Carpet Cleaning Methods – Surface Versus Deep Cleaning And Cleaning Supplies Needed

From the moment a carpet is installed, its beauty and life are on a downhill slide. Unlike dirty resilient tiles or hard floor surfaces, carpeting cannot be completely revived. It can be compared with a new car which has a terminal life span. Therefore, proper carpet maintenance is the key to the extension of the life of a carpeted floor surface.

Before wall-to-wall carpeting became popular, cleaning was handled primarily by professional carpet cleaners. The cleaner would pick up the carpet, put it in a truck, and take it to the shop. At the shop, the cleaner would measure the carpet carefully and then place it on a concrete floor to vacuum it thoroughly. The carpet would then be scrubbed with a rotary floor machine equipped with a solution tank and a shower feed brush. This process was accomplished with a profusion of soap or detergent and water. When the operator thought that the carpet reached maximum cleanliness, the carpet would be very thoroughly flushed with water and then suspended on a rail in the air to dry. Another weighted rail would be on the lower end of the carpet to stretch it back to its original dimensions. When the carpet was completely dry, the back was resized to replace the sizing lost in the scrubbing procedure. After this step, the carpet, all clean and beautiful once again, was returned to the owner. It was good for another few years of traffic. Although this cleaning method is still employed today, it is probably used to a lesser degree since wall-to-wall carpeting has become popular.

Wall-to-wall carpeting cannot be removed to provide it with a thorough scrubbing. Therefore, one must resort to a variety of alternative methods to achieve this same end. Basically, this consists of three steps: a thorough vacuuming, spot cleaning of the surface to be scrubbed and the scrubbing-cleaning operation. The cleaning operation may be performed in a variety of ways, generally divided into two classifications: surface cleaning and deep cleaning.

Surface Cleaning Systems

Surface cleaning systems include:

o A rotary floor machine used to scrub the carpet surface.

o A rotary floor machine equipped with a yarn pad. This system is like taking a wet, soapy turkish towel and rubbing the carpet surface.

o A dampened dust mop, which is like using a smaller soapy wet rag over the surface.

o Foam-type carpet scrubbing machines. These machines apply foam onto the carpet surface followed by a revolving or rotating brush. Then the foam is either immediately vacuumed up by the same machine or is followed by a second person with a vacuum pickup.

o Fine wood-flour sawdust or clay-type material impregnated with solvents which are spread upon a floor, worked into the carpet by brush action machine, and then vacuumed up. This seems to work well, especially on oil-based soils. The drawback is that some of the particles may keep coming out of the carpet to haunt you.

Buckles or Wrinkles in Glue-Down Installations:

If carpeting is glued directly to the floor, there are several common causes of buckles that can easily be corrected. An insufficient amount of carpet adhesive – or none at all – might be in the area of the buckle. Sometimes, it may be the result of an initial failure to properly press that portion of the carpet down into firm contact with the spread adhesive. Moisture problems subsequent to installation can also account for buckling.

Depending on the construction of the particular carpet, the buckles can be removed by slitting the affected area and applying a moisture-resistant compatible adhesive to the floor. Alternative solutions are the use of a hypodermic needle to get the adhesive under the carpet without slitting it, or by steaming and rolling the buckle with a carpet roller.

Small Damage Spots in Padded Installations:

Very small damaged surface areas in woven carpets installed over padding can be repaired by burling and in tufted fabrics by tuft-setting. To make the required area as inconspicuous as possible, it is best to obtain matching yarns from a stored piece of the same carpet, or from the pile tufts pulled out at random intervals close to the base of a wall.

To repair by burling, first remove the damage pile yarns with tweezers or scissors to create a bare area. Then thread the yarn through the eye of a curved needle. Insert the needle under the shots, and dew loops of the yarn into the bare area. Space the loops to conform to the spacing as well as the height of the surrounding loops.

If the surface of the particular carpet is a cut pile, form the sewn-in loops higher than the surface. Then use duck bill napping shears to cut the protruding loops to a height consistent with that of the surrounding pile tufts.

The initial steps of tuft-setting are the same as for burling: secure matching yarn and remove the damage pile yarns to create a bare area. Next apply a clear-drying, latex-based seam cement on the bare spot with an absorbent cotton swab. You will now need a tuft-setting tool, but if this is not available, a thin nail punch or a thin cut nail may be substituted. Position a loop of the yarn in one end of the bare area and insert your tool against the U-shaped bottom portion of the loop. Drive this U-loop portion into the carpet backing with a very light tap of a hammer against the top of the tool. Avoid a heavy blow, since this can force the pile tuft through the fabric. Even worse, a strong blow can distort the backing into an enlarged hole that would prevent the normal tension in the backing from holding the replaced yarn in the carpet.


Any sized damage area in glue-down installations and holes, permanent stains or damaged areas too large for burling or tuft-setting in padded installations are treated by cutting out the affected area and patching in a replacement. The use of a brand new piece in a carpet that has undergone some appearance changes due to wear, exposure to light and air pollutants will cause the replacement to stand out like a sore thumb. Of course, such a patch eventually may look like the rest of the carpet, but it will never have the same intensity of color or the same amount of texture retention. It is far better to remove a carpet from another area that has seen a similar amount of service, replace this with a new carpet and then use the removed carpet for creating patches in the future. As a matter of fact, you should consider the need for patches at the time you make your original carpet purchase. It is wise to earmark a specific area from which you can take patches, and you should also purchase and store an additional piece of your carpeting for use in the designated area when needed.

The techniques of patching vary in accordance with the method that was used to install the carpet as well as its construction.

To patch in a conventional installation:

1. Relieve some of the tension in the installed carpet by using a knee kicker or power stretcher. Stretch the carpet around the immediate area of the proposed patch toward its center, and stay nail around the affected area. Use long, thin stay nails placed about four inches apart.

2. Regardless of the shape of the damaged area, run the blade of a screw driver between two rows of pile and define the outline of a rectangle or a square about six inches inside the lines of stay nails.

3. Using a razor blade knife; cut carefully between the spread rows to remove the damaged area without cutting through into the underlying padding. Avoid cutting across the shots, if at all possible, or the face yarns.

4. Use the removed piece of carpet as a template and cut a replacement piece. Duplicate the piece that was removed, exactly matching its size, pattern, direction of the pile, the number of shots or stitches and the number of pile rows.

5. Cut four pieces of face-up seaming tape to fit tight against each other around the perimeter of the hole. Position the pieces of tape flat on the exposed padding with the center line of the tape following each cut edge of the carpet.

6. Lift each carpet edge in turn, and apply seam cement on the exposed tape. Use a scrap piece of carpet to spread the cement evenly over the entire tape. Coat the cut edges of the carpet with the same cement, and then press the cut edges of the carpet down into full contact with the spread adhesive and the tape.

7. Force a thin awl through the center of the replacement piece of carpet, bend the edges of the piece downward, and carefully insert the patch into the prepared hole. Make certain each edge of the new piece is on the coated seaming tape, then press down on the center of the replacement with one hand and remove the awl with the other hand. The downward pressure in the center will push the edges of the patch outward into firm contact with the edges of the surrounding carpet. Some of the seam cement will transfer to the edge of the patch piece to seal its pile tufts in place.

8. Press down the four sides of the patch firmly onto the adhesive coated tape. Then place a weight over the entire patched area to hold the carpet in firm contact with the adhesive and the tape. Allow the weight to remain until the adhesive cures, or a minimum of twenty-four hours. Then remove the stay nails from the carpet around the patched area. Brush the seams to erect any trapped pile tufts.

The term “attached back” refers to those carpets with any sort of a laminated backing such as rubber, sponge rubber, foam rubber, or vinyl – any composition excepting textile secondary backs.

To patch a carpet with an attached back:

1. Run the blade of a screw driver between two rows of pile to form the outline of a rectangle or a square around the damaged area.

2. Cut between the spread pile rows and through the carpet and its attached backing material.

3. Push an awl into the center of the cut section and remove the damaged area. Scrape the floor to remove the residue of backing and as much of the old adhesive as possible.

4. Cut a replacement piece to duplicate, in direction of pile and pattern, match the piece that was removed. The size to cut for the replacement, however, should be one row larger in both width and length.

5. Slightly bevel the backing material of the patch (i.e. cut it away at a slight angle) with scissors. This will allow the extra row of pile in the patch to be compressed tight against the edges of the carpet around the hole at a later stage.

6. Spread a suitable amount of the recommended adhesive on the exposed floor. Unless otherwise specified by the carpet manufacturer, use seam cement and coat the four cut edges of the carpet around the hole.

7. Allow the correct amount of open time, until the adhesive becomes tacky to the touch. Then force a thin awl through the center of the replacement piece. Bend the edges of the carpet downward and carefully insert the patch into the hole. Press down on the center of the patch with one hand and remove the awl with the other hand to push the edges of the patch into full contact with the surrounding carpet.

8. Leave a weight over the entire area for a minimum of twenty-four hours to hold the patch in firm contact with the spread adhesive. When the weight is removed, brush the seams to correct any tufts that may have become trapped.

In general, carpets without an attached backing that have been glues down directly to the floor are patched in the same manner as previously described for those with an attached backing. Special constructions, such as fusion-bonded or hot-melt bonded fabrics, may require some variations in the suggested procedures. In that event, the recommendation of the particular manufacturer should be obtained and followed.

Seam Repairs:

Seam repairing in direct glue-down installations is best accomplished by patching the damaged area only, rather than re-doing the entire seam. To make seam repairs in conventional installations, follow these instructions:

1. Stretch the installed carpet toward both sides of the seam and stay tack. Use long, thin stay nails and place them in parallel lines about six inches away from both sides of the seam, and three inches apart from each other. The carpet will not bulge between the two rows of stay nails.

2. Cut through either the existing stitches or the tape along the seam. If the seam was sewn, remove the cut threads. If it was taped, simply remove the tape. If a hot melt tape is present, apply heat to the tape to aid in its removal.

3. Place one of the edges of carpet over the other edge. Run the blade of a screw driver between two rows of pile, a bit in from the edge of the carpet lying on top.

4. Carefully guide a razor blade knife between the spread rows and cut through both carpets at once. Remove the cut off pieces of carpet. If the fabric is too thick for double cutting, cut one edge between the rows and then scribe cut the other edge.

5. Use the same techniques previously described for patching in a conventional installation, and glue the seams together.

Source by Lee Harris

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