Tips on how to choose a good carpet cleaner

How do I find a Carpet Cleaner I can trust?

If you’re looking to hire a carpet cleaner, this report will tell you how to avoid disaster by ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.

You’ll be able to tell over the phone whether the people you’re getting to clean your carpets are reliable, trustworthy and competent, or whether you’re going to get:

1.      An operator who is using a sub standard cleaning method

2.      An operator who uses harsh and unsuitable chemicals that could damage your carpet

3.      Soaking wet “squishy” carpets that stay wet for a week

4.      A quick 30 minute rush job after which the carpets don’t look any different (or worse…)

5.      A carpet cleaner that hasn’t invested in the training aspect of their business

6.      An operator with no real guarantees, and no insurance cover

7.      A carpet cleaner that can’t cope with basic stains


What should I watch out for?
·        Firstly, you should steer clear of operators that advertise an unbelievably low price. As you may have discovered during your years as a consumer, “you get what you pay for”…If you’re a tenant, and want every chance at getting your bond back in full, or if you’re a landlord that needs to get the carpets up to scratch to set an example for the incoming tenant, then you need an operator that gives you the best chance of achieving that. If you hire a carpet cleaner at a very low price, there’s a very good chance they’ll be in and out of the place within 30 minutes. Sure – the carpets will be dry quickly, but that’s because the cleaner hardly put any water through it (or detergent for that matter!). The carpet won’t look any different, and, as we see happen often, you’ll be stuck with the cost of hiring a second, more efficient carpet cleaner to redo the job.

·        Secondly, look for an operator who specialises in stain removal. If you have stain issues but still want to get your bond back, the last thing you need is a carpet cleaner who refuses to carry out stain treatment, or worse, one that ‘gives it a go’, but has no idea about what he’s doing! It’s very easy to make a stain worse. Stain treatment will normally cost extra, but a good carpet cleaner trained in the ‘art’ of stain removal should be able to tell you what to expect in terms of results after inspecting the problem. To be fair, stain removal isn’t a precise art and results can vary, even with the best in the business. Sometimes the best you can hope for is a reasonable ‘improvement’, rather than 100% removal.

·        Look out for operators that try to add costs on willy nilly after starting the job. A good business should be able to give you a quote, or at least a close estimate over the phone. If they start to add prices for things like detergent, travelling or other expenses, then you should smell a rat! Acceptable “add ons” should be limited to extra but understandable increases in time and resources spent on a job, such as stain removal, excessive soiling or extra rooms added to the scope of the job.

·        Look for an operator with a genuine guarantee. Someone who “guarantees you’ll be happy” isn’t really offering you protection against anything. A fantastic job is the minimum requirement for money to change hands – anything less should be unacceptable, in any industry. Their guarantee should reduce your risk as much as possible – that’s what guarantees are for!

·        Be wary of uninsured operators. A carpet cleaning business should be covered by insurance for damage to your property. This may not mean that the carpet itself is covered (the only way to ensure the carpet is safe is to pick a good operator who knows what they’re doing), but if he backs into your new car, or if his machine catches fire and burns the house down, you’ll want to know you’re covered!

7 Questions you should ask before hiring a carpet cleaner

1.    What method do they use?

Remember, there are lots of methods out there… hot water extraction gives you the best chance at flushing out the deep down dirt, and removing the nasties that are lurking beneath…

2.    What type of equipment and chemicals do they use?

Is it reasonably modern, and does it have the power to flush the carpet without soaking it? The chemical used should be safe to humans, from a reputable supplier, and as close as possible to neutral pH so as not to damage the carpet fibres.

3.    Approximately how long will the carpets take to dry?

If you’re told the carpet should be dry within a week, that’s probably an unacceptable length of time! However, if a hot water extraction operator tells you “dry within an hour”, you should be suspicious as well. Some operators deliberately use less water, at low pressure, to produce a fast drying time. This is great in terms of drying – but the carpet hasn’t been cleaned or flushed very well! As a rule, the carpet should feel “damp” when the job is finished, not soaking wet. If the carpet makes a ‘squishing’ sound when you walk on it, then that’s not acceptable either. The only part of the carpet that should be damp is the fibre – not the backing, and certainly not the underlay. A carpet that has been hot water extracted properly, with a good flushing action, should be dry to touch within 2 – 8 hours in summer, or 8 – 24 hours in winter. Conditions such as freezing cold temperatures, no air movement, high humidity and damp buildings are factors that can extend drying times. Most good operators will be happy to leave a large air mover behind to assist drying if needed, although this will normally cost extra.

4.    How long will the process take?

An average sized 3 to 4 bedroom house should take between one and a quarter to two and a half hours, depending on the level of soiling and the equipment used. A cleaner using a large petrol powered van mounted machine will generally be a lot quicker than one using a small portable machine that needs to be constantly emptied and refilled. If you take care of the vacuuming side of things (saving the cleaner time), and the carpet has only a low to medium level of soiling, then a thorough operator with a high powered van mounted machine should be able to get the job done in around 70 to 90 minutes (for an empty house – often longer for a furnished home). Then there are the variables such as stain treatment and scrubbing requirements.

5.    Are they trained in carpet cleaning and stain removal?

Just because a cleaner claims to have 50 years experience, doesn’t mean they have spent 50 years doing a great job! Most good carpet cleaners will have had industry training in areas such as carpet cleaning, fibre identification, chemistry, stain removal and other techniques. There is a huge amount of technical knowledge associated with carpet cleaning, and in particular stain treatment. There are cleaners out there who aren’t competent in treating or removing stains, and can make the problem worse. If you have staining issues, make sure the person you’re dealing with is experienced in this area.

Tip: ask your prospective carpet cleaner if they work for any local property managers. You can look up the property manager and check that they do good work – property managers are happy to recommend their best operators…

6.    Do they have a ‘rock solid’ Guarantee?

If an operator truly stands by their work, they’ll back that up with a good guarantee that gives you protection if you’re not completely happy with the work performed.

7.    Do they have liability insurance?

If something goes wrong, or if any damage occurs, you don’t want to be left ‘carrying the can’. A good business will have at least 1 million dollar limited liability cover. That type of insurance won’t normally cover the item being worked on (the carpet!) although it’s good to know that if anything (a TV, walls, doors etc) is damaged, then there’s coverage there.
Apart from that, carrying insurance shows a level of responsibility on the part of the operator as well.

Answers you get to these questions should give you a good ‘sense’ as to whether you’ve called the right people or not. Of course, you can’t beat the advantage of having an operator referred to you by someone who knows the industry and its operators well, such as a property manager. If you have your rental property managed, if you’re a tenant in a managed property, or if you’re a home owner, a call to a local property manager would be well advised.

Other things to know:
Some operators out there cut corners, and can potentially damage your carpet while trying to get the job done “quicker”.
If the carpets are moderately to heavily soiled, rather than use a safe detergent combined with a proper agitation or scrubbing technique, the cleaner may opt to use a heavy duty pre spray to loosen up the dirty areas. Some carpet cleaning chemicals out there (designed for commercial polypropylene carpets) can be as harsh as ammonia, and have a very high alkalinity. Wool and nylon residential carpets prefer a closer to neutral alkalinity, although some of these harsh chemicals will elevate the pH level of the carpet to many many times that level. This can damage the fibre of wool and nylon carpets, and drastically reduce any wear and stain resistance the carpet has, and also has the potential to leave behind a residue which will cause the carpet to rapidly resoil. Polypropylene carpets are not affected by alkalinity and can be cleaned with higher alkaline detergents.

You should also expect your carpet cleaner to take good care of your (or your landlords) house. Any conscientious carpet cleaner will have corner guards to protect walls and skirtings from hose damage, as well as place entry mats to reduce any extra soils entering the house while cleaning is in progress. If your house is damaged, it becomes YOUR problem!

You can find a great carpet cleaner simply by asking all the right questions. If the operator gives you the answers you want to hear, there’s a good chance you’ve found the people you’re looking for. If you choose a cleaner with a water tight guarantee, and the job doesn’t come up to scratch, then at least you’re not paying for sub standard work until it’s corrected…