Building service contractors and in-house service providers have a lot of questions when it comes to carpet care and they look to their distributors for the answers.

Sanitary Maintenance identified some of the more frequently asked questions regarding carpet extracting and then interviewed industry experts to learn the solutions to providing clean, healthy and great looking carpets.

The panel included:

Q: Is it better to use hot or cold water for carpet extraction? Why is this the case?

A: Braun: Based on the data generated by Professional Testing Laboratory Inc., heat reduces the surface tension of water, enabling it to clean faster and more efficiently than cold water. It is a matter of thermodynamics, or the ability of heat to accelerate the activity of the chemicals employed in the course of cleaning, which will assist the cleaning chemical to accelerate the emulsification of soil for easy removal.

A: Yeadon: Heat accelerates all chemical reactions. This can minimize the amount of cleaning passes and chemicals, which can prevent over wetting.

A: Greig: Since 19 percent of carpet soil is made up of oils, waxes, grease and gums, the most efficient method of cleaning carpet is to use hot water as it dissolves the 19 percent of carpet soil. Also, I believe it is always better to use a hot, moist extraction system when cleaning synthetic carpets. Cold water is somewhat safer with natural fiber, but does not dissolve as much of the soil.

A: Griffin: Hot water, laws of physics dictate greater molecular movement at higher temperatures. Try cleaning a greasy plastic bowl with cold water, then try hot water with a little detergent and the results and benefits are obvious. Plastic fibers and sticky soil are no different.

Q: When is it better to use wet extraction methods and when it is better to use dry carpet extraction?

A: Rathey: Generally, hot water extraction is used for deep cleaning, whereas dry methods are generally used for interim or appearance maintenance. Dry methods may also be better suited for water-sensitive materials.

A: Yeadon: This will always be controversial. For heavy, greasy soils, hot water extraction will be the better choice. For areas requiring fast drying, dry extraction is the better choice.

Q: Should you use pre-spray or in-tank chemicals during carpet extraction? Are there advantages to using one as opposed to the other?

A: Braun: Based on the study from the Professional Testing Laboratory, properly formulated detergent solutions pre-sprayed on soiled carpet maximizes soil suspension or separation from individual fibers.

A: Rathey: Pre-spraying is recommended since it provides additional soil removal efficacy. In-tank solutions may also be effective but tend to be more diluted and thus less potent. Pre-spraying reduces overall labor time since it enables greater chemical concentration and dwell time to dissolve soil for better removal, followed by straight water (in-tank) for rinsing.

A: Yeadon: In all conditions, a pre-conditioner should be used. The pre-conditioner applied hot with agitation and with dwell time will allow easier, quicker extraction. Normally an in-tank detergent has one second on the carpet before being extracted. For heavy soiling, an in-tank detergent may be needed in addition to the pre-conditioner.

A: Greig: Some very visible stains need extra chemical contact time and, therefore, in some cases, pre-spray would be the method of choice.

A: Griffin: Depends on the condition of the carpet and the process being used. Usually better to keep chemicals out of supply tanks and systems to avoid build up and possible damage to components over time.

Q: What are some good situations to use portable carpet extractors rather than truck mounts?

A: Rathey: Portable extractors often enable greater building security, since they do not require having a door or window open to pass a hose through, as with truck mounts. Also, high rise or multi-story buildings often lend themselves better to portables.

A: Greig: Quite frankly, all situations are best served by using portable or on-site extractors, as they permit faster reaction time to spills and stains. The truck mount system is called in after the stains and spills have been walked on for long periods of time, and the carpet is filthy. The new portable technology available today is fast, efficient and removes 99.9 percent of the moisture.

A: Griffin: Two different systems with differing capabilities, benefits, costs, disadvantages and best use locations. Truck mounts with greater power, heat, suction, etc., will do a more thorough job, but are not realistic for high rise work, daily or routine use and where there are budget, space, carpet type and skill concerns.

Q: What new carpet extraction trends should distributors be aware of?

A: Rathey: Several new trends have been shown to be effective, including 'green' water-based cleaners that combine non-toxic agents, high-pressure spray systems and specialized extraction wands.

A: Yeadon: A few of the newer extractors have higher water pressure (PSI), which allows technicians to clean tile and grout.

There have been more changes in wand technology than in the machines themselves. First, a Teflon-like material can be sold as an after-market piece or manufactured as part of the wand lips enabling the wand to glide easier across the carpet. This reduces technician fatigue.

Also, one manufacturer has used a lighter material and removed the bend in the tube, improving the laminar air flow and reducing carpet dry time. These wands can be used for most portables and truck mounts.

A: Greig: Carpet spotting and carpet extraction are now being built into all cleaning specifications. Since the carpet in place today is largely not the high pile carpet of the past, soil is more visible. With the increased frequency of vacuuming in a standard specification, as well as vacuuming equipment that removes more soil than before, dirt is not as ground in to the carpet. Today's extraction equipment virtually atomizes the water, and the vapor is then misted across the surface of the carpet.

A: Griffin: I believe we are and will continue to see an evolution to more widespread use of low moisture and dry removal systems in the future and less frequent use of all wet extraction processes.

Much like what has happened with hard floors, we used to strip weekly or monthly and were proud of it, now we avoid stripping for as long as possible and rely on other less costly, hazardous and more environmentally friendly systems and processes. The same thing is and will happen with carpet cleaning. There is no need for wet extraction deep cleaning processes every time we clean the carpet and in some cases it actually is ruining the carpet and shortening its useful life, defeating the entire reason for cleaning to begin with.

Q: What tips are essential to remember during carpet extraction?

A: Rathey: It sounds obvious, but look for processes that remove soil rather than distribute it Ñ and do not leave a residue that attracts soil.

A: Greig: When using carpet extractors, be careful about creating mold with excess water. However, today's technology typically uses less water than in the past, and low-pile carpet doesn't need as much water.

A: Griffin: Nothing is more important than a process that includes the following steps:

1. Proper specification and installation

2. Prevention of soil tracking and import

3. Daily or routine dry soil removal (vacuuming)

4. Daily or routine spot removal

5. Prompt repair of seams, pulls and tears when present

6. Regular interim cleaning (low moisture)

7. Less frequent, buy regular deep/restorative cleaning (wet extraction)

8. Replacement, recycling and proper disposal when cleaning no longer returns the carpet to an acceptable condition.

Dan Calabrese is a freelance writer based in Wyoming, Mich.