One of the questions we are often asked at Linton's Carpet Cleaning is about carpet and fabric protectors. The question is usually this:
"Should I have my carpet protected?"
And the answer is...it depends.
And the reason we say it depends is because whether you have carpet protector applied to your carpet depends on how old your carpet is.
We are pretty sure there are a number of carpet cleaning companies that will disagree with us and say that you should have your carpets protected after EVERY cleaning. Many of them say this just so they can make more money when they clean your carpets. But we disagree with them.
If you bought quality carpet, and those carpets have received a moderate amount of traffic and soil, or less, and they are less than a year old, you probably do NOT have to have the carpets protected immediately after that initial cleaning.
Why? Because if your carpets are of moderate to high quality, and they were cleaned properly the first time, then the carpet protection in them at the time of purchase will still be doing its job. There would be no reason to apply the protector to them after such a short period of time and soiling.
So it does depend, no matter what previous cleaners have told you.
Now let's take a look at why it is important to have your carpets protected after a year, or so, especially if the carpet receives a lot of traffic and soil.
When you purchased your carpet it had carpet protector in it (some type of protector). All new carpets have protector in them, some with higher quality protection than others, but they ALL have protector in them and over time that protector "wears" off.
Once you have no protector in the carpet you will see your carpet getting soiled much faster and stained MUCH easier.
How Do Carpet Protectors Work?
There are a number of carpet protectors on the market and most of them work in about the same fashion. Some are better than others but we will start from just the basics. There are two parts to carpet protectors:
1. The Fluorochemical
2. The Acid Dye Resistors
The fluorochemical part of the carpet protector lowers surface tension of any fabric it is applied to. A lower surface tension makes it harder for water and oil based soils to penetrate the fabric (carpet fiber) and wick down the carpet fiber.
This is really important because if dry or wet soil stays on the SURFACE of the fiber, and it does not penetrate or wick down the fiber, the soil should be very easy to just wipe off or at least clean off.
This doesn't mean your carpet will not get soiled if it is protected, it means it will be easier to clean the soil out of the carpet. And since all carpet cleaning starts with basic spot and spill clean up, and vacuuming, a lot of soil and what you might think are "stains" easily wipe away. In fact what you believe to be STAINS are actually just SPOTS because the the dye sites of the fabric have not been penetrated because of the fluorochemical part of the carpet protector.
The second part of carpet protectors are the acid dye resistors. These are actually CLEAR dyes that have been applied to carpet fibers and these dyes penetrate open dye sites that did NOT receive the initial dye color the fiber was colored with. These clear dyes basically "plug" up the dye sites that are open.
If a dye site is "plugged" then the dye from Kool Aid, for example (or any other dye), has a hard time penetrating a dye site and staining your carpet. Acid dye resistors play a very important part in protecting your carpet.
What Cause Your Carpet To Lose The Protection?
Over time the carpet protector becomes less effective for one main reason: It is no longer in the carpet or the carpet has much less protector in it. And how does this happen?
The only two ways a carpet loses the fluorochemical protection are by the following:
1. Basic wear and tear which includes foot traffic and vacuuming.
2. Cleaning, especially improper cleaning.
Before we go any further we want to make this clear because we have an idea you might be saying "well if cleaning causes the carpet to lose its protection then I should not get my carpets cleaned!"
If this is what you are thinking you are wrong. Sure, over time cleaning helps lesson the amount of protector in the carpet but it is not usually proper cleaning that causes this problem, it is IMPROPER cleaning.
What is the number one reason for IMPROPER cleaning? It is the use of high PH, over 10PH, cleaning agents. This is a big NO-NO when it comes to high quality carpet cleaning. Does it make sense to hire a company to clean your carpets and ruin the protection in them, and thus have your carpets re-soil much faster? Nope, it doesn't.
But that is EXACTLY what a lot of carpet cleaning companies do so they can quickly clean your carpets and move on. This "nuking" of your carpet can actually lesson the life of your carpet AND leave dangerous residue that is in your carpet. Not good.
So How Often Should You Have Your Carpets Protected?
The rule of thumb we go by at Linton's Carpet Cleaning is after EVERY cleaning if the carpet is over a year old and gets a lot of traffic and soil. As we said earlier in this article if the carpet is less than a year old and doesn't get much traffic or soil you probably do not need to get your carpet protected after the FIRST cleaning. But this is not written in stone.
It does NOT hurt to have your carpet protected even with the first cleaning, it is just that it is probably not needed.
So What Carpet Protector Should You Use?
Well, that is a tough one because there are a LOT of good carpet protectors with the most well known being Scotchguard and Dupont Teflon. Both are fluorochemicals and work by lowering the surface tension of the fabric they are applied to. They are NOT any type of wax coating or physical barrier type of protector. That is not what they are.
Neither of these products have acid dye resistors but both are excellent in the ability to keep water, oil, dry soil, and wet soil from penetrating the fabric. But, like all protectors, they need to be applied in sufficient quantity.
Make Sure Your Carpet Cleaning Company Is Actually Protecting Your Carpet The Right Way
So what is the right way? Well, to be honest, that is going to be hard for you to find out, at least initially. Why? Because unless you know how to apply the protector yourself and you know EXACTLY what you are using and how the protector is applied, you probably will not be able to know if your carpet cleaner is applying the product correctly. When carpet protectors are applied correctly they work really well. When they are applied incorrectly, well...they don't work so well.
Ask your carpet cleaner what type of carpet protector they use. Ask them if they are mixing it properly. Ask them if they are applying the protector at the proper rates. While you might not be able to verify this, by asking these questions you will put them on notice that you know a thing or two about protecting carpets and this might make them mix the protector properly and apply it at the proper rates.
Many carpet cleaners dilute the protector, which gives you LESS protection. Then there are carpet cleaners that do not apply the protector at the proper rates. Then, and there are FAR too many of these guys and gals, there are cleaners that not only dilute the product too much but they do not apply it at the proper rates. When this happens you are basically throwing your money out of the window, or just giving your hard earned money to a bad carpet cleaning company.
Does Carpet Protector Extend Dry Times?
Yes. There is no getting around this. Carpets much be cleaned first and then protected. So any time you are post adding another moisture source dry times are going to be extended. But dry times do NOT need to be extended by a long time if the cleaner is using air movement to get your carpets dry.
And, having to deal with an hour or two of extended dry times is a small price to pay for a well protected carpet. The benefits of a well protected carpet far outweigh the negatives. Period.
So there you have it. The simple answer to "should you get your carpets protected" is YES, you should. But only if the carpet is over a year old or has received a large amount of soil and traffic and is less than a year old.
Protecting your carpets is always a good idea and additional money spent to protect them is well worth it. Carpet is a major expense in your home and when you have your carpets regularly cleaned and protected they are going to last longer at a higher appearance level and clean up much easier.
EVERY well-protected carpet that we have cleaned has always cleaned up easier. It is fairly easy for a professional carpet cleaner to tell when he/she is cleaning a well protected carpet. The carpet simply cleans up much easier.
If you have any questions about our carpet cleaning service and the carpet protectors we offer please give us a call today at (360) 608-5441. We will answer any and all questions.