Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Putting an end to wet carpets

September 21, 2011

One thing detailers get complaints about from both dealer and retail customers is wet carpets that end up moldy, creating a musty odor in the vehicle. Why does this happen? In short, improper cleaning procedures.

For years, the common method for cleaning carpets and fabric upholstery in the detailing business was to use a 5-gallon bucket half-full of water and "glug" in some shampoo, or better yet some degreaser, and then "slop" the water and chemical mix all over the carpets and upholstery and go at it with a scrub brush.

Along the way, some innovative detailers discovered that by using a carwash mitt saturated with the water/shampoo mix they could get even more water/shampoo on the carpets and upholstery right down to the backing and into the cushions. After scrubbing the water/shampoo mix into the carpets/upholstery they vacuumed the excess water with a shop vacuum.

What typically resulted (and still will) from this "faulty" method of shampooing was a number of things:

  • Damp carpet/upholstery that fogs up windows and leaves a moldy odor in the vehicle.
  • When the carpet/upholstery does dry, the dirt left in the fibers "wicks" to the surface leaving the material looking like it was never cleaned in the first place.
  • The shampoo and soil left to dry in the fibers of the carpet/upholstery leaves a sticky residue that immediately attracts dirt, which quickly re-soils the material (especially the carpet).

The inherent problem with using only a shop vacuum to remove the shampoo and water solution is that you leave shampoo and soil residue in the fibers. Think of it this way: If a person jumps into the shower, gets wet, puts shampoo in their hair, soap all over their body, then jumps out of the shower using only a towel to wipe the shampoo out of their hair and the soap from their body, what happens? The thought of doing that makes most people's skin crawl. You leave a horrible residue in your hair and on your body! Well that is what is left on the fibers in the carpet and fabric upholstery when you use only a shop vacuum to remove moisture. Obviously, you must first rinse the shampoo out of your hair and the soap from your body before you dry with a towel, right?

As well, this is what detailers must do with carpet and fabric upholstery using a soil extractor to rinse clean the shampoo and soil residue.