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Carpet cleaning - An 8 year veteran's experience

Updated on May 15, 2011
Carpet can really enhance the feel and comfort of a room
Carpet can really enhance the feel and comfort of a room

My cleaning experience to you

8 years worth of time spent doing something will make anyone at least decently knowledgeable on the subject. That is me. I spent 8 years doing carpet cleaning and I am here to share my knowledge and experience with you so that you will know how best to take care of your carpet.

What type of cleaning did I utilize?

The type of cleaning I used was steam cleaning or another term is hot water extraction. It is easily one of the more efficient methods of cleaning. I did not use a normal truck mount system either. I was privileged to be able to use one of the most powerful trucks in the industry. On a good day it could easily extract enough water to have a whole house dry in a matter of hours. The system was called a Vortex. I forgot who made it but if you Google search Vortex carpet cleaning then you can see some examples of it. 

Just a note what I say here may or may not coincide or agree with what some 'professional cleaners' or carpet salesmen say. That's not the point. All of what I am writing is not to sell anything but simply to show what I personally experienced and dealt with.

The different types of carpet pile cuts

An example of cut pile carpet
An example of cut pile carpet
An example of loop pile carpet
An example of loop pile carpet

Some common terms

First things first. There are a few different terms and carpet types to talk about.

The breakdown - what is carpet?

Well, its that stuff on the floor, right? Technically yes, but what are all the different parts called?

  1. Pile: this the threads or fibers on top that you actually see and walk on.
  2. Backing: This is the bottom of the carpet that the pile is glued to.
  3. Padding: While not part of the carpet, padding is essential to the installation of carpet to ensure comfort, insulation, sound dampening, and even moisture absorption.
  4. crushing: The amount of which the pile is flattened from either heavy traffic or something sitting on it. Not all carpets respond to crushing very positively.

There are different types of pile.

  1. Cut pile: a single strand of fiber connected to the backing at one end and the other end not connected to anything.
  2. Loop pile: Either a single long strand or individual strands where both ends are attached to the backing to form a loop. The arch of the loop creates the top of the carpet on which you walk. Something to note about loop pile is that normally each 'row' of loops is a single strand of fiber. If one end happens to become severed or pulled up then there is a good chance that over time it will unravel. This can be fixed but it may not end up looking the same. It is not a very common problem but I have seen it often enough to know it's an issue with loop pile.

There are different types of backing too

Each brand seems to have different names for different types of backings but they all boil down to some very basic types regardless of specific variations in production.

  1. A plastic mesh backing
  2. A synthetic fabric backing
  3. Natural backing such as jute or cotton.

Each type has its specific upsides and downsides. But overall they all do their job and hold the carpet together very well.

This is my experience cleaning these fibers

There are a few different types of materials used to make the carpet fibers. Each type has its benefits and weaknesses when it comes to durability and keeping it clean. A lot of materials are being blended now to offset certain weaknesses and increase strengths.

  1. Nylon: When it comes to my experience cleaning and maintaining nylon was easily one of the better materials. It had a good balance of durability, comfort, and ease of cleaning. When it came to general dirtiness from traffic nylon was very easy to clean. It was not impervious to all stains however and longer cut piles will flatten over time.
  2. Olefin/polypropylene: Cheap is the word for this type. It is a good carpet type in general, but there are downsides to consider. First is that it stained easily, especially from artificial dyes. Second is that dirt buildup would 'scratch' the fibers and create 'dirty' look in the way the light bounced off of the fiber. No matter how much I cleaned an area it never looked better even though I was sure the dirt was gone. And lastly when this pile becomes 'crushed' (matted down and flattened), especially in a heavy traffic area, it is very hard to fluff up again. This is especially true in heavy traffic areas such as hallways.
  3. Wool: Wool is expensive carpet. It most often is a loop pile but I have seen it as a cut pile once and that was in a very up scale million dollar home. This natural fiber is great if the idea is comfort and style. When it comes to wear and tear it is a bad choice. Being a natural fiber it absorbs moisture very easily and is hard to dry after cleaning. It also absorbs dyes and colors very easily and depending on what gets on the carpet it can also lose its default color as well. This color weakness is especially true with area rugs. Do not let a pet use the restroom on a wool area rug! Lastly the loop pile cut shares the issue with Olefin of being easily crushed and very hard to pick up. I recommend wool carpet in an area where you want comfort and design but hardly ever walk in.
  4. Polyester: This has a built in stain fighting characteristic in that it does not absorb moisture easily. That is not to say it is impervious to staining just that it is harder to stain. The big issue here is that, just like olefin/polypropylene, it crushes easily and is hard to fluff up again.
  5. Jute and other natural fiber: I separated jute as a natural fiber from wool because there are key distinctions. I have never seen a complete carpet made of jute but I have seen area rugs and mats. The problems with jute are not as heavy as other carpet types, except for one key area. You are not supposed to steam or water clean jute. It will deteriorate the fiber and the rug could fall apart quicker or become damaged in the cleaning process.

Carpet samples
Carpet samples

The carpet world has grown

Since my departure from carpet cleaning I have seen advances in different types of carpets, padding, backings, and carpet stain protection. I have even seen a new type of carpet made from corn. This article is not meant to be the end all/be all of information but instead just my experience. If you are looking to buy carpet then by all means listen to the salesperson as they will know a lot more about whats changed and is new, but I would still at least bring up these concerns and see what they says.

My article here does not cover these new developments because I have had no experience dealing with them. Regardless of these new products I believe that the types I covered here will still be pretty common for a while to come.

I hope what I have written here will help some of you make choices that best fit in with your life.


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