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Carpet Care Training can make you an Expert


Q. When using an acid rinse with hot water extraction, can I use vinegar or should I use a brand name product? 

A. Vinegar does work, but customers may object to the odor. Besides, many rinse agents for extraction are formulated with corrosion inhibitors to protect internal metal fittings in the equipment and often a pleasant smelling deodorizer. 

Q.  What is the best all around spot cleaner for carpets? 

A.  If it is a building where I am responsible for the continual appearance of the carpet, I prefer to mix up an encapsulation cleaner. It doesn't remove tar and coffee as well as a strong carpet spotter, but it leaves zero harmful residue. In fact, that treated spot will resist re-soiling. Most of the encapsulation cleaners dilute 1:10, affording a cost savings over the full-strength spotter.
Then, if the spot is difficult, I carry a mild solvent for white-out, grease, gum, etc. and a mild carpet acidic rinse (normally diluted 1:5) for coffee, tea and water spots. So with three spray bottles, I end up with an all purpose spotting kit.

It is more to keep up with than just one product, but offers a more comprehensive coverage. So the choice is yours.

Q. How do I remove heavy adhesive tape residue from a carpet? 

A.  You will need a citrus gel solvent spotter from your carpet cleaning supply store. A pint bottle with a polytop cap speeds the application process. Apply liberally and distribute with a slight agitation for total coverage. Allow it to set for the required time. Using a plastic or nylon scraper, begin heavy agitation, but don't fray the fibers. It's extremely tedious work, but necessary to scrub off all the adhesive.

You could possibly use a shampoo brush on a floor machine, but it tends to spray solvent where you don't want it. After about one hour of scraping, spray on a dual-solvent pre-spray, agitate, and extract. Repeat as necessary.

Don't allow the solvent to soak into the carpet backing or delamination could occur. I hope you can charge an arm and a leg for the job.

Q.  How do I remove cigarette smoke residue from walls and carpeting? 

A.  You will first need to assess the amount of damage. Once you walk in, normally your nose will detect the degree of smoke abatement that is required. If it is heavy, you will need to:
a) Wash and paint all the walls and ceilings.
b) Wash all the windows, ceiling fans, cabinets, doors, trim, clean the drapes and Venetian blinds.
c) Clean the carpet with hot water extraction and a commercial deodorizer.
d) Replace the furnace filter.
e) Set an ozone machine at the furnace cold air intake register and run it for about two days with the furnace fan ON. Ozone machine setting (depending upon size) would be at ½ dial.

Ozone will oxidize the smoke residue in the air ducts and furnace. Make sure there are warning signs to prohibit entry and block off access while the machine is in operation. Remove any organic matter such as plants, which will be affected by the ozone.

Only experienced technicians should place the ozone machine (as inexperienced operators may incur liability). Allow one hour of intense ventilation after turning off the ozone machine before occupancy.

With slight smoke damage, you may be able to clean the carpet, and fog the remainder of the structure with a smoke removal chemical and/or possibly wash the interior walls and ceilings.

Q.  What suggestions do you have for cleaning wool carpet in an airplane? 

A.  During the last several years in cleaning commercial wool carpet, I have learned an important lesson. Agitation is one of the most overlooked aspects of cleaning soiled wool. Since the temperature and pH must be reduced, the psi, gpm and wand movement alone are usually insufficient. If the pre-spray and pre-agitation do not remove close to 90% of the visible soil, all the wand passes in the world will not remove the remaining 10% of the visible soil.

Here is another challenge. On the last private 737 that I cleaned, there were light strips along the middle aisle. So don’t rule out electrical wiring underfoot. You want to gear all your steps to reduce moisture. My suggestion is to use a small power head unit that will attach to your extractor and still fit under a typical seat. The brush agitation is no more harmful than the average upright vacuum cleaner.

The best procedure is to pre-spray, agitate without the vac or rinse on, then lightly pre-spray a second time and extract with the brush, vacuum and rinse all on. Use a small wand, if necessary, for soiled edges and a second drying pass. Set a carpet dryer to accelerate air flow.

Q.  Can I use dry vapor to clean a carpet? 

A.  Most carpet experts would discourage the use of dry vapor steam cleaning for carpet. The dry vapor normally runs at 240 degrees and some carpet seaming tapes melt at 190 degrees. You might end up replacing all of the seams after cleaning with dry vapor steam. High temperatures can also adversely affect carpet dye and remove any stain-resistant treatment.   

Q.  How do I remove tar spots from a carpet? 

A.  First, apply a spotting gel that is formulated for tar removal and safe to use on carpet. This treatment keeps both solvent and discoloration from running to the base of the carpet. If the tar is heavily caked, you may need to carefully snip the tip of the fibers with duckbill scissors prior to treatment. Agitate gel slightly. Allow it to dwell as required on the product label.

Next, blot with white absorbent towel. Repeat the operation, if necessary, until tar is removed. If the affected area is extremely large, yet light, you could bonnet clean the carpet with a rotary floor machine to absorb dissolved tar.
Finally, hot water extract to rinse all chemical and residues. Apply acidic rinse diluted 1:5 in a trigger sprayer to any remaining stains and then extract. 

Q.  Is dry absorbent powder a good method to clean carpet with? 

A.  Some contractors report good results with dry-absorbent cleaning. However, surveys show that over 80% of commercial carpet cleaners prefer hot water extraction. HWE produces excellent results in flushing pet stains, urine, body fluids, and dust mites from the base of the carpet.

Rising with water temperatures exceeding 140º (hot water extraction) has been shown to produce health benefits. Think about it: if your pet had diarrhea, wouldn't you want to deep-clean and thoroughly flush all the contamination before allowing a baby to crawl on the carpet and ingest residues?

Q.  What suggestions do you have for bidding motel carpet? 

A.  An average rate of 14 cents a square foot in motel operations normally grosses around $70 an hour, which is on the low end for truckmounts. My guess is that if the rooms are prepped, (chairs up on bed and carpet vacuumed) and if the carpet is a medium to dark color, and if the soil load is medium (not heavy) and they schedule at least six rooms; then your 9 cents would gross around $50 an hour. Many truck mount operations figure they must be around $100 to earn a decent income.

You will want to take all of your expenses and calculate your break-even point. For example, if your business expenses run $4,000 a month and you can run the machine 6 hours a day 24 days a month; your break-even point would be $28 an hour. Here is the math: 6 hrs X 24 days a month = 144 production hours. Then, $4,000 divided by 144 hours = $28 an hour expense rate.

Now, if you need to earn or net $7,000 a month, you must add $49 an hour ($7,000 divided by 144 hours) to your break-even point to arrive at a total hourly billing rate of $77 an hour. You can do your own math to determine where you need to be on the pricing. Track your actual production rate on various jobs for closer price calculations. Neglected carpet usually requires intensive cleaning.

A demo can earn you the business. Heavy soil may require a pre-scrub. If possible, clean 20' of a heavily soiled area. I would use an air mover for a fast dry-time. The contrast will be so noticeable; they will need to hire you to complete the job. However, some owners are savvy to this and want an entire room or hall cleaned.

Q.  How do I correct or prevent wicking on olefin carpet? 

A.  Olefin wicking is common and correctable. If the carpet manufacturer allows bonnet cleaning, go back and spray on an encapsulation cleaner. I prefer also to add 1 cup of rinse agent to the sprayer. Then, bonnet with a slightly damp bonnet. The key is low moisture. This will solve the problem. 

Q.  Is it ok to use glass cleaner to remove carpet spots? 

A.  No.  Many glass cleaner formulations have too high of a pH which can set stains.  Others may have a blue dye added to the glass cleaner. On a light colored carpet, even a heat transfer dye removal process will not remove the blue color that has been set in.

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Q. How do I price encapsulation cleaning in commercial buildings? 

A. If your city runs 18 cents for hot water extraction in smaller buildings and down to 12 cents in large, then encapsulation would likely run about 60% of extraction. With interim cleaning, you tend to go around most furniture and focus on the traffic lanes.

If you are trying to clean neglected carpet with encapsulation, you will need slower passes and the price would be close to the HWE price. Our latest version of JanBid, calculates all the variables in carpet care and offers a price customized to your business.

Q. Can you inform me about encapsulation cleaning? 

A. Encapsulation is considered a low-moisture, interim carpet cleaning process. Many formulations contain a detergent, surfactant and solvent, but with a crystalline polymer. The polymer allows the encapsulated soil to dry into a non-sticky crystallized particle. It is being used in many commercial settings, especially on level loop carpet. The results are normally quite satisfactory.

The process can utilize a machine propelled bonnet, or cylindrical or rotational brushes. It is usually sprayed on and then brushed into the fibers. The encapsulation chemistry surrounds soil particles and crystallizes them to reduce further soil attraction. Routine vacuum maintenance causes much of the soil to be released and removed. Those who use the process, find it has a high production rate compared to wand extraction, and a fast drying time. It tends to reduce wicking problems and prolong the required times between cleanings.

As with most low-moisture cleaning systems, eventually a deep flushing and rinsing action will be required to remove trapped dust mites and embedded soil from the base of the carpet. Encapsulation works on medium soil to extend the time required between hot-water extraction operations.

Several encapsulation compounds have attained the CRI Seal of Approval. Some technicians are using encapsulation for a pre-scrub on heavily soiled carpet prior to hot water extraction. Others have also used the process after extraction, to reduce browning.

Check out our Carpet Cleaning Training Program. It has all the answers for you.

Q. How can I remove oil base paint from nylon carpet?  

A. Not all dried paint is 100% removable, here are some suggestions. Use a citrus gel solvent spotter formulated for carpet. A gel stays on top of the carpet fibers and slows evaporation allowing the solvent to dissolve the paint. Volatile spotters normally contain tetrachloroethylene or perchloroethylene, suspected carcinogens. Liquid paint removers can quickly penetrate to the carpet backing and loosen or dissolve the adhesives. Both give off fumes that can be hazardous to breathe.

If hardened drops of paint are visible on the tips of cut pile, begin by carefully snipping them off with scissors. This will reduce the occurrence of dissolving and then spreading the paint. Be careful not to cut holes in the carpet. Apply a citrus gel, allow it to sit 5-10 minutes; agitate with a nylon scraper and absorb into a towel. Apply a detergent extraction solution or general spotter and agitate again. Use caution not to fray the fiber. Thoroughly extract with hot water. Check out our Carpet Cleaning Training Program.

Q. I have spots on my carpet that disappear when cleaned, but gradually come back over a two week period. How can I correct this?

A. Reoccurring spots crop up when moisture activates residue concealed at the base of the carpet. Wet cleaning, and sometimes low moisture cleaning, produces capillary action. Excessive and/or dormant spills are then drawn to the surface. If your carpet warranty allows, bonnet cleaning with an encapsulation cleaner immediately following extraction will normally correct the problem. Or, bonnet clean a few days following cleaning. Low moisture cleaning prevents much of the wick-back. However, the spill is still residing untouched on the backside of the carpet.

About 30-years ago, I was shocked to observe the results after cleaning a carpet at a car dealership. It actually looked worse on Monday morning. Apparently all the grease tracked in had been spot cleaned by the employees using copious amounts of cleaner. The grease spills were no longer visible. But, sufficient residue was lurking at the base of the carpet or even on the backside, waiting to resurface.

Another corrective treatment requires placing a white towel over the spot immediately after cleaning. Then, place a weight (20-30 lbs.) on top of the towel and leave 24-48 hours. To absorb spots reoccurring at a later time - apply an encapsulation cleaner, blot with towel, reapply cleaner and then place towel and weight overnight. One thing about reoccurring spots: they are correctable. Don’t give up; even a big-gulp is removable. Check out our Carpet Cleaning Training Program.

Q. What is the best way to remove red dye from a carpet?

A. I’ve never found the miracle cure. Normally, a two-part red stain remover from a reputable carpet cleaning supply firm will produce the best results. However, most honest carpet cleaners admit not all stains will come out. Our carpet division recommends Red Out by CTI.

One problem occurs when a red stain has been cleaned with other solutions. A two-part dye remover requires mixing according to label, applying moderately to the stain and then placing a damp towel followed by a steam iron. This heat transfer process is also capable of removing some of the “permanent” dye from the carpet. Instead of a red stain, now you have a light stain in the carpet.

With super-effective compounds, be sure to pre-test in an inconspicuous area. Try not to assume ownership of THEIR stain. You are only there to determine if your corrective process works on their spill and their carpet fiber. Check out our Carpet Cleaning Training Program.

Q. How do you remove old coffee stains from carpet?

A. Coffee can be difficult to remove due to the natural tannin dye. There are three methods commonly used. A home remedy is to apply vinegar and blot with a white towel. Diluting a carpet acidic rinse liquid 1:5 works on most easy spots. Commercial coffee stain removers are normally effective on difficult or pre-cleaned spills. However, the active ingredient, sodium metabisulfite can bite your nose and is considered hazardous to breathe.

One way to permanently set a coffee stain is to use a high pH cleaner, so if the spot has been repeatedly cleaned, you may be out of luck. Often, coffee stains must be removed at elevated temperatures close to the temp at which they entered the fiber. Formulations from carpet cleaning supply firms usually require mixing with hot water just prior to use, pre-testing the fabric for colorfastness in an inconspicuous area, and then applying directly to the spill. Try to avoid breathing the fumes. If the label specifies, you apply moderately (just enough to cover, but not soak, the spot) and then vacuum when dry.

On white carpet, hot coffee can burn the fiber causing a permanent stain. On dark carpet, the coffee stain remover may dry leaving a white powder. It can be removed with a neutral cleaner and towel or by extraction. Check out our Carpet Cleaning Training Program.

Q. Is a truck-mounted carpet machine the best for residential cleaning?

A. Truck-mounted extraction is the most common method of carpet cleaning used in residential work. Of the brands available, slide-in units are the most popular. You will also find that many educated consumers are now asking for truck-mount service. IICRC approved schools and instructors offer regular technician certification classes in most large metropolitan areas. For dates and locations of classes in your area visit:

Do a search at some of the online carpet cleaning bulletin boards and you will find in-depth discussions regarding equipment and chemical preferences. Some suppliers may even lend you a unit to determine if it fits all of your needs. Parts availability and fast repair maintenance are also major concerns. Check out our Carpet Cleaning Training Program.  

Q. Can you recommend an effective means of removing black ink from nylon carpeting?

A. One method is to drip ink remover on the spot while holding the extraction hose cuff or upholstery wand over the spot. As the ink remover hits the spot, the solution is extracted immediately from the fibers, preventing the ink from spreading. After the spot is gone, apply a mild alkaline cleaner solution, flush with an acidic rinse, and then blot with a towel. Most ink removers are difficult to breathe, so ventilate the exhaust outside if possible. Check out our Carpet Cleaning Training Program.

Q. How can I remove yellow chalk dust from the carpet below the chalk board?

A. Colored chalk is challenging but cleanable. However, merely adding a weak solution to the extractor and immediately making repeated passes is ineffective. Always begin with intensive and repeated vacuum passes with a beater bar unit. Next, mix your extraction cleaner at a strong concentration in a pump-up sprayer and apply it liberally to the soiled area. After 5-10 minutes of contact time, apply agitation with a brush, the sole of a tennis shoe, extractor power head brush, shampooer, or bonnet.

Add 1 cup of acidic rinse for each 5 gallons of rinse water in the extractor tank and make slow passes across the soiled area. The chalk should disappear. Three common causes for failure are: not enough concentration of the cleaner, inadequate dwell time, and insufficient agitation. Check out our Carpet Cleaning Training Program.

Q. How do I prevent freezing in a truck-mount carpet van?

Here are some suggestions for frigid daytime on-the-job protection:
- Leave your van running with the heater on high, initially at each job.
- Transport the solution hose inside the facility or home to keep it warm until you are ready to start cleaning. If needed, run the solution hose inside of a spare vacuum hose to protect from freezing. Never leave wands and sprayers outside as they can freeze in just a few minutes.
- Get your fresh water supply hooked up and the water moving. Make sure you have sink adapters as most outside faucets will be frozen or under snow.
- You can install thick black foam insulation made for water pipes over the feed line or at least in the places where it would touch frozen surfaces.
- Immediately run hot or warm water through the hoses and try to keep the flow going. Better yet, install a water supply tank in your van. Once you are set up, start your truck-mount, close all doors possible, and shut off the van engine.
- Preplan the entire job so solution is always running thru the water supply and solution hoses.
- When finished, reverse the process. Start the van and disconnect the quick disconnect (QD) from the truck and insert a spare (unattached) mating QD into it. Then disconnect the QD at the wand and do the same thing.
- Elevate the hose as you walk back toward the truck. This will drain the hose so it poses no threats of future freezing until you arrive at the next job.
- Empty the wand by attaching the mating QD to the wand and squeezing the trigger. Or, depress the male disconnect with a wrench while draining the water from the wand. When you hook up at the next job it only takes half a minute for the unit to purge the air and begin delivering heated solution.
Don't rule out the possibility of rescheduling a job when arctic
temperatures pose a serious threat to your investment. No homeowner wants house doors standing open in freezing weather.

How to clean Berber carpet

Q. What is the best method of cleaning Berber carpet?

A.  Most Berber is very difficult to clean. Actually, Berber is not a type of carpet or fiber, but a type of weave. It is identified by its loop pile construction and usually contains small flecks of dark color on a light shade of background. The original wool Berber was a challenge, but not as difficult as today’s Olefin Berber. Berber has been produced with wool, polyester, nylon, olefin or PET (recycled plastic bottles) or with a blend of these fibers.

Fiber content can be determined with a burn test, yet it is tricky because there are also wool blends (containing other fibers). One test is the smell test. When wet, does it smell like a wet dog? If so, it is probably wool, and will require heavy pre-agitation with a pH 8 or below shampoo or encapsulation cleaner and hot water extraction temperatures below 150 degrees.

Some manufacturers of olefin Berber suggest it is safe to clean with bleach. But, bleach is hazardous to breathe and difficult to rinse from the carpet. Unfortunately, Olefin is one of the most popular Berbers and difficult to clean because it is oleophilic (oil loving). Traffic lanes can be especially challenging. Heavily soiled olefin Berber is best cleaned with this process:

1. Thoroughly vacuum carpet.
2. Pre-spray with a premium pre-conditioner boosted with oxygen bleach and solvent. A local carpet cleaning supply store can help you with the proper chemical mixtures. Rule of thumb - use a sprayer size where you add 8 oz. of pre-spray, 2 oz. of oxygen booster and 2 oz. of a citrus solvent to the container or sprayer of water.
3. Pre-scrub the carpet with a damp bonnet (sprayed with the pre-conditioner) after a 15 minute chemical dwell time. The cleaning effort must remove over 90% of the visible soil, or it will require a second treatment and scrubbing. Attempt to keep the carpet as dry as possible by not over-wetting with solution. Use caution on seams as they are vulnerable to separation.
4. If using a rotary extractor, disconnect the vacuum cuff and scrub the carpet without triggering the water. This will accomplish a good agitation of the fiber prior to extraction.
5. Extract with high temp. water with an acidic rinse added according to directions.
6. Either after extraction or after waiting 2-3 days, lightly spray an encapsulation cleaner on the carpet and bonnet clean with a slightly damp or dry bonnet.
7. Facilitate drying by using an air handler
If the carpet is only mildly soiled, you can reduce some of the above steps except for the acid rinse.

Become a carpet expert

Remove difficult spots on level loop glue down carpet 

Q. We just started cleaning a doctor's office and everything is going great except for the carpets. The entire office is carpeted with a grey, commercial grade, low nap carpet. There's no padding with a concrete slab underneath.
The problem is twofold. 1) On a daily basis, patients are spilling soda, tracking in oils & tar from the parking lot, spilling food, and the like. 2) The previous cleaning company had a closet full of Dollar Store foam carpet cleaner, so in general the carpets are saturated with soap. My question is what would be the most effective method to keep up on cleaning all the new stains? It's not feasible for us to use to or leave behind a full size (AquaClean18) portable carpet extractor for daily use. Purchasing a small one would be an option.
The other problem is, even when we extract using 3 wet/1 dry pass, resoiling is an issue, with stains reappearing the next day or a week later. Of course, with the problem area being a 100 sq. ft. waiting room, and the amount of spills, it could just be new stains and not resoiling.

A. Your challenge is common with light-colored glue down carpet. After all, there is no pad to absorb those big gulps. To determine if there is substantial chemical build-up in the carpet, pour about 1/3 cup of water in a 2" circle and agitate the carpet. If foam immediately appears, then there is excess surfactant in the carpet. If the carpet does not foam, but by firmly dabbing a white towel all the soil transfers to the towel, and the carpet looks clean in that confined spot, there is a cleaning chemical residue.

The correction is to extract the carpet 2-3 times (using plain hot water) or until there is no longer dark water or foam returning to the sight dome. I have actually encountered carpet that required 6 passes to flush and remove the foam. And, of course, you must add defoamer to the recovery tank.

Wicking of spots, 1-3 days later is an inherent problem with some carpet. The primary correction is to pre-spray with a conditioner, extract using an acidic rinse, and then dry bonnet immediately after (assuming the carpet manufacturer approves of using a bonnet system). You may then want to consider applying a stain guard protectant. Or, wait 3-4 days and bonnet the carpet with an encapsulation cleaner. The encapsulation process will extend the time between resoiling and remove all the spots that have wicked back.

Here are three suggestions for the manager. Ask them to install at least 6 feet of entry door mats. Ask the employees to confine food and drinks to a break room. Propose a regular maintenance program such as encapsulation monthly, and extraction semi-annually. After all, they are creating the problem and should chip in by paying for the solution.

Bonnet/Brush Cleaning

Q.I have just purchased a dirt napper for cleaning carpets, it has 1-1/4" trim bristles outside rows and 5/16 trim bristles for the inside rows and a bonnet in the middle. I have never used one before and need the dos and don’ts of using this; should I wet the bonnet with solution or just spray it?

A.  First of all, consult the carpet warranty and care instructions. Some carpet mills discourage the use of bonnet cleaning or processes that could distort the fiber or loosen seams. Secondly, many technicians prefer to reserve the process for a carpet pre-scrub operation, as it tends to be more aggressive than a single bonnet.

If you plan to pre-scrub or encapsulate with the spin device, I highly recommend a shower-feed tank. A manual spray system takes about 40% longer and inevitably leads to dry spots which the brush then grabs and this could lead to fraying. When you start the machine, always trigger the shower-feed first to lubricate the brushes. You could dampen the bonnet first, but a pre-lube should do the job.

Another way to distribute the solution (to pre-lube the bonnet and brush) is to trigger the shower-feed tank and then immediately pull the machine back manually about 2” and then turn on the machine as you trigger the feed a second time. Only heel the machine on extremely soiled spots.

As in all cases, running a dirty bonnet only tends to move the dirt around. Observe the foam level for each individual product to regulate the feed, so as not to over-saturate or dry-scrub the carpet. Replace bonnets frequently and don’t forget to introduce a regular hot water extraction process into the cleaning system.

How to remove oil spots

Q.  A hand truck had oil on the wheels and left about 80' of 4" spots on and off on the carpet. I had some stain remover and attempted to remove the oil by applying the chemical, than scrubbing with a hand held nylon brush, than using a carpet machine to clean up the area. The oils seem to be gone, but there are now dark spots on the carpet where the spots were removed. It looks like the mistake I made was to scrub the area with a brush. Is it ever going to go back to normal? Is there anything I can do to fix it? 

A.  From what you described, there is a trace of oil or tar still remaining. During the summer, parking lot sealer and especially patching materials contain tar. A normal spotting chemical may not be sufficient. The process may require a carpet spotting solvent such as d’Limonene to dissolve the tar.

If you had 80 spots, you could spray on the solvent and then bonnet with a damp bonnet. Next, extract and then spray each spot lightly with an extraction acidic rinse diluted 1:5 with water and then bonnet with a dry pad. Make sure the bonnet pad does not extend onto any dry areas. Or, you can perform all the above steps with a soft brush and towel.

An acidic rinse is normally required for tar
and heavy grease, to remove the staining properties. Before you try the above process, you could spray the darkest spot with the acidic rinse and lightly blot. After drying, if the spot is gone, you found the shortcut. If not, and you have more labor; make sure you prepare an invoice for the originator.

How to remove rust from a carpet

Q. What product do you recommend?

A.  Your local carpet cleaning supply store will carry rust remover. I would go with a user friendly or safe chemical. Some of the strong acids are corrosive to the skin and lungs.
Whink is a household rust remover that works quite well. Another safe option is to mix your carpet extractor acidic rinse agent 1:5. Spray on, let set 5 min. and then towel. Also, vinegar diluted 1:3 will remove light rust from carpet.

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