Carpet/Rug/Upholstery Cleaning

Game Plan: The Soil Removal Process

July 2, 2012

Game Plan: The intention of this column is to subjectively discuss (my view) the carpet cleaning process in detail and in relation to the IICRC S100. This is best accomplished by following the “Five Principles of Cleaning” as outlined by S100. Those principles are:

  • Dry Soil Removal
  • Soil Suspension
  • Suspended Soil Removal
  • Finishing or Grooming
  • Drying

The discussion has progressed to Step 3, the soil removal process. But I find myself being stuck between Step 2 and Step 3. The S100 describes Step 3 as removing “suspended” soil. My dilemma is that I’m certain many cleaners move on to Step 3 without completing Step 2. The trick is to fully suspend the soil remaining after vacuuming the insoluble soil, thus making Step 3 as easy as the rinse cycle on a clothes washing machine.

I’ve compared the function of the carpet cleaning technician to that of a machine, in particular, a washing machine. I like to emphasize the length of time that a clothes washing machine spends in the agitation cycle. This step is, by far, the longest in the clothes cleaning cycle. Why? It takes time to fully suspend the soil before the machine starts the rinsing cycles. I have stated in previous discussions that this is probably the weakest part of the carpet cleaning cycle. The biggest reason carpets don’t appear clean after the carpet is dry is because the carpet cleaning machine did not get all the soil fully suspended before starting the removal process. Again, we must do everything we can to get the fluid soil suspended. Then we can remove it.

Bulletin Board Material
“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” - Mark Twain 

I did a seminar recently for a group of building service contractors. There were about 50 in attendance. A quick survey indicated that all but one used hot water extraction, or HWE, as their primary cleaning method. For most, HWE was their only cleaning method. All questions from the group were related to the problem of getting the carpet clean. Since that seminar, I had a certification class (CCT-Carpet Cleaning Technician) for a group of primarily residential carpet cleaners. Both of these groups had one thing in common - minimal means to fully utilize the agitation portion of soil suspension in order to remove all the remaining soil. The residential cleaners had only grooming tools to facilitate agitation and the building service contractors basically had nothing.

The obvious problem presented by HWE in trying to remove soil that has not been fully suspended is that we then try working the light wand forcefully in an attempt to suspend the soil while we’re rinsing. We’ll do hard chop strokes, we’ll flood the carpet, we’ll practically stand on the handle. Cleaners who use a rotary extraction tool have the advantage of including agitation in the rinsing process. That, along with the heat and pressure from the machine, can go a long way in removing suspended soil, even if it is taking place almost simultaneously.

One of the reasons that poor agitation in the industry is perplexing to me is that, in our company, we used a 175-rpm machine to facilitate agitation, thus making the rinsing process truly a soil removal process. In discussing the carpet cleaning process with cleaners over the years, it is apparent that in many cases, the cleaner skips Step 2 altogether and just goes on to Step 3 after vacuuming the carpet. Giving short attention or no attention to the soil suspension step is like throwing clothes into the washing machine and just hitting the spin cycle, hoping that will remove the soil from the clothing. We would never do that to our clothes, but it appears we do that for carpet more often than not.

What’s the solution? To make Step 3 truly a suspended soil removal process, and in the case of HWE, truly a rinsing process, we must do all we are capable of doing to complete Step 2 fully.

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