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Are Carpet Cleaners All The Same?

Choosing a carpet cleaner

In a word, No. That was a short blog wasn't it!

As in all professions, there are good carpet cleaners and bad ones. But what actually makes a "good one" and what should you be looking for?

Most people are under the impression that cleaning a carpet is a simple job, that all carpets can be cleaned in the same way and that no real knowledge is needed. Indeed this is what I thought myself before embarking on a career change in carpet cleaning.

How wrong was I!!! The truth could not be further from the truth. The most important aspect of choosing a good carpet cleaner is the training they have undertaken. I myself have more than 40 hours of professional training under my belt.

I remember coming back from my first carpet cleaning course with a bulging A4 ring binder and a head scrambled with the complexities of the PH scale, how to test for dye bleed, avoiding carpet shrinkage, cellulosic browning, rippling, delamination, identifying the carpet construction type, fibre materials, weaves, tufteds, wovens, backing materials and so much more. But now, several more bulging ring binders later, I know this is essential knowledge to effectively and safely clean a carpet.

Untrained carpet cleaners can damage your expensive carpets and upholstery. There are many great carpet cleaners out there but as with all such industries there are cowboys too. If yours turns up on a horse don't answer the door!

Some carpet cleaners simply buy a second hand machine online or worse still, do not even use a professional machine. This brings me on to the second factor to consider when choosing a carpet cleaner. Professional high powered equipment.

How would you feel if you hired a carpet cleaner and they rolled up in a ford fiesta with a basic domestic machine you might find in a shop like Argos or hire from supermarket in the back seat! This happens. The better the equipment, the better the result and the lower the risks of problems.

Take carpet shrinkage as an example. This occurs when water penetrates the backing of certain carpets that contain vegetable fibres like Jute. The Jute, usually found in the wefts of the carpet, expands when wet causing other fibres in the warps to contract and hence shrinking your carpet, pulling it away from the gripper rods. This is caused generally by either poor carpet fitting with inadequate grippers / seam joins or from over wetting and not extracting away sufficient moisture when cleaning the carpet.

The machine I use is the top of the range model sold by Cleansmart in the UK, the Airflex Storm. It is fitted with two very powerful vacuum motors giving extreme suction power to extract more water and soil from your carpet leaving it cleaner and enabling it to dry faster with reduced risk of over wetting.

photo showing my carpet cleaning results

We also use professional cleaning solutions designed for the job. There are certainly cheaper alternatives but they are not as effective.

Your carpet cleaner should be insured should they damage your carpets. Many are not.

picture of wanted poster

As we know there are some unscrupulous people out there who will happily take advantage of people. A common example of this which is actually illegal is something called a bait and switch.

This is basically hooking someone with a cheap price on their website or flyer and then turning up and giving you a hard sell that you need a more expensive cleaning method for your carpet. Others will offer a bronze, silver and gold level of cleaning quoting for bronze and pushing for a higher level! There was a feature on carpet cleaners on rogue traders who were using a bait and switch.

Even if someone was offering to "clean any carpet for £20.00" or whatever the cheap deal was. How much was your carpet? Do you want to risk leaving it to an individual who can clean it for so little? Are they in high demand having to charge these prices even before they take away their wages, fuel, cleaning solutions and their advertising cost to get the job? If something goes wrong do you think they are insured or would even return your call? You should look to pay a fair price if you want a professional job.

But the biggest question is how will they clean your carpet? The correct H.W.E method as per the British standards Institute PAS 86 code of practice for professional carpet cleaners (Professional inspection, maintenance, cleaning and restoration of textile floor coverings) is as follows for hot water extraction cleaning. 

Initial inspection to identify carpet construction type, fibre material and conduct tests to ensure carpet is suitable to method of cleaning. Pre vacuum to remove loose surface soil and raise the pile. Treat stains. Prespray cleaning solution. Agitation of prespray and dwell time. Hot water extraction (commonly referred to as steam cleaning but that's a topic for another days blog). Reset the pile. Will your carpet cleaner do this or just some in and rinse the carpet with their machine and call it a day?

Some of you may well be reading this from outside of the area I cover (Colchester and Sudbury) so no doubt you are devastated that you can't use myself.

But to summarise what you are looking for; Ask them have you been professionally trained and if so by who? Have they got insurance? How would you clean my carpet? What carpet cleaning machine do they use? (you can then google the machine if you wish but if they are vague this is a good indication that it's not very good) and ask them if there are any hidden charges for different levels of cleaning.

But above all, just have a chat with them and you will get a feeling as to whether you are happy with them. Just don't call them up and just ask how much for my lounge carpet with no consideration to the above, as if you are only lead by price, you may not get what you are expecting.

The opinions expressed in this blog are of the author

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