Why Use Professional Hot Water Extraction Carpet Cleaning?

Hot Water Extraction has been the primary carpet cleaning method since 1947. Many people call it “Steam Cleaning”. It is simply a pressure washer that is followed by a vacuum to dry it.  The strength of equipment varies from little rental portables like Rug Doctors, to powerful machines that run directly off of the V8 (8 cylinder) engine.

Though it seems silly to lump those together into one category, that is exactly what companies do that try to compete with Hot Water Extraction.  These companies use statistics gathered from janitors and homeowners who rent small machines without training and try to do the job of highly trained professionals themselves.  Many of these people leave the carpet wet (it should never be left more than damp to the touch).  Wet carpet can take days to dry and if damp for more than 36 hours in ideal circumstances carpet can mildew (I recommend adding an enzyme deodorizer to the rinse that feeds on mold and mildew. this prevents its growth if something were to go wrong) .

Real professionals know to leave the carpet as dry as possible.  If they don’t then they find out very shortly after starting their business when the phone calls come pouring in wondering why the carpet sloshes beneath their feet.

The other mistake made by non-professionals is the use of oil based products.  Professionals by and large stopped using oil based products many years ago because it was discovered to attract dirt to the areas most heavily worked on.  This just made the carpet look worse within months of the cleaning.  It is also important to rinse the carpet with a rinse that will balance the ph. Level. Left unbalanced, the carpet will also rapidly re-soil.  Some professionals still make that last mistake.

Hot Water Extraction, when done by professionals still remains the safest method of carpet cleaning to this day.  Like any industry like this, be sure to find a company you feel you can trust.  It’s a safe adage that if the price seems too good to be true than it probably is.  There is not a lot of room for profits in the carpet cleaning industry, so if you cut your prices too far they need to be made up for somewhere else.

The final mistake that most do-it-yourselfers make is the rotary brush, or pad systems.  Most dry cleaning methods are this way.  They push down the dirt to the backing where it still causes problems and they don’t fully rinse out their cleaning agents.  They also add wear and tear to the areas that already have it.  The dirtier the area the harder they need to scrub the carpet and the more residue they leave behind.  This can unravel the carpet fibers as well.

Always make sure to work witha knowledgeable professional to ensure the best life for your carpets and the healthiest experience for those that live, play, and work on them!

Salt Build-Up In Carpet

If you live in the Twin Cities Area of Minnesota, or any community that salts their icy roads, then you know that salt coats your car and needs to be rinsed off regularly to avoid rust.  The truth is that this salt coats the bottom of our shoes as well.  We don’t notice how much salt is on our shoes because it is most abundant on the part of our shoes that we don’t see very often (the bottom).  That surface has tread that is designed to grip the surface that you are walking on.  The better the tread works, the more it also grips sand and salt.

Salt is especially harsh on carpet for several reasons;

  • Salt is coarse and abrasive;  It can wear out the carpet fibers.
  • The salt from roads is coated in smog which can transfer to the fibers and dye them a darker color.
  • The chemical make-up of salt is harsh on the carpet fibers and can break them down.
  • As salt gets damp it dilutes and re-crystalizes around the carpet fibers holding fast in place.

The problem with salt that has re-crystalized around the carpet fibers is that it has to be diluted into liquid form to release itself from the carpet.  This is done through the method of hot water extraction.  The heat and water injected into the carpet dilutes the water and the vacuum sucks that salty liquid out of the carpet.  This is why The Commercial Steam Team uses powerful truck mounted hot water extraction (steam cleaning) unit.  Weak vacuum strength will leave the carpet soaked since it takes large volumes of water to melt the salt down.  Also be sure after the salt has visibly disappeared to continue rinsing the carpet as the diluted salt is invisible and may still be in the carpet.  Extra rinsing is essential.

When Should I have My Carpets Cleaned at My Home?

When should I have my carpets cleaned at my home?  Good question.  If you ask any random person on the street you will get a full range of answers from every month to never. Who is right? I have been cleaning carpet in the Twin Cities Area of Minnesota for over 13 years and I wish I could give one blanket answer for all customers, but I can’t.  I can however, do the next best thing.  I have created a list of options based on different factors that affect that timeline.  These are specific to the Twin Cities Area of Minnesota and may not apply to the climate and practices of other states.

  • Residential carpet should never go longer than a year without being cleaned for health reasons such as allergens, and mold.
  • Light carpet such as white or off white, even light shades of other colors has more room in the dye sites to take on dyes and needs to be cleaned and protected more often than other carpets and should be cleaned before traffic areas are  visible for best results.  Fiber damage and traffic wear patterns show up more noticeably on light colored carpet.  For light colored carpet, we recommend every 6 months to a year.
  • If you wear your shoes on residential carpet we recommend cleaning and protecting every 6 months at the very least.
  • If you have residential carpet that is a darker color you are more susceptible to the carpet looking lighter in the high traffic areas than looking darker.  This comes from actual fiber damage.  Dark carpet should be cleaned once a year for health reasons but if based strictly on looks you can go from a year to up to 2 years depending on the amount of traffic.
  • Even dark carpet needs to be cleaned at least every 6 months if shoes are worn in the house as that speeds up the fiber damage in high traffic areas considerably.
  • Wheel chairs and walkers are very hard on carpet.  This carpet should be cleaned and protected every 6 months at the very least.
  • Variables such as amount of foot traffic, spills, and age of the owners can affect the frequency of the carpet cleaning as well.  Not every household is the same.
  • One reason for all carpet to be cleaned and protected as well is the sun itself.  The sun’s rays will fade carpet color.  Carpet protectants help protect the carpet from this.  This fading is usually noticeable when the furniture is moved.  The area where the furniture sat didn’t receive any sunlight and appears darker and richer as a result.

Please keep in mind that this is based on my 13 years of experience as a carpet cleaning expert in the Twin Cities Area of Minnesota.  Experience has also taught me that there will always be exceptions to these rules and people should keep an eye on their carpet and if it starts to appear dirty or dingy before the recommended time of cleaning then the safe choice is to have it cleaned and protected sooner rather than waiting for the scheduled date to come up.

Why Did My Carpet Turn Yellow Beneath My Area Rug?

In my 13 years as a carpet cleaning professional in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, I have run into many cases where the carpet underneath an area rug has a yellow tint to it.  This discoloration is literally the size and shape of the area rug that was sitting on top of it.  It took some time but through my research I learned that the gases released from the glue that holds the carpet together can actually change the ph. level of the carpet.  This usually takes months of trapped gas to make this happen.  I would imagine humidity and airflow as well as other factors, contribute to this phenomenon.  Unfortunately there is no known method to reverse this problem.

How Mass Advertising Can Lower Quality

Have you ever been to a fast growing franchise restaurant and felt like the person helping you either doesn’t know what they are doing or just doesn’t care?  Of course you have, we all have.  Unfortunately this isn’t exclusive to the fast food industry.  It can happen in any industry when a company grows “too fast”.

The dream of just about any business owner is to have their company skyrocket to the top.  They look for gimmicks, advertising schemes, and even mudslinging to make this happen.  Some industries like law firms and investment companies have readymade employees to purchase from the well-stocked shelves of universities.  Industries that require on the job training don’t have that privilege.  Industries like carpet cleaning require mentor training, or apprentice training.  Reading a training manual only gets you so far.  Professionals need to pass their expertise down in person.

Mass advertising and gimmicks can lead to very rapid growth, especially when the new fad is creaming the market.  Going from 1 van to 10 or more vans in a couple years is wonderful in theory.  However, it takes at least 10 people to run 10 vans.  20 if the recommended 2 employees per crew are used.  In theory there would need to be 10 experts to train these 10 crew chiefs for several months.  One expert just can’t get that done properly.  In fact the rapid growth most likely takes that person out of the equation entirely as the responsibilities of the administration grow just as fast.  When does this training happen?

In a slow but steady growth model, driven through referrals, there is time for assistants to train under experts for 6 months or more.  Not only learning the basics, but also becoming very comfortable with all the variables they might run into in the field.  Mass advertising and excessively rapid growth would make this very difficult to do properly.

Thorough Rinsing Reduces Redo’s

Reputable carpet cleaning companies agree to return to their jobs any time a customer is unsure of the results of the work done.  The most reputable companies call every job a week after cleaning to make sure they are happy and offer what we call a “redo” to make sure the client stays a satisfied and loyal client.

As important as redo’s are, they also cost money to complete.  This is time and expense being used without extra compensation from the client.  For this reason and more, it is important to do the job right the first time.

Carpet cleaning, like many things in life is largely about balance.  In this case it’s about the balance of PH. levels.  The process starts with pre-spray and spot cleaning agents and finishes with a rinse to balance the Ph. out.  All professional carpet cleaners, no matter who they are, start off with an alkaline or acid pre-spray.  The next step is to rinse it out with a rinse that is opposite the pre-spray on the Ph. scale.  Spot cleaning agents vary in specifics, however, unless it is a leave in treatment, they all have one thing in common.  Cleaning agents need to be rinsed out as much as possible.  Cleaning agents that are not rinsed thoroughly can attract dirt back to the spot or spill.  This makes the spot or spill look like it has resurfaced and come back after the cleaning is done.

The best way to thoroughly rinse the carpet is to make sure you have the most powerful direct drive carpet cleaning truck mount available.  Second, make sure you are using a rinse that is opposite the Ph. of your pre-spray.  Third, simply do extra rinse strokes any time you clean over an area you spot treated.  The whole room doesn’t have to be done this way, just the spot where you used a spot treatment.  Fourth, you do extra vacuum strokes where you did extra rinse strokes.  Extra rinse means slightly higher moisture levels and requires “balance” when it comes do drying the carpet as well.

By maintaining balance in the carpet of both Ph. levels and moisture, the chances of a spot or spill appearing to return on you are nearly eliminated and so are your redo’s.  Out of the last 1814 jobs, my crews only had to return to 23 of them.  All 23 are still very happy clients.  This is one of the methods they practice at every job to make sure they keep their routes redo free and full of loyal, paying, repeat customers here in the Twin Cities.

Two Man Crews Vs. One Man Crews

In the carpet cleaning industry, you often hear of one man crews being better than one two man crews.  In truly selfish terms, the employer can make a lot more money with one man crews.  The cost to the employer is less with one man crews.  Also, they spend longer in the presence of the customer and build more of a rapport which helps in increasing on site sales or “up-selling”.

The flaw in this strategy is that it only benefits the company and in no way benefits the client.  The customer may believe that the extra time spent by one person means better quality.  However, between setting up the job, pre-spraying, cleaning, setting down the wand to pull the hose or go get the spot treatments, easily two thirds of the time is spent doing what the assistant would do while the crew chief keeps the wand moving.  The truth is this is all wasted time that the customer could be using to live their busy lives.

Two man crews are efficient.  It is easier for a crew chief to ask his assistant to go to the truck to get something, than to set the wand down and go get it himself.  This can lead to steps being skipped for the sake of time or fatigue.

One other important factor that I have found is accountability.  Two man teams rely on each other.  One person can’t sacrifice quality without it affecting the other worker.  It’s much easier to decide to slack off for one day or one job without personal accountability to another crew member.

Loneliness can also lead to depression.  There is no one to help spur the other team member on.  Honestly, cost to the employer and increased sales are the only benefits to having one man crews.  Solo routes will always be necessary in any carpet cleaning company.  That being said, for the sake of the customer, solo routes should be the exception, not the rule.

Minnesota Carpet Cleaning

Minnesota is a unique and wonderful market for carpet cleaning.  Everyone wants carpet on their floors because the floor gets too cold in the winter and it helps keep our toes warm and heating costs down.  However, our de-icing methods and sanding the streets, not to mention mud during the spring thaw, contribute to Minnesota being one of the harshest climates on carpet.

The sand we use makes ice less slippery but that same grit that makes our tires and shoes gain traction also acts like sand paper on the bottoms of our shoes.

When salt is allowed to build up in a carpet (commercial carpet more likely), it will form together into a single mass.  Especially when moisture like melting snow is added.  This mass not only adheres to the fibers but now has a much larger surface area to get through.  For this a portable carpet cleaning unit and dry cleaning methods are useless.  The salt needs to be melted through moisture and heat.  It then needs to be removed through large amounts of suction.  I recommend a top of the line direct drive truck mount unit. (Hydramaster 4.8 cds if possible).  For best results have the carpet cleaned on a regular schedule before the salt has a chance to combine with itself and the sand.  Also vacuuming regularly is helpful to get as much out as possible while still in crystal form.

Recurring Spots and How To Prevent Them

No one likes having to return to a job days or longer after a carpet cleaning job to get one or more spots out.  Even worse, no customer likes the inconvenience of a second trip either.  This cannot be eliminated entirely, though there are some steps that can be taken to greatly reduce these occurrences to nearly zero.

  • Know your spot or spill.
    • Use the correct cleaning agent for that particular spot.
      • Sticky/dense, use an acid base (citrus).
      • Coffee, use a leave in treatment (Stain Magic).
      • Oily residue, encapsulate the oil molecules.
      • Rinse thoroughly.
        • Most carpet cleaners forget they are rinsing the cleaning agent out as well as the spot/spill.
        • Use the proper rinse for your machine and cleaning agents. (Clearwater rinse works best for me)
      • Make sure your equipment is powerful enough to rinse both the spot and spill.
        • Cheaper carpet cleaning companies save money on equipment.  They can’t rinse all the way to the backing, even if they try.
        • Do not go over 500 lbs. psi. or you can go through the backing to the pad underneath.  The pad will likely not dry for months or longer.
        • Leave the area of the spot/spill as dry as possible.
          • I find with Hydramaster 4.8 direct drive, a few extra vacuum strokes does the trick.  Other equipment may take much longer.
          • Recommending the customer turn their thermostat fan on (rather than auto).
            • This way the fan still runs without cranking the ac/heat up.  (much cheaper way to run the fan).
  • The client can place a fan directed at the spill as well.  Or bring your own fans/blowers if your equipment vacuum isn’t as strong.
  • Understand that spots can look like spills beneath the carpet surface.  Vacuum the area around the spot as well.

These are a few easy steps to prevent recurring spots/spills.  The best step is prevention by applying a protector each time the carpet is cleaned.  This prevents the spill from soaking into the heart of the fibers as easily.  This also allows more time to blot out spills before soaking in.  These steps will likely prevent nearly all spot/spill related redos, when done properly.

Holiday Home Remedy For Red Wine Spills

The holidays are wonderful in so many ways, from stockings filled with drug store impulse items to selections of food and drinks that we don’t even consider consuming the rest of the year (eggnog / lutefisk), but for some reason find irresistible while high on Christmas cheer.  That being said, there are staples at nearly all celebrations, the least of which is definitely not red wine. Whether a dry merlot or a soaking wet port the variety is endless, but the problem is always the same.  What is this sneaky Grinch always hiding one sip, or one out of tune “White Christmas” away?   This problem is; the more wine you drink the more likely you are to spill it.  If you were lucky enough to read this blog before you tripped on your aunts cocker spaniel (poor Buddy), then, you sprang to action like a marvel super hero.  If not, at least you can salvage your friendship with a shameful return to the scene and save their white carpet, or blouse.  Hopefully, saving your invitation to next year’s celebration at the same time.  This remedy is simple.  If you want to get red wine out of nearly any material; simply clean it with white wine.  Yep, in some twist of Gods sense of humor white wine is the cure for the red.  Always blot excess moisture first with a throw away rag and then apply white wine a little at a time until the red wine is gone.  Always be gentle with the rag as you can wear the fibers out if you rub too hard.

  I’ve used this method on both clothing and carpet successfully.  Nothing in carpet cleaning or clothing is 100%, especially since there are so many different varieties of both carpet and wine out there, but this is the closest I’ve seen thus far.  It either gets rid of it completely or to the point that it is barely visible.   One thing that sets this method apart is that some leave behind a yellow color.  This method does not, at least in my experience so far. 

Nothing can take the place of a professional carpet cleaner with state of the art equipment and knowledgeable crew chiefs, like Commercial Steam Team.  However, not everyone can afford to hire the experts every time Uncle Leo has a few too many and forgets the glass in his hand as he re-enacts his hail Mary pass to win the 1967 Hopkins little league football championship.   That is precisely when home remedies are wonderful tools.

Off The Shelf Commercial Spot Removers

According to a study sponsored by the Carpet and Rug Institute, an independent laboratory tested off-the-shelf spot removers and pre-spray solutions. 25 products were tested but ONLY 4 cleaned a soiled carpet sample better than water. Some caused the cleaned carpet area to re-soil faster, and some products even damaged the carpet’s color and texture.

In short, it’s better to contact a professional than to use off-the-shelf products to remove spots and stains from your carpet.