Carpet/Rug/Upholstery Cleaning

Game Plan: Adding Absorbent Pad (Bonnet) Cleaning

August 31, 2012

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: 

1. Dry Soil Removal (vacuum the doggone carpet!)

2. Soil Suspension (really helps soil removal!)

3. Suspended Soil Removal (varies with cleaning method!)

4. Finishing or Grooming (making the carpet look like it was cleaned!)

5. Drying (when bad things happen!)


I’m currently on Step 3, discussing the various methods of removing suspended soil. I’m looking at absorbent pad, also known as bonnet cleaning, as one of the methods that would really help every carpet cleaning company improve their versatility in being able to handle virtually all situations. It is a big arrow to be added to the quiver.

The most obvious use of bonnet cleaning is for carpet cleaning maintenance. There are two broad categories of carpet cleaning: Restorative cleaning and maintenance cleaning, with nuances contained within both. Restorative cleaning, also referred to as corrective cleaning, is used to remove excessive amounts of soil that have affected the appearance of the carpet. Carpets with obvious visible soil need to be “restored” to as clean a condition as possible. Hot water extraction (HWE) is the method most often used for restorative cleaning, although other methods may be used very effectively.

Carpet maintenance cleaning is utilized to “maintain” the appearance of the carpet. The concept involves maintaining carpet in facilities where the appearance of everything, not just the carpet, is considered important and necessary. Ideally, the carpet is cleaned using one of several maintenance cleaning methods before the carpet is visibly soiled.

Hot water extraction, as thorough as it is, typically can cover about 1,000 to 1,500 square feet per hour. To perform maintenance cleaning we would want to use a method that increases production rates by a factor of three or even four times. Bonnet cleaning can achieve this objective. This is what makes bonnet cleaning attractive. This method typically works on the top third or fourth of the carpet yarn, but this is where the majority of soil is in situations where the carpet is maintained regularly. Bonnet cleaning is typically done with a 15-inch, 175-rpm rotary machine, but can be done with smaller machines or one of several orbital machines, all very effective. 

The maintenance process is fairly straightforward. A survey is done and the carpet use is typically divided into three categories: light, medium and heavy foot traffic. A program is then put into place to treat those areas accordingly. Every facility is different, and the frequency of maintenance cleaning will vary. Some areas may be maintained with the bonnet system monthly and some may be treated much more frequently, conceivably several times a week. Carpet maintenance cleaning is a significant departure from typical residential cleaning. It is usually done at night when the facilities are closed and involves crews dedicated to that effort. The business model is profitable but is usually several degrees of separation for most residential cleaning companies.

Perhaps the most effective use of the absorbent pad system for every company is to make corrections. Such situations as yellowing, browning, reappearing spots, etc., are best corrected by lightly spraying the affected area with the appropriate solution and then immediately going over the area with an absorbent pad. Most corrections are the result of excessive moisture left in the carpet. Using a bonnet to make the correction removes the contaminants which have wicked to the surface and controls the moisture at the same time.

The absorbent pad system can also be used to aid in the drying process after HWE, particularly in situations where re-soiling is likely, such as a highly soiled olefin commercial carpet. The aim is to speed up the drying process before oily soils can be re-suspended and wicked to the surface.

The absorbent pad method can also be used with encapsulation chemistry. Product is applied to the carpet and agitated with the rotary or orbital pad. The majority of the soil is removed with the pad. The rest is vacuumed out when the carpet is dry.

Adding the absorbent pad method to a company’s arsenal of cleaning methods will significantly increase their versatility to handle carpet cleaning issues and situations.

Time Out

Let’s get something straight: Encapsulation refers to chemistry, not to a cleaning method. There are five industry-recognized cleaning methods, with variations within those. All utilize encapsulation technology to some degree. There are encapsulating rinsing agents for HWE, for example. In fact, the advantage of using synthetic detergents is that no sticky residues are left in the carpet. Shampoos have had embrittling agents for decades. Absorbent compounds capture and retain soil. Other products contain acrylic or flurochemical polymers, all with the intention to capture soil and dry to a hard residue, to be removed at some stage of the extraction process, wet or dry.

Bulletin Board

“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses or the problems of modern society.”

–Vince Lombardi.

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