Cleaning & Restoration Association News

The Gadget Man: To Groom or Not to Groom? That is Not the Question!

February 1, 2007
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Our home was carpeted with white wool short shag. Mom was a meticulous housekeeper, and we vacuumed that carpet often. After every vacuuming we would pull out the carpet rake – the same rake that could be used to rake leaves in the fall – and remove all the vacuum marks and footprints. We were then told we could not walk on it. This made getting from my bedroom to the kitchen quite a chore. My kids didn’t believe me when I told them I had to walk outside through a foot of snow in my pajamas and bare feet just to get a bowl cereal in the morning.

I found my carpet-cleaning customers shared a similar attitude with my mother. They insisted on my grooming (I prefer “grooming” over “raking”; it’s more professional) the carpet after every cleaning. I know this because I groomed all carpets right from the beginning. At some point in my career I got a brain cramp and decided that grooming after cleaning was time consuming and served little purpose. It was policy to call every customer back the day following our service. I quickly learned that my customers were not pleased with the cleaning marks left in the carpet versus the smooth, even look of a groomed carpet. In fact, I won a considerable amount of customer loyalty because I was willing to groom and the competition was not.

I also discovered early on that cleaning heavy-traffic areas was made much easier and they cleaned much better when I pre-sprayed and then agitated with a grooming tool. This is a quick and easy way to work the pre-spray into the soiled fibers and at the same time open the fibers up for better extraction of the soil.

To groom or not to groom is not a decision you should be making. Every step you can take that improves your cleaning effectiveness and pleases your customer should be part of your “must do” procedures.

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Why Is Carpet Grooming Essential?

Jeff Bishop, technical advisor for IICRC, once wrote a technical bulletin titled “Why Groom Carpet?” which stated, “Grooming untangles pile yarns, eliminates the appearance of matting and crushing. It is essential for the distribution of after-cleaning treatments, such as protectors, in order:
  • To eliminate wand-stroke patterns left after cleaning.
  • To produce faster drying on a typical cleaning job and to give maximum light reflection to make carpet look brighter and more pleasing overall.”

The IICRC states that pile setting or grooming is the fourth principle in professional carpet cleaning. The purpose is to assist with the evaporation, decreasing drying time, and enhancing the carpet’s final appearance by removing rotary swirls or wand marks or distortion from the pile. Grooming also aids in the uniform distribution of protectors or other post-cleaning treatments.

Matting, Crushing and Soil

Industry trends show that 80 percent to 90 percent of all warranty claims involve complaints of crushed and matted carpeting or spots/stains that cannot be removed. Matting is a severe pile crush combined with entanglement of fibers and tufts, while crushing is the non-restorable loss of pile thickness due to foot traffic and heavy furniture. Tufts collapse into the air space between them.

There are two types of soil we deal with in the cleaning industry. One type is ground soil, where about 80 percent is walked in, e.g. dirt and mud, sand, pebbles, etc. The other 20 percent is environmental, such as pollutants from the air, from your garage, and oils from various places in your home. Other carpet contaminants include moisture, a variety of sand, oxides, carbonates, animal hair, resins, gum, and many miscellaneous unknown types.

Oil is the worst soil, since there is a lot of oil in the air and on carpeting from many sources, including the kitchen. When oil gets into the carpet, it actually clings to the fiber, and environmental soil and pollutants love to cling to oil. What happens then is, the fibers try to mat or glue themselves together, and when this happens, the soil clings to the yarn. The soil is not only on top of the carpet, we are grinding it in and mixing it with the oil.

Fiber manufactures tell us at least 1 to1½-pounds of dirt is retained for every square yard of carpeting that has been on the floor in your home for three years or more. Grooming is essential in loosening and extracting pet hair and small soil particles trapped deep in the carpeting bringing the soil to the surface for thorough vacuuming.

Most carpet has more space than fiber. It is true that a higher face weight equals a better quality of carpet. However, regardless of any rating of density, proper care and cleaning will always extend the life and use of any carpet. Since we have more space than fiber in most carpets, where is the soil going to go? Most of the soil is going into the space (Image 1).

This photo (Image 2) has been magnified and enhanced to show the contrast of space to fiber. We can vacuum every single day and get most of the topsoil, but the soil that goes down in the space of the fiber is the soil that does the most damage. Proper grooming will untangle the fiber, loosen the soil and bring it to the top for removal.

Carpet retailers say one of the biggest complaints from their customers is the perception that their carpet is wearing out. Carpet pile has a direction, and when the yarn is standing up and down, it reflects light off the tip of the yarn. When yarn crush occurs, it reflects the light off the side or the back of the yarn. Thus, it is always going to appear gray regardless of the carpet color. In the industry, we call it “gray out.” The end-user calls it “wear out.” In most cases, it is yarn crush!

The Path to Effective Grooming

Carpet rake. Pile lifter or brush. Carpet comb. Nap finisher or brush. The names may differ but the purposes are the same. Proper carpet grooming with grooming tools is designed to:
  1. Prepare matted and badly soiled traffic and entry areas, to open and lift crushed yarn and simultaneously loosen and lift deeply embedded soil particles for efficient extraction and cleaning.
  2. Loosen and lift surface embedded pet hair.
  3. Restructure the original design of carpet.
  4. Restore the resilient effect.
  5. Render the “like new” appearance.
  6. Satisfy and please your customer.

The consumer’s interest is not only clean carpeting but in carpeting restored to resemble all aspects of the original installation. Keep in mind that brushing rather than grooming is required on a low-level loop, Berber, or commercial-grade carpet. Your customer will be willing to pay more for a job superbly done.

Through the years we have been impressed with the men and women of our industry who take time to learn and improve their skills, attending seminars, conventions and workshops, reading industry magazines and trade journals to learn new information, new teaching, and new ideas and truth. This attitude toward business produces a safety net for the industry, strengthens relationships with customers and suppliers, and makes them successful in the 21st century and beyond. If you liked this article, circle 148 on the Reader Inquiry Card.

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