Turn up the Heat: Carpet Cleaning
Carpet cleaning is a science, and without proper training and education, one can easily make serious mistakes that can result in potentially irreparable damage to carpet. With so much at stake, it is important to understand the role of heat in the carpet cleaning process.
Heat is one of the four fundamental components of cleaning along with agitation, time, and chemical action. Heat speeds up the molecular activity of chemicals so that they work harder to help remove soils. In fact, studies show that for every 18 degrees of temperature rise above 188°F, chemical action is increased by a factor of two.
Along with helping to break down and remove soils, heat has additional benefits:
Longer carpet life span. Embedded soils can eat away at carpet fibers along with the backing of the carpet, but more effective cleaning―the result of heat―can help remove these soils and enhance the life span of the carpet.
Easier grease and oil removal. Heated cleaning solution helps loosen and break down grease and oils so that they can be more easily removed from carpet fibers.
Improved appearance. Often the texture of the carpet is fluffed by the heated cleaning process, making the carpet look fuller and more luxurious.
Shorter drying times. Heat can speed up the drying process for carpets.
Although heat can benefit the carpet cleaning process significantly, it can lose value at a certain point. Typically, heated solution of approximately 212°F at the wand tip is considered preferable. Too low a temperature can mean you are not maximizing the benefits of heat. Conversely, too high a temperature can result in vaporization, which can be detrimental to the cleaning process. The cleaning solution should always remain in a liquid form.
When Heat May Be a Detriment
While heat is an important player in effective cleaning, there are a few situations when heat should be avoided. Typically this depends on the type of fiber or fabric being cleaned or the type of soiling.
For instance, if crayon or candle wax is in the carpet, high heat may cause the colors and dyes to run. Additionally, protein soiling, including soil from blood, eggs, and other foods, is typically best cleaned using cold water. With these soils, heated water can actually bake the proteins into the carpet, making them harder to remove. Such problems can be avoided by simply inspecting the carpet before cleaning.
Fabrics such as wool and silk can present further complications. While rarely installed, especially in commercial facilities, wool carpet is usually best cleaned with warm―not hot―water. Many experts suggest 150°F is the maximum temperature to be safe, as excessive heat can damage the appearance of the wool. For its part, silk may shrink if it is cleaned with too high a temperature, and permanent texture damage also can result.
Finally, certain dyes, no matter what the fiber or fabric, can lack colorfastness and may bleed if cleaned with high heat. If you are unsure as to whether the carpet to be cleaned is colorfast, test a small area before cleaning the entire carpet.
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