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Carpet Shampooing Pros and Cons

Carpet Cleaning, Rug Cleaning, Upholstery Cleaning
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For decades, carpet shampooing was the most effective way to get dirt and grime out of carpet. Grime, a combination of dirt and oil, is particularly hard to liberate from any type of textile. Without the help of a chemical to hold the detritus in suspension until it can be removed from the area, it will latch onto the fibers in another location. Shampoos with a lot of lather removed grime and pull it to the top of the carpet where it can be siphoned off.

One problem with the process is that it can leave a soapy residue behind. If you feel the soap scum in a bath tub ring, you'll notice that it's sticky and gooey. That's what's often left on carpet using a simple shampooing method. Over time, that soapy residue can attract dirt and dust, mat carpet fiber, and change the color of carpet.

Cleaning Solvents

In the 1980s, methods besides a basic lather-based shampoo were introduced to carpet cleaning. Many were wet processes, while a few others used powders. The most popular employed some of the chemicals used in dry cleaning clothing to loosen dirt and liberate it until it could be suctioned off, either by professional equipment or a vacuum cleaner. The problem with this approach is that some of the chemicals are volatile and have been linked to health problems. When used properly, in the right proportions and in a ventilated area, the risks are small, but there is still a pervasive belief that the chemicals in carpet cleaners are dangerous. As a result, the idea of a simple soap to clean carpet has become an old idea with a new twist.

Understanding the Problems

There are two basic problems with any method of carpet cleaning. There has to be a cleaning agent, and once applied, it has to be successfully removed. This is true of wet and dry cleaning methods. The best methods, whether they're using carpet shampooing or solvents, have good suction to remove residue. Less residue means less risk of health problems and carpet damage.

The second involves introducing moisture to carpet. Most popular carpet cleaning methods employ at least some moisture, and moisture is not good for carpet. It can lead to mold and mildew, age carpet prematurely, warp the wood under carpeting and generally create a big mess. The best cleaning processes extract moisture effectively. Your home-carpet-shampooer may do an okay job of suctioning off the moisture in your carpet solution, but you'll really need the help of a professional to do the best job of cleaning carpeting and drying it fast.

Adding Heat to the Process


Shampooing carpet is a simple and relatively safe carpet cleaning process, although water and soap residue can be a problem. When you add heat to the mix you can really add muscle to shampoo. Heat helps break the bond that holds oils and dirt on carpet and coupled with an efficient rinsing and suctioning process it can offer safe, effective cleaning.

Space Age Carpet Cleaning

Where shampoo is an old favorite, there are some pretty dynamic cleaning solutions on the market that can be safe and effective, particularly when dealing with very dirty carpets or specific soil problems.

Polymer Cleaners - Encapsulation is a technique that uses synthetic polymers to absorb dirt and trap it in a crystalline structure until it can be removed. It's a modern approach to the problem of carpet dirt and may be the future of carpet cleaning.

Enzyme Cleaners - For special problems, other solutions, like enzyme cleaners, can be employed to remove pet odors and stains, proteins from blood, and other tough stains. Where shampoo may be effective for some cleaning chores, there are other specialty preparations that may be more effective while still safe to use.

Carpet shampooing can be a useful ally in the fight against carpet soil, but it should be employed using an effective delivery and removal method. When used by a professional, with heated application, and in conjunction with other methods to extract stubborn soil, it can extend the life of your carpet and keep your home safe and smelling fresh.

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