm they are considering. Do not hesitate to call the Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau.
- Trade Associations – Professional cleaning firms are members of regional or national trade associations or other organizations that promote high ethical standards and continuing education. Look for trade association logos in advertising.
- Credibility – Community involvement through the Chamber of Commerce and/or professional business, charitable or similar organizations will be undertaken by concerned, caring professionals. Look for logos indicating involvement in these organizations.
- Method – Ask the cleaner which method of cleaning will be used and the advantages and disadvantages of this method compared to other methods.
- Proof – Never hesitate to ask for proof. Ask to see the cleaner’s certification card, business license and insurance certificate.
- No Pressure – Technicians must be courteous and willing to take the time to thoroughly explain the cleaning and to answer all questions. The consumer should never feel pressured.
There is no single criterion for selecting a carpet cleaning service. Several combined factors must be considered in the selection decision.
For many, spring is a rebirth of life and time to rejuvenate the home with a thorough cleaning. The IICRC reminds consumers that a quality cleaning regimen can be good for their health by enhancing the indoor air quality of the home.
A survey conducted by the IICRC found that more than eight out of 10 U.S. homeowners feel their family’s health is directly related to the cleanliness of floors in the home. The survey results, in conjunction with other similar findings, also discuss a long-standing misperception that carpet is the least effective type of flooring when it comes to minimizing conditions that aggravate allergies. In reality, the opposite is true. Scientific studies have shown carpet to be more effective in trapping allergens keeping them from becoming airborne inside the home. The key is proper cleaning.
The IICRC offers 10 tips for simple clean-up to improve indoor air quality:
- Keep Walkway and Entries Clean – Start by keeping outside sidewalks, entry areas, porches and steps clean. Sweep, dust, vacuum or use a leaf blower to remove soil and debris from entries to eliminate tracking into the facility.
- Use Mats to Trap Soil at Entries – Outside and interior mats to trap and contain particles and moisture should be placed at each entry. This not only extends the life of carpet, it greatly reduces the quantity of particles that enter and build up within traffic areas, eventually becoming airborne.
- Clean Shoes at Entries – Studies conducted by professional engineers on carpet dust samples indicate that fine particles containing lead are reduced by cleaning or removing and leaving shoes at the entry.
- Purchase and Use High Quality Vacuum Equipment – A quality, durable upright vacuum with brush agitation is a must. Price is not as important as quality. Check trade or consumer magazines and expect sales persons to provide technically accurate information. Also, check the Carpet and Rug Institute’s list of vacuums that qualify for the Green Label Program at www.carpet-rug.org.
- Use High Efficiency Vacuum Filter Bag – Using high-efficiency double-lined vacuum filter bags can filter out 99 percent of particles down to one micron or less in size. Avoid cheap paper filter bags that remove particles down to seven microns only. Small particles that pass easily through paper filter bags are a major source of respiratory irritation, as well as household dust.
- Vacuum Frequency – Consumers should increase the frequency of vacuuming to stop soil from sifting downward and becoming embedded in the carpet pile. Vacuuming should be done more slowly in entry areas where most particle soils accumulate. Vacuum slowly over traffic areas two or three times.
- Heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) Filters – Use quality pleated or reusable electrostatic filters for HVAC systems. Reusable filters have acrylic rods that vibrate and create a static electricity that charges soil particles, thereby attracting them to the filter. Anticipate a cost of between $50 and $100 for quality filters. Reusable filters should be removed and flushed free of collected soils on a monthly basis.
- Clean the Carpet – Professional hot water extraction cleaning lifts and suspends fine particles of soil. Then careful extraction flushes them from carpet fibers.
- Clean Other Soft Surfaces – Clean upholstery, drapery, bedding and other fabric surfaces regularly; wash linens weekly to remove allergens.
- Control Moisture and Humidity – Dust mites and mold are the two most common allergens present in higher humidity climates. Dust mite infestation can be eliminated if the relative humidity of a home/building, not just a particular area, is consistently maintained below 50 percent.
- What are the steps that I can expect a certified professional to take when cleaning my carpet?
The principles of carpet cleaning are listed in the S100 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Carpet Cleaning, updated in 2011. The principles of carpet cleaning include:
- Dry Soil Removal - Thorough vacuuming using an upright vacuum with brush agitation and high-efficiency double-lined collection bag, or a final filter, to remove up to 99 percent of particles.
- Soil Suspension - This involves the application of properly specified, formulated and mixed preconditioning agents designed to separate soil from fibers. There are four fundamentals involved in soil suspension: application of preconditioning chemicals; using heat or temperature to speed chemical reactions; agitation for proper chemical distribution, and providing dwell time so that chemical reactions can be completed before soil extraction is attempted. The acronym "CHAT" makes the fundamentals of soil suspension easy to remember.
- Soil Extraction - Any method of cleaning must physically remove soils if it is to be successful. Soil removal takes place with absorption, wet vacuuming, rinsing and even dry vacuuming. The most common method for soil removal among professionals is hot water extraction.
- Grooming, as necessary - Grooming has little to do with physical soil removal; however, it is needed to eliminate pile distortion and matting, to properly distribute additives, such as carpet protectors, and to create an even appearance for your inspection.
- Drying - Damp carpet resoils rapidly, creates potential for slip-fall problems and ultimately, can grow bacteria with associated odor.
- What is the proper way to deal with furniture indentations in carpet?
Indentations from furniture re-arrangement are a normal phenomenon in carpet. Sometimes, the situation is self-correcting when the furniture is moved and the carpet backings and pile are allowed to re-acclimate. In other cases, vacuuming coupled with light brushing can bring up the indented areas. In extreme cases, the indentation can be covered with a damp towel and steamed with an iron for a few seconds, followed by brushing while warm to "resurrect" the pile in that area. Nylon carpet pile (about 70 percent of residential carpet) responds particularly well to this procedure.
There are, however, limitations by the type of pile fiber. If the pile is made of non-resilient olefin, as in olefin Berber or level-loop olefin commercial carpet, the indentation may be permanent. That's a characteristic of the fiber. This is why non-resilient olefin often is combined with resilient nylon in several popular carpet styles.
- How often should I get my carpets cleaned?
Frequently used carpet should be professionally cleaned by a qualified technician at least once a year - perhaps a little longer interval for infrequently used carpet and even sooner for carpet in homes occupied by respiratory sensitive or allergic persons or in homes with indoor pets.
[faq question="How long does it take mold to start growing in wet carpet?"]
There is no defined time frame to predict when mold will grow in carpet. For any material to support common indoor mold growth, it must:
- Be organic
- Be damp or wet
- Have a moderate temperature (68ºF-86ºF)
- Be in a stagnant air environment
- Have these conditions present for several days
Most tufted carpet is made of plastic face yarns and backings, and synthetic latex. There is nothing organic to support mold in the carpet itself. Therefore, mold cannot technically grow on carpet. However, average household soil is about 40 percent organic (12 percent cellulose, 12 percent protein, 10 percent oils, 6 perfect food stuffs); therefore, mold can grow on the soil in carpet given the right conditions listed above.
However, if carpet is kept clean and dry, there is little or no possibility for mold growth. Even with soiling and normal household conditions found in most homes, it takes considerable time for mold to grow on carpet soil, and then only if dampness is present.
- What is the standard drying time when carpet is cleaned?
The IICRC S100 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Carpet Cleaning specifies: (Section 7.5, Drying) ...When cleaning carpet, it is highly recommended that drying occur within six to eight hours or less: however, drying time must not exceed 24 hours. Failure of the professional to implement drying procedures could result in a variety of after-cleaning problems. Often, occupant cooperation is needed to expedite drying.
With normal temperature and humidity coupled with use of your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, the carpet should be dry in much less than 24 hours. If it stays damp longer than that, the opportunity for microbial growth and associated odor arises.