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Carpet care & equipment

August 26, 2009
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Carpets will be exposed to everything that gets in a vehicle. A thorough vacuuming every couple of weeks with a high suction vacuum can greatly extend the life of a vehicle’s carpet.

Carpet concerns do not end with sand, stains and pet hair. The following is how I keep a vehicle’s carpet looking its best.


High power shop vacuum: I utilize a 6.5-HP shop vacuum, though all the horsepower in the world won’t do anything if the vacuum has a dirty filter. To make sure my filter is effective, I remove the shop vacuum’s filter and fill the 14-gallon tank with roughly five gallons of water to act as the filter.

By using water to filter the vacuum, pet hair is trapped in the water and not suffocating the paper filter. Just don’t let the mud get too thick before changing the water.

Air compressor: Many professional grade units are available. Make sure to locate a unit fitting to your needs.

Vapor steamer: Look for a unit with fast heat-up time, around 60 to 70 PSI with these attachments:

1. Triangular brush;

2. Small round brush attachment with several small brush heads; and

3. A window squeegee attachment.

Utilizing a vapor steamer for light staining leaves carpets much dryer.

Hot water extractor: A hot water extractor is a must for heavily soiled carpets. In-line heaters will heat the water much more rapidly than tank style heaters. Units are available with a wide range of PSI from the solution tank; water lift varies greatly as well. Some offer features such as a blower, as well.

Stiff bristle scrub brush: An ergonomic handle will mean less aches and pains down the road.

Pet hair remover brush: A rubber bristled brush available at most pet supply stores. These brushes are as gentle on carpets as they are on your pet.

Static eliminator product: Available at most grocery stores in the laundry products section.

Professional carpet stain removers: Have an array on hand as a combination of removers may be necessary for different types of stains.

Vacuum and purge carpets

A thorough vacuuming requires the carpet be purged with compressed air from the backing of the carpet to loosen sand and debris trapped in the carpet fibers. Access to the backing can often be found under the seats where the rear air ducts are located, under the dash and, in many SUV’s, where the rear seats fold.

Purging requires multiple access points to the backing. While purging the carpet, be sure to blow all the debris as far as possible from under the seats.

If pet hair is an issue, spray the carpet with the static eliminator product and let stand a few minutes. Take the pet hair remover brush in one hand and the vacuum in the other hand. Brush toward the vacuum, working in straight lines.

Once the loosened dirt has been removed, move on to the next step: stain removal.

Remove stains

Light stains can often be removed without chemicals by using the vapor steamer. Utilizing a diaper fold technique, attach a quality white terry cloth towel to the triangular brush attachment. Apply the wrapped brush attachment to the stains while depressing the vapor release button and brushing the stain simultaneously.

This method is known as the heat transfer method; the vapor transfers the stain from the carpet and onto the towel. Many times red stains will require a red stain remover product to assist in the transfer of the stain.

Other stains may require additional assistance of a professional stain remover product or multiple products. The vapor steamer is much less aggressive on carpets than the work involved in extraction and even more so when stains can be removed without the assistance of chemicals.

Heavily soiled stains may require the use of a hot water extractor, stiff bristle floor brush and carpet stain remover. Determine the source of the stain as a guide for what product to use. Spray the stain remover product/products on the stain and brush vigorously.

Allow the stain remover to sit for several minutes before dispersing the water and extracting. Repeat the process if necessary.

After removing stains, a final vacuuming will most likely be required to remove debris dislodged from the caret during stain removal.

Be sure the carpet is dry before placing the floor mats back in the vehicle. Utilizing the vehicles heater or a blower machine with the vehicles doors open will speed drying time.

Thomas Korkoske has worked in the automotive industry for most of his adult life. In 2005, he started Shine On Custom Mobile Automotive Detailing LLC in Lake Wylie South Carolina. Contact Tom at: