Some Carpet Cleaning Myths…

As a carpet cleaner I get to hear some interesting views from carpet owners, not all are accurate and some just defy common sense. I don’t have an actual degree in carpet manufacturing or science, but based on the experience I have from cleaning thousands of carpets, here’s my take on a few of the myths out there…

“You shouldn’t clean wool carpet, because it removes the lanolin”

This is far from the truth! Wool undergoes a stripping process called ‘scouring’ before it makes it to the carpet factory. This process uses detergents and high heat to remove the lanolin, grease and other contaminants from the fibre. If any lanolin were to make it through to the final product, the oily nature of the lanolin would attract dirt to the carpet like a magnet, resulting in a seriously dirty carpet in a very short time.

“You should leave it as long as possible before cleaning a carpet for the first time, because after that it will become soiled much faster”

Another myth that is far from fact, although this may have stemmed from the old days when carpet cleaners often used sticky detergents to dry clean carpets, and didn’t remove all the residue (which will attract dirt quickly). If a carpet is cleaned using accepted standards of hot water extraction, there should be no sticky residue left behind to attract soil.

“If a spill happens on the carpet, pour on lots of water and jump on a towel to get the water and spill out”

This is probably the most common mistake people make when they spill something on the carpet. Why? Firstly, pouring water on the problem will often push the residue from the spill deeper into the carpet. Secondly, it’s very difficult to get bulk moisture out from the underlay beneath the carpet by simply treading a towel onto the area. You might get away with it sometimes, but if the carpet has a jute backing (that’s the brown grassy looking mesh on the back of the carpet), the lignin dye can come out of the jute and migrate up to the fibre above. This will leave the area looking “browned out” and usually visually worse than the original stain. The longer the area takes to dry, the darker this can appear. The best way to apply water to remove a spill is through a trigger sprayer – spray on carefully and blot off with a towel without scrubbing the area.

“Using bleach on carpet will cause damage to the fibre”

Actually, I’d generally go along with that. If we’re talking wool carpet, then yes, chlorine bleach (for example Janola) will actually dissolve the fibre! On polypropylene carpets the bleach will almost certainly be ok to use, but we advise against it anyway unless the carpet type has been identified first. Some nylon carpets will lose colour easily with the use of bleach, while others will not, but why risk it?

“Having a carpet protector applied to the carpet will stop it getting dirty and stained”

While a protector may give you more time to get to a stain before it sets, it won’t stop a carpet from staining. A protector (there are water based and solvent based types) adds a film to the upper fibre on your carpet. This film slows down the progress a stain makes into the fibre and gives you more time to get the problem sorted before it takes hold. Customers should be made aware when paying for protector application that it doesn’t make the carpet bullet proof. I haven’t noticed a difference between cleaning protected carpets vs non protected, but protector manufacturers generally claim the the carpet will clean up more easily if it’s had protector applied recently.

“Stains are returning and coming up in some areas on my carpet”

While this may appear to be the case, it just isn’t possible for an actual stain to reappear. Because a stain is effectively part of the fibre, it’s either there or it’s not. If you have spots or patches reappearing on your carpet, it’s usually more to do with residue that’s in the carpet. If the problem is seen within a day or two of the carpets being cleaned, it’s very likely that there was some residue (usually an old spill) in that spot which has “wicked up” to the surface of the fibre and settled on top. If the issue has presented itself weeks or months after the clean, it’s more likely to be an unseen detergent residue which is still in the carpet, and is now attracting dirt. This type or recurring spot will almost always be a dark grey or blackish colour.