Carpet Cleaning Problems
Last updated in October 2013
Much can—and does—go wrong during carpet-cleaning jobs. The easiest way to avoid these problems is to select a top-rated cleaner to do the work. But it can’t hurt if you know how to recognize common trouble spots.
- Overwetting. The biggest danger is that the carpet will get too wet. Overwetting occurs in various ways: use of poorly adjusted hot-water-extraction equipment, which pulls water out at too low a pressure; passing over areas too many times with hot-water-extraction equipment or shampoo; applying excessive shampoo; and spilling. If moisture reaches a carpet’s backing, any of a number of problems can result. There may be a separation of the secondary backing. If the backing is jute—common in older carpets—the moisture may cause fibers in the backing to shrink and tear seams, dissolving the cellulose in the backing and wicking it to the surface to produce brown stains. The dye in an overwet carpet may bleed. Mildew may develop if a carpet remains wet for several days. And wood floors beneath carpet may suffer warpage or other damage.
- Brushing improperly. The brushing that occurs during some cleaning processes—especially the shampoo and bonnet methods—may sometimes distort carpet yarns so that different sections of pile lie in different directions. This can create the appearance of shadows, or even of soiling, that may be impossible to correct. The trick is to avoid over-brushing or to use a soft brush if a stiff one appears to be causing excessive pile distortion.
- Using too alkaline a solution. While carpets are cleaned most easily with highly alkaline detergent solutions, these solutions can cause the colors in some carpets to bleed and can cause browning. One professional carpet cleaner art is mixing or selecting cleaning solutions to fit the carpet—sometimes even using an acidic solution where there is a substantial danger of bleeding or a strong alkaline residue from previous cleanings. Many of the newer stain-resistant carpets specify that the warranty will be voided if the carpet is cleaned using a solution that is too alkaline or that contains brightening agents.
- Other dangers:
- Using the wrong dilution ratio or chemicals that leave sticky residues.
- Using chemicals that contain substances that may cause allergic reactions or may be toxic.
- Causing dyes to run by using inappropriate cleaning agents or solvents.
- Allowing rust or wood stains to get on wet carpet by replacing furniture without putting down leg covers or other protection.
In addition to staying alert for mishaps, pay close attention to cost. Some carpet cleaners will push services you don’t need, and prices for the same service can vary from company to company by more than 100 percent. Comparison shopping can be difficult because companies that charge low prices for one service or type of carpet may charge high prices for others, and add-ons (such as carpet protectors and deodorizer) can inflate a seemingly low price into a high one. Also, services that go by the same name at different companies—for example, “deodorizing” or “sanitizing”—may actually be different services. And be wary of companies that use fliers and other advertising techniques that use extremely low per-room prices as bait and then switch customers to higher priced treatments.
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