What is the best carpet cleaning solution? Wouldn't it be great if there was a single cleaning product that everyone would agree on? As in every aspect of life, be it food, the construction trades, electronics, clothing or whatever, it seems it's a matter of personal opinion. Choosing the best carpet cleaning solution is no different.
Look in any carpet cleaning trade magazine, walk down the aisle of any cleaning supply distributor, or do an internet search for carpet cleaning chemicals and the carpet cleaning product choice is enough to make your head spin. You'll find a complete chemical line from every cleaning equipment manufacturer out there as well as a ton of private cleaning chemical manufacturers.
Every container essentially looks the same: brand name, product uses, directions, cautions, ingredients and any other unique features the product will deliver. So how do you know which one to choose?
You can pick a product based on the packaging, hoping it will provide the needed results. You can rely on the recommendation of another cleaner's experience with the product. You can take the testimonial of the sales person selling the product. Or you can use a combination thereof.
Rather than relying on chance or the word of another when choosing a carpet cleaning solution, it's better to approach the decision with product knowledge on your side. To determine which is the best carpet cleaning solution, today's carpet cleaning professional needs to consider several criteria.
These include but are not limited to pH, carpet fiber type, cleaning method, your cost per square foot, soil load and stains, environmental impact, product ingredients and the effects of the product on the user and building occupant's health and safety.
It must be understood, there's not a "one fits all" cleaner that can address every cleaning challenge. There will always be a need for specialty spotters to address certain stains (a discussion for another article). The goal, however, is to select the best carpet cleaning solution. One that will consistently produce the desired results. Let's look at the above mentioned carpet cleaning solution criteria. The criteria share a common thread with all carpet cleaning product choices.
1. Product pH: Most carpet cleaning products are formulated on the
alkaline side of the pH scale. For every value higher than the previous
value (for example a pH value of 9 compared to an 8 pH), the alkaline
concentration increases by 10 times. The reverse is true on the acidic
side of the pH scale (a 4 would be 10 times more acidic than a 5 on the
Carpet cleaning chemicals with a pH above 7 (with 7 being neutral) are on the alkaline side of the pH scale. A cleaner with a pH up to 10 is considered "safe" to use on synthetic carpeting. Cleaning formulations with a pH above 10 (up to pH 14) can affect the stain resistance of nylon carpet, can cause problems like damaged carpet fibers, color loss and even voided carpet warranties. A carpet cleaner within the 7-10 pH scale range and that can produce effective cleaning results meets the criteria of the best carpet cleaning chemical.
2. Type of carpet fiber: Half the battle when cleaning carpet is knowing what type of fiber you are cleaning. The synthetics like nylon, olefin, polyester and acrylic are much more forgiving with respect to aggressive carpet cleaning solutions than a natural fiber like wool, silk, sisal or one of those "designer" fiber blends. A carpet cleaning chemical that can be used to clean both synthetic AND natural fibers like wool or silk is one to consider as the best cleaning solution.
3. Cleaning method: When carpet cleaners talk about applying their skills, the focus always seems to center around the cleaning equipment utilized in the cleaning method. The biggest battle within the carpet cleaning industry is the method utilized. It's hot water extraction verses low moisture cleaning.
The cleaning method earns the majority of the credit for the cleaning results rather than the role the cleaning product plays. Every method has its place. Without the benefit of the best carpet cleaning solution, the results are going to be less than impressive no matter which method is employed.
Take for instance, the hot water extraction method of carpet cleaning. Rather than keep the cleaning process simple using just one product, the cleaning process often includes carpet pre-sprays, an extraction product and even rinsing agents. Why complicate the cleaning process by adding more chemicals (often toxic) to the cleaning mix?
A better approach to the hot water extraction method would be to pre-spray the carpet with one product that serves the same function as the combination of pre-sprays, detergents and rinsing agents serve. Then rinse the pre-sprayed carpet with clear water. With this approach, one cleaning product replaces several cleaners. This not only simplifies the process but saves on chemical and labor costs.
On the other side of the cleaning method coin is low moisture cleaning. As the name suggests, this method or process uses far less water than hot water extraction. The key to this method is agitation whereas hot water extraction relies on high cleaning temperatures and pressurized water to flush away the soil. Think of the hot water extraction method as pressure washing the carpet.
With low moisture cleaning, a cleaning product, usually an "encapsulation" product, is pre-sprayed on the carpet, agitated and then allowed to dry. Because a limited amount of moisture is used, the carpet dries quickly and is then vacuumed to remove the encapsulant and dirt.
This agitation is performed by a machine with an absorbent pad attached. The pad scrubs the carpet free of dirt which becomes suspended in the encapsulant. During this cleaning process, the pad absorbs the bulk of the carpet soil. Any remaining encapsulated soil is allowed to dry which is subsequently removed with a vacuum cleaner.
Vacuuming shatters the dried encapsulant and allows both dirt and encapsulant to be removed. The encapsulation product prevents the soil from sticking back onto the carpet fiber so it can be fully removed during vacuuming.
The best carpet cleaning solution is one that can be used for the hot water extraction method AND as an encapsulation product in a low moisture cleaning method. The best cleaner is one that can work well in both hot and cold cleaning temperatures.
4. Cost per square foot: There are
three ways to improve your bottom line. One way is to increase sales.
Another way is to cut expenses. A third way is to increase sales and cut
expenses simultaneously. How can a carpet cleaning product produce both
increased sales and reduce expenses? The key to the biggest profits in
any business venture is to buy low and sell high.
In a carpet cleaning business, buying low can either mean paying a lower price per gallon of cleaning product or, it can mean paying more per gallon of product which when diluted costs less per square foot to clean than the lower priced cleaning product. By the same token, selling high, (i.e higher job or square foot prices) can be directly related to a cleaning product's effectiveness. The best carpet cleaning solution offers a low per square foot cost while producing results that commands premium prices.
5. Soil load
and stains: In order for a carpet cleaning solution to qualify as the
best, it must be effective no matter how challenging the project. Is
your carpet cleaner as effective on a greasy restaurant carpet as it is
on carpet in a room that barely gets used? Do you find you have to
"boost" your product with another cleaner to achieve good results? Will
your cleaner remove most spots and spills or do you need to frequently
reach for a specialty spot remover?
6. Environmental impact: In order for a cleaning product to compete in today's cleaning industry, its environmental impact must be considered. Public concern and the resulting governmental regulations have made "green" cleaning products the benchmark. Stemming from this green movement has been the creation of independent third party certification organizations that set standards for cleaning products and their impact on the environment and human well being.
When choosing a carpet cleaning product, the more independent third party certifications and approvals from related organizations, the more confidence you can have with that product. After all, these certifications are from third party sources not just the manufacturer making claims.
These third party organizations include Green Seal, the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI or carpet-rug.org), Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Approved, and Woolsafe (woolsafe.org). Other related organizations include US Green Building Council (USGBC or usgbc.org), Process Cleaning For Healthy Facilities (PC4HF.com), Healthy Facilities Institute (healthyfacilitiesinstitute.com), and the ISSA (ISSA.com) to name a few.
7. Product ingredients and product safety: This is one variable that doesn't get much attention. It should because it concerns the health and safety of you, your employees and the occupants of the building in which you are cleaning the carpet.
surprising how many carpet cleaning technicians will use a cleaning
product because it produces the results they seek even though they are
subjecting themselves to toxic, caustic, or carcinogenic chemicals on a
daily basis. What about the building occupants that are exposed to the
same chemicals in their work place or home?
Everyone thinks they are doing a good thing by cleaning the carpet. After all, the carpet looks great when freshly cleaned. Cleaning the carpet is a good thing. Its purpose is to removes the harmful contaminants lurking in the carpet.
The problem, is the toxic chemical residues left behind and the volatile organic compounds (VOC's) that become airborne for all to breathe when the carpet is cleaned with toxic cleaning chemicals.
Look at the listed ingredients on the container of your carpet cleaning product. Using this chart link, look up your cleaner's ingredients. Most of the listed ingredients are toxic, caustic and or are suspected or known carcinogens.
your trusted cleaner contains these harmful ingredients think about
the short and long term effects daily use of these chemicals might have
on your health or the health of the building occupants.
Even many of the products labeled green contain these ingredients. Aren't green products supposed to be safe for the environment AND people? Unfortunately many carpet cleaning products meet the minimum government standards to use "green" on the label but upon further scrutiny fall short. The best carpet cleaning solution for your health and safety does not contain any toxic, caustic or carcinogenic ingredients nor does it contain volatile organic compounds.
As we have learned, choosing the best carpet cleaning solution depends on several criteria. A cleaning product may possess some qualities required to be considered the "best" carpet cleaning product but be lacking with respect to the other above listed criteria.
Is there a carpet cleaning product available that:
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