Why Carpet Should be Cleaned Three-Dimensionally

As I travel the country speaking at seminars on facilities carpet care, I am struck by a fundamental misconception that facilities cleaning personnel have about carpet: It is perceived to be a one-dimensional floor covering.

It’s not. As the illustration clearly shows, carpet is three-dimensional. It has a top, a middle and a bottom. It also is a complex textile: What you see is not what you get. It looks like a horizontal surface, but the fibers are mostly vertical. It hides soil incredibly well, using a camouflage of color, density and texture.

It is no wonder that we have so many problems with carpet maintenance. We attempt to clean carpet without fully understanding the characteristics of the textile we’re cleaning. Consequently, we utilize tools and cleaning techniques that are ill suited to the task at hand. We use tools — rotary-style floor machines with pads or brushes, self-contained extractors that spray, brush and extract all in a single step — that are adaptations of tools used to clean one-dimensional hard-surface floors. But as noted above, carpet isn’t one-dimensional. Carpet cleaning efforts that mimic hard-surface floor cleaning, using tools and techniques that only clean the surface of the carpet, fail because two dimensions of the carpet have not been cleaned.

Clean All Dimensions
An effective carpet cleaning process will clean all dimensions of the carpet:

  • It will clean the surface, where the bound, sticky soils are found. These are the soils that are most noticed and those that one-dimensional cleaning focuses on exclusively. While it is imperative that these soils be removed in order for the carpet to “look” clean, they represent but a small fraction of the overall soil load in the carpet.
  • It will clean the fibers below the surface, where particles and non-soluble soils build up. These soils are found tangled within the fibers and surface-cleaning processes are incapable of removing them. When surface-cleaning processes are used, these soils build up and cause abrasive damage to the fibers. They also wick to the surface in the traffic areas as the carpet dries after cleaning, leaving the traffic areas looking dull, dingy and dirty.
  • It will clean down to the backing, and will flush out the liquid spills — such as coffee, soft drinks, fruit drinks — that migrate to the backing of the carpet. When surface-cleaning-only efforts are used to remove these spots, inevitably they come back as the spilled material that permeated the carpet all the way to the backing wicks to the surface as the carpet dries.

So how do we clean carpet three-dimensionally? Following is a three-step system that will achieve the objective.

Three-Dimensional Cleaning
Effective three-dimensional cleaning requires two distinct components: 1) soil suspension and 2) soil extraction. If you cut corners with either component the system will be ineffective. Drying is the third step. It is often overlooked but is an important part of an effective process.

Step 1: Soil Suspension
The primary role of soil suspension is to loosen the bond that holds soils to the tips of the fibers. These are the soils — usually spots or spills that are oily or sticky — that make the carpet look dirty, although they represent but a small fraction of the overall soil load. The soil suspension step requires chemical action, agitation and dwell time.

To begin, apply a traffic lane prespray to loosen the bound soils on the carpet surface. Wide variations in prespray performance (in terms of cleaning effectiveness and soil-attracting residues) has made clear that the use of a top-quality traffic lane prespray will pay dividends in the form of better results and labor savings.

Next, use mechanical action (agitation) to break loose the bound soils. Counter-rotating cylindrical brush machines are the preferred tools for this. They not only provide superior agitation, the brushing action pulls particle soils up to the surface where they can be more easily extracted.

Finally, allow your prespray 10-15 minutes of dwell time to maximize soil suspension.

Step 2: Soil Extraction
Steamin DemonOnce soils have been suspended, they must be removed. In order to do this effectively, a high-performance hot-water extraction system should be used. The options are truckmounts, portable truckmounts and high-flow extractors. Field studies have shown that high-flow extraction systems deliver superior extraction results. This is because high-flow systems remove substantially more soil by using four to six times as much of the media (water) that carries the soil out of the carpet, while leaving the carpet as dry or dryer than self-contained extractors. To better understand how this concept works, consider how vacuums remove dry soil. In vacuuming, air is the media that carries the soil from the carpet. Increased airflow results in increased soil removal. Likewise with water extraction cleaning, increased water flow results in increased soil removal.

When using a high-flow system for the extraction step, it is recommended that in the traffic areas you overlap your cleaning passes by half in order to maximize soil removal. The view window on the extractor allows the operator to see how much additional soil is being removed the second time over an area.

Step 3: Drying
Speed drying the carpet is prudent, easy and beneficial in several ways. Increasing air movement across the surface of the carpet using drying fans will result in thorough drying usually within a few hours. The benefits can be substantial, they include reduced wicking and resoiling, reduced down time, and elimination of concerns about wet carpet being a vehicle for mold or bacteria growth.

In the facilities world, one-dimensional carpet care has been ingrained for so long that the concepts described in this article may be difficult to accept at first. But consider this: We’ve been cleaning carpet in facilities one-dimensionally for years … and facilities carpet care has been a problem for years. In fact, many facilities cleaners would just as soon get rid of all the carpet and replace it with tile, because they are able to maintain tile successfully. (Of course, the cost to maintain tile is about double that of carpet.) If you are challenged by unacceptable carpet cleaning results, try something different. Try the techniques described in this article. You’ll be amazed at the difference. And if you aren’t, call me … on the carpet.

Article courtesy of cmmonline.com and John Downey Company

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New and Used Professional Carpet Cleaning and Restoration Equipment


Dry Foam Cleaning


Dry foam carpet cleaning is a version of the shampoo method. The term “dry” is a relative term used to describe the low amount of moisture used. Dry foam carpet cleaning utilizes special equipment equipped with a foam generator that whips the shampoo liquid into a foam before it is applied to the carpet. Most dry foam equipment utilizes cylindrical of reel type brush systems for agitation. Some dry foam equipment is also equipped with a vacuum recovery system to extract the soiled foam solution.

Dry Foam Cleaning


  • Dry foam systems utilize low amounts of moisture that results in fast drying times.
  • Minimal operator skill level is required.
  • Dry foam is an acceptable method for surface cleaning, if periodic extraction is available, in commercial maintenance programs.
  • Dry foam cleaning is capable of covering large areas in short periods of time.
  • Due to low moisture levels, problems associated with over wetting are minimized.


  • Relatively low to moderate level of soil removal.
  • Overlap areas in the cleaning process can result in streaks.
  • Little or no extraction capability can allow excessive soil and residue buildup.
  • Pile lifting and vacuuming after drying, as well as periodic hot water extraction is recommended when dry foam cleaning is used on a regular basis.

When using dry foam it is important to use a soil retardant shampoo like KK Kuik Dry Shampoo so as to leave crisp dry residues that can be removed with pile lifting and vacuuming. Waxy/sticky residues will cause accelerated re-soiling and can only be removed with hot water extraction corrective cleaning.

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Light Wand Techniques

General Principles

There are probably as many different wand stroking techniques as there are technicians using light wands. Let’s review some general principles as well as three basic wand stroking techniques you should be familiar with.

The cleaning tool should be comfortable to the operator. Adjust the handle so the operator can clean in an upright position. You won’t last long in this business if you do not employ good posture in your cleaning strokes. You will reduce operator fatigue if you are in a comfortable upright stance. Normally, start your cleaning in a typical home at the farthest point from where you will exit.

  • The amount of solution can be controlled by the trigger valve.
  • Always recover the solutions sprayed into the carpet pile as soon and thoroughly as possible.
  • Always be cautious of over-wetting.
  • Always avoid damage to seams by cleaning parallel to the seam.
  • Repair any cracks in cleaning wand opening to avoid snagging carpet fibers.
  • Never leave the cleaning wand sitting on the carpet when not in use.
  • Avoid nicks and gouges in woodwork by careful control of hoses and cleaning wand at all times.
  • Be careful not to damage flooring materials when cleaning next to them.

Block Method

The most basic wand stroke is the block method. Take an approximately 3 ft. by 4 ft. area and flush the area clean with the solution valve open. Follow this by re-extracting with solution valve off. Be sure to overlap the block area to pick up any over-sprayed solution. Also avoid the sawtooth effect by properly overlapping cleaning strokes.

Chop Stroke

The chop stroke can be very helpful in heavily soiled areas and in flushing spots out of carpet fibers. Use an up (3 inches) and back (5 inches) chop stroke with solution valve off, go back over the same area and re-extract with a dry only pass to insure proper solution recovery.

Paintbrush Stroke

Using the same pattern as the block method, the paintbrush stroke is used to eliminate overlap marks. Possible over-wetting and browning in overlap marks can also be controlled by utilizing a paintbrush stroke. An autobody painter begins his painting stroke before spraying paint and stops the paint spray before he ends his painting stroke. The same concept is applied to the cleaning wand in the paintbrush technique. The paintbrush technique will help control problems associated with the extra solution between the wand vacuum opening and the operator that often remains un-extracted.

Steam/Extraction Tools and Attachments

Drag Wand
The original carpet tools utilized in the steam extraction system were drag wands. Drag wands served a useful purpose in their time due to limited efficiency of steam/extraction units. They are heavy, cumbersome and difficult to maneuver around furniture and have for the most part been replaced with the light wand.

Light Wand
The development of the light wand has followed the evolution of steam/extraction equipment. Great maneuverability and versatility have made the light wand the most widely utilized tool today.

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New and Used Professional Carpet Cleaning and Restoration Equipment

Bonnet/Spin Pad Cleaning


Bonnet cleaning is commonly referred to as a “dry” carpet cleaning system. Although not completely dry, bonnet cleaning is considered a low moisture carpet cleaning system. Bonnet cleaning is accomplished by spraying a detergent/solvent solution over the face of the carpet pile. This can be done with hand pump style sprayers, power sprayers, CO2 pressure tanks or specialized spray systems attached to the floor machine. Immediately after spraying, the carpet is buffed with an absorbent pad attached to the machine. The carpet soil is absorbed into the pad. The pad is changed as it becomes soiled and thoroughly laundered prior to the next job. Best results are obtained when the pads are changed before becoming too wet.

Bonnet/Spin Pad Cleaning


  • The bonnet system is a relatively fast system enabling the operator to cover large areas quickly.
  • Bonnet cleaning is relatively fast drying.
  • Minimal operator skill required.
  • Excellent system for maintenance programs when used in conjunction with more thorough periodic soil extraction methods.


  • Bonnet cleaning is not noted for heavy soil removal.
  • No rinsing action.
  • Does not provide deep cleaning action.
  • Used absorbent pads require laundering between jobs.
  • High/low swirls figure 8 pattern if not pile set after procedure.
  • Caution must be used on cut pile carpet.

Many bonnet cleaning solutions that may clean effectively will leave soil attracting residues. Use a bonnet cleaner with a soil retardant to enhance bonnet cleaning effectiveness. Best results are achieved by using a dry bonnet, and regularly changing the bonnets when soiled.

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New and Used Professional Carpet Cleaning and Restoration Equipment

Steam/Extraction Carpet Cleaning


The term “steam cleaning” is derived from the original concept of the equipment first utilized in the steam extraction process. Solution pressures were created by large heat generators that relied upon pressure to deliver cleaning solutions to the cleaning tool. A crude vacuum system was used for recovering cleaning solutions. Equipments utilizing high pressure pumps, to deliver cleaning solutions to the cleaning tools and more efficient vacuum systems. This system is also called hot water extraction. Hot detergent solution is injected under pressure; soil is suspended, and wet vacuuming removes soil and excess moisture.

The vacuum efficiency is a combination of both airflow and lift. Airflow is measured CFM (cubic feet per minute) indicating how much air volume is moved per minute. Lift is the measurement of negative vacuum pressure commonly referred to in inches of water or mercury lift. Water lift indicates the amount of vacuum to raise a 1 inch diameter column of water 1 inch while mercury lift refers to the same for a column of mercury; 1 inch of mercury lift = 13.6 inches of water lift.

Preconditioning should be utilized in all instances of heavy soil accumulation. Preconditioning the carpet with Kleen Kuip’s Traffic Tex gives the detergents and solvents more dwell time to effectively break down and suspend soils so that they can be rinsed more effectively out of the carpet fibers.


  • Steam cleaning is recognized by most carpet manufacturers and fiber producers as the preferred method for the most efficient soil removal.
  • Present state of the art equipment enables high rates of production.
  • Less residue provided proper chemical usage.
  • Relatively low chemical cost.


  • Requires high level of operator skill.
  • Longer drying times can occur.
  • Problems associated with overwetting if equipment is not in proper operating condition or operator employs poor technique.
  • High equipment and maintenance cost.
  • A pump operating with insufficient water flow will overheat due to friction.

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Dry Soil Removal – The Pile Lifter and Vacuum

The best preventative solution is to use walk-off mats at entrance areas. This will remove most soil from the shoes of people entering, if the mats are serviced regularly.

Brush MachineImprovements in carpet cleaning equipment, especially with the introduction of the “Truck Mounted Super Cleaners,” has resulted in probably the most commonly overlooked fundamental of all cleaning methods today – proper pre-cleaning vacuuming. Almost 80% of all carpet soil, even fine and particulate, can be removed with dry soil extraction; therefore, it seems ludicrous that so little attention is given to this important area. Vacuuming should be accomplished with good quality commercial vacuum cleaners and a power pile lifter. (Empty vacuum cleaner bags when no more than 2/3 full.) Pile lifters utilize two separate heavy duty motors. One motor drives the large cylindrical brush for superior agitation, pile restoration and grooming while another vacuum motor is used to provide proper airflow.

Always work away from power cords and insure that the plug is properly grounded. When pile lifting and/or vacuuming, it is important to pull the machine against the pile direction for optimum soil removal. Pile lifting is particularly critical in heavy traffic areas of commercial installations.

A good example of dry soil removal is a wet sand laden swimsuit. While the swimsuit wet, it is very difficult to shake out or remove the sand. Once the swimsuit has dried all that is required to remove the sand is just a few quick shakes. The dry sand is easily removed with very little effort. Properly maintained equipment is essential for good dry soil removal. Regular inspection and maintenance of filters, bags, belts and brushes will keep vacuum and pile lifting equipment in top operating condition.

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Fluorescent Optical Brighteners

Optical Brighteners are fluorescent dyes (chemical ingredients) that appear fluoresce blue/white under ultraviolet light and tend to make light colors appear brighter. They show up in sunlight or fluorescent lighting in particular. Be careful in using any product which contains them as a spotter. Each spot, after drying, may appear lighter than the surrounding carpet, looking like color loss. Also, various carpet manufacturers have expressed serious concern about yellowing of optical brighteners over time. Kleen Kuip does not use optical brighteners in any of our solutions.

Brighteners are commonly added to laundry detergents to replace whitening agents removed during washing and to make the clothes appear cleaner. Optical brighteners have replaced bluing which was formerly used to produce the same effect. Some brighteners can cause allergic reactions when in contact with skin, depending on the individual.

Laundry detergent glow under UV light

A laundry detergent glow under Ultraviolet Light (UV) light.

Kleen Kuip Supply Mart Inc.
New and Used Professional Carpet Cleaning and Restoration Equipment