Carpet Cleaning – Does Carpet Type Matter?

How to does the type and material of carpet effect carpet cleaning? Columbus UK investigates what dictates the carpet cleaning regime: the type of carpet, the type of soiling, or a mixture of both.

There was a time when most carpets were made from wool, a natural material that was hard-wearing, easy to dye and easy to source. However, wool was also relitivly expensive, which meant that carpet manufacturers became motivated to find an alternitive.

These became widely avaliable in the 20th century in the form of synthetic fibres, such as nylon, polyester and poly-propylene. Nylon was durable and hard-wearing, while polyester was hydrophobic, which made it inherently resistant to staining. polypropylene was a good all-round material and cheaper to source than most other alternitives.

However, over recent years, thye carpet industry has snowballed and new materials have begun to appear at a rapidly increasing rate. These days, it is not uncommon to find carpets made from bamboo, viscose, natural sea grass, coir, coconut or sisal for example.

Having such a wide range of materials has led to the market becoming bouyant and dynamic. However, this has also caused headaches for carpet care companies, because each material reacts differently to the cleaning procedure.

For example, some vegitable-based materials shrink when wet, while others discolour. Wool tends to hold on to water-based stains, but release oils effectivly. Meanwhile, polypropylene releases water easily, but retains oil-based stains, and nylon holds on to both.

Foam Carpet Cleaner Machine

Carpet cleaning with foam extraction

Steam Carpet Cleaner Machine

Carpet cleaning with dry steam

Rotary Carpet Cleaner Machine

Carpet cleaning with rotary machine

Fibre Sensitivity

Manufacturers may discourage spray extraction cleaning but recommend using a dry compound instead. Mr Sinfield, managing director of Columbus UK said “in some cases, this may be to protect the carpet backing material, or it may be due to the sensitivity of certain fibers  such as jute or sisal”, “however,” most carpet fibers can usually be wet cleaned.

He also says the type of carpet in question has decided impact on the cleaning method. He said “cleaning a shag-pile carpet would bring certain changes to the methodology, for example, whereas an extraction detergent would be beneficial when cleaning a cotton carpet,” he said.

He suggests the use of Columbus DeepKlenz carpet & upholstery powder in this instance”. “this has the potential to help prevent any cellulostic browning from potentially being released and leaching to the surface,” he said.

The easiest and safest maintenance method for cleaning wool or synthetic carpets, is encapsulation. according to Mr Sinfield. “deep pile carpets will hold more soil and may require full hot water extraction cleaning”, he adds.

Different cleaning methods are designed to remove different amounts of soiling, depending on whether the carpet a maintenance clean, a deep clean or a restoration clean, he said “For instance, if the carpet or carpet tile has a loop hole, then bonnet skimming or brushing may not be the most suitable method, since the friction cause by a rotary method may cause abrasion to the loop pile carpet” he said.

The type of environment in which the carpet has been laid can also make a difference to the cleaning methodology, he says “For example, a wool carpet that has been laid outside the kitchen area of a popular restaurant would have hundreds of visitors  walking over it and potentially dropping greasy food onto the carpet”, he said”As a result, it may become black and thick with grease which will be trampled by constant traffic. This type of carpet would need special attention by a technician.

He says a strong, alkaline pre-treatment, such as Columbus Comet would effectively tackle large amounts of deeply engrained grease. Once this grease has been released from the fibers, the carpets should be treated with an acidic rinse detergent, such as Columbus DeepKlenz, he said.

“The same wool carpet in a domestic environment would not have the same footfall as the commercial area, so therefor would not have the same level of soiling”, he said. Here, we would recommend a less alkaline, softer pre-treatment such as Columbus Orbit before rinse-extracting with Columbus DeepKlenz carpet & upholstery powder as before.

Many Methods to Carpet Cleaning

According to Mr Sinfield, carpets may be cleaned and maintained using a wide variety of methods. “Options range from very low moisture systems to hot water extraction methods,” he said. “But the actual amount of moisture used by the operator needs to be carefully though through: there needs to be enough to release the soiling contained within the carpet, but not so much as to cause the carpet to shrink, ripple or initiate cellulostic browning.” He believes the safest, and potentially the quickest method of carpet cleaning in environments such as a commercial office, is to bonnet skim the area. However, this will only remove the surface soiling and leave deeper soiling in place”, He said. “This method therefore needs to be built into a full maintenance programme that includes periodic hot water extraction cleaning to allow water and detergents to go deep and clean further down.

Companies like Columbus UK work closely with carpet manufacturers to advise on available cleaning techniques, says Mr Sinfield. “We will also train our customers on how to best use their machines and how to best clean their choice of floor covering – something that often represents a high investment” he said.

Wool Special Case

“Depending on the dirt in question, the operator may choose to carry out a maintenance, intermediate or deep clean,” he said.  “in some cases, such as with press boards, jute backing and water-based adhesives, only damp intermediate cleaning may be carried our so as no to soak the carpet.”

He recommends the use of an upright brush-type vacuum cleaner or carpet sweeper for maintenance cleaning, such as the Santoemma BT 350.

Wool is a special case, because wool carpets are bonded with animal fats, he said. “These serve as a protective layer and should not be removed,” says Mr Sinfield. “Excessive machining of wool carpet cleaners can destroy the fibers. And only cleaning agents with the wool-safe certificate are suitable for cleaning wool carpets.

Plant-based fibers such as cotton, jute, sisal, flax and hemp are sensitive to acids below pH 3 and resistant to alkalis above pH 10, he says. “They are also resistant to organic solvents as well as being temperature-sensitive,” he said. “And almost all synthetic fibers besides polymides are resistant to acids below pH3”.

According to Mr Sinfield, carpeted floors are becoming an even greater demand today due to increased range of patterns, designs and structures on the market. “With proper cleaning, carpets are also suitable for allergy-sufferers as the hold the dust well compared with hard floor coverings, where the dust is raised with the slightest bit of breeze,” he said.

But he adds it is always crucial to consider the cleaning and care instructions before tackling a carpet cleaning task. “A precise knowledge of the properties of the carpet and its cleanability are essential”. he said.

Identify The Carpet

The type of soiling will determine the solution used, along with the type of carpet, Mr Sinfield adds. “Both factors should be given equal consideration”, he said. “I would recommend hot water extraction for cleaning all types of carpets prior to cleaning, and the only time you would use a different cleaning method would be for a light maintenance clean of if the carpet is not wet cleanable”.

However, he adds that it is important to identify the type of carpet prior to cleaning “For example, for a wool carpet you would use wool-safe products,” he said.

According to Mr Sinfield, vacuuming should be part of the process in all cases. “Pre-spray solutions should be used when cleaning heavy traffic areas, followed by a hot water solution extraction via portable extractor, such as the Santoemma Elite Silent,” he said.

He says delicate cleaning is required on some new types of carpets, such as sea grass, rayon, viscose and silk. Columbus UK offers a wide range of carpet cleaning solutions and spot removal products.

Its not only newer types of carpet material that cause problems for manufacturers, expensive wool and wool mix carpets are well known to shrink and even bleed colour if to much water or chemical is used. He said.

He suggests using encapsulation, a comparatively new application, designed for immediate cleaning – to protect against this problem. Encapsulation generates millions of bubbles to avoid over-wetting,” he said. “It has a very short drying time and the application may be used for cleaning the top and middle levels of carpet fibre as frequently as once per week.”

The chosen carpet cleaning method should always be based on the structure, density, material and backing material of carpet, along with the type of floor and adhesive used, according to Mr Sinfield of Columbus UK