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How to Properly Steam Clean a Carpet

October 25th, 2021 | 11 min. read

How to Properly Steam Clean a Carpet

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Steam cleaning your carpets, at least once a year, is the same as getting your car serviced.

We all service our cars once a year, or every 10,000 km… whichever comes first (well, that is what we should all at least plan to do!) 

Why do we do this?

To extend the engine life, increase the safety of the car, prevent wearing, and make sure it’s all running smoothly. Strictly speaking, we service our cars to maintain them.

The same can be said for your carpets.

Let me ask you this, have you recently had your workplace carpets professionally steam cleaned?

If not, you may be holding back for a couple of reasons. 

Maybe you don’t know what steam cleaning involves?

Or maybe you think it’s an unnecessary expense?

But the reality is, carpet steam cleaning is none of the above. Carpet steam cleaning is both necessary and easy when you have a professional cleaning company handle it. It should be a permanent fixture in your cleaning scope of works.

But how does steam cleaning work? What even is it and what is the process?

These are some important questions to ask, and we understand the need to know how the entire steam cleaning procedure works. With over 27 years of experience in the commercial cleaning industry, we’re going to pass on our knowledge on this topic to you, so you’ll know exactly what’s involved.

What is carpet steam cleaning and how does it work?

Before we get into any details surrounding how a carpet should be properly steam cleaned, we need to make sure we’re on the right page in terms of what steam cleaning actually is.

There certainly are a lot of ways to clean a carpet such as dry cleaning, and shampooing. But at In-Tec, we generally prefer to use the steam cleaning method, or otherwise known as hot water extraction. That is not to say that we do not at times use the other methods (dry cleaning, shampooing, or using a walk-behind machine). It is just that the steam cleaning method works best in most cases (and it also can produce the best result).

Carpet steam cleaning is the process of pressurising hot water to penetrate deep into the carpet fibres to help soften and loosen embedded dirt, dust, skin cells, stains, and most importantly kill germs, bacteria, and viruses. It also freshens and prolongs the life of your carpet – no more worrying about replacing the carpet prematurely because it’s looking old and worn!

How does carpet steam cleaning work?

When steam is forced into the carpet, the teeny-tiny vapor molecules agitate the pores which cause the molecules to expand quickly and powerfully to expel out all the nasty things lying around in the fibres.

I haven’t gone into too much detail here as the next section goes through the entire in-depth steam cleaning procedure.

Let’s take a look at how it works!

How to steam clean a carpet? [the 6-step process]

How does the team at In-Tec Commercial Cleaning steam clean carpet?

We understand that this may be one of the top questions circling your mind, so let’s go through the entire process from start to finish.

Bear with us because although some parts may be a little technical, we’ve done our best to make the steam cleaning process easy to understand for everyone.

1.   Do a risk assessment

Right off the bat, our team of cleaners complete a risk assessment and familiarise themselves with the site as soon as they enter your workplace. This can include making sure where all the exits, fire extinguishers, power supply, water supply, bathrooms, etc., are in the building.

In other words, they’re doing all the important behind the scenes stuff to get them prepared for the job.

Why does this need to be done?

In case something was to occur, the cleaners know where all the important areas of the building are.

You may also be asking why do the cleaners need to familiarise themselves with the site? Are they different team members from my normal cleaners?

The short answer is yes. The team members we use for steam cleaning your carpets are specifically trained to do this task, so they are different from your normal cleaners. If you have ever asked your cleaners to perform a spot clean, you may have noticed that the job has not been done well, some damage has been done to the carpet, or maybe just had the request ignored. 

Steam cleaning carpet takes skill and a trained cleaner is best to perform this work.

2.   Prepare the machinery

You simply can’t complete a task without the appropriate machinery.

You need to get it all ready to go. Without getting into a lot of unnecessary detail, the equipment generally needed is:

  • Vacuum cleaner with a powerhead attached
  • Hot water extraction machine (we use a Steamvac) including the wand - large and handheld.
  • Hot water inline unit (to heat the water)
  • Pre- spray unit 
  • Hoses for the machine to connect to the wand, pre-spray unit, filling and emptying the machine
  • Agitators for the stain spotting
  • And of course the chemicals needed for the job at hand

The first step is prepping the hot water extractor and pre-spray unit. This involves filling the carpet machine with water (side note - our tank holds 80 litres) and filling the pre-sprayer with the pre-spray chemical and dilute it as necessary.  

Did you notice that we did not mention that the water needs to be hot? Did you also notice that we did not mention putting chemicals in the water tank? 

The main reasons for both of these are:

Chemical usage - getting the right dilution rate of chemical mixed in the machine can be difficult. And as you will later see, that the last thing you want is chemical left in the carpet 

Hot water - filling the machine with hot water does not work well as the hot water cools down quite quickly. Whereas if you use a hot water inline heater the water at the source (the carpet being cleaned right there and then) is always at the right temperature. 

3.   Pre-vacuum of the carpet

Before the hot water extraction process begins, our cleaners need to pre-vacuum the carpet just to make sure any surface dirt is removed. Whilst doing this, they’re also picking up any visible rubbish off the floors such as paper clips, pens, paper, cardboard, etc – anything that could get in the way of the job.

Why is a pre-vacuum important?

There are 3 reasons.

  • So dirt doesn’t get pushed into the carpet any deeper when the machine is run over it 
  • Removing as much dirt as possible before the extraction process
  • It will overall assist in delivering a better outcome

To better explain, imagine trying to polish your car without washing it. It just makes no sense to do one process without making sure that the previous step has been done. 

And as a side note, it helps keep our equipment cleaner and less likely to damage.

There is one more important thing our cleaners are doing when pre-vacuuming. They are spot-checking for stains on the carpet such as coffee stains or animal urine stains from office pets (trust me, this happens more often than you would think!). This is so the cleaner is ready for the next step in the steam cleaning process.

4.   Spraying and treating the stains

We’ve spot-checked for carpet stains and taken a mental note of where they are.

Now it’s time to spray the stains with the correct spotting chemicals. At In-Tec, we mostly use 2 specific chemicals.

The first is called grease release and is for everything from chewing gum stains to oil stains. The second is called coffee break and it’s used for…you guessed it, coffee stains! Which in offices, is the main type of stain we come across.

When it comes to things like urine stains and blood stains, there are other chemicals we use for these. However to not get too technical, let’s just stick with the most frequent types of stains without going into the full details.

You may be asking, what’s the purpose of spraying stains?

It’s simple. It helps loosen the stains before the water extraction stage.

By the way, all stains will also need to be agitated with the correct handheld brush. This is to assist the chemical to get into the affected area and assist in the stain removal in the later stages.

5.   Pre-spraying the entire carpet with the cleaning chemical

We’re almost at the final stage and here is where the exciting part of the carpet steam cleaning process happens (or at least where we get excited - the carpet starts to get ready to look clean).

The carpet is pre-sprayed with the chosen cleaning chemical – generally a non-solvent emulsifier for removal of general dirt and other soiling and is applicable for all carpets.

There is only one correct way to pre-spray a carpet and that’s to not let the chemical dry before it’s been extracted. However, that doesn’t mean that you extract straight away! The chemical still needs time to soak into the carpet in order to activate, soften, and lift the dirt so that it can be extracted with ease.

To put it simply, enough that it’s soaked in, but not enough that it is dry or extremely wet.

So, to achieve this, our cleaners pre-spray as far as they know that they comfortably can without the pre-spray chemical drying off (which is generally 100 sqm of carpet). After they pre-spray the first 100sqm, they then extract that section and the process is repeated until the entire area is completed. 

We will get to the nitty-gritty of how we extract the carpet in the next step.

To clarify again, the reason only 100 sqm is done at a time is because the drying time of the chemical is dependent on ambient temperature and humidity. As mentioned, the chemical needs to soak in properly, but not enough for it to be completely dry.

Why do you break up carpet steam cleaning into sections?

We’ve already mentioned one reason why you break up the process into sections – so the carpet doesn’t dry.

But are there other reasons?

Yes, there is an important one!

It gives the cleaner a chance to see how the whole process is working. It allows us to see how the first area is drying and whether there is any further action needed.

6.   Hot water extraction

The final step – it’s time to get rid of all those nasty and yucky things lurking in your carpet!

We’re going to get a bit technical here, so bear with us.  

Hot water extraction is pressurised water dispersed through a commercial-grade machine. To better explain, it’s essentially like a light version of your standard pressure cleaning machine - just bigger, more powerful, and yes as mentioned above, the cleaner needs to be fully trained to use the equipment.

So how does the machine work? 

The extraction process and machine can be broken down into two parts:

  • the wand used to apply the hot water under pressure, and 
  • the machine that removes (sucks up) the water.

The stainless steel wand has either 3 or 2 jets that are spraying the water onto the carpet, loosening and removing the dirt, and killing all the bacteria. The pressure of the extractor (water coming out of the jets) needs to be between 350-450 psi to achieve optimal results (sounds like a high number, but it is needed).

After the jets have sprayed water onto the carpet, the machine part which contains the high-powered vacuums (yes, there are more than one - sometimes two but there can be three) then follows by sucking up all the loosened dirt and debris and any leftover water from your carpet. It’s vital the vacuum withdraws any extra water to help prevent any nasty smells from forming. You know, that wet dog, damp, musty smell? This action takes care of that.

I’d like to point out and clarify two things raised previously in this article.

Firstly, it was mentioned above that no chemical is added to the hot water in the extraction machine. Yes, it is hard to correctly measure the chemical if you did this. However, the most important reason is that we want to leave no chemical residue in the carpet. 

Can I ask, have you ever seen carpet get dirty quickly after it is cleaned? 

In most cases, this is because there is chemical left behind which leads to dirt sticking to the chemical. 

Secondly, the water needs to be heated to the perfect temperature via an inline heater. I will note that the temperature of the water does depend on the type of carpet being cleaned - too hot can cause damage to the carpet, and too cold can lead to an unsuccessful clean. 

Can you walk on carpet after steam cleaning?

Although this is quite a vague answer, it really does depend on the conditions.

On average, it takes a couple of hours until someone can or should walk over the freshly steamed carpet. When we steam clean carpets for our clients, 99% of the time we conduct the clean after working hours. This allows the carpet enough time to dry overnight before employees turn up to work the next morning. It’s also imperative that the air-conditioning is left on to help the carpet dry quicker thus avoiding damp smells.

How can you tell when it’s dry?

Typically, you can tell when the carpet has started drying as the wet patches begin to fade and the carpet returns to its normal colour. Then you’re free to walk wherever you may please!

Why is steam cleaning beneficial for your carpets? 

After we’ve dived deep into a massive discussion on what carpet steam cleaning is and how it works, we’re yet to talk about one more important aspect.

Why do you need carpet cleaning?

There are so many benefits to having your carpets professionally steamed cleaned at least once a year. Let’s go through them. 

  • Your carpet will be fresh and hygienic – no more dust, dirt, and germs lying around
  • Gets rid of all those stubborn stains that have been bothering you and your employees 
  • Prolongs your carpets life
  • Guarantees an effective deep clean – the chemical and hot water combination produces supreme cleaning results 
  • People with allergies will notice when a carpet has been steam cleaned. No longer will they be sneezing or have a runny nose from dust mites 

Still considering whether you need yearly (if not more) carpet cleaning performed on your site?

Would you rather have a dirty carpet that has stains, dirt, soil, and dust all over?

Or a clean and fresh carpet that looks as good new?

I know which I’d prefer, and so should you! (Hint: it’s the second option).

Why you need your carpet steam cleaned

Your carpet is like a giant filter, constantly collecting and trapping dirt, dust, germs, and allergens.

In other words, your carpet serves as a source for all kinds of nasty stuff.

You probably didn’t know that carpets can hold up to four times their weight in dirt. Gross, right?

If you’re sitting here thinking you can turn back the time by getting out the vacuum, think again. Yes, vacuuming on a daily/weekly basis is extremely important, but you really need to seek a professional cleaning company to conduct carpet steam cleaning on at least a yearly basis.

At In-Tec, our team of cleaners are highly trained and experienced in the carpet steam cleaning process. We also use quality equipment and chemicals that get the job done properly.

If you’d like to chat with us a bit more about carpet steam cleaning, or any other periodicals, schedule a call with Paul or Caitlin. We’re here to answer any of your questions, queries, or concerns.

Talk to you soon.


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