Professional Carwashing & Detailing

How to obtain germ-free carpets

February 12, 2014

How do you keep carpeting germ-free? In the past three or four years, the EPA has approved carpet-cleaning chemicals that will kill up to 90 percent of bacteria.

Today, anyone who takes the time to clean and shampoo carpets ought to be killing the bacteria at the same time. There are no EPA-registered germicidal carpet cleaners (those that kill all the germs and bacteria) because varying carpet pile depths make it impossible to guarantee a 100-percent kill. The registration that applies to carpet cleaners is that of a 'sanitizer,' which means that it kills up to 90 percent of the bacteria.

Another aspect of the problem is dust mites and other insects. Today, many EPA- registered products kill insects in carpeting, but they have to be applied in a separate operation, after the cleaning has been completed. They can't be incorporated into carpet-cleaning chemicals.

For example, you cannot combine insect-killing chemicals with a cleaner however, it can be placed in quaternary ammonia, which will kill the germs because it can be in the presence of synthetic detergents and still be effective.

If you put the cleaner in quats, it can't have any kind of solvents, since they would nullify each other. There are limits to combining chemicals and still remaining effective. There is more to cleaning carpets than you thought, huh?

With a growing variety of products to clean carpets hygienically, where does the industry go from here? Most experts agree that the biggest job is education; education about the necessity of cleaning carpets more than anything else.

The detail chemical companies and the distributors have a vital role to play in this process. What I’d like to see is more of them focus on this issue, and go with it, both as an opportunity and a challenge. They too must learn about these subjects so they can be part of the education process, giving them a chance to provide an additional service to their customers.

As the detailer and the motorist become aware of the hygienic cleaning, they will be easier to sell.

Carpet, more than any other single factor, is coming under attack as a contributer to sickness in every area. Carpet has to be maintained. As detailers, you should do whatever you can to provide education to your customers.

Today, the main need is to increase motorist awareness of the need for hygienic cleaning.

Additional serious research needs to be done about what goes on in the vehicle interior. Detailers need to understand what they’re up against, and improve current cleaning methods.



R.L. “Bud” Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR, and a nearly 40-year member of the car-care industry. He is also a member of the International Carwash Association and Western Carwash Association Board of Directors and can be contacted at: