Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Q&A: Advice for heavily soiled carpets

September 7, 2011

The PC&D Detailing Bulletin Board featured the following query, which was answered by Detail Editor Bud Abraham:

Q: I use a steam cleaner for the entire interior, works great, but when a vehicle has very dirty carpets (never had floor mats) it seems to take a long time to get the carpet looking decent. Eventually I stop due to time restraints but I could steam all day. Is this type of problem better solved with an extractor? Steam works great for normal dirt and a stain here or there but (takes) way too long in this instance. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
A: Cleaning carpets is a process and the vapor steamer is not necessarily the way carpet cleaning professionals clean carpets.

There are two kinds of soil in carpets: dry 85% and oily 15%.
So the cleaning process is as follows:
a. Vacuum up all the dry soil, very, very well.
b. Hand remove stains with appropriate stain removers for the type of stain. Here a vapor steamer is fantastic in removing stains.
c. Spray carpet with carpet shampoo lightly to emulsify the oily soil on the fibers.
d. Scrub with a hand brush or rotary shampooer tool to allow the shampoo to lift the oily soil off the fibers.
e. Now use a heated soil extractor to rinse the shampoo and oily soil residue out of the fibers.
f. Final vacuum with extractor nozzle (no solution) to remove excess moisture.
If you do not do this then you will get one of two or both things happening.
a. When carpet dries the remaining soil in the fibers wicks to the surface and the lighter colored carpets look dirty again and/or;
b. Resoiling will occur almost immediately as the residue dries on the fibers and is sticky and attracts dirt like a magnet attracts metal.
Agree or disagree, this is how the professional carpet cleaning industry recommends carpets be cleaned.