Distributors agree that orbital floor machines expedite carpet cleaning, but they do not replace hot water extraction.

“You have to use water and cleaning chemistry to assist in the flushing of the fiber,” says Tipton. “So it doesn’t replace extraction, but it does decrease the labor involved by preparing the soil load to be removed and removing a portion of it.”

Jasper, on the other hand, believes that orbital equipment can also be used for restorative carpet cleaning purposes, in some cases replace extraction — thanks in part to advances in chemical cleaning agents.

“Hot water is still needed if you have contaminants like urine, but many cleaners use orbital machines to replace hot water extraction,” he says. “It’s easy to use, low-moisture, has extremely fast dry times and does a good job of cleaning and removing all the soil. And the cleaning agents that are used help the carpet stay cleaner longer.”

Improvements in the orbital machine’s design, along with advancements in encapsulation cleaning agents, have contributed to the machine’s popularity among commercial cleaners.

“You spray the liquid onto the carpet so you’re misting it lightly, not soaking it,” says Houle. “The encapsulation chemical is designed to encapsulate and pull soil to the surface. Then you run the machine over the top, and it pulls all the soil into the [pad].”

Orbital machine design differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, says Jasper. Some equipment cleans by agglomeration, where the cleaning solution causes the soil to clump together into large particles. Other machines have more head pressure and use an absorbent pad to lift away soil.

The machines with more head pressure and an absorbent pad are not as fast as the ones that use agglomeration, says Jasper, mainly because the pads have to be changed more frequently as they become soiled. But the end result is the same — carpets are free of soil and stay cleaner for longer.

The latest cleaning agents not only remove more soil from carpets when used with orbital floor cleaning machines but they also improve the appearance of the carpet.

“The encapsulation cleaning agents help fill in micro-occlusions in the carpet fibers, making them look more vibrant while coating the fiber with the protector that helps resist soiling,” says Jasper.

Conventional bonnet machines can potentially damage the carpet and therefore void carpet manufacturers’ warranties. Orbital equipment, however, does not cause carpet fibers to fray and are approved by the Carpet and Rug Institute.
“Rather than using a rotational machine that swings back and forth, you’re just vibrating on the surface,” says Houle. “So theoretically you’re not pulling the fibers as much.”

Using the oscillating action of the machine alone can improve the carpet’s appearance.

“The orbital movement actually leaves the carpet pile standing straight up,” says Schneringer. “So it’s something that helps to do a pile-lifting job, especially in areas where you have a traffic pattern going in a certain direction. It helps to smooth that out.”

Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Interim Carpet Cleaning With Orbital Equipment