Super-soft, low denier carpet fibers are making a big impact on the retailing side of residential carpet.

What impact will they have on the cleaning side of the carpet industry… and on your business?

Consumers love the look and especially the plush feel of the extra soft carpet styles that have been introduced in recent years.ThinkStock/gpointstudio

This type of carpet, from Shaw and Mohawk, began appearing in retail showrooms about two years ago. They were made of nylon fiber with high face weights up to 100 ounces and targeted the top-of-the-line buyer.

Current branded fibers include Anso Caress by Shaw, and Stainmaster Tru Soft nylon fibers; also Mohawk’s Smartstrand Silk, which is a PTT fiber, and polyester versions, such as SoftSense from Beaulieu. 

Softer carpet = special challenges

Why would this luxuriously soft carpet be any different to clean than any other residential cut-pile carpet you may encounter?

Just as your toes sink into the thick pile, so does a vacuum cleaner, your carpet wand or a rotary cleaning tool. This makes the tool harder to move across the carpet.

The vacuum orifice also tends to get filled with fibers and reduce or even stop air flow. Dry vacuuming and hot water extraction (HWE) cleaning both depend upon air flow to remove soil. With reduced air flow, much of what should be removed stays in the carpet, including cleaning solutions you intended to extract.

Selecting a vacuum cleaner

Carpet manufacturers have tested a variety of vacuum cleaners and made strong recommendations on the type of vacuum equipment that consumers should use.

Some manufacturers name specific brands of vacuum cleaners to either use or to avoid.

In other cases, carpet manufacturers will list features that make the vacuum cleaners perform better or easier to use.

One suggested feature is separate motors and switch to control the speed of the brush roll and operate it independently from the suction motor. This can allow air flow to continue in situations where the brush roll might bog down in deep pile, slow the motor and reduce air flow.

Other features needed to clean this style of carpet include adjustable height, light weight, large wheels and bristles that are not overly aggressive. Gentle agitation is required as overly aggressive action could damage the fiber. What would be a small abrasion on a larger diameter fiber would be a crater on the small fibers used in these ultra-soft carpet styles.

The design of the cleaning head must allow efficient air flow. For some styles of carpet, air flow that is concentrated in one small area or that can be easily sealed off might be helpful, but these types of designs should be avoided to get the best airflow when cleaning a carpet that has so many fine fibers.

Many of the features expected of vacuum cleaners apply to cleaning equipment as well. Resistance to movement should be minimized. The low coefficient of friction (CoF) of a glided wand will allow the wand to be pushed and pulled across the carpet much easier than a standard wand. It won’t be long into a job when the benefit of a lighter weight wand is noticed.

Warranty and care instructions

It makes sense that a new type of product requires a different type of care. These fibers are more delicate and often more expensive. They require and deserve special gentler care. This is made clear in the care and maintenance information supplied by the manufacturers.

Warranties for these fibers are very generous. When properly cared for, coverage on branded fibers lasts 20 years or longer.

Coverage may include texture retention, abrasion, spill and stain resistance — even including animal urine.

Cleaning considerations

How might all of this information affect the manner in which you clean?

Some manufacturers, most notably Shaw, have warned against the use of rotary cleaning equipment on twisted, cut-pile carpet styles. These of soft fibers are cut-pile and generally have a tight twist.

Take into account the possibility of “blooming” or untwisting the fibers if you clean with rotary tools. Be sure to use sufficient lubrication. Some rotary extractors come with or can be fitted with Teflon glides to reduce this concern.

Many homeowners will continue to use the vacuum cleaner they already had, rather than purchase one recommended for their new carpet.

Many homeowners do not vacuum the carpet as frequently as they should, nor do they follow the most effective procedures when vacuuming. Thus, there is a good chance you may encounter more soil than expected when you clean these new carpet styles.

Combine higher soil levels with greater difficulty maneuvering the wand and it will take you more time and effort to clean the same amount of carpet. Will this require you to raise your prices when cleaning soft-handed carpet?

Presprays that provide greater lubrication can be beneficial when cleaning soft carpet.

On a positive note, care instructions and warranties suggest, recommend or require professional cleaning on a regular basis — in some cases as often as every six months.

It makes sense that if the consumer may be having difficulty removing all the soil in their carpet and they want to keep it looking its best, that proper professional cleaning would be needed. HWE is specifically mentioned or required in many warranties.

Certification by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is also recommended or required for maintaining these carpet styles. Be sure to let your clients know of your certification and training to care for their investment. This is a great way to distinguish your company from the competition.

While Mohawk’s marketing materials tell consumers that permanent stain protection is built into their Smartstrand carpet, most consumers will appreciate there is even greater reason to protect their carpet.

Don’t hesitate to demonstrate to your clients how a quality protector can make their vacuuming more efficient by removing more potentially damaging dry soil. Also show them how acid dye blockers in the protector help prevent colored food and beverage spills from becoming permanent.

Scott Warrington has more than 40 years of experience in the carpet cleaning industry and related fields. He serves as the technical support specialist for Bridgepoint Systems and Interlink Supply. He can be contacted at