How to Hire a Carpet Cleaner & Cleaning Methods

Lately, new clients have been telling me about some of the carpet cleaning methods they have been offered and they are causing some confusion. So, I rewrote this guide to help you get the best carpet cleaning possible.

Honestly, there are some great carpet cleaning companies in Portland, but the Trick” is knowing how to find them. The truth is that most people think that the only difference between carpet cleaners is price. Learning what questions to ask will help you get the most value for your money.

I’m going to help you learn how to, “Ask the Right Questions.”

It’s tricky. Why? Because you’re bombarded with misleading advertising, confusing claims and simply bad information.

From super-low prices and high-pressure sales – to unqualified technicians and confusing cleaning methods – how do you ever find a qualified, competent, professional carpet cleaner?

What Distinguishes One Carpet Cleaner From Another?

On this page, you’ll discover:

I wrote this guide to help you better understand carpet cleaning. Now, with this information, you can make an informed and intelligent decision.

And if you have any questions about carpet, upholstery, tile & grout, or rug cleaning, you’re invited to call me at 503-922-4875 / 360-901-8686. I’ve dedicated my business to educating consumers.

The 4 Common Carpet Cleaning Rip-offs





Virtually every carpet cleaner will tell you that they have the best carpet cleaning method. Some carpet cleaning processes are great and some don’t provide much value at all. You need to understand how each method works and the value it provides. Don’t worry I’ll explain the main ones below. Remember this: the method that’s best for you is the method that achieves your goal. If you want a method that dries quickly, then a method that takes time to dry isn’t the best for you. So before you choose a carpet cleaner, identify your objectives (tips below). Then select the method that best reaches those objectives.



To some degree, all of us are attracted by a low price because we want to work within a budget. But some carpet cleaners use price as the bait for their false and misleading advertising. They offer a cheap price–usually between $9.95 and $19.95 per room–and then, once they’re in your home, they pressure you into buying “add-ons” or more extensive services. It’s as if you were buying a car and found that the dealer was charging you extra for the tires and steering wheel.

The “Bait” – Advertising Carpet Steam Cleaning or Carpet Cleaning for an unbelievable low price (a price that beats everyone else). The issue is that most consumers think they are getting a full professional carpet cleaning job or assume they are getting Carpet Steam Cleaning when they are not. A full Professional carpet cleaning job, which carpet manufacturers approve of, should at least include soap, dry passes, treating spots, and rinsing the carpet with a conditioning rinse – (Sean’s Carpet Care does all this and a few more things). The truth…The “phone deal” usually does not include any of the steps needed for a proper cleaning or is not “Steam Cleaning” at all. *See Cleaning Process below.

The “Switch” – They show up and ask if you want a Better Cleaning Package, which often blows the phone deal out of the water. The Better Cleaning Package is often more expensive than an offer by a reputable carpet cleaning company. If you don’t fall for their switch and stay with the basic service, you’ll likely receive poor workmanship using little or no soap, no neutralizing rinse, no spot treatments, no dry-passes, etc. To top it off they will not guarantee their work.




Years ago, many people believed this was true because their carpets were damaged by “technicians” who didn’t know how to properly clean using hot water. But today, we know it’s false. By washing and then rinsing your carpet with hot water, your carpet is thoroughly cleaned–in the same way that the person who showers and then rinses off the dirt with soap will be much cleaner than the person who takes only a sponge bath. Carpet cleaning with hot water extraction, AKA (carpet shampooing, steam cleaning, carpet cleaning, etc) does not cause mold or mildew issues. In fact, Shaw Industries, the largest carpet manufacturer in the world, recommends only hot water extraction cleaning with a truck-mounted unit used by firms that are IICRC Certified. A portable cleaning is also acceptable if it is the only option.




Zero non-residue carpet cleaning is a myth. Currently, and in the past there are carpet cleaners that rinse carpet with soap. Leaving a soapy residue leaves carpet sticky and causes it to rapidly attract dirt. No, this is not good. WAIT…Soap is NOT the enemy. The truth is that you need soap to clean your carpet. The TRUTH…Hot Water Steam Alone will not remove most soils. Soap (detergent – man made soap) is needed to loosen up the soil in the carpet. Soap breaks down water tension, sometimes has enzymes to remove other bad things, and then floats the dirt to the top. The secret or science to Zero Residue carpet cleaning, the way Sean’s Carpet Care Cleans, is by rinsing the carpet with a conditioning rinse. If Your Rinse the carpet with a neutralizing rinse there the soap or “residue”. That’s all that is needed! The rinse neutralizes the soap which is the negative residue. The Problem with non-residue cleaning companies is that their process does not remove oily soils, heavy soil, and other bad things in carpet. The non-residue companies use residue leaving products to remove things like paint, oily soils, cat vomit, etc. in carpet, but have no way to neutralize them. Without neutralizing the products then your carpet is prone to soil more rapidly.

I hope these tips help you get the best carpet job as possible.

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Six Costly Misconceptions about Carpet Cleaning



“You should wait as long as possible before cleaning your carpet.”

False – Dirt is an abrasive-like sandpaper. Every time you step on your carpet, you grind dirt into the carpet fibers. This cuts your carpet, just as if you had used a knife. A dirty carpet will not last as long as a clean carpet. And while vacuuming helps, by itself, it’s simply not enough. The longer you wait to have your carpet cleaned, the more damage you do to your carpet. When fibers get beat up they distort and reflect light differently than when new. The distorted areas look dark even after cleaning.


“The only reason to clean carpets is to remove the dirt.”

False – As you probably know, outdoor air contains pollens, fungus, bacteria, air pollution, cigarette smoke, car exhaust – and hundreds of other chemicals. When you come into your home, you carry those pollens, bacteria and chemicals in your hair and on your skin, clothing and shoes. Not surprisingly, all those chemicals and toxins wind up in your carpet. It is interesting when I use my portable carpet cleaning to clean homes in the Pearl District and I see the water come out of very clean looking carpet. The water is usually coffee black!

If you have allergies, asthma, emphysema, or other breathing problems – one major source of your problem could be the pollens, fungus, smoke and chemicals in your carpet. Carpet cleaning may be able to help the quality of your life. Carpet absorbs (filters out) the toxins in the air so you don’t breath them. Cleaning carpet clears out the filter of the home.


“One method of carper cleaning is as good as another.”

False – There are two types of cleaning that carpet cleaners offer: Dry Cleaning and Hot Water Extraction.

Below are 3 different types of Dry Cleaning methods:

  1. Dry Chemical Carpet Cleaning (low moisture, encapsulate cleaning, “Oxi-Cleaning”): The carpet cleaner sprays a chemical into your carpet. Then the technician uses a machine with brushes to scrub the chemical into the carpet (buff the carpet). The dirt in the carpet is absorbed into a plastic soap bubble (encapsulates the dirt). Very little water is used. The process is very quick. When the carpet dries the carpet is vacuumed and the dry chemical and soil is sucked up into the vacuum. Usually, the homeowner is the one who does the vacuuming. This process ads some value and is popular in large office buildings. This is usually a maintenance method of cleaning and hot water extraction is recommended at some point. Can you imagine applying shampoo to your hair, allowing it to dry and then removing the shampoo from your head with a vacuum? This method leaves dirty residue in your carpet, which is one reason dry chemical cleaning is not too effective.
  2. Absorbent pad (bonnet cleaning): This method is similar to dry chemical cleaning, except that the company attaches a large cotton bonnet (cotton towel type pad) to a floor polishing buffer machine and “buffs” the carpet after spraying a chemical cleaning product in the carpet.. The rotating motion causes the bonnet to absorb dirt from your carpet. This method is also called bonnet cleaning. Bonnet cleaning is like trying to use a large cotton towel or mop to rub the dirt out of your carpet. It’s not very effective.
  3. Dry, absorbent powder: This is professionally know as the Host method. It has been around for a long time. A powder that resembles sawdust is dumped all over the carpet. A broom is used to brush in the Host and then vacuum it up. Host has solvent in the sawdust that neutralizes soil. This method leaves dry sponge particles at the base of the carpet yarn. And because the carpet is not rinsed, this method is not very effective. There are some commercials on tv advertising this product for consumer use. This product is annoying cause it takes a long time to get all the “saw dust” out of a carpet!

Hot water extraction: (Sean’s Carpet Cleaning Process)

With this process hot water solution is sprayed at high pressure into the carpet and simultaneously sucked out of the carpet. This method is also referred to as carpet steam cleaning.

Shaw Industries, the world’s largest carpet manufacturer, recommends hot water extraction from a truck-mounted unit, and using a portable unit only in areas where the truck-mounted unit won’t reach.

Not surprisingly, truck-mounted extraction cleans better because it utilizes hot water that penetrates the carpet fibers loosening up soil and removing the most dirt possible.

The secret of Hot Water: Once water heats up to 118 degrees, every 18 degree increase in temperature doubles the water’s cleaning ability.

A truck mounted cleaning process begins when detergent mixed with very hot water is sprayed at high pressure into the carpet to break down the soils. After providing sufficient dwell time for the detergent to work, hot water mixed with a fiber rinse is sprayed and simultaneously vacuumed out of the carpet. The process of spraying and vacuuming with a fiber rinse flushes out the carpet, neutralizes the detergent, and leaves your carpet pH balanced.

P.S. This process should be part of a multi-step cleaning process, like our 9-Step Carpet Cleaning Process.

No question, the most effective way to clean carpet is with a hot-water unit. A truck mounted carpet cleaning machine is the most powerful cleaning machine and the only machine that does the best job to remove dirt, harmful bacteria, fungus, chemicals, pollens, tobacco residue and dust mites.


Having the right equipment is all a company needs to clean your carpets properly.

False – Many companies own hot-water cleaning machines but very few companies teach their employees how to use the equipment properly or they skip the key processes to clean carpet effectively. An improper cleaning process can lead to spots reappearing, rapid soiling, little soil removal, remaining pet urine odor, etc. This is why it’s important that you choose your carpet cleaner carefully.

The best cleaning companies are those that have been certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, known as the IICRC.


The company that offers the lowest price is the company you should hire.

Maybe – but not always

Point 1: The price may not be for the services you want performed or it will usually dramatically change once the technician shows up. The truth is that you are paying for experience and time. Low price companies often clean homes in a race to finish and the speed at which they clean is not effective at removing soil, leaves overly wets carpet, and does not allow for specialized spot treatment.

Point 2: The price you see advertised may not be the price you pay.

Many homeowners have learned that the low price they saw advertised only lasted until the carpet cleaner got into their home. The cleaner offered a cheap price usually between $3.95 and $9.95 per room–and then, once they’re in your home, they pressure you into buying “add-ons.” It’s as if you were buying a car and found that the dealer was charging you extra for the tires and steering wheel.

As in all businesses and professions, the carpet cleaning industry has its share of bad apples. I take no pleasure in telling you this, but some are unethical, and sadly a few are dishonest. By their misleading advertising and false promises, they cast a dark shadow on our entire industry.

Then you’ll find other carpet cleaners – professionals like me who work hard to earn your trust and respect.

As a way of improving our profession, I’ve dedicated my business to educating the public. The only way you can make an intelligent decision is to have all the facts you need. This is why I’ve created this infomation.


Any honest carpet cleaning company should be able to give you an exact price quote over the telephone.

I wish this were true, but it isn’t.

Honest, reputable carpet cleaning companies almost never price carpet cleaning by the room. Instead, carpet cleaning is usually priced by the square foot. The truth: Room pricing was invented so employees only need to know how to count rooms and not need to know how to calculate square footage. If you’d like me to tell you the exact cost of cleaning your carpet, I need to know the exact number of square feet that you want cleaned. When people call or e-mail me I provide an educated guess at how much it costs to clean their carpet. Actually, I’m pretty good at getting close to a reasonable estimate over the phone. You see in most homes carpet is about 60% of the square footage of a home, if carpet is where you would expect it to be. Obviously this changes if many areas have hardwood floors and in some new homes rooms are built over the garage. I explain what I think it will cost and then schedule a time for cleaning. Then when I show up I use a laser tape measure to calculate the exact size of the carpet area and give an upfront price before I start.

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The Carpet Cleaning Process 

 Science of Carpet Cleaning (Basic)

I have tried to simplify the science of carpet cleaning to help inform consumers and make sure they receive value when hiring a carpet cleaner. This is the basic cleaning process involved with Hot Water Extraction, also known as Carpet Steam Cleaning. If you want learn how each system works click here: The 5 Cleaning Systems

A carpet cleaner uses a detergent to remove the dirt from the carpet fibers. Most of the dirt found in carpet is acidic in nature. The detergent used in carpet cleaning is an alkaline. The basic rule: If an alkaline is stronger than an acid it will neutralize the acid and if an acid is stronger than an alkaline then the acid will neutralize the alkaline.

The Carpet Cleaning Process

First, detergent is sprayed into the carpet to break down and loosen the soil from the carpet fibers. Second, a wand or rotary extraction tool is used to spray water into the carpet while a split second later a powerful vacuum via a vacuum port sucks up all of the dirty rinse water.

If regular water is used to rinse the carpet then there will be detergent residue left in the carpet and the carpet will not be pH balanced. Ok, so to pH balance the carpet and follow manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations we need to add something to the rinse water to neutralize the detergent that was sprayed on the carpet.

To pH balance the carpet the water that was sprayed to rinse the detergent, earlier in our example from the wand or rotary extraction tool, should have been mixed with a fiber rinse. The fiber rinse is actually a mild acid that neutralizes the detergent sprayed on the carpet. Since the detergent is neutralized the carpet is basically pH balanced. This leaves no sticky residue, provides fluffy carpets, and helps avoid rapid re-soiling.

Hot Water Extraction Done Wrong – Many carpet cleaners do not use a fiber rinse. They rinse the carpet with with water that is mixed with detergent! The idea, which is incorrect, is that left over detergent will absorb any left over dirt. This leaves a sticky residue that attracts dirt and causes rapid re-soiling. This is like washing your hair with soap and then rinsing it with soap. To make things worse, many companies clean a home at a speed like they are entering a nascar race!

P.S. If your entire home is cleaned in less than 1 hour is that enough time to properly rinse the detergent out of the carpet? The answer is no. Here is a question to make my point…What takes longer to put the soap in your hair or rinse it? The answer is to rinse it

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The Importance of Value and Price

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.

When you select a carpet cleaner, you’ll choose from a wide variety of cleaning methods and prices.

Shaw Industries, the world’s largest carpet manufacturer, recommends hot water extraction from a truck-mounted unit, and using a portable unit only in areas where the truck-mounted unit won’t reach..

Value of a Truck-Mounted Carpet Cleaning machine:


It heats the water to a higher temperature. For every 18 degree increase in temperature above 118 degrees F, you double the water’s cleaning ability. So if the water temperature is 136 degrees F, it will clean twice as well as water that is 118 degrees F. 154 degree water will clean four times as well as 118 degree water. And so on, until you reach a water temperature of 230 degrees F.


It shoots the cleaning solution into your carpet at higher pressures, which breaks up the dirt, bacteria, chemicals and pollens, 300 to 400 pounds per square inch is the optimum pressure for truck-mounted hot water extraction.


The machine provides insane suction power to draw the dirt, chemicals, bacteria, pollens and dog dander out of your carpet. Seriously…It takes a tractor engine to run the machine inside the van.


CARPET CLEANING TO ANOTHER LEVEL – I combine a Rotovac 360i on the front of the hoses to the TruckMount. The 360i combines 230 degree water and the rinsing power of 4 vacuum heads and 4 water jets sitting flat on the carpet separating and lifting the carpet fibers 250 times per minute. When the water in the clear tube on the front turns from brown to white I know the carpet is clean.

Important! Non-Sticky Carpets – The rinse water is mixed with a fiber rinse which neutralizes the pre-spray and keeps the carpet from being left sticky & crunchy. Often, other Carpet Cleaners rinse carpet with SOAP leaving the carpet sticky and crunchy.

A Secret…Most people in the industry haven’t figure this out. This machine uses more water to clean the carpet. The extra water provides a deeper more complete rinsing of the carpet. This flushes out more dirt and soap and the carpet stays cleaner longer.

I tested this and the carpet usually looks better longer than cleaning with a normal wand. *Plus, I provide a drying pass over the carpet so the water left behind is often less than Cleaning with a wand :)

Using this machine takes longer than most of my new clients are use to, but it is the only way to provide the Most Thorough Cleaning, EVER!

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Before Asking Questions – Prepare

STEP #1:

Make a commitment to yourself to get your carpets cleaned. The longer they remain dirty, the sooner they’ll wear out. Plus, the longer you have to breathe all the pollen, fungus and chemicals that hid in your carpet.

STEP #2:

List your objectives. Do you only want some of the dirt removed, something you could do with a rented shampooer? Or do you want the best chance to remove the most amount of bacteria, fungus, chemicals and dust mites, which will require a hot water truck-mount cleaner, as I use? Do you want to work with an honest, reputable company – or are you willing to risk working with the company that offers you the lowest price – knowing that the company might not be in business tomorrow?

STEP #3:

Ask questions. The way you learn about a company is to ask specific questions and listen carefully to the answers.

Here are 6 tough questions to ask a carpet cleaner before he begins to clean your carpet:

1. What method of carpet cleaning do you recommend? Steam Cleaning or Dry (Low moisture) cleaning?

NOTE: I wouldn’t recommend Low Moisture or Dry Carpet Cleaning Methods. Steam cleaning only.

2. What type of equipment do you use to clean carpet? Rotovac or a Wand? (Sean uses a Rotovac 360i)

NOTE: Wand cleaning is usually used for rapid cleaning. Rotovac 360i provides more extensive soil removal, rinsing, and agitation of carpet.

3. Do you first pre-spray the carpet with a detergent and then rinse with a conditioning rinse or Do you rinse the carpet with soap?

Note: Some companies drop their wand and clean in one step (single step cleaning). They don’t pre-spray the carpet. They drop the tool clean and rinse all in one step (not good).

4.Do you change extra for doing spot treating? Rotovac cleaning usually gets all the spots except for red, pet urine, and most paint. Pet urine treatment is the one I usually charge extra for.

5. What training have you had in cleaning carpets? Are they IICRC certified and do they follow the steps?

6. How long does it take to clean 3 rooms of carpet – around 600sf? (if less than 2 hours [hello-goodbye] not good). Most inferior cleaners will do this job in 45 mins or less.

STEP #4:

Once you’re satisfied that you’re working with an honest, competent professional, setup an appointment to clean the carpet. Before starting get an upfront price before starting, so there are – no surprises.

By following these four steps, you’ll gain all the information you need to make an informed, intelligent decision.

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My Unique 200% Iron Clad No Risk Guarantee


I hope this information helps you find the best carpet cleaner on the planet.

At Sean’s Carpet Care, I take my service and earning your business seriously.

Nothing is more important than your complete and total satisfaction. If for any reason you are unhappy, we’ll…

1) Come back and re-clean the area FREE of charge. Then, if you are still

not satisfied we’ll…

2) Simply refund your money

This plan guarantees to save you time and frustration…

When You Hire Us…There is NO RISK! ! !

How can we make such an offer? Well, we work very hard to meet all of your expectations.

No other company can get your carpets cleaner. We are professionally trained by IICRC. Because we feel nothing is more important than you and your total satisfaction.

Even one unsatisfied customer is too many for us.

If you need helping permanently removing the odor, please Call 503-922-4875 / 360-901-8686