December Cleaning Tips:
By Mike Schaffer - President, Tornado Industries
Stop the Wicking
Although their customers may have no idea what it refers to, the term “wicking” is certainly not new to carpet cleaning technicians. Wicking is a very common problem and can occur in all kinds of settings, including residential and commercial, with all kinds of carpets, and all kinds of carpet cleaning equipment, such as truckmount or portable.
Wicking occurs when embedded soils, which settle deep down in carpet fibers, are not thoroughly removed when cleaned with an extractor. Very often the carpets look fine right after cleaning and may continue to look good for several days. However, as the carpet dries, the deep down soil that was not removed “wicks” to the top of the carpet, making the carpet look dingy.
Of course when this happens, the once happy, but now very unhappy, customer is on the phone blaming the carpet cleaner for the appearance of the carpets. In many, if not most, cases this is not the fault of the carpet cleaning technician. However, there are steps the technician can take to help prevent wicking.
One of the first ways is to make sure the carpet is thoroughly vacuumed before cleaning. Let’s be honest here, this is not news and most technicians know they should vacuum the carpets before extraction, but they do not always do so. Time is money in the carpet cleaning business and very often the assumption is made that dry soils will simply be extracted by the carpet extractor. But what actually often happens is the dry soil reduces the effectiveness of the extractor and the cleaning chemicals. This makes it harder for the machine to reach, loosen, and remove deeply embedded soils.
Another way to avoid wicking is to allow the chemical pre-spray that is applied to the carpet more time to “dwell.” This improves the effectiveness of the chemicals, allowing them to dissolve and loosen soils. Additionally, if the carpets look heavily soiled, more time agitating the carpets with the wand can help.
Additionally, using too much chemical in the cleaning process can also cause wicking problems. The chemical residue settles in the fibers causing rapid resoiling as the carpet dries.
Finally, technicians should take steps to reduce drying time. Simply allowing the carpets to air-dry can invite wicking problems. Air movers (blowers) should be placed at strategic locations throughout freshly cleaned carpeted areas. This equipment can cut drying time dramatically.