Consumer Awareness Guide to Carpet Cleaning

What distinguishes one carpet cleaning company from another?

Choosing the right carpet cleaning method, and the right company can be confusing. In this guide, we will share with you six costly misconceptions about carpet cleaning. We will also offer 4 recommendations. We will also provide ten questions that you should ask a carpet cleaner before you invite him into your home.

MISCONCEPTION #1: You should wait as long as possible before cleaning your carpet.

No. Dirt is an abrasive – like sandpaper. Every time you step on the carpet, you grind dirt into your carpet fibers. This cuts your carpet, just as if you had used a knife, causing it to wear out faster. A soiled carpet will not last nearly as long as a clean carpet. And while vacuuming helps – by itself, it’s simply not enough. The longer you wait to have your carpet cleaned, the more damage you do to your carpet and the faster it wears out.

MISCONCEPTION #2: The only reason to clean carpets is to get the dirt and spots out.

No. As you probably know, outdoor air contains pollens, fungus, bacteria, air pollution, cigarette smoke, car exhaust – and hundreds of other harmful chemicals. When you and your family members enter your home, you carry those pollens and chemicals in your hair and on your skin, clothing, and shoes. Not surprisingly, all those chemicals, pollens and bacteria end up – you guessed it – in your carpet. .

If you have allergies, asthma, emphysema, or other breathing problems – one major source of your problem could be the pollutants and contaminants in your carpet. Carpet is a wonderful air filter, and prevents many of these pollutants from becoming airborne again and inhaled, as would occur on a hard surface. However, like any filter, your carpet needs to be cleaned out periodically.

Tobacco smoke contains over 4000 separate chemical compounds, 43 of which cause cancer. Even if you don’t smoke, those chemicals get on your shoes; you track them in to your home and deposit them in your carpet. If you’re sensitive to cigarette smoke, you’ll find that you’ll breathe easier after you hire a company to properly remove those harmful chemicals from your carpet. So in addition to getting rid of dirt and spots, another important reason to clean your carpet is to flush out the pollens, fungus, bacteria, fertilizer, and chemicals and tars related to tobacco smoke.

MISCONCEPTION #3: One method of carpet cleaning is as good as another.

No. You can choose from two primary methods: Dry cleaning or hot water extraction.

First, I’ll explain dry cleaning. Many people believe that dry cleaning your carpets is like dry cleaning your clothing. This is not true. All carpet cleaning methods use water. Here are the three methods of dry cleaning carpet:

Dry Foam. The first dry cleaning method uses water-based dry foam, which is applied to the carpet, allowed to dry, and then simply vacuumed. Can you imagine applying shampoo to your hair, allowing it to dry and then removing the shampoo from your head with a vacuum? This method can leave a tremendous amount of residue in your carpet, which is one reason dry foam is not very effective.

Dry-Chem. The dry-chem method is similar to dry foam. A water-based solution is sprayed on the carpet, and then a bonnet is placed under a rotary floor machine and is spun over the carpet surface to absorb the soil. Once the bonnet is saturated with soil, another cotton bonnet is applied. Bonnet cleaning is like trying to use a large towel to rub the dirt out of your carpet. This method leaves a residue behind and only removes soil from the top part of the carpet. Like dry foam, it is not very effective.

Dry Compound. The dry-compound method spreads an absorbent mixture that looks like wet sawdust all over your carpeting. Then a machine brushes the mixture into the carpet, which in theory causes dirt to absorb into the mixture. When the mixture has dried, a vacuum cleaner sucks the material out of the carpeting. In a cut pile carpet, it is impossible to vacuum it all out. Like the other dry cleaning methods, the dry compound method is outdated and not that effective.

Why do some carpet cleaners still use dry cleaning methods? The answer is simple – dry cleaning equipment is MUCH (about 90%) less expensive than hot water extraction equipment.

The second carpet cleaning method is called hot water extraction. A hot water cleaning solution is sprayed into the carpet at high pressure, and then sucked out of the carpet with a powerful vacuum system. This method is also referred to as steam cleaning, even though steam is not used.

SHAW INDUSTRIES, the world’s largest carpet manufacturer, recommends hot water extraction. Mohawk, the worlds second largest carpet manufacturer, also recommends hot water extraction. There are two primary types of hot water extraction equipment: Portable equipment, which are small machines that plug into your household current (like the machines you can rent at the supermarket), or truck-mounted equipment which is are larger, more powerful systems that are mounted in a truck or van that stays in your driveway.

Not surprisingly, the truck mount extraction cleans much better because it heats the water to a much higher temperature and rinses the cleaning solution out of the carpet at higher pressure, which breaks up the dirt, bacteria and pollens. Then the machine uses high-powered extraction to simultaneously draw the soiled solution out of the carpet. This is the method that we recommend.

No question, the most effective way to clean carpeting is with a truck mounted hot water extraction system. It’s the most powerful cleaning machine on the market and the only machine that thoroughly removes dirt, harmful bacteria, fungus, chemicals, pollens and other residues.

Methods that use cold and even warm water, remove some soil, but are not as effective as the hot-water truck mount method.

Some people believe that hot water damages your carpet, but this isn’t true. By washing and then rinsing your carpet with hot water, we clean your carpet completely – in the same way that the person who showers and then rinses off the dirt and soap will be much cleaner than the person who soaps up and then wipes off with a towel without rinsing off. In fact, not only does hot water clean better, faster, and with less cleaning agents, it also dries quicker and even sanitizes your carpet, which contributes to a cleaner, healthier indoor living environment.

MISCONCEPTION #4: Having the right equipment is all a company needs to clean your carpets thoroughly.

Not true. Many companies own hot-water extractors, but a large number of employees are not trained to use them properly. You probably know someone who bought the newest computer on the market – but didn’t learn how to use it. The same is true with carpet cleaning machines. The company may own good equipment, but the employees may not know how to use it correctly.

The best carpet cleaning companies are those that have been certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification, or the IICRC. A carpet cleaning company cannot buy this certification. The carpet cleaner must earn the certification through study, experience, and the successful completion of formal, written examinations. Technicians who are certified by the IICRC have, in effect, earned a degree in carpet and textile cleaning.

The IICRC provides written credentials to the companies it certifies. So, before you choose a reputable company, ask to see written proof of the company’s IICRC certifications.

MISCONCEPTION #5: The company that offers the lowest price is the company you should hire.

Maybe, but not always. Here are two important points to consider.

Point #1: The price you see offered may not be for the services you want performed. Before you select a company, decide what you want to accomplish. If you want the technician to remove only some of the dirt, you can choose from hundreds of companies that use small shampooers or other low cost methods, or you can even rent a machine at the grocery store and do the job yourself.

On the other hand, you may want your carpet to be thoroughly cleaned, and to dry quickly. If you want to remove the harmful dirt, bacteria, pollens, chemicals and tobacco residues then you need to hire a company that uses a hot water extractor mounted in a van. This is the only way to assure that your carpet remains healthy and free from dirt, disease-causing bacteria, and harmful chemicals.

So, remember, the price you see offered may not be for the services you want performed.

Point #2: The price you see advertised may not be the price you pay!

Many homeowners have learned that the low price they saw advertised was not the amount they were charged. If you’ve ever hired a “bait and switch” company, you may have learned the hard way that some carpet cleaners offer an unbelievably low price like $9.99 per room, and then pressure you into paying a lot more once they are in the home. Not only is this unethical, in many cases it is illegal.

As in all businesses professions, the carpet cleaning industry has its share of bad apples. I take no pleasure in telling you this, but some are unethical and, sadly, a few are dishonest. By their misleading advertising and false promises, they cast a dark shadow on our entire industry.

Then you’ll find other carpet cleaners, professionals like us, who work hard to earn your trust and respect.

As a way of improving our profession, I’ve dedicated my business to educating the public. The only way you can make an intelligent decision is to have all the facts you need. This is why I’ve written this message.

MISCONCEPTION #6: Any honest carpet cleaning company should be able to give you an exact price quote over the phone.

This is not true. While we can provide an estimate over the phone, we can’t really nail down the final number until we are in the home.

First, honest, reputable, carpet cleaning companies usually price carpet cleaning by the square foot. So, if you’d like us to tell you the exact cost of cleaning your carpet, we need to know the exact number of square feet that you want cleaned. To get an accurate measurement, we use a measuring tape to calculate the exact size of the carpeted area.

You’ll be glad to know that the carpeted area to be cleaned is not nearly as great as most people think. For example, if you want your entire home cleaned, and your home is 2000 square feet, the amount of carpeting to be cleaned might be only 1200 square feet. This is because most home measurements are outdoor measurements. We deduct the area taken up by walls, room dividers, hard floor surfaces, and the like. The result is that the actual area to be cleaned is usually only about 60% of the square footage of the home.

So, even though I can’t give you an exact quote over the telephone, here are things I consider when quoting a price.

First, the type of carpet. Certain types of carpet are harder to clean than others. So, before I can give you a quote, I need to know the type of fiber your carpet is made from.

Second, the amount of soiling. Carpet that hasn’t been cleaned for 10 years will take longer to clean than carpet that was cleaned within the last 6 months.

Third, the amount of furniture that has to be moved. If we have to move your furniture, the cost of labor must be included. But, if you move your furniture, you’ll save money.

To recap, I consider the type of carpet, the amount of soiling, and the amount of furniture that has to be moved. So, as you can imagine, every quote is different.


RECOMMENDATION #1: Make a commitment to yourself to get your carpets cleaned. The longer they remain dirty, the sooner they’ll wear out. Also consider the air quality in your home and the health benefits of cleaning out the pollens, fungus, chemicals, and dust mite droppings that reside in your carpet.

RECOMMENDATION #2: List your objectives. Do you only want some of the surface dirt removed, something you could do with a rented machine? Or do you want the bacteria, fungus, and chemicals removed, which will require a hot water truck mount cleaner, like we use? Do you want to work with an honest, reputable company – or are you willing to risk working with the company that offers the lowest price – knowing that company might not be in business tomorrow?

RECOMMENDATION #3: Ask questions. The way you learn about a company is to ask specific questions and listen carefully to the answers. Here are the questions I suggest you ask

  1. What method of carpet cleaning do you recommend?
  2. What type of equipment do you use to clean carpet?
  3. What does your equipment remove from my carpet?
  4. How often should I get my carpets cleaned?
  5. What type of chemicals do you use? Are they safe?
  6. What training and experience do you have?
  7. Are you a member of any trade associations, and if so, which ones?
  8. Are you certified by the IICRC and will you show me your certificate?
  9. Do you guarantee your work?
  10. Do you have general liability insurance and workers compensation? (Critical)

RECOMMENDATION #4: Once you are satisfied that you’re working with an honest, competent professional, invite them into your home and ask for a specific quotation in writing. A written quotation gives you the assurance that you know exactly what your job will cost. No surprises.

By following these four recommendations, you’ll gain all the information you need to make an informed, intelligent decision. If you want a quick, cheap surface carpet cleaning job, there are many companies in the phone book to choose from. Or you can rent a machine at the supermarket and try it yourself.

However, if you want your carpeting to be completely and thoroughly cleaned – removing the bacteria, fungus, chemicals, pollens, and tobacco residues – then, I invite you to call Longshore Services.

We will be happy to answer your questions – provide you a cost estimate over the telephone or come into your home and give you a free written quotation – without obligation of any kind. To reach me, call toll free (866)483-0088.

Here’s one last point: I know that many consumers are skeptical about carpet cleaning companies. So, in addition to dedicating my business to consumer education, I do one more thing as well.

We guarantee our work. This will be the most thorough carpet cleaning you’ve ever had, or it’s free. That’s right. We fully guarantee every carpet cleaning job we do. If you aren’t happy with our work, we’ll promptly return and re-clean any and all areas of concern. If you still aren’t pleased, we will refund 100% of your money.

What could be fairer? How about this: If any spots return right after we clean the carpets, we will return gladly return to clean them. Guaranteed.

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