Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Professional Carpet Cleaning Problems, Challenges and Solutions

Professional Carpet Cleaning Problems, Challenges and Solutions

Problems and Solutions in Carpet Cleaning

Every business, including carpet cleaning businesses, has its problems and challenges - inadequate capital, lack of cash flow, slow-paying customers, difficult customers, under-performing employees, unexpected expensive equipment repairs, loss of a major customer, a new well-financed competitor in town, downturn in the economy, taxes and the list goes on. And now, we have a pandemic affecting our business!

Of course, as a chemist, I rarely get involved in the above business problems, but I often help customers with problems unique to the carpet cleaning business. Just a few are:


Browning is a phenomenon in which, after the carpet or rug is cleaned and has dried, the fiber tips turn dark. Carpet dries from the tips. Therefore, as the cleaning solution evaporates from the tips, the water rises to the surface bringing with it everything dissolved in it, and then the water evaporates leaving everything else behind. This leaves on the tips of the carpet, rug or upholstery soil and high-alkalinity residue plus anything else left in the carpet such as high shampoo levels, cola, coffee, etc. This upward flow of moisture on fiber surfaces during drying is referred to as wicking. The factors contributing to browning are slow drying, over-wetting, high alkalinity, BHT and cellulosic material (jute backing). An application of a formulated organic acid agent such as Brown Out® will neutralize this residue not only preventing browning, but actually leaves the carpet cleaner and brighter. Additionally, the use of Brown Out on wet-cleaned upholstery and rugs will reduce the likelihood of dye bleeding by setting the dyes. It is easier to correct browning on carpet with pile yarns made of synthetic fibers than of natural fibers such as wool, hemp, silk or cotton. In cases where severe browning may occur, clean the carpet with Natural Fiber Cleaner.

Click here for more details on browning on our web site.


Carpet Delamination is the separation of the secondary backing from the primary backing of the carpet. The secondary backing is any material laminated with latex to the primary backing in a “marriage roller” for dimensional stability while locking individual tufts in place. One of the most common causes of delamination in carpet cleaning is the technician using excess dry solvent spotter. Solvent spotter such as Saf-T-Solv™ should always be applied to a spot by blotting, never pouring. A solvent could dissolve or weaken the adhesive in the backing.

Click here for more details on delamination of carpet on our web site.


Your customer may have heard that carpet cleaning results in faster re-soiling and wants to avoid cleaning their carpet as long as possible. The problem results from excess residues left in the carpet because of improper rinsing, using the wrong presprays or detergents, failing to rinse out traffic lane spotter, using a double-stroke cleaning method and using sticky spot and stain removers. This leftover residue in the carpet attracts dirt resulting in faster re-soiling.

Many technicians heavily prespray ALL of the carpet hoping to speed up the job. Unfortunately, they forget that anything that goes into the carpet needs to come back out. Wherever prespray was applied, take extra cleaning strokes to ensure its removal! The single biggest cause of resoiling is the improper use of prespray when extraction cleaning carpet.

here for more information on resoiling


A common problem in truckmounted carpet cleaning is FOAM. Foam in the vacuum hose can increase drying time and greatly reduce cleaning effectiveness because it has, in effect, reduced the vacuum hose to 1/2 inch in diameter! Additionally, excessive foam can cause damage to the vacuum pump and other equipment.

Foam is usually caused by residues from carpet shampoo, spotters and detergents in the carpet. These foamy residues result in the rapid filling of the recovery tank and air movement restriction as the vacuum hose fills up with foam, which results in poor cleaning, wicking problems, streaking, resoiling and poor drying time.

Silicone antifoams such as Bane-Clene’s AFC™ Anti-Foam Concentrate prevent foam from forming and cause existing foam to rapidly collapse. The low surface tension and interfacial properties of the silicone molecules in AFC cause the foam wall to thin and collapse. Application of Crystal Defoamer to a foamy area will also help control foam.

Click here for more information on foam.


A wood stain can be caused by placing wood furniture legs on wet carpet. All furniture should be tabbed or blocked after cleaning and furniture should only be moved with EZ Moves or Bane-Glides, but sometimes the carpet cleaner forgets - resulting in a furniture stain - a self-created problem! In case there is any oil-based material in the stain, blot with Saf-T-Solv™ or Pro-Solve Liquid Solvent Spotter. Extraction clean the area. Apply Stain Magic® to stained fibers. Lightly cover with clear plastic sheet and allow 12 hours dwell time. Severe stains may require more than one treatment. If stain is not completely removed, mix fresh solution of Stain Magic and repeat process.

Click here for more information on causing and removing furniture stains.


The double stroke carpet cleaning technique causes blotching as a result of over wetting. Solution soaks deeper into the carpet at the end of the back stroke as the direction of the cleaning head is reversed. The excess moisture is not picked up immediately by the vacuum head and is allowed to settle to the base of the carpet fibers causing uneven wetting. When moisture wicks to the surface seeking air to dry, it evaporates and leaves a trace of any mineral or chemical content. The single stroke carpet cleaning technique taught at Bane-Clene Institute ensures that the carpet cleaning solution is applied only on the back stroke. It is essential to learn the cutoff point at the end of the solution application stroke and pass the vacuum head beyond that point. Even wetting and thorough extraction cleaning leaves a carpet looking like new.

One purpose of a traffic lane spotter prespray is to prevent over wetting, which might occur if too many wet passes are done over a heavily soiled area in an effort to get it clean. Over-wetting will result also in spots and stains reappearing.

Click here for more information on over-wetting.


The dreaded call from your customer - the spots came back! Spots that come back after cleaning will lead to unhappy customers and call-backs. The most common reasons for spots coming back are incomplete removal of the original spot, detergent residue, wicking and just plain carelessness from being in too big a hurry to finish the job, collect the money and speed on to the next job. Slow down your cleaning process, spend more time on the spots, take extra dry strokes especially when working with heavily soiled carpet or berber, blot with white absorbent towels. Remember that the visible small spot on the surface means there is probably much more in the carpet backing or cushion and the spot is much wider and deeper than it appears. Applying an absorbent compound such as Stain Blotter directly onto the cleaned spot prevents wicking of any material in the pad and backing. If there is a huge number of spots and stains, apply ARA anti-resoiling agent to the entire area after cleaning!

For individual heavy spills of sticky materials, you can use the Water
® Sub-Surface Spot Lifter to flush
out the contaminants

On commercial loop pile carpet, this problem can be greatly reduced by following hot water extraction with dry bonnet cleaning, especially on commercial olefin loop carpet with a large number of spills.

Click here for more information on reappearing spots and stains.


Have you ever had a customer call back that the carpet you cleaned yesterday has now wrinkled, buckled or rippled? Rippling or buckling of carpet is common after cleaning carpet, especially if the carpet was not properly power-stretched in.

What can cause rippling?

  • Failure to acclimate new carpet before installation.
  • Failure to power stretch the carpet.
  • Loose tackless strip on concrete sub-floors.
  • Adhesive failure on direct glue installations.
  • Over-wetting and slow dry time.
  • Dragging heavy furniture across carpet.
  • Heavy rolling traffic on direct glue-down carpet.

Once the carpet dries completely, the wrinkles will often start to disappear with time. If it doesn’t, you may have to have the carpet power-stretched back. After all, you were the last person to touch your customer’s carpet, so it’s obviously your fault!

here for more information on carpet rippling and buckling after cleaning


What is wicking? Wicking after cleaning carpet is the upward capillary motion of water and cleaning solution during drying from the base of a tuft to its tip. The problem is that this carries with it any remaining soil and detergent in the carpet backing, carpet padding and even the subflooring, all of which is then deposited on the tips of the tuft and dries.

The biggest cause of soil wicking is over-wetting due to a poorly trained technician with a ‘who cares’ attitude in a big hurry to collect the money and move on to the next job.

Other causes of wicking:

  • Over-wetting, especially by using the ‘double stroke’ cleaning technique.
  • Slow drying due to poor cleaning technique or poor extraction.
  • Overuse of pre-spray and failure to extract out all of the traffic lane spotter solution
  • Heavy accumulation of soil at the base of carpet tufts.
  • Residue from soil and spills that wasn’t completely removed by the cleaner.
  • High humidity in the cleaned room causing slow evaporation. An example would be an apartment or retail store where immediately after the carpet is cleaned, the air circulation and air conditioner is turned off.
  • Heavy spills or pet urine in the carpet backing and pad.

How to Prevent Soil Wicking on Cleaned Carpet? Since wicking can only occur while the carpet is still wet, anything you can do to leave the carpet as dry as possible and shorten the drying time will greatly reduce wicking and reapparing spots:

Click here for more information on recurring spots and stains


Zippering is one of the most common problems with loop-pile carpet. Zippering occurs in a loop pile carpet in which tufts are pulled from the backing resulting in long, lengthwise pulls out of the carpet. This happens when someone pulls a loose tuft or a vacuum cleaner grabs a loose tuft and pulls out the entire length of tufts.

Click here for more information on zippering.

Of course, there’s any number of other problems you might encounter when cleaning carpet! Should make for more articles.

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Date Modified: July 22, 2020

Date Originally Published: July 22, 2020