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Cleaning Olefin Berbers and After-Cleaning Challenges

Understanding Olefin and better procedure and chemistry means better cleaning for you.

  • Simple Test for Olefin – Snip a fiber and put in into a glass of water, if it floats it’s Olefin if it sinks it is other than Olefin.
  • Many cleaners have a love/hate relationship with olefin Berber carpet.
  • We love how it cleans up, but hate the problems we can have after cleaning.
  • If you use the same procedures and chemistry to clean olefin Berber, nylon Berber and wool Berber, you could end up with problems.
  • Berber is a style of carpet that originally was the name of wool loop carpet made in England. Today, it’s the name for Berber “style” carpet that is one of several different face yarns.
  • Olefin is a very common fiber of choice for Berber styles.
  • Olefin is practically non-absorbent — making it naturally stain resistant — as it only absorbs one-tenth of one percent of its weight in moisture.
  • This causes problems, however, with typical spotting.
  • A spill on olefin, because it is almost non-absorbent, can run down to the lower part of the fiber or the backing without being absorbed by the fiber.
  • Nylon or wool, unlike olefin, will absorb much of the substance before it reaches the backing.
  • This is not to be confused with dry particulate soil that must be vacuumed and that can work its way down into any carpet pile.
  • The spills have now created unseen stains that can be sitting below the surface waiting to come to the top.
  • Some migrated below the surface during the original staining, while others were on the surface and were wiped off or worn off with vacuuming or foot traffic.
  • When we clean using hot water extraction, the olefin loops are moistened.
  • This moisture provides a route to the surface for the “slush” that has been created by mixing our water with the unseen spill material in the carpet.
  • Olefin itself doesn’t wick the soil, but the moisture that is sitting on the outside of the fiber provides a great ride to the top for the spilled material.
  • The surface soils have cleaned off beautifully, while the sub-surface materials are on their way up to the surface to cause the cleaner heartache.
  • Just as they weren’t absorbed on the way down, they’re also not absorbed on the way back up.
  • You get a call next day: “My carpet looks terrible! I think you ruined it. It has spots on it that weren’t there before!”

Best Cleaning Practices

  1. Cleaning Olefin PresprayVacuum, vacuum, vacuum and vacuum again. Pull up as much dry particulate soil as you can, “the easy way.”
  2. If wet cleaning, use a pre-conditioner designed for olefin. They do work better on olefin. Being oleophilic (oil loving), the oxidized oily soils on the olefin fiber can be a tough nut to remove.
  3. Don’t apply as much pre-conditioner on olefin as you would on nylon or wool, because the olefin fibers won’t absorb the chemical. You don’t need as much and you don’t want it running down the fibers.
  4. The surface of serious spill type stains can be bonneted off with a cotton pad or wiped off with a towel after preconditioning. You will prevent the material removed from being pushed down into the carpet with the water pressure of your wand. This isn’t always needed, but it’s better to be on the side of caution and do it too often rather than not enough.
  5. Sometimes, if you don’t have a rotary machine, vacuuming with your wand after preconditioning will remove 30 percent to 40 percent of the staining material. That means less to get pushed down into the non-absorbent fiber. (The idea is to have all the cleaning motion to be in the “up” direction, not “down”)
  6. At this point you can re-apply (if needed) another light mist of pre-conditioner and agitate the face pile with a grooming brush.
  7. Turn down the water pressure, perhaps in the range of 200-250 psi. The soil should be sitting there waiting to be rinsed off the surface. You don’t need or want a lot of pressure.

Who’s going to pay?

Now, you’re thinking, “How much do I charge for all these steps? I think we’re up to $1.50 per square foot by now.”

It doesn’t take as long as it sounds and not every carpet will need these steps.

However, even on the lightly soiled ones, extreme vacuuming is needed, along with using less pre-conditioner and pump pressure.

Final rinsing and drying.

Depending on your dry stroke technique, you may need to change it for olefin Berber.

If you rinse all the way across for eight feet or so and then come back to dry stroke, you will want to change so that each rinse stroke is immediately followed by one or more dry strokes.

This removes your cleaning solution and soils before they have a chance to work down the carpet pile.

Rinse with a slightly alkaline to neutral product through the machine. An acid after a high alkaline, which is what olefin prespray is, can leave a whitish look from salts that can form.

Bonneting with a cotton pad can assist in the drying, as the wand sometimes bounces over the surface and leaves a layer of moisture.

Bonneting, on olefin Berber, can help clean between the uneven loops where the wand couldn’t go. It can also help prevent wick-back of spots.

Use airmovers, and get it dry — fast.

Encapsulation

Thus far, we have addressed mainly hot water extraction with olefin Berbers. This is because HWE is the most common cleaning method, especially in residential settings.

Another effective way to clean olefin Berber, if you have the equipment, is encapsulation using a rotary machine and a bonnet pad.

Typical bonnet cleaning methods would apply here.

It’s very effective at cleaning, and also does a good job at preventing wick-back.

One caution: Be sure to rotary only dampened, lubricated carpet fiber. Etched olefin from pads or brushes spinning cannot be removed without resorting to carpet repair techniques.

It’s not all bad.

Some understanding of olefin and how it works can make dealing with it much easier.

Olefin is great for family rooms that get heavy “kid use,” or for rental homes, because of its natural stain resistance.

It’s perfect for areas that are prone to water-based stains.

And there you have it…cleaning Olefin with the proper knowledge and understanding can save you many headaches down the road.

Happy Cleaning!

Dennis Klager is an Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC)-approved instructor. He can be reached at dkcaw@hotmail.com.

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

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