I know it’s a strange heading for an article, but here in Adelaide where we do business. We come across a lot of them.
I spend a lot of time on the phone talking to customers. I’m always surprised by the amount misconceptions people have in regard to our industry.
So I think a good place to start this article off is with a definition of what a misconception actually is.
The Oxford English dictionary defines it as:
“A view or opinion that is incorrect because it is based on faulty thinking or understanding”
As in any industry, there are always misconceptions about what is truth and what is fiction.
The carpet and upholstery cleaning industry is no different.
This article deals with the 9 most common ones that I seem to come across time and time again.
So let’s get into it and see exactly what they are.
1. You should wait as long as possible before you steam clean a new carpet.
This one appears to originate from the retail carpet stores themselves. They often seem to tell their customers this after the purchase of a carpet.
From what I can work out they to do this because:
- If they can convince the customer to delay getting the carpet cleaned as along as possible. Then there is less chance of them coming back with any problems over the shorter term.
- The longer the customer delays that first clean, then there’s a good chance that not all the ground in dirt will come out. This of course shortens the life of the carpet. It creates another potential sale for the store down the track.
This kind of advice is of course total rubbish. From what I can see it’s only purpose is to serve the interests of the store owners themselves.
Wear and tear
On average, carpets should be thoroughly cleaned at least once a year.
The reason for this is not because of the stains and marks that you see on the surface. Though for appearance reasons it is of course nice to get rid of them as well.
It’s more about getting the fine dirt out that’s below the surface that you can’t see.
These minute particles that get walked deep into the pile do the most damage to your carpet.
Those particles end up working their way down and sitting around the bases of the carpet fibers.
What happens as you walk on the carpet, and those particles move and scrape against those fibers?
That’s right. They act like sandpaper, and over time, wear through the base of those fibers.
Then as you vacuum your carpet they just end up breaking off and get sucked out. This weakens the integrity of the pile and before you know it..
Your carpet is starting to look worn out and thin.
These fine particles also cause another problem, especially with untreated nylon carpets.
They can work their way right into the fine cracks of the actual fibers themselves. These cracks are the dye sites where the dye that gives the carpet its color resides.
With lighter colored carpets there is a smaller percentage of these dye sites filled with the dye. This means there are a lot of them open to these fine particles that can work their way in there.
Once they get into the fiber they are impossible to remove. What we then see over time is a gradual buildup of permanent soiling in the walkways.
Look near any kitchen doorway with light colored carpet and you’ll see a greying of the carpet.
That is traffic lane soiling and once neglected is impossible to remove.
2. Carpet and upholstery can take days to dry.
There is no doubt that this can occur. Carpets after all, are nearly always cleaned with a process that involves some moisture.
From my own experiences, problems only occur because of operator error. It’s generally not the cleaning method itself.
So how long should it take for a carpet to dry?
In general if you are using a professional carpet steam cleaning technician. The carpets shouldn’t take much longer than about 6-8 hours to dry.
There are of course many factors that can affect the drying time.
- The temperature and humidity on the day
- The type of carpet
- The cleaning method used
- The thickness of the pile
- Airflow and ventilation
All these play a significant part.
A professional carpet cleaner should be able to give you a pretty good estimate of drying time. He would know from experience just by looking at the type of carpet and the surroundings.
3. Steam cleaning shrinks your carpet
If you are using a professional and reputable business to get your carpets cleaned. This should never be an issue.
In all the years I have been cleaning carpet. I’ve only ever seen it when people have either:
- Tried to clean the carpets themselves
- Used somebody with little experience and poor equipment.
This problem usually occurs due to too much water sprayed into the carpet and not enough vacuum to suck it out.
I have also seen it occur with dry cleaning as well. In this case the bonnet pads used weren’t wrung out enough and the carpet became saturated.
In a lot of cases the carpets don’t actually shrink but loosen and ripple over time. This is because the backing, which is often hessian, loses its tension as it expands.
This then leads to delamination of the carpet, ripples and general looseness.
Wool carpets have the largest risk of shrinkage because its a natural fibre. This only occurs when they become saturated and take a long time to dry.
Again, if you are using a carpet cleaning professional. This is something they would strive to avoid at all costs.
4. Carpet cleaning promotes mold and mildew growth causing allergy problems.
Moist conditions definitely can be breeding grounds for mold and mildew. But there is also another factor that comes into play and that is how soiled the carpet is.
It is the dirt and soils that become trapped in the carpet that actually hold the moisture. This then gives rise to molds and mildew.
The effects of mold growth in soiled vs clean carpet detailed in this report from Hydrolab in the US.
With proper airflow and ventilation and a professional carpet cleaner cleaning the carpets. You should never have a mold or mildew problem.
There are also other ways of reducing the moisture in the carpet after cleaning by using:
- Fans and heaters.
- “Running over” the carpet with a dry carpet bonnet pad on a rotary scrubber after steam cleaning. This method generally cuts moisture content by up to 50%.
These are again methods that any professional carpet cleaner would be well aware of.
5. Steam cleaning eliminates dust mites in carpet & upholstery
While it is true that steam cleaning has a big effect on decimating dust mite populations.
They are in fact impossible to get rid of completely.
Dust mites are able to survive and thrive because they have a short life cycle. They are also able to start a whole new population from just one surviving pregnant female.
In my article How to get rid of dust mites: 10 things you need to know I detail everything there is to know about them.
Anyone claiming that they can 100% eradicate them, is either misinformed or misleading you.
6. All carpet cleaning methods are the same
This is one of the most common misconceptions and there are a variety of carpet cleaning methods.
Some are more thorough than others, some leave the carpets wetter than others and some use no water at all.
The methods available fall under the categories of either:
If you want to know exactly what the differences are then I recommend that you read this article.
This article looks into all the various methods of carpet cleaning. It compares the positives and negatives of each so that the reader can make an informed choice.
7. Having professional equipment is all you need to be a good carpet cleaner
Well it would be nice if this were true. I could have saved a heap of time and money on studying and training.
Being a professional carpet cleaner starts with a detailed knowledge of the carpets themselves. Their construction, the different types of fabrics, problems that can arise, etc..
Then there are the chemicals used. Certain carpets and upholstery need specific methods of cleaning.
Stain removal is an area that requires some knowledge of chemistry to get a good outcome. Without it you run the risk of fixing in stains or wrecking delicate fabrics.
As you can see. There is a lot more to being a professional carpet cleaner than just turning up to a job with good equipment.
8. You should always shop around for the cheapest price
There is an old saying that says “you get what you pay for”. This is particularly true in the carpet and upholstery cleaning industry.
Prices do vary a lot and so you have to do your due diligence in assessing what is right for you. But if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.
You have to bear in mind that if someone is offering their services at a discounted price. There are only 2 reasons for that:
- They are either running a promotion and discounting in the hope that you will try their service. The hope is that you will go on to become a long term customer.
- They are trying to undercut the competition on price. Unfortunately, this also means they will have to cut as many corners as possible when they do your job. Less money means less time allocated. This means they will whip through it as fast as possible and it won’t be a thorough clean.
Before ringing around to get prices for your cleaning, make a checklist. I would recommend you ask:
- The type of cleaning method
- What type of equipment
- How much they charge
- Estimated time to complete the job
- What kind of insurances they have
- How long they have been in business
- What industry training they have
You’ll soon find you’ll build up a good picture of who you can trust and who you can’t.
Just ask the questions!
9. It’s cheaper and easier to clean your carpets yourself.
Unfortunately this is one misconception that accounts for a lot of wrecked carpets.
Now on the face of it, hiring or purchasing a machine may look like a good short term idea to save money. The only problem is you can’t factor in the damage to the carpet over the longer term.
Here’s an example of my own experience with this mindset and what happened.
I bought my first house before I became a carpet cleaner. I had light pink carpet and of course they didn’t take long to get dirty.
Well, my attitude at the time like all young people, was one of saving money. There was no way I was going to spend, $100 getting someone to do what I figured I could do myself.
So I set aside a Friday night to do it and off I went to the supermarket to hire their $30 “carpet cleaning” machine.
So I got the machine and followed the instructions that came with it.
This meant putting the cleaning solution into the rinse tank.
By the way I should point out here that this is just a sneaky way of making sure your carpets re-soil in a short time. Then you have to go hire the machine again.
Great for the machine hiring company. Bad for your carpets and wallet.
So anyway I got stuck into it and as per the instructions went over and over the carpet with the wand to remove the dirt.
Well it took me forever to do the job because the extraction machine and wand that came with it were pretty small.
Well the upshot of all this is that I ended up soaking the carpet because I was going over and over it pumping the water in.
At the end of a couple of hours of hard work I looked proudly at my nice clean but totally saturated carpet.
Well a few things happened after that:
- The carpet took a long time to dry and there was a musty moldy smell a few days later. My partner at the time who was asthmatic also had an asthma attack.
- After a couple of months I noticed the carpet had loosened. It had developed a slight ripple through it (this I found out later was the effect of saturating the backing)
- There was a slight brown sheen over the whole carpet as well (I had in fact caused cellulose browning to occur). This is due to excessive alkaline detergent and the carpet taking so long to dry.
All these problems were due to my total ignorance when it came to carpet cleaning.
It actually cost me more in the long run because I was having to rehire the machine every 3 months. All that soap I left in the carpet unbeknown to me just made it sticky and attract dirt back to it.
This excessive cleaning meant it was getting looser and browner too as time went on.
After about 5 years the carpet looked terrible, and when i ripped it up. It fell apart.
The back of it was black from mold and it had rotted from all the moisture I’d left in it.
That was a carpet that should have lasted 10-15 years or more had I had it professionally cleaned.
So my supposed short term money saving actually cost me a lot more in the long run.
I guess I got what I paid for.
Well I hope this article has helped to address some of the misconceptions that are around.
I’m sure there would be a few more but I think I have addressed the main ones.
Which of these misconceptions have misled you in the past, and what happened to change your mind?
I’d love to hear about peoples various experiences, so be sure to leave a comment below.