Consumers guide to Carpet Cleaning

The carpet cleaning industry is one of the few industries that is not regulated, and also has a very low barrier to entry in that anyone can call themselves a "professional" without any basis for that claim. Yet these are people who come into your home and use cleaning chemicals which can be dangerous if you do not have the knowledge of how to use them properly, and more importantly do not have the right equipment (not a rented shampooer) to remove them properly.

Everyone has heard nightmare stories about crimes committed, about overuse or improper use of chemicals, and exposès on Bait-and-Switch companies who use a low coupon offers to get their foot in the door and hard sell unsuspecting consumers into a bill they are compelled to pay. When you open the phone book you really can't tell who the great cleaners are, or the ones you would never EVER want to use. The "great" cleaners work hard to distinguish themselves apart from the fly-by-night companies who use unsafe cleaning practices, hard-sell tactics, and sometimes have very unsavory employees.

Your carpet and rugs act as a "filter" in your home for your indoor air. Their fibers "grab" particulates and contaminants and hold them. But like any filter, it needs to be cleaned because when it gets full it cannot grab anything else ... and every time you step on a "full" filter you release contaminants back into the air.

Cleaning your carpet is key to a healthy indoor environment, and the EPA's guidelines for cleaning vary from every four months to every eighteen depending on the number of people and pets in the home, as well as other concerns from allergic sensitivities to how dusty the air is in your neighborhood to whether anyone in the home smokes. A true carpet cleaning professional can evaluate your particular needs, and with the right equipment and cleaning solutions, can fulfill those needs for you and your family.

The question now is how to find that "right" professional ... and we have the information to help you do just that.

The following is a summary on how to choose the right professional carpet cleaner. It covers some of the common mistakes made by consumers in choosing a carpet cleaner, and also the four steps you can take to help you in choosing a true "professional."

We hope you find the information valuable, and if you have any questions please email us at


Choosing a carpet cleaner based on equipment alone. No question, your carpet cleaner needs first-rate equipment. But he also needs something else. He needs employees who are skilled at operating that equipment. Many companies own hot-water extractors, but very few companies teach their employees how to use them properly. The best way to know that the carpet cleaner’s employees have been properly trained is to make sure the cleaner has been certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). Before you choose a carpet cleaner, ask to see written proof of the company’s and the technician’s IICRC certification.

Choosing a carpet cleaner based on low price. Low price could be a problem in three ways: (1) low price can be the bait that attracts your phone call. But once the cleaner gets into your home, he pressures you into a much more expensive job. (2) Low price can be for single-process cleaning. Rarely does the consumer know what this means and, when told, ask s for dual-process cleaning instead, which costs much more. (3) Low price means the carpet cleaner has cheap equipment, which will not effectively clean your carpet.

Choosing a carpet cleaner based on a single telephone call. Instead, invite the person to your home and ask for a specific written quotation. Then you’ll know exactly what the carpet cleaner recommends—and you won’t be the victim of high-pressure tactics when the technician steps into your living room.

Choosing a carpet cleaner who doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee. In my view, every carpet cleaning company should be fully accountable for its work. And if you aren’t pleased with the job in every way, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. Period. Not all carpet cleaners offer a guarantee. Or, if they do, the guarantee may be “limited.” Ask the carpet cleaner if he offers a money-back guarantee and then make sure the carpet cleaner includes his guarantee on his written quotation.

Choosing a carpet cleaner without getting comments from his other clients. Any carpet cleaner can say anything about his past jobs. And, sadly, some of what he says may not be true. Make sure you ask for references or read comments from current customers so you can depend on the carpet cleaner and his work.

Choosing a carpet cleaner who isn’t certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). If your carpet cleaner isn’t a close friend, you may not know whether he has the knowledge or experience to clean your carpet well. If you want to be sure you’re hiring a competent professional, make sure he is IICRC certified. The carpet cleaner must earn that certification through study, experience and successful completion of formal, written examinations. In effect, cleaners who are certified by the IICRC have earned a college degree in carpet cleaning.

Choosing a carpet cleaner who isn’t a member of the Carpet and Fabricare Institute (CFI).

CFI is a trade association of carpet cleaners who are dedicated to:

  • (1) honest, ethical business practices,
  • (2) staying current on the latest methods for carpet and upholstery care, cleaning and restoration, and
  • (3) the highest possible level of customer service. You’re making a wise decision when you have your carpets cleaned by a member of the Carpet and Fabricare Institute.

Choosing a carpet cleaner who doesn’t use a truck-mounted hot water extraction system. You might expect this from me, since my employees and I use this type of system. But there are several good reasons. Portable hot water systems are good, but they aren’t as good as truck-mounted systems. Truck-mount systems are the Rolls Royce of carpet cleaners. Compared with portable hot water systems, truck-mount systems use hotter water, higher pressure and stronger suction. So all the way around, you get a much better job. No two ways about it.


If you're thinking about having your carpets cleaned, we encourage you to follow these four steps:

STEP #1: Make a commitment to yourself to get your carpets cleaned.

The longer they remain dirty, the sooner they'll wear out. Industry testing shows that you can have up to one full pound of dirt in a square foot of carpet before it begins to look dirty. This dirt is abrasive and wears down the fibers and substantially shortens the life. Many warranties require at least an annual cleaning by a professional to be honored (check your own warranty to see your requirements, and if they specify the type of cleaning method to keep your warranty in effect).

Another necessity of regular cleaning is to remove the contaminants besides the "dirt" that gets trapped in your carpet's fibers. The longer you wait to clean, the longer you have to breathe all the pollen, fungus, pet odors, dust mites, and chemicals that hide in your carpet.

STEP #2: List your objectives.

Is the health of your indoor environment highest on your list, so that you would want a company that is using the proper equipment and method to address your concerns? Do you want only the dirt removed — something you could do with a rented shampooer — or are you concerned about removing other contaminants (bacteria, pollen, dust mites, mold spores)? Do you want to work with an honest, reputable company — or are you willing to risk working with the company that offers you the lowest price — knowing that the company might not be in business tomorrow and might not be safe to let into your home?

STEP #3: Ask questions.

The way you learn about a company is to ask specific questions and listen carefully to the answers. Here are eight tough questions to ask a carpet cleaner before he begins to clean your carpet:

  1. What method of carpet cleaning do you recommend?
  2. What type of equipment do you use to clean carpet?
  3. What will your equipment remove from my carpet?
  4. How often should I get my carpets cleaned?
  5. What training have you had in cleaning carpets?
  6. Are you a member of the Carpet and Fabricare Institute?
  7. Are you certified by the IICRC and will you show me your certification certificates?
  8. Are your cleaning technicians certified by the IICRC and can I see their certifications?

STEP #4: Once you're satisfied that you're working with an honest, competent professional, invite him to your home and ask for a specific quotation in writing. A written quotation gives you the assurance that you know exactly what your job will cost — no surprises.

The purpose behind these steps is to empower you with the information you need to make a wise decision in choosing a carpet cleaning professional. The proper care of the carpet in your home (and all coverings in your home for that matter) is essential to creating a healthy indoor environment for you and your family, and this decision should never be taken lightly. These guidelines will help you to locate an ethical and excellent carpet cleaner in your town.

What to Expect from a Good Cleaning Company

Knowing what questions to ask is essential in avoiding problems. The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification is a nonprofit certification body that sets and promotes high standards and technical proficiency within the cleaning industry.

Here’s what they say you should expect:

  • Expect itemized costs for services and firm prices before technicians begin each portion of the work sold. Consumers should never feel pressured to accept anything more than the services they request.
  • Cleaning firms should offer workmanship guarantees in writing.
  • The cleaner should start by vacuuming high traffic and open areas where soils accumulate.
  • Unless clearly specified, moving of most furniture to clean carpet underneath should be considered part of the normal cleaning job.
  • Special attention to spots is included in normal job performance. However, time-consuming specialized spotting may incur an additional charge. Customers should be advised of additional charges before extensive spotting procedures are undertaken.
  • Special treatment with “preconditioning” agents in heavily soiled entry, traffic and general areas should be included in the cost of the cleaning.
  • It is the cleaner’s responsibility to ensure that the carpet is dried and returned to normal use within a reasonable time frame. The amount of time required for drying will vary with different methods, the degree of soiling and the aggressiveness of cleaning necessary. But under no circumstances should drying require more than 24 hours with proper ventilation. However, the consumer’s cooperation in providing continuous air flow and/or ventilation to expedite drying cannot be overemphasized.


There should be no differentiation between a “normal” cleaning job and “special” cleaning job. Cleaning is cleaning. Diligent effort must be made to remove as much soil as possible from the carpet. And technicians must take steps to leave fibers as residue-free as possible to prevent accelerated resoiling.

Do not expect an exact price quote over the phone. Honest, reputable carpet cleaning companies almost never price carpet cleaning by the room. Carpet cleaning is usually priced by the square foot; if you’d like to know the exact cost, you need to know the exact number of square feet you want cleaned. To get an accurate measurement, cleaners should use a measuring wheel or tape measure to calculate the exact size of the carpet area.

Other variables affect the price as well:

  • The type of carpet. Some are harder to clean than others.
  • The amount of soiling. Carpet that hasn’t been cleaned for 10 years will take longer to clean than carpet that was cleaned within the past six months.
  • The amount of furniture that must be moved. In many cases, if you move your furniture, you’ll save money.


In shopping around for a cleaner, you’ll find out that there are several different cleaning methods offered. Obviously, each company will be biased toward their own method. And each method does have advantages. But some carpet manufacturers recommend specific methods for their products, so check your warranty before making a final decision.