How to clean carpets

Cleaning carpets is part of the job

These are general guidelines for most carpet extraction cleaning operations encountered in the janitorial profession. Different environments may require adjustment in the procedures or materials required, so be prepared to adapt for any changes you may encounter.

Survey the situation

Do an area analysis and piece count to know exactly how many chairs, tables, desks, or other items you will be dealing with. This can help you identify quantities of supplies you will need to have on hand to clean. It’s important in particular to try and determine the level of dirt contamination, as well as types of stains, spots, or other problem areas.

It will also help to prepare a plan on how to position objects. You may be able to place objects outside, or do half of the area first with objects on the other side, switching after drying is complete.

Once you have done your survey, you can decide what products to stock, safety equipment to bring along, and which chemicals to mix, dilute or otherwise prepare for the job. This is also a good time to prepare a checklist for quality control.

One critical task you should do is read your extraction machine’s manual and FULLY understand it’s usage directions before you ever step foot into the location to be cleaned. This will not only make you look professional, but will minimize your time on the job and keep everyone as safe as possible.

When you begin your carpet cleaning job, always place caution or warning signs in front of the area being serviced. Apply proper protective gear based upon your cleaning chemical requirements. Also be prepared for usage of any heated cleaning equipment, as it may produce steam or other energetic emissions which can burn. Lastly, wear a set of shoe covers to protect against contamination after cleaning. Be sure that you have your QC checklist available, marking off each step after completion. Many clients will appreciate this touch from their janitorial professional.

Steps for success:

  1. Remove all furniture and objects as per your previously planning.
  2. Vacuum location to remove large debris and dirt as much as possible.
  3. Treat previously identified stains, as well as any discovered after object removal and vacuuming. Your hard work and intelligent observation here will pay off at the end.
  4. Place carpet extraction machine near exit of location to minimize any trails left after removing device. High power and heated extraction devices may require separate plugs, or even circuits to operate correctly. Your machine’s directions should help you achieve proper operation.
  5. Skip this step for light to medium duty or maintenance cleaning. For heavily soiled carpeting, you will want to perform a pre-spray operation. You will apply your carpet extraction cleaning solution to help emulsify long encrusted dirt. Extraction machine manufacturers generally offer an attachment for their devices for this operation to allow for quick (and sometimes heated) pre-sprays. We recommend getting one if your machine doesn’t already have one.
  6. Pro scrubber/extractors: Start at the furthest corner of the room from the exit. When you engage the start button, it will apply carpet extraction solution, scrub, and vacuum all at once so you only need to do one pass in most cases. Stop a few inches from the wall edge, so you will be able to create a final cleaning path after the rest of the room is done. Your next extraction column should overlap a couple of inches over the previous to ensure a uniform cleaning job.

    Box carpet extractors: Start at the furthest corner of the room from the exit. Stop a few inches before the wall edge, this will be your final column areas. Lay down a column of carpet cleaning solution with the spray wand. Go back over it with the vacuum motor engaged. Begin the next column, overlapping a couple of inches for uniform cleaning.

  7. Most carpet cleaning solutions will require a final rinse step after treatment. Follow step #6 with only fresh water in your solution tank to perform this action.
  8. Place professional dryer air fans at several points around the treated area to accelerate the drying process. The more air turbulence, the better.
  9. Once drying is completed, you can collect your equipment and warning signs. Replace all furniture and objects to their original locations.

A note on disposal of used carpet cleaning solutions: Most sewer systems treatment plants and water management districts are not going to be too upset if you dispose of used carpet cleaning solutions into their systems, particularly if they are green certified carpet cleaning chemicals. But to be sure, always contact water management districts in the area you intend to clean and let them know what you plan to do, particularly if you will be doing this often. They will give you the final word, as well as any guidelines to follow or things to keep in mind. A written assurance may also be wise, if they would oblige. A pollution liability concern is a major concern. Don’t take that chance.

Need more janitorial tips and ideas? Check out our cleaning guides or our tips and tricks section for more helpful information and techniques for professionals.