Despite the traditional bias towards hot water extraction, there are actually many ways to clean a carpet. The method used is often dependent on a number of factors: the condition of the carpet, how it’s soiled, the size of area, how quickly the work is to be done and how much dry time can be allowed. Today, an additional factor to consider is how much BSCs want to impact the environment, either through use of chemical residue and wastewater disposal.

Low-moisture or dry-cleaning methods are a cost effective way to perform interim cleaning. Ultimately, these methods may extend the life of carpet and textiles, especially when used in combination with a traditional extraction-cleaning program. Routine cleaning will help all material last longer and can often bring carpet back to life.

As the name implies, low-moisture cleaning products necessarily use a reduced amount of moisture, typically 5 percent of the amount of water that extraction would use. The cleaning products are usually topically applied and then mechanically distributed using a variety of methods. Low-moisture systems can include dry compounds, foams, hydrogen peroxide and encapsulates. In recent years, manufacturers have also introduced low-moisture extraction equipment in an attempt to get the best of both worlds.

Over the years, one of the biggest problems with traditional extractor cleaning has been “over-wetting” the carpet. Over-wetting often occurs when older and/or faulty extractors over-saturate a carpet. A poorly adjusted extractor will leave excess water in the carpet because it’s sucking water at too low a pressure, or simply dropping too much water on the fiber.

Moisture from over-wetting is likely to travel down into the carpet backing. This will potentially separate the carpet’s backing, causing the carpet fibers to shrink or tear, to bleed or discolor, and can potentially even cause mold or mildew to develop.

Low-moisture techniques can add to a BSC’s profitability by using less expensive equipment and fewer chemicals, and by reducing the number of costly callbacks due to over-wetting. This provides consistent results, and contributes to much higher productivity rates.

It’s important to remember that every carpet cleaning should be proceeded by vacuuming. Up to 89 percent of the soil found in carpet can be removed dry. Utilizing low-moisture methods, BSCs can perform more beneficial carpets cleaning at a much lower cost.

Contractors at the leading edge of the industry are considering multiple approaches to carpet cleaning instead of simply using traditional hot water extraction. As a result, they are helping the environment along with their bottom line, and producing excellent business results.

BJ Mandelstam is the founder and president of Cleaning Matters, a Denver-based custodial consulting practice. She was also the owner of an award-winning contract cleaning company for many years. For more information, visit

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Low-Moisture Carpet Cleaning Techniques