A Consumer Guide To
Carpet Cleaning

This consumer guide was written to provide you with information about carpet cleaning, so when you select a cleaning company you can make an informed, intelligent decision.

As the owner of New Life Carpet & Upholstery Service, Inc, I have spent over 30 years cleaning carpet and upholstery fabric in Philadelphia and its suburbs. During my career, I've attended numerous educational seminars and training classes to keep up to date with changes in the carpet cleaning industry.

This continuing education allowed me to earn multiple certifications by the IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification) and gave me the basics on how to properly clean carpet, upholstery, tile & grout and wood flooring. This together with hands on experience has taught me that carpet cleaning is the subject of much confusion.

Between the misleading advertising, confusing claims and just plain bad information is it any wonder people have so many misconceptions about carpet cleaning? These misconceptions don't make choosing a carpet cleaner easy. For this reason this consumer guide was written, to help you better understand carpet cleaning.

In this consumer guide I'm going to share with you 6 Costly Misconceptions about carpet cleaning, plus I'll offer 4 recommendations when choosing a cleaning company. I'll even give you 9 questions you should ask ANY carpet cleaner before you invite them into your home or business.

Consumer Guide Misconception #1:  You should wait as long as possible before cleaning your carpet.

Not True!   Dirt, particularly dry soil can act like sandpaper, abrasively grinding away at your carpet with every step you take. Over time this abrasive grinding scrapes and cuts your carpet fibers like a knife. These carpet fibers end up filling your vacuum cleaner bag.

Although frequent vacuuming helps to slow the damaging effects of the dry soil, it does little if anything to remove the oily, sticky dirt tracked in on our shoes. Or the spots and stains caused by food and drink spills or the contamination and odor of pet accidents.  Spots and stains left in the carpet become more difficult to remove and can become permanent.

The longer you wait to have your carpet cleaned, the more damage you do to your carpet and the faster it wears out or uglies out. 

Consumer Guide Misconception #2: The Only Reason To Clean Your Carpet Is To Remove The Dirt and Improve The Appearance.

Not True!   Most people hire a carpet cleaner because their carpet has a dirty appearance. They are motivated by an upcoming celebration, guests arriving, or they just can't stand the spots, spills, and matted dark traffic areas. Often, when I'm on site assessing the scope of a carpet cleaning project, the client will walk to a room and say, "Let's skip this one it doesn't look dirty".

Carpet cleaning is not just about removing dirt and improving the appearance of your home. It's about protecting you and your family and safeguarding their health by removing pollutants and contaminants that can affect your quality of life.

Outdoor air contains air pollution, bacteria, pollens, fungus, cigarette smoke, car exhaust plus many other chemicals. When you enter your home, you carry those toxins in your hair, and on your skin, clothing and shoes. To make the situation worse, your indoor air quality can be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. These harmful contaminates and toxins wind up in your carpet and furniture.

If you suffer from allergies, asthma, emphysema, or other breathing problems, a big source of your problem could be the pollens, fungus, smoke and chemicals in your carpet.

Consider also that today's carpet mills are manufacturing carpet with colors and fibers designed to hide soil. By the time the you see evidence of soiling, your carpet is already overdue for a cleaning. The longer a carpet remains uncleaned, the more difficult it is to restore the appearance.

The best strategy is to clean for health first then appearance. When carpet is cleaned for health first, a good appearance naturally follows.

Consumer Guide Misconception #3: One carpet cleaning method is as good as another.

Not True!  In theory, any "professional" method should be able to deliver clean carpet.  In reality many of these methods do a poor job of soil removal, They cause rapid re-soiling soon after cleaning, they create a more polluted indoor environment than before cleaning and can even cause permanent damage to your carpet.

The following are the most common methods used by professional carpet cleaners. They can be classified as either a dry cleaning, low moisture cleaning, or wet cleaning.

Dry carpet cleaning (not to be confused with the dry cleaning process of your clothing) involves the use of absorbent powders, dry chemicals or dry foam which are designed to absorb the dirt in your carpet.

These chemicals are worked into the carpet and then vacuumed out. This method is referred to as "dry" because the carpet can be used immediately following the cleaning, however, they are not effective in cleaning heavily soiled carpet and leave a chemical residue and soil in your carpet.

With low moisture cleaning methods, the carpet is first thoroughly vacuumed to remove dry soil. Almost 80% of all soil in a carpet is dry gritty soil that can be removed with a thorough vacuuming. By thoroughly vacuuming to remove this dry particulate soil, only the sticky, oily type dirt remains.

Next, a cleaning solution is applied to the carpet, allowing it to penetrate to the base of the carpet pile. A floor machine fitted with a cleaning pad is then used to agitate and clean all sides of the carpet fibers. This breaks up stubborn spots, liquifies any remaining soil and contaminants and lifts matted pile to its original condition.

A second pad is used to absorb and thoroughly remove any remaining the soil, leaving the carpet fibers clean, healthy, fresh and bright. A "post cleaning" vacuuming should be performed to groom the carpet. Your carpet dries quickly and can be put back in use in an hour or two.

The wet cleaning method, commonly know as steam cleaning or hot water extraction works by injecting hot cleaning solution under pressure into the carpet fibers followed by immediate extraction. Hot water extraction is recommended by Shaw Industries, the world's largest carpet manufacturer as the primary method of cleaning carpet provided the cleaning is performed by an IICRC certified technician.     

The appeal of cleaning with hot water extraction is the use of high cleaning temperatures to break up the dirt, pollen, bacteria and chemicals in the carpet along with the ability to flush this dirt out of the carpet. The machine then uses strong suction to draw the soil and moisture out of your carpet leaving your carpet clean, fresh, healthy and bright. Ideal drying time is generally 4-6 hours before the carpet can be put back in use, however, depending on humidity level and amount of water needed to properly clean the carpet, drying time can often be 12 hours or longer.

In summary, dry carpet cleaning methods rely on the use of absorbing chemicals to remove dirt. Not an effective method. Low moisture methods rely on applying a cleaning solution followed by carpet agitation and a pad to absorb and remove soil. The most effective method. The wet cleaning method uses a pressurized hot cleaning solution and extraction to remove soil. Can be an effective method.

A key element to any effective cleaning method starts with a thorough vacuuming. A good pre-vacuuming is a critical step for a thorough cleaning. Another critical element to a healthy, long lasting clean is the cleaning solution itself.

Many cleaning agents contain toxic chemicals and leave behind detergent residues. The result is an unhealthy indoor environment and carpeting that within a few days or weeks can look like it was never cleaned. Defeats the purpose of having your carpet cleaned doesn't it?.

Consumer Guide Misconception #4: All a company needs to clean your carpet properly is the right equipment.

Not True! This misconception can really apply to any profession. Just because a company owns equipment to perform a job, doesn't mean they teach their employees how to use the equipment properly. The same holds true for carpet cleaning. Utilizing unqualified or untrained employees can result in an improper cleaning and even damage to your carpet and home furnishings.

This is why it's important  that you choose a carpet cleaner carefully. The best carpet cleaning companies are those that use technicians certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, known as the IICRC. This certification is earned not bought and requires experience, study and the successful completion of written examinations.

Ask to see the technician's certification before they start the job. If they don't have proof, don't use them.

Consumer Guide Misconception #5: You should hire the company that offers the lowest price.

Not True! I've seen too many problems occur from the lowest bid companies that I suggest you NEVER hire a company based on the cheapest price. The two most common problems are:
(1) The price you are quoted might not be for the services you want or need. In order to stay in business a company can only perform so much service for the price quoted. Lowest bid companies are no different. They need to cut corners to make up for the low price which is usually reflected in the cleaning product quality, poor equipment and inferior workmanship. You may be expecting a thorough 5 star cleaning but they can only afford to give a minimal 2 star job.

If you want to receive the carpet cleaning service you expect, then you need to hire a company that will spend the time to thoroughly clean the carpet. A company who uses quality cleaning products that won't leave behind a sticky dirt attracting residue. A service which provides detailed workmanship using state of the art equipment to ensure your carpet is clean, healthy, fresh and bright.

(2) The price you pay might not be the price you see advertised. Many homeowners have learned the hard way that the low price they saw advertised only lasted until the carpet cleaner got his foot in the door. Once inside their home, they are pressured into paying a lot more.

These advertisements are known as "bait and switch" tactics. They bait you with a very cheap advertised price then switch you into paying much more with high pressure sales. Some of these tactics can be considered illegal and amount to breaking the law.

Unfortunately, as in all professions, the carpet cleaning industry also has its share of unethical or downright unscrupulous actors. With misleading advertising and false promises they cloud our entire industry.

Only by educating the public and working hard to earn your trust and respect, can other carpet cleaners, professionals like me, provide you with the highest amount of value. The only way you can make an informed decision is to have all the facts. That's why I've written this consumer's guide to carpet cleaning.

Consumer Guide Misconception #6: Any honest carpet cleaning company should be able to give you an exact price over the telephone.

Not true! Carpet cleaning companies that are honest and reputable usually price carpet cleaning by the square foot. Quoting a price on a per room basis assumes every room is the same size or has the same amount of carpet to be cleaned. The amount of cleanable carpet in a room is unique with respect to size and whether it's filled with furniture or empty.

To quote a set price per room makes for a convenient sight unseen phone estimate but doesn't consider other factors relevant in determining the exact cost of cleaning. To give you an idea of how I estimate the cost of cleaning, here are three things I consider.

First, the amount of soiling. Carpet that has been neglected and not cleaned for 8 years will take longer to clean than carpet we cleaned 8 months ago. Also, my approach to cleaning when a carpet has not been maintained for several years changes from a maintenance cleaning to a more aggressive restorative cleaning.

Second, the type of carpet including the fiber content, style and age. Certain types of carpet are more difficult to clean than other types.

Third, Is the room empty or full of furniture? How much furniture has to be moved? A room full of furniture, piles of stuff, and toys will take longer to clean than an empty room. To give you an exact cost of cleaning your carpet, I use a measuring tool to calculate the exact number of square feet that you want cleaned.

As you can imagine, every quotation is different when you take into consideration the amount of soil, maintenance history, carpet type and the amount of furniture needed to be moved. To quote an exact price over the telephone would be unfair to you and me.

This Consumer Guide's 4 Recommendations to a clean, fresh, healthy carpet

If you're thinking about having your carpet cleaned, I encourage you to follow this consumer guide's four recommendations:

Consumer Guide Recommendation #1: Start by making a commitment to yourself to get your carpet cleaned. Remember, the longer your carpet stays dirty the sooner your carpet wears or uglies out. Plus, the longer you subject you and your family to breathing all the allergens and contaminants that hide in your carpet.

Consumer Guide Recommendation #2:  List your goals. Do you want to just improve the appearance of your carpet, something you can do with a rented machine? Or do you want to remove all the dirt, allergens and contaminates which requires a thorough deep cleaning, like I provide?

Do you want to work with an honest and reputable company that offers a money back guarantee and will return to correct anything you are not completely satisfied with? Or are you willing to risk working with a company that offers you the lowest price, knowing that your carpet could be poorly cleaned and permanently damaged or that the company might not be in business tomorrow?

Consumer Guide Recommendation #3: Ask questions. The best way to learn about a company is to ask specific questions and listen carefully to the answers. As the owner of a carpet cleaning company, here are tough questions I would suggest you ask before you allow a carpet cleaner to begin cleaning your carpet.

1. What method of carpet cleaning do you recommend for my carpet?
2. What type of equipment do you use to clean carpet?
3. What will your cleaning service remove from my carpet?
4. Do you use any detergent based cleaners and are they green seal certified?
5. How safe are your cleaning products for my family and pets?
6. Do you guarantee your work and what is the guarantee?
7. Are you insured?
8. What training have you had in cleaning carpet?
9. Are your technicians certified by the IICRC?

Consumer Guide Recommendation #4: Once you're satisfied you're working with an honest and competent professional, invite them into your home and ask for a specific written quotation. A written quote eliminates surprises and gives you the assurance of knowing exactly what your job will cost.

By following this consumer guide to carpet cleaning you'll aquire all the information you need to make an intelligent and informed decision. If you want a quick, cheap, "just make it look better" carpet cleaning job, there are many companies to choose from.

However, if you want your carpet to be properly and thoroughly cleaned - removing all the soil, allergens and contaminants, if you want to provide your family with carpet that's clean, healthy, fresh and bright, then I invite you to call me. I'll be happy to answer your questions about this consumer guide or carpet cleaning in general and provide you with a FREE Carpet Assessment, without pressure or obligation.

I hope you found this Consumer Guide to carpet cleaning to be helpful. To schedule a cleaning or free Carpet Assessment, please call 215-482-8304. I also offer upholstery cleaning, stone, tile & grout cleaning, wood floor cleaning and carpet repair services.

Best regards,

David Webster
New Life Carpet & Upholstery Service, Inc.

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