Encapsulation chemicals can be used with a wide range of equipment, including rotary and oscillating floor machines. According to Yeadon, carpet manufacturers often favor counter rotating brush machines that not only brush and agitate the product, but also pick up any loose debris. In addition to their versatility, these machines require little maintenance and can be purchased for under $2,000 — a bargain compared to high-end portable extractors and truck-mount units.

More important than the equipment, however, is the chemistry. Carpet experts stress the need for a quality encapsulation polymer and encourage users to put theirs to the test.

“A good encapsulation polymer dries brittle,” says Gelinas. “That’s critical to successful encapsulation cleaning because the polymer becomes the vehicle to carry soil out of the carpet.” 

Gelinas likens the dry polymer to an eggshell that cracks and separates from the carpet fiber when vacuumed. 

“If you’re using a good [encapsulating] detergent, it will actually resist soil, whereas normal carpet detergents are going to be sticky and attract soil,” says Gelinas. 

For this reason, encapsulation is also used to address wicking problems following hot water extraction. 

“When you hot water extract, a lot of times you’re paying for the sins of the previous cleaners,” says Yeadon. “What that means is whatever residue is left in the carpet following extraction is going to wick up with the water that’s left behind. So, what some people do after they’ve extracted is use an encapsulation product to crystallize soil particles, making it easier to remove them by vacuuming.”

To ensure the polymer’s validity, McDonald recommends mixing it to its dilution ratio and putting an ounce or so of the mixed detergent in a Petri dish to dry out. 

“You want it to look like broken ice,” he says. “Leave it overnight, and if it’s tacky or it doesn’t break into a crystalline detergent medium, it’s not something you want.”

Vacuuming — both before and after applying encapsulation chemicals — is also a critical step in order for encapsulation to be effective. 

“Vacuuming is one of the things that most companies never do,” says McDonald. “You need to vacuum before to get the dirt out. Then you need to vacuum thoroughly afterward to get out whatever dirt is encapsulated.”


previous page of this article:
Take Your Carpet Care Further
next page of this article:
A Perfect Fit For LEED Buildings