It's typically recommended that residential rugs and carpets in a commercial facility be professionally cleaned every year, if not even more often. It might also be advised that you have your floors deodorized and sanitized with each visit.
Since any professional floor cleaning can be a bit costly, you might wonder if professional carpet cleaning works and if it's necessary for your flooring, especially if your carpeting doesn't look very dirty. You might also wonder why you shouldn't merely rent a machine from a home improvement store and tackle this job yourself!
To better understand why professional carpet cleaning can be necessary for keeping carpets clean and for extending their overall lifespan, it can be helpful to know a few basics about how carpeting itself is made. It can also be useful to learn more about the different carpet cleaning methods that most professionals offer, so you can then decide which process would be right for the rugs at your home or office.
How are carpets made?
Carpets and rugs are made with yarn that is attached to a backing. This yarn is called the carpet's pile, and it can be made from wool, cotton, silk, nylon or other artificial materials, or a blend of these fabrics.
Each strand of yarn is usually twisted and heat-treated during its manufacture. This process helps the material to maintain its shape and strength, so the thread used for carpeting is much stronger and more durable than the materials used for gloves and scarves!
The backing of carpet is often made of latex, which creates a durable, stretchable surface. This stretching is part of the process of installing wall-to-wall carpeting, so the rugs don't bunch up and create literal bumps and wrinkles along their surfaces.
Wall-to-wall carpeting is also typically installed over an additional foam or latex padding referred to as an underlay. This underlay makes carpeting soft underfoot, while also helping to absorb noise and vibrations.
To create the surface or pile of carpeting, a piece of yarn is sewn onto the carpet backing through a process called tufting, which is similar to standard sewing. Hundreds of needles push the thread into the carpet backing so that a loop is formed. The back of this loop may be heat treated or otherwise glued so that it sticks to the carpet's backing.
Different styles of carpeting are created by varying this tufting method. For example, the top of the yarn's loop might be cut after it's sewn onto the carpet's backing. Cut loops can feel softer and look fuzzier than closed loops.
As another example, if a loop of yarn is very tall, the carpet will feel plusher, and it may also absorb more noise and vibration. Tall loops or pile may also show more footprints and marks from a vacuum cleaner.
Berber carpeting, on the other hand, has a very short loop, so that the carpet feels dense and not as plush. This style of rug also won't show so many marks on its surface, so it's often used in high-traffic areas, such as offices and other commercial buildings.
A design, such as a waffle weave or checkerboard pattern, might be created along the carpet's surface by using varying lengths and styles of pile. Also, a rug with fewer tufts of yarn might be cheaper to manufacture, but it might look and feel somewhat thin and threadbare.
Twisting of carpet pile can also affect the feeling of a rug underfoot. As an example, shag carpeting is made with long strands of cut pile that are purposely spread out across the surface of the carpet, and which are also tightly twisted. The openness of this design and the twisted ends of the yarn allow the strands of this type of rug to sink under your feet, creating a soft feeling and a somewhat irregular look to the carpet's surface.
How do carpets get so dirty
Now that you know a bit more about how carpets are made, this can help you understand how and why carpeting tends to get so dirty, and why vacuuming alone isn't enough for a thorough cleaning. Understanding how carpets get dirty can also explain why professional cleaning is needed, and why it might even prolong the life of rugs.
The style of a carpet can affect how much dirt it holds, and how useful it is to vacuum those rugs. For example, twisted fibers may trap more pet hair, human hair, and the like, in all those twists. A household vacuum isn't powerful enough to remove debris twisted in carpet fibers.
In the same way, carpeting with very tall pile may also be holding more dirt than other styles of rugs, and a household vacuum doesn't have enough suction to remove debris that's been pushed to the bottom of that taller pile. Carpets with a denser weave may also trap more dust and dirt between those strands of yarn, so they also tend to get dirtier faster than rugs with a looser design.
The material of carpeting can also affect how quickly it gets dirty, and how easy it is to clean. For example, artificial fabrics such as nylon tend to repel water, so carpets made with these types of materials won't hold mud as much as other fabrics. Cotton, on the other hand, is very absorbent, so cotton carpets may tend to catch dirt and then get dirtier, faster, than other rugs.
Environmental factors can also play a part in how often carpets need cleaning, and in how effective a standard vacuum will be for that cleaning. Rugs in an area with lots of dust and dirt in the air will get dirty faster since that dirt and soil needs to settle somewhere! If you notice that the surfaces inside your home or commercial building tend to get very dusty, very often, there is a good chance that the carpeting is also holding large amounts of dust.
Note, too, that regular household dust is very light, and easy for a vacuum cleaner to remove. Dust that is created by building or road construction, or by production facilities, is often more substantial and more difficult for a standard vacuum to extract. A home or business near construction sites or production facilities may then have dirtier rugs that cannot come clean with ordinary vacuum cleaners.
Professional carpet cleaning methods
What makes professional or commercial carpet cleaning so much more useful than standard vacuuming? Is a professional or commercial carpet cleaning needed if you invest in a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner, such as those used by janitors and housekeepers?
To better understand why and how professional carpet cleaning is so useful for cleaning rugs of all sorts, and even more so than any commercial vacuum cleaner, it's good to understand a few basics about those various carpet cleaning methods. This information can also help you decide on the best way of cleaning your rugs at home or the office.
- Steam cleaning, as the name implies, uses a wand or brush to push steam into the carpet fibers. This hot water helps to loosen dirt from the rugs. The water and any loosened debris are then extracted.
- Rug shampooing can be done with a wand or with a machine that has rotating brushes. A hose uses high pressure to push water and detergent into the carpeting, while a brush will scrub carpet fibers. The shampoo, water, and dirt are then extracted from the carpeting. This process may involve several extractions so that all traces of shampoo are removed.
- Bonnet cleaning is a type of light shampooing, similar to mopping a floor. A wand is covered with a cloth, called a bonnet, and is rubbed along the top of the carpeting, along with water and detergent. The bonnet then also extracts the water and any dirt it has loosened.
- Encapsulation is a method of drying cleaning carpets. This method uses a powder detergent applied to the rug, and which traps dirt and dust. The powder then begins to bubble or foam, taking all that trapped dirt to the top of carpet fibers with those bubbles. The detergent and dirt are then extracted.
- Dry cleaning of rugs can also be done with a type of powder that is spread on the carpeting, and which might be ground in with a rotating brush. The power attracts and traps dirt, and is then extracted.
Is professional carpet cleaning worth it?
There are a few reasons why these types of professional carpet cleaning methods are more effective than vacuuming alone, even if you use a professional, heavy-duty vacuum with lots of suction.
One reason for this added effectiveness is that shampoos and detergents stick to dirt, so you remove more debris from the carpeting when you use any cleaning agent, versus vacuuming alone. This dirt includes debris that might get twisted around carpeting yarn, such as animal hair or human hair.
Note, too, that dirt and dust that get ground into tall carpeting fibers cannot be removed by the suction of vacuuming, just because those fibers are in the way! Household vacuums don't have enough suction to remove dirt from along the carpet backing when it's behind tall carpet fibers. Encapsulation, which bubbles that dirt to the surface of carpeting, or steam, which loosens the soil, so it's easier to remove, can mean a deeper clean for rugs with high and thick fibers.
Vacuum cleaners also do not have enough suction to restore the nap, meaning the height, of the carpet pile. When a professional carpet cleaner injects steam or hot water into the fabric used for carpet threads, this process can make those fabrics seem taller and fluffier. In turn, matted down rugs, or areas of dented carpeting, are restored to their original height.
Vacuum cleaners alone also cannot sanitize carpets. Rugs in a residential home may have stains from pet waste and vomit, and a carpet in a commercial building may be stained from dropped foods or spilled beverages. These stains and their resultant germs and bacteria cannot be removed with the suction of a vacuum, even a heavy-duty model used by janitors! However, shampoos and detergents can clean and remove germs, bacteria, and other such contaminants from a rug.
Deodorizers can also be added to the detergents used for cleaning carpeting, or during a final rinse and extraction process. These deodorizers don't just mask odors, but they remove the cause of those bad smells.
This deodorizing treatment, too, is especially necessary for homes with pets, as well as locations where the carpets are exposed to cigarette smoke, cooking oils, production and automotive fluids and greases, and the like. These odors are nothing to ignore; living or working in an area with lots of bothersome smells can mean headaches and fatigue. A high-quality deodorizer for the carpets can then make your entire home or your commercial building smell fresh and clean.
Carpet padding that has gotten wet may also be holding mold and mildew, and this padding cannot be adequately cleaned with a vacuum alone. Steam cleaning or shampooing will reach that padding and help to wash away mold from the bottom of carpet padding so that it doesn't spread to the building's subfloor and doesn't create a bothersome odor.
Additional benefits of professional carpet cleaning
Along with getting carpets cleaner than you could with any vacuum, note a few additional benefits of having rugs professionally cleaned or shampooed:
- The color of the flooring may be restored with a deep cleaning. Carpets can appear lighter or more faithful to their original color, rather than dingy and gray. You may not even realize how dull the color of your carpets at home or in the office has gotten over the years until you have them professionally cleaned!
- Regular cleaning of carpets by a professional carpet cleaner avoids a shortened lifespan for those rugs. Pile or carpeting yarn that is matted down with dust and dirt may eventually become ruined so that the nap of a carpet's surface can never be restored. Regular cleaning avoids this problem so that you need to replace the carpets far less often than if you cleaned them with standard vacuums alone.
- Consistent cleaning by a professional can mean fewer allergens and other irritants that get caught in carpeting. A person may then suffer fewer sinus irritations and allergy attacks when carpets in a home or office are regularly shampooed or steam-cleaned rather than just being vacuumed.
Another benefit of professional carpet cleaning is that this might remove stains you don't even see in the rug! Some stains may not be visible because their color matches the carpet, or they may be set very deep in the carpet fibers so that you can't see them on the surface of the rug. You may also not realize that a foul odor in your home or office is due to stains in the carpet, but a professional cleaning will remove these and ensure the carpet is as clean as possible.
Some home or commercial carpeting may also have a warranty that will cover the cost of replacing that carpet if it should get damaged, but that warranty may require that you have the carpets professionally cleaned on a regular basis. Check the paperwork or receipt for when the carpet was installed, or the manufacturer's website if you cannot find your receipt, to note if should have those rugs cleaned regularly to maintain that warranty.
Professional carpet cleaning vs. doing it yourself
Since many professional carpet cleaners use a rotating brush with shampoo or detergent to clean carpets, and these machines are easy to rent at a home improvement store, why not try to manage this job yourself? There are a few reasons why it's good to always rely on the services of a professional when it comes to carpet cleaning and some common mistakes that homeowners and even custodial staff often make when trying to manage carpet cleaning on their own.
- Different carpet materials need different types of cleaning. Delicate silk fabrics might be damaged with a heavy scrubbing brush, whereas absorbent cotton or wool fabric might need a more thorough cleaning, to remove all the dust, dirt, and mud they've absorbed.
- Absorbent fabrics like cotton and wool may need more extraction so that all traces of water and liquid detergents are removed after the cleaning process.
- If the carpets are in a very humid environment, a dry cleaning method may be recommended so that carpets can dry properly. Rugs that are left damp after cleaning may develop mold and mildew on the underlay or padding, which may even spread to the structure's subfloor.
- Harsh detergents and shampoos can damage delicate carpet materials or the dyes used for those carpets so that a rug's color is then compromised or outright ruined.
- Not rinsing or extracting the carpets can result in shampoo residue being left behind, which can become sticky and attract more dust and dirt after this initial cleaning.
- A sizeable rotating brush can pull on threads and fibers of some carpeting, especially those with a low, closed loop. The carpet may then look threadbare or show areas of "pilling" after it's been cleaned.
Consider some additional reasons why you always want to leave carpet cleaning to a professional. For one thing, a professional rug cleaner will know how to check carpet padding and backing for potential mold growth and will ensure carpets are cleaned through to their padding, where mold might be growing. A light cleaning can be useful for some rugs, but lighter cleaning methods won't remove mold, mildew, ground-in pet stains, spilled beverages, and other such contaminants that have reached the carpet's underlay.
Store-bought deodorizers may merely mask carpet odors with heavy perfumes so that the carpet odors will be noticeable again once those perfumes wear off or get vacuumed away. These deodorizers can also be very bothersome to the sinuses, and especially for those who have allergies, asthma, and other breathing disorders.
Carpet cleaning can be more difficult than many people realize; tanks of water are heavy and typically need to be lifted to be emptied, often more than once during the cleaning process. The steam used for cleaning rugs, along with the shampoo used for cleaning, can spread and then damage walls, furniture, and other nearby surfaces. It can also be dangerous to get too close to that steam, as it may burn skin or sinuses.
Carpet cleaning machines are also hefty and cumbersome and can be difficult to manage correctly. They also take some skill to control, as you need to apply pressure to reach the bottom layer of the rug's pile, but don't want to use so much weight that you damage those fibers!
Does professional carpet cleaning make a rug last longer?
- Dirt and debris in a carpet can weigh down its pile so that it looks flat and matted. The longer this dirt stays in the carpeting, and the more it's ground into that yarn by foot traffic, the harder it is to remove. Eventually, those strands of yarn will remain permanently matted. However, regular professional cleaning will remove this dirt so that the nap of carpeting it not ruined.
- Regular carpet cleaning can ensure that mold and mildew do not form around the carpet's underlay or padding so that it doesn't get ruined by these contaminants. This cleaning can also ensure that carpeting doesn't begin to develop a musty smell.
- Ground-in dirt may eventually ruin the dyes used for carpet yarn so that the color cannot be restored. When you have your rugs regularly shampooed by a professional, this can prolong the life of those dyes so that the carpet's color stays truer, longer.
When to have carpets professionally cleaned
It's typically recommended that you have your rugs professionally cleaned every year, as mentioned, but it's good to increase this schedule if rugs in your home or office are prone to being especially filthy. However, you may not know your floors need additional cleaning just by looking at them!
- If someone in the house smokes, this smoke can get trapped in carpet fibers, and the carpet itself may then smell like cigarettes. Unfortunately, smokers and those around them may become "nose blind" to this smell, so it's good to have carpets cleaned every few months in this case, even if you don't notice a cigarette odor in the carpets.
- Pets in the home may have more mud, dirt, and even waste under their paws, which then gets ground into the carpeting every time they walk across your floors. It's also not uncommon for pet owners to become "nose blind" to pet odors in the carpeting, so it's good to have rugs at home cleaned more often if you have pets of any variety!
- The more foot traffic over the carpets, the more likely it is that dirt and debris will get ground into those fibers and the carpet's backing. If you have a large family or often entertain at home, or if you have many people on staff in a commercial facility, have the rugs cleaned more frequently than annually, to protect their overall condition.
- Dampness in a home or commercial facility can mean that a carpet is holding moisture, so that mold may then develop under the carpet's backing or along its padding. If your home or commercial building has had plumbing leaks or is poorly insulated so that it always traps humidity, it's good to have the carpets cleaned several times throughout the year, to remove any mold it may be holding.
- Very dense or tall carpeting pile is likely to hold and trap more dirt and dust, so have these styles of rugs cleaned as often as possible.
- Because rugs can hold pet hair and dander, human hair and shed skin cells, pollen, and other such irritants and allergens, it's good to have those carpets often cleaned if someone in the family or office staff has allergies, breathing disorders, and the like. If the perfumes and other chemicals in carpet shampoo aggravate those allergies, consider steam clean without detergents, as this can still remove a tremendous amount of dirt but without bothering someone's sinuses.
Remember, too, that it's good to have carpets professionally cleaned if you're thinking of putting your home or commercial facility on the real estate market. You may not realize that those carpets are holding bothersome odors, or may not understand how matted down they are, but freshly cleaned rugs can make any home or commercial facility look and smell its best, and ready for an open house and tour!