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Old March 1st 07, 12:15 AM posted to uk.d-i-y
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Default Ping; Phil Addison

Did you receive the Carpet Cleaning FAQ draft?

The Medway Handyman
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Old March 3rd 07, 02:35 PM posted to uk.d-i-y
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Default FAQ: Carpet Cleaning FAQ draft (was Ping; Phil Addison)

On Thu, 01 Mar 2007 00:15:16 GMT, in uk.d-i-y "The Medway Handyman"
Subject "Ping; Phil Addison ", wrote:

Did you receive the Carpet Cleaning FAQ draft?

Yes thanks Dave, last Tuesday. Sorry for the delay replying, things are
a bit hectic here at the mo.

Thanks for the effort, it looks pretty good to me and I've appended it
here for any final comments from the group before putting it the FAQ.


Subject: Fw: "Draft Carpet Cleaning FAQ for comments"
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2007 19:08:24 -0000

Carpet Manufacture.

Knowing a little about carpet construction helps an awful lot when it
comes to understanding how to clean them.

Carpet broadly comprises of two parts; the pile yarn (the top bit you can
see) and the backing yarn (the underneath bit you don't see).

The backing yarn holds everything together and forms the matrix that
holds the pile yarn.

There are three ways in which carpets are made;

Woven. Account for about 20% of the market. Expensive but long lasting
& high quality. Commonly known as Axminster or Wilton. Note that
Axminster & Wilton are 'manufacturing methods' that originated in those
places, not brand names. Perfectly genuine Axminster carpets are made
in Belguim.

With both methods the pile and backing yarns are woven together at the
same time. It's a slow process, which accounts for their high cost.

Woven carpets usually have very dense pile.

How can you tell? Look at the backing - you will see the coloured pile yarn
woven through the backing.

Tufted. The vast majority of carpet is tufted, around 75% of the UK

Tufted carpet is made by using a pre woven backing cloth, into which the
pile fabric is tufted or punched. The carpet is the usually 'secondary
backed' with a rubber, polyurethane or foam backing.

This is done on huge tufting machines at very high speed, giving a very
economic manufacturing cost.

Tufted carpet is also called twist pile, cut pile, loop pile, cut & loop pile,
saxony or sculptured pile. The manufacturing method is broadly the

The quality depends on many factors, but an important one is the pile
density - measured in threads per square inch. The denser the pile the
better. Look at a cheap tufted carpet and you can see the backing
through the pile.

Bonded. Several methods are used to bond either individual yarns or a
web of fibres onto a pre woven backing. Best known trade name is Flotex.
Found in domestic kitchens and commercial premises.

Every square metre is packed with literally millions of straight, upright,
nylon fibres with no loops or twists to trap stains. This incredibly dense
synthetic structure means its almost impossible to wear it out or stain it.

Flotex is completely waterproof, highly stain-resistant, incredibly durable
and easy to clean. Carpet tiles are made by a similar process and for our
purposes can be treated in the same way.

Pile & Backing Materials

Pile and backing yarns fall into two categories; natural or synthetic.

Natural yarns are hessian or jute for backing yarn and wool for the pile
yarn (or more often wool/nylon).

Synthetic yarns include nylon, polypropylene, polyester for the pile yarn.
Backing is almost always a cheaper synthetic.

So, only four possible combinations are possible.

Pile Backing
Option 1 Natural Natural
Option 2 Natural Synthetic
Option 3 Synthetic Natural
Option 4 Synthetic Synthetic

How can you tell? Simple, you need a small pair of scissors, some
tweezers and a lighter. Snip off a sample piece of yarn from either the
pile or backing - use a spare piece of carpet or find a little used corner.

Hold the sample in the tweezers and move the flame towards it slowly.

Wool or 80/20 wool/nylon will glow and eventually ignite with a smell like
burning hair. All synthetics will tend to shrink away from the flame,
'bead' over & smell like burning plastic - an acrid chemical smell.

In practice the choice of fibre depends on the application, site, traffic &
cosmetic appeal. However, it's useful to know that natural fibres (wool)
don't' attract soiling (dirt) whereas synthetics do. On the other hand
wool can be stained badly but most synthetics can't.

Now you know the basics, we can address the most common concerns
about DIY carpet cleaning.

Common Concerns.

Two common concerns are 'will the carpet shrink' and 'will the colours run'.
There are only three causes of these two problems. And the likelihood of
them happening depends on the construction of the carpet.

Let's examine the problems;

Will the carpet shrink? It's a common fallacy that wool carpets are
prone to shrinking. Rare in practice - have you ever seen a sheep shrink in
the rain?

Only the backing of a carpet can shrink and cause a problem. If the pile
were to shrink, you would never know.

If the carpet has a synthetic backing, it can't shrink because it is
impervious to the effects of water. A natural fibre backing can & will
shrink - if water gets to it.

If the carpet is a woven wool or wool/nylon construction, the pile is so
dense and so absorbent (wool can absorb 40% of its own weight in water)
that it's almost impossible to get water to reach the backing when
cleaning. Only a flood is likely to cause shrinkage.

With a cheap synthetic pile, natural back carpet, the risk of shrinkage is
high. The water will run off the synthetic pile straight onto the natural
backing. Nylon for example can only absorb about 1% of its weight in

If a carpet does shrink, a competent carpet fitter can usually stretch it
back to its former state.

Will the colours run? This, irreversible, problem can only happen to
natural pile carpets. Wool starts life as off white and is piece dyed to
make various colours.

Modern dyes are so good however that correct cleaning is unlikely to
affect them.

Synthetic pile yarns are manufactured to be the colour they are. If it's
blue, it was made blue, not dyed blue. It would be difficult to remove the
colour if you wanted to. Only bleach would affect the colour.

One odd problem is that called 'browning'. When a carpet dries out brown
patches appear on the surface. This is caused by water reaching the
backing of the carpet. If the backing is a natural fibre, the vegetable
dye used to colour it can be affected. This will then 'wick' up the pile and
appear on the surface of the carpet.

Browning looks terrible, but is actually easy to fix. The carpet is simply
sprayed with a specialist chemical and the browning usually disappears.

Problems & Causes

Over-wetting. Excessive water use can cause two problems when cleaning

If you excessively wet a carpet when cleaning it and the water reaches
the backing material, it could cause or exacerbate shrinkage.

This will only happen if the backing is a natural fibre. Synthetic backings
can't shrink.

Excessive water can also cause dye bleed or colour run, although this is
rare with modern dyes. Excessive water can also cause the 'browning'
Using the correct cleaning technique is the key to avoiding over wetting.
With spray extraction no more than three or four passes over an area
should be used. If that doesn't remove the soiling, let the carpet dry &
go over it again.

Dry Foam or Dry Powder cleaning doesn't have any associated risk of over

Excess heat. Whilst warm/hot water will improve cleaning results, the
use of very hot water can cause or exacerbate shrinkage & dye bleed. As
a rule of thumb, if you can't put your hand in the water it's too hot for
cleaning your carpet - around 50 degrees centigrade is the maximum.

Most DIY or hire machines don't have internal heaters, so are filled via
the hot tap. Machines aimed at the commercial cleaning market will have
an immersion heater fitted - and should have a thermostat.

Incorrect chemical use. Carpet cleaning chemicals are highly specialised.
Use only those specially made for carpet cleaning. Do not ever be
tempted to use household washing powder/liquid or any other chemicals
for cleaning carpets. It will result in a sticky mess that will attract

Make sure you follow the dilution rates quoted on the container. More is
not better. Use a measuring jug & get it exactly right. "About two glugs"
isn't acceptable!

Carpet cleaning methods.

The most common carpet cleaning methods available to the DIY cleaner

Spray Extraction Cleaning. Sometimes called hot water extraction or
steam cleaning, this is probably the most popular method of carpet
cleaning. It offers the deepest cleaning and flushes out more dirt than
other methods.

In addition, spray extraction machines are able to clean stairs &

A carpet extraction machine will have two tanks. One is filled with a
water & detergent solution, which is sprayed into the carpet pile under
pressure, shifting the dirt.

The liquid and dirt is then removed by a vacuum and returned to the
'recovery' tank.

The cleaning is done by a wand attached to two hoses, one for the
solution & one for vacuum recovery.

Extraction cleaners can be purchased or hired. Affordable machines for
purchase include the Numatic 'George' or the Vax 6155.

Hire can often be a better choice. Machines like the Rug Doctor and
others are similar to those used by professional cleaners. The Rug
Doctor amongst others has a brush, so the process is
'spray/scrub/vacuum' which gives faster cleaning and better results.

Several factors are crucial for good results;

Solution pump pressure makes a big difference. A machine giving 1 bar
won't clean as well as one giving 3 bar. Some domestic machines don't
actually have a pump at all! (A waste of time in my experience).

The solution is sprayed from a nozzle or nozzles fitted to the cleaning
head a few inches above the carpet, controlled by a trigger on the wand.

The solution flow is constant, so the slower the wand is moved the
stronger the cleaning action.

The cleaning head also incorporates a narrow slit through which the
vacuum motor pulls air. The slit is deliberately narrow to increase air

So, in practice the cleaning wand is pulled towards the operator, spraying
cleaning solution into the carpet fibres, and the solution is then removed
(along with the soiling) buy the vacuum head a few seconds later.

The vacuum doesn't just remove any surplus water, it is a vital component
of the cleaning process. The more vacuum power the better.

The purpose of the vacuum isn't just to remove water from the carpet.
It helps to pull the water through the carpet pile and of course removes
the dirt.

Some cleaning wands incorporate a powered brush between the spray &
vacuum to increase cleaning power, so the cleaning action is spray, scrub,
and vacuum.

A further development of this method is that seen in machines like the
Rug Doctor, which has the spray nozzle, brush & vacuum orifice built into
the machine. In this case the machine is moved towards the operator.

Machines with powered brushes give faster cleaning and /or better
results. They also use less water per area cleaned and give quicker drying

Spray Extraction is a complete process in itself. If you were to spray
first then vacuum afterwards the results would be very poor.

A more powerful vacuum, whilst it will give better cleaning results, won't
necessarily remove more water from a carpet or leave it any dryer.
Drying times depend on the carpet fibre.

Wool or wool mix carpet pile absorbs water - no vacuum can remove that.
Synthetic fibres hold very little water, so recovery is higher.

You can tell what the carpet pile is made from when spray extraction
cleaning. Solution & recovery tanks are usually of similar size. On a
synthetic pile carpet you will recover up to 90% of the water, with wool
it's only about 50%.

Many domestic machines have very small tank capacities, some as low as 5
litres. They still work, but you have to stop to empty & refill water tanks
at frequent intervals.

Spray Extraction Technique. Clear the room of smaller items - large
items like the sofa can simply be moved around the room. Vacuum the
carpet thoroughly.

For very dirty carpets a pre spray, usually called Traffic Lane Cleaner can
be applied.

Spray extraction machines come with a wand and a twin hose assembly.
The hoses attach to wand & machine via quick release fittings. An
additional hand tool can be attached instead of the wand for cleaning
edges, stairs & upholstery.

Start in one corner and make a pass with the wand up to and parallel with
the skirting board. Don't over reach - two or three feet is fine.

The second pass should overlap the first by 50%. The third pass should
overlap the second again by 50% and so on. This way you will get even
cleaning and maximum soil removal.

Work your way across the room, then start a new series of passes.

If the carpet is extremely dirty, make a series of passes at right angles
to the first, but don't overlap them. Doing so might over wet the carpet.

In the unlikely event that doesn't remove the dirt - STOP. Wait for the
carpet to dry completely before trying again.

Once you have covered the entire area, return to your starting point and
go over the carpet again with only the vacuum switched on (in other
words, don't spray). This will remove any surplus moisture that has
'wicked' up the pile.

Ventilation is the key to drying carpets - open the windows and get a
through draft.

Stay off the carpet until dry - if you have to walk on it, wear clean house
slippers or go barefoot. Take care - wet carpets are slippery.

Dry Foam Cleaning. Whilst various machines & techniques are used for
dry foam cleaning, they all rely on the use of a special shampoo.

The principle is that water & detergent are applied as foam, so less
moisture is present. The shampoo crystallises as it dries, trapping the
dirt, which is vacuumed away when the carpet is dry.

Advantages are fast drying times and no risk of over wetting.
Disadvantages are that, in my opinion its only a surface clean.

Dry Powder Cleaning. With this system, absorbent granules
(impregnated with detergent) are brushed into the carpet pile, left for a
short time, the vacuumed away.

Advantages are that no water is used and the room isn't out of use for
much time.

Again, in my opinion only a surface clean.

Carbonated Water Cleaning. Operated mainly as a franchise, the
cleaning method is apparently to inject fizzy water into the carpet and
agitate with an absorbent cotton pad, fitted to a floor-scrubbing

With 30 years in the trade, I just can't see how this is supposed to work.
Just my opinion. The evidence I've seen hasn't convinced me either.

Spots & Stains.

The pile fibre of a carpet has a big influence on how easily stains can be
removed. Synthetic fibres don't really stain much, whereas wool can stain
badly, again due to absorption.

The most important thing is to correctly identify the stain. If you were
present when the stain occurred its easy, but if not a little detective
work is called for.

Stains near occasional tables are often beverages, stains near a dressing
table are usually make up. I'm sure you get the idea. Smell can aslo give
you some clues!

The second most important thing is to react quickly! The longer a stain is
allowed to remain, the harder it will be to remove it.

Step 1. Remove any solids with a spoon, working from the outside of the
stain in.

Step 2. Blot the stain with an absorbent cloth. I find paper kitchen roll
to be best. It's very important to blot the stain, not rub it. You want to
absorb as much as possible.

Step 3. Treat with a stain remover. If you don't have a specialised
carpet stain remover, you can often use household chemicals. An
excellent resource is

I'd recommend three companies for carpet stain removal products, Stain
Devils - available in many supermarkets or within 24 hours by post, Rug
Doctor, mainly found in DIY sheds and Prochem, mainly trade and
available at most janitorial suppliers (see your local Yellow Pages).

All of these websites have excellent advice on stain removal, so much so,
that it's pointless repeating them here.

(C) David Lang 2005.

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