ICS Magazine

The Importance of Dry Soil Removal

May 1, 2012
Vacuuming is a chore for many of our clients (and for us too). We know that there are probably a thousand other things they would rather be doing.




Vacuuming is a chore for many of our clients (and for us too). We know that there are probably a thousand other things they would rather be doing. Because of this, most don’t vacuum nearly as often or as effectively as they should. Many of the vacuums they use don’t work very well, the collection bag is full or the hose is clogged. That’s why the first step in your carpet or rug cleaning process should be vacuuming with heavy duty commercial equipment. And if you’re cleaning rugs, they should be dusted both face and back after thorough vacuuming.

Vacuuming is more than just getting the carpet or rugs cleaned for the sake of appearance. Vacuuming is an essential part of maintaining carpet and rugs as well as keeping the environment clean and healthy. And it’s a required step for professionals to perform in order to adhere to the “standard,” the ANSI/IICRC S100 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Cleaning of Textile Floor Coverings, that is.

OK, let’s get down to the nitty gritty about dirt. There are two sources of soil and three distinct classes or types of soil. In addition, these soils accumulate on three different levels within the pile of carpet or rugs. 

So where does the dirt come from?

Obviously, from outside. Tracked particles (e.g., sand, clay, grass, leaves and other fibers) enter homes or businesses, along with airborne pollutants from industrial and automo-tive exhaust emissions.

Inside the home or business, soil comes from shed animal and human dander and hair, fibers from fabrics and paper goods, body oils and food substances, or from commercial work processing. The most significant source of difficult soil that builds on fiber comes from animal and vegetable oils that are generated in food service areas or kitchens. 

From a professional cleaning standpoint, the three basic types or classes of soil include:

  • Water-soluble soils including materials that dissolve easily in water, such as sugar, starches, salts and other fluidic residues like drink spills.
  • Dry solvent-soluble soils including asphalt, tar, grease, and animal or vegetable oils that are produced when cooking food, and lastly,
  • Insoluble soil, making up 74-79% of the soil, includes particles, such as clay, sand, quartz, feldspar, limestone, gypsum and carbon. Insoluble soil also includes cellulosic fiber from clothing, paper products, grass and leaf fragments, and protein fibers shed by human beings, pets and clothing. Much of this soil winds up on the largest horizontal surface in the home or business - the carpet or rugs. 


These soils are classified as “insoluble” in the sense that they cannot be dissolved with chemicals used in the normal cleaning process. So, since they can’t be removed by dissolving and flushing or rinsing, they must be removed in some other way.

Insoluble soil tends to collect in high traffic areas like entries and other heavy use areas of a home (den or family room) or business (lobby). If you’re cleaning rugs, you should be aware that the structure of the wool fiber allows area rugs in those locations to hold much more dry particle soil than a carpet or rugs made of synthetic fibers, so you need to work extra hard to remove it by adding dusting to your process. The heaviest and most destructive soil particles, such as sand and grit are at the base of the yarn and are the most difficult to remove. Slowing down and taking your time vacuuming and dusting will pay off in the long run. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather empty a few more vacuum bags than have to remove mud from my waste tank.

The appearance and life of your client’s carpet and rugs depend on the care and maintenance they receive. According to the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), carpet that is well-maintained should last 10-15 years. Rugs can last for generations. Proper cleaning which includes thorough dry soil removal will keep them looking great for their full lifetime.

Although the primary responsibility for removing dry particle soil from carpet or rugs lies with end-user, it is unrealistic to expect them to be able to remove the majority of the soil. That’s where you as a professional textile cleaner come to the rescue!