FINDING a carpet-cleaning service is as easy as looking for the letter ''C'' in the Yellow Pages. But finding a carpet-cleaning method that works for you might not be so simple.
''There are five different carpet-cleaning methods in use today,'' said Kathryn Sellers, spokeswoman for the Carpet and Rug Institute, an industry advocacy organization based in Dalton, Ga. ''All five work, as long as the person doing the cleaning knows what he's doing.''
Ms. Sellers explained that the five methods include hot-water, dry or foam extraction; rotary shampoo and the absorbent-pad method.
The hot-water-extraction method -- what most people mean when they say they are having their carpets ''steam cleaned'' -- uses a machine that sprays a hot detergent solution onto the carpet, and then immediately vacuums it out.
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The drawback to the hot-water method, Ms. Sellers said, is that if it is not done right, the carpet and padding can get soaked, thereby providing a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Also, she said, if too much detergent is used, or if all the detergent is not removed, the carpet will get dirtier sooner. Detergent left in a carpet, she said, serves as a magnet for new dirt.
With the dry-extraction method, on the other hand, a powdered detergent compound is brushed into the carpet with specially designed machines. Soil particles in the carpet bond to the chemicals and are removed by vacuuming.
The foam-extraction method, Ms. Sellers said, employs the use of a foam instead of dry chemicals and the foam is vacuumed out of the carpet while it is still wet.
With the rotary-shampoo method, she said, the cleaning solution is pushed into the carpet by a machine that uses rotating brushes to work the solution into the fibers. The resulting dirt-filled foam is then removed by wet vacuuming.
Finally, Ms. Sellers said, there is the absorbent-pad, or ''bonnet,'' method. With this method, she said, chemicals are sprayed into the carpet fibers and after they have had a chance to work their magic by percolating the dirt up to the surface, the chemicals are removed by a machine with a large round absorbent spinning pad like the one on the bottom of a commercial floor buffer.
In the wrong hands, however, the spinning pad can turn your deep-pile carpet into a puckered moonscape. ''The absorbent-pad method should be used only by a properly trained cleaning professional,'' Ms. Sellers said.
And Phil Manwarren is just such a man.
''Our cleaning method is so different from steam-cleaning and shampooing that it isn't even funny
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