To Groom or Not to Groom


Is it better to pull out your grooming tools and leave your jobs looking clean and smooth with all the nap laying in the same direction?

Or, is it better to leave the zigzag or swirl patterns of a cleaning wand or rotary machine?

Using before-and-after photos found on the Internet as a sample, it is easy to conclude that most companies do not make the effort to groom carpet as a part of their cleaning process.

Whether or not to groom carpet has been an ongoing debate amongst cleaners for years. Many cleaners actually take pride in how well they can leave neat cleaning patterns in the carpet so as to show that the carpet has just been professionally cleaned.

Others will argue just the opposite. They say grooming is expected as a part of cleaning and that failing to do so is less than professional.

Official Standard

According to the IICRC S100 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Cleaning of Textile Floor Coverings, most residential carpet should be finished (brushed, combed or groomed) at the completion of cleaning. This will help to:

  • Eliminate tangling of pile yarns
  • Distribute post-treatment such as protector
  • Expedite the drying process
  • Present the cleaned carpet’s best appearance for customer viewing.

Reasons not to groom

There are times when grooming is not appropriate:

  • The carpet style, such as a low-loop, is not significantly affected by grooming.
  • The customer specifically requests the cleaning patterns be left in the carpet. (Apartment managers sometimes request this to show prospective renters that the carpet has been cleaned.)
  • You are not paid enough for the work to justify including grooming with the service.

For some cleaners, grooming is not worth the effort. Significant time and energy are required to include grooming as a part of the cleaning process. If you are competing as a low-price cleaner, this procedure may be one worth sacrificing.

What do customers want?

When teaching a carpet cleaning class, I often start out with the question “What do customers expect their carpet to look like after cleaning?” Each time, the answer always comes back as a resounding, “Like new!”

So, does new carpet come with the appearance of cleaning strokes or does it tend to have a smooth look?

I have yet to see a photograph in magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens where you can see cleaning marks on carpet.

It is important to note that there are some consumers for whom getting carpet cleaned is a special and rare experience and they desire to savor it for as long as they can. For these people, cleaning marks are a treat not to be groomed away. But for others, the “new” look is preferred.

What result do you want?

The decision is ultimately up to you. Do you want your customers to remember you for cleaning their carpet or for making it look like new? Which do you think they will they pay more for?

Grooming tips

If you choose to groom, here are some tips to make your job easier and get better results.

Two common tools are used to set the nap of carpet: A groomer and a brush.

A groomer is well suited for Saxony, shag, and frieze style carpet, while a brush works well for plush. Unfortunately, carpet made with staple yarn (short filaments spun into a yarn) often shed loose filaments that accumulate on a brush. In contrast, the groomer does not tend to develop this problem. A lot of time can be wasted cleaning carpet fuzz from the brush.

A clean groomer

The groomer needs to be clean for grooming. If you have used it during the pre-conditioning process, there are cleaning solutions, fibers and other soil on the tool.

Rinse the head of the tool by laying it on the carpet and spraying it with the jets of your cleaning wand. Flip it over and repeat the process. Then extract the carpet area where you just sprayed the groomer. Remove the vacuum hose from the wand and run it along both sides of the grooming tool head.

Claw marks

As mentioned earlier, the goal of grooming is to leave a smooth look with the carpet yarns laying in the same direction. A carpet groomer has the potential to leave lines in the carpet caused by its tines. These lines are often referred to as “claw marks” and are not a desirable end result.

A carpet brush generally does not have that effect. It can take numerous vacuuming attempts by the consumer to eliminate these unsightly lines. Leaving these claw marks should be avoided whenever possible.

Skillful grooming

A light touch goes a long way in preventing claw marks when grooming sensitive carpet. A slight overlapping stroke that creates a narrow “X” pattern also helps.

There are three surfaces on a groomer that can be used to set the nap (see Image 1).

  • The first, standard surface is where the tines are in a near vertical position to set the carpet nap. This is how most people normally hold and use the groomer.
  • The second is to flip the groomer over and hold the handle in a more vertical position. This shifts the tine position to a near horizontal angle to reduce the possibility of leaving lines. This approach has often saved me from having to resort to a brush on plush style carpet.
  • The third way to use the groomer is utilizing the hard edge — in the flipped position but with the handle at a more angled position so only the hard plastic of the groomer contacts the carpet pile. Using this technique on the final stroke can leave a pristine flat look to a plush carpet


Doing more than competitors

If “like new” is the look you want to leave for your customers, then grooming is a vital step to include in your cleaning process. This is an expected benefit for consumers willing to pay higher prices. Most of your competitors are simply not willing to take the time to do this step. This can be an important way to make your work stand out from the crowd and to help justify charging more.

Steve Marsh is a 40-year veteran of the carpet cleaning industry, an instructor and a Senior Carpet Inspector. He helps home-service companies quickly establish profitable clienteles and then progress on to serve higher quality customers. To help companies achieve these goals he created the step-by-step programsSingle Truck Successand Be Competition Free. For more information,

Guest Author

Follow Guest Author

Related Posts

Share This Article

Join Our Newsletter

Expert Videos

Popular Content


CoreLogic: Spearheading Innovation and Technology in the Restoration Industry


Insurance Restoration Strategies Unlocked: How to Identify & Conquer Top Challenges in the Industry

AI sales

Is AI Going to Be the Death of the Salesperson?

Grow your social media

The Digital Marketing Demystified Series—Part 2: Grow Your Business with Social Media

Digital Marketing - Part 1

The Digital Marketing Demystified Series—Part 1: World Class Email Marketing


As a floor cleaning contractor, which of the following best describes your approach to marketing:

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...