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The Science Behind Carpet Cleaning

Posted on August 2, 2022

Have you ever wondered about the chemical process after you used carpet cleaning services? Because, as it turns out, it’s complicated.

Carpet cleaners have to account for different carpet types and different soils. The chemistry involved in breaking down each soil without breaking down the carpet itself gets complex. So how does a singular carpet cleaning solution account for all of these factors?

There’s a well-tested process to destroy carpet soils while still keeping the carpet safe. And it involves four basic principles.

So how does carpet cleaning work?

  1. Agitation
  2. Temperature
  3. Chemical Action
  4. Time

1. Agitation

The first step is to “agitate” the soils in the carpet.

Basically, all that means is that the carpet soils must essentially be unstuck from the fibers. Once they’re free, they’re more likely to be suspended in the chemicals.

And how does carpet cleaning work to do this? Agitation can happen both through initial hand-scrubbing and brushes during the vacuuming process.

Soils can be deep-set into the carpet. As a result, agitation is a vital step in the cleaning process. The physical movement of carpet fibers does a lot, as it turns out.

2. Temperature

Next, the temperature must be right for cleaning.

Temperature does two things: it can essentially “melt” some of the carpet soils, and it “excites” the cleaning chemicals. This combination allows the carpet to get cleaned much faster.

The trick to temperature is to make it high enough to affect the soils but not so high that they affect the carpet. So how does carpet cleaning work to accomplish this?

As it turns out, most soils melt well below the temperature that affects carpet fibers. A range of 100+ degrees but below 200 degrees usually works.

3. Chemical Action

Now let’s get into the actual chemistry of cleaning, which can differ depending on the chemicals and soil. How does carpet cleaning work on a chemical level?

Generally, a cleaner dissolves the initial easy-to-dissolve carpet soils. It then “emulsifies” them, which combines oils with water (which usually don’t combine, as you probably learned in science class). The next step is suspending the soils. This suspension spreads them out in the cleaner and prevents them from bonding with the carpet.

Next is “sequestering,” which reduces the water hardness. Reducing hardness just means that there are fewer hard materials in the water as the hard soils get broken down. Finally, they are thoroughly mixed into the solution and then pushed out by the force of water.

The specifics of some of these steps can vary by method. Some cleaners dry into a powder, suspending the carpet soils by essentially freezing them in these powdered crystals. Sometimes enzymes are employed that can eat odor-causing particles. Others use the force of carbonated water to force the soils up.

Other cleaning methods involve alkaline solutions to neutralize acidic soils, electrostatic cancellation to prevent soils from sticking to the carpet, and saponification to turn fat into soap.

4. Time

Finally, you need to wait. Hey, how does carpet cleaning work if you don’t give the chemicals some time?

This step is pretty straightforward. Allow 10 to 20 minutes for the chemical to set and destroy the carpet soils. The chemical processes described above take a while, unsurprisingly. Give them time to do what they’re going to do.


So how does carpet cleaning work?

Carpet cleaning involves a lot of science. The people that innovate these formulas must know the chemical makeup of all kinds of different materials since there are a lot of things that can lurk in your carpet.

We have many different solutions packed into any one cleaning chemical, and we can thank modern science for that. And carpet cleaning solutions are continuing to innovate.

If you need your carpet cleaned, you can give us a call. We know the chemistry needed to take care of your stains and deep-set carpet soils, and we service anywhere in the Agoura Hills area.

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