Carpet Cleaning is Chemistry & Physics

Is YOUR current carpet cleaner REALLY a professional?

Typical 3 bed 2 bath home that has not had the carpets cleaned in 5+ years.

If you are a carpet cleaner, you have seen this picture to the left before. If you are a client looking for a carpet cleaner, you may have moved out of a place that looked like this after you had moved all your belongings to your new place and looked at the carpet and thought…”I am not getting my deposit back…”

This post is an in depth look at the role that physics and chemistry play in the carpet cleaning process that Restore Your Carpet implements in the jobs that we complete for our clients. When we get the initial phone call, most of the time it is not for a maintenance cleaning, people have a problem that they want us to solve. I always approach these types of jobs with a chip on my shoulder and take them as a challenge. There have been jobs in the past where the cost of cleaning the carpet exceeds the current value of the carpet, or else the cost of cleaning it exceeds 65% of the cost to buy new carpet. We always inform the client if this is the case and allow them to make an informed decision. The carpet we are discussing today is not in as bad of shape as at first glance.


Frieze style carpet, needs a good scrubbin’. Wave hello to my vacuum RICCAR.

You may be wondering what is up with the square shaped area in the picture to the left. This is a living room, and the folks that moved out had an area rug with some furniture around it. A lot of people do not get their carpets cleaned because they simply do not want to move their furniture out of the rooms. We provide our clients with the option to either move their furniture on their own, or for a nominal add-on we can move it out and back for them. Obviously this carpet is dirty. What is it going to take in order to get this carpet into a ‘restored’ condition? Understanding how carpet is made, and the material that it is made of is a great place to start. In short, carpet is recycled plastic bottles… Weird huh? You are walking around on extruded recycled material that has been melted down into liquid and twisted into fiber strands. If you could view carpet through a microscope, you would see that it has a uniform shape, its shiny, and mostly transparent. It just happens that I brought along my microscope today with me on this job with the intention of writing this blog…


Carpet strand fibers through our microscope.

This picture to the right is an actual photo that I took today on this job of the very carpet in the picture at the beginning of this post. The carpet is not manufactured with all those flecks and spots. That is dirt, and soils and etc… In order to diagnose and properly inspect your carpet before it is cleaned, we get a good idea of what (if any) the problem is before we get started. One way to do this, is to look at the carpet fibers really closely like you see here with this shot through our microscope camera. You can see that this carpet is really heavily soiled. I took this picture after I had vacuumed with our super special vacuum cleaner. On second thought, I should have taken one before to compare, oh well, next time. This shot was in the middle of the room in the major traffic area where the soiling was apparent with the naked eye, but I wanted you all to get a closer look…


Another view through the microscope, this time not in the middle of the room. This strand however still shows some soiling. Gives you a different perspective doesn’t it?


I searched far and wide in this house for a strand that was not too soiled. This shot is back in a closet where there was little to no traffic. This is what it is supposed to look like. In other words… UN-soiled.


This is a shot of the major traffic lane in the house. Note the pinkish red stain at the bottom left that has been scrubbed into the carpet face fibers.


PH pen reads the water in this bottle to be slightly alkaline.

This little device that I am holding in my hand in this shot is called a PH pen. It measures the PH(percentage of Hydrogen) level of anything that you can get the little electrode to touch. It also gives a temperature reading. Here I have filled up a 2.5 gallon solution bottle with water. I rinsed it out a couple times and the reading I got was a 7.36. Water is close to neutral, which is a 7. 7 is neutral. Most soils are slightly acidic, so less than 7, somewhere north of a 6. Why does this all matter to the client? It all depends on how the carpet is used really. If you have a cleaner that uses really high alkaline cleaners and does not neutralize their detergents or the carpet after cleaning them, your carpet will soils really rapidly following the cleaning process. Also, high alkaline or high acid concentrate can irritate skin, mostly in kids and infants, and that is not good for anybody.


This is a shot of the reading that I took after mixing up a high alkaline cleaning solution. Due to the soil level of the carpet, I made a choice of which detergent to use and how much, added it to some hot water, mixed it up, and took a measurement. This reading shows 11.52 @ 95.3 degrees F. The PH scale goes from 0-14 so if 7 is neutral, This solution mix is 5,000 times more alkaline than neutral. For each increment whole number above or below 7, it is measured by ten times. Head spinning yet? Read on…


After applying the cleaning solution to the carpet face fibers, I took another reading of the fibers to see where my PH level was before I scrubbed the carpet. You can see that it read 11.46 on the alkaline side @ 73.7 degrees F. This solution did not lose its alkalinity immediately after the application to the carpet fibers.

This is a shot of the living room after agitating it the cleaning solution known in the industry as a pre-spray. It really helps to perform this step and makes the extraction process work a lot better if this step is utilized. It doesn’t look all that much better, but it will in a minute.

This reading was taken on the same spot as the prior reading. This was after the scrubbing process. Note that I lost some temp, as well as some alkalinity. Now reading a 9.70 @ 63.9 F.

Next step is to get the encapsulation cleaning solution mixed up. Here I am taking a reading of the 2 gallons of hot water in my bucket before adding the detergent. Reading a 7.46 @ 108 F.

The temperature of the cleaning solution has lowered my overall temperature, and increased the PH level to a 9.32. This should help to neutralize the alkalinity of the pre-spray i scrubbed in earlier, as well as encapsulate it into a crystal as the final step in the cleaning process.

The right hand side of this hallway/traffic lane has been OP extracted. you can see how the fibers look separate and springy again like when they were new. The left side is still dingy and matted down.

After the living room had been OP extracted, you can see the the color, dinginess, and stains were all removed. All that remained visible to the naked eye were the wear patterns where the material has been damaged from soil and friction.

Same room different angle. Note the dimple imprints in the carpet from the easy chair.

1378826-orig Final reading in the traffic area where the heaviest pre-spray was applied. As the encapsulation solution dries and crystalizes it will settle back down to 7.5-8 leaving the carpet clean, and ready for skin contact from you, your kids, babies, etc.

You didn’t think I would leave without showing the after of the fiber strands did you?

Hallway cleaned up nice.

White square is gone, stains are gone, carpet PH level is safe for everyone, vacuums nicely, and ready for the next renter.

The bottom line is this. In order to get carpet REALLY clean and safe. You really need to choose a professional with the proper know-how and tooling to get the job done safely and efficiently. Restore Your Carpet is a full-service flooring company that is committed to education in the industry, certification, and the latest technology to ensure that we can continue to not just clean your carpet, but to RESTORE it.


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