Low-Moisture Carpet Cleaning Options

These effective carpet care treatments are frequently used between hot water extraction cleanings.

For operations or facilities that want to keep carpet spot-free and clean between hot water extraction treatments, there are a number of very low moisture (VLM) cleaning options available.

These interim cleaning options use 99 percent less water than extraction, and carpet can often be used a short time after cleaning, according to Stephen Lewis, technical director for Millicare.

Three types of VLM carpet cleaning are common in the commercial market, Lewis states.

Building service contractors (BSCs) and facility managers can choose encapsulation, spin bonnet cleaning or dry extraction.

Encapsulation: This process, sometimes called crystallization, is performed using products that are easy to buy and use, and they are often inexpensive, Lewis says.

A detergent formula is used to break down, surround or encapsulate the soil in the carpet fiber, and the non-sticky powder or crystals can be removed from the carpet by vacuuming.

Spin bonnet: This cleaning method is one of the oldest versions of VLM carpet care, Lewis explains.

A light prespray detergent is placed on the carpet, and then a rotating cotton pad is attached to a slow-speed floor machine and passed over the carpet.

During cleaning, the pad must be changed frequently to avoid resoiling.

Dry extraction: Only a few dry extraction products are available to JanSan companies and services; instead companies are often brought in that specialize in commercial carpet maintenance, Lewis states.

A dry sponge-like compound is spread on the carpet, worked in using a mechanical scrubber and removed by vacuuming.

According to Lewis, dry extraction is the lowest moisture option available and no soil, dirt particles or sticky residues are left behind.

Interim Cleaning

Scott Warrington, director of technical support for Bridgepoint and the Interlink Supply network and a cleaner/restorer with over 40 years experience, recommends encapsulation as an interim carpet cleaning option.

A few equipment options are available for applying encapsulation chemistry to a carpet, including:

  • A counter-rotating brush
  • A single-disc floor machine
  • A triple-head rotary machine.

Regardless of equipment used, Warrington says there are a number of benefits to interim encapsulation cleaning.

Fast production times: This method can clean up to 10,000-square-feet of carpet per hour, depending on the equipment.

Better appearance: After cleaning, there will be little to no wicking, and carpet often looks better than it would after hot water extraction.

Low cost equipment: An operation may already have suitable equipment, or it can be purchased for approximately $3,000.

Minimum of training required: Training on techniques is often available through distributors.

Short downtimes: Downtime is normally less than hour.

Other Considerations

Kevin Pearson, president of Pearson Carpet Care, LLC, agrees that encapsulation can be depended on to clean carpet quickly.

Today’s VLM carpet cleaning options have faster drying times compared to hot water extraction, and quieter equipment means day work is an option.

Since commercial jobs can be completed during regular business hours, employee overtime pay can be eliminated.

The amount of time it takes a carpet to dry depends on pile and soil conditions, but shorter drying times mean encapsulation can be the best option for 24-hour locations like airports, hospitals and casinos.

Finally, for carpet care business, transportation and fuel costs are often a concern.

Pearson explains that his company’s vehicle and fuel costs are less using VLM carpet cleaning options.

Unlike truckmount hot water extraction equipment, the truck’s engine does not have to run while carpet cleaning is taking place.

Also, transportation costs are lower because VLM equipment can be moved using a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

For a variety of reasons, VLM carpet care options are now more widely used than ever.

These different cleaning methods can offer managers and BSCs quick and effective carpet cleaning results between hot water extraction treatments.

Posted On August 28, 2013

Phillip Lawless

Editor of Cleaning & Maintenance Management Magazine

Phillip Lawless is Editor of Cleaning & Maintenance Management magazine; he can be reached at A graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Lawless has over 13 years of professional writing and editing experience.

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