Residential carpet shampooers have developed a reputation for being unreliable, and in constant need of repair. Although they are often mistreated and misused, it’s usually a case of ignorance not ill intent. This isn’t surprising since owner’s manuals are generally vague, and entirely disregard some of the best practices. The truth is the most effective cleaning techniques coincide with proper care for the machine, and save you money in the process; effectively killing three birds with one stone. I believe applying these practices will improve longevity and leave your carpets cleaner.
Shampooers are not vacuums. Always thoroughly vacuum your carpets before cleaning them. If you’re still picking up large debris with the shampooer, it’s time to take a look at the vacuum. It may be in need of maintenance or replacement. That’s the vacuum’s job and there’s an obvious problem when the shampooer is doing it better.
Use Quality Chemicals
Use a good shampoo, and use it correctly. There is a plethora of bad chemicals on the market. If you are unsure about how to mix it, less is more. Nobody wants excess residue in their carpets attracting dirt, or clogging up integral parts in the machine. Never use bleach, fabric softener, laundry detergent, dish soap, or any kind of powdered booster. If you want some extra cleaning power, manually pre-treat before shampooing with a good spotter like Unbelievable. Misco’s Deep Kleen is one of the best shampoos, and can mix at 1oz per gal. (Warning: there could be math involved. Figure out what your machine’s mixing ratio is, and dilute accordingly). Point is, that is 32 gals out of 1qt. Save some money and take care of your machine.
Never Do This
Never store a shampooer with solution in the tank. I’ve read owner’s manuals that specifically say that you can do this, and I’ve seen it ruin machines. The chemical separates and the solids sink to the bottom and ooze into the machine, clogging the intake valve, lines, solenoids, and pump. Discard excess shampoo, poor it back into the bottle, store the tank off the machine, just don’t leave it on with shampoo still inside. I highly recommend flushing the tank out to prevent corrosion of the seals.
Use Clean Water
Use good water. If you are on a well or know the city water is especially hard, spend the extra money on purified water. Deposits occur in your carpet shampooer just like anywhere else, maybe even worse because it might sit without use for extended periods of time. Never pour boiling water into your machine. I know, it seems obvious, but it happens a lot. Never reuse dirty water in your machine. This might sound like a no-brainer too, but it’s a common mistake.
Foam Can Kill Your Motor
Make sure your recovery tank isn’t foaming up. This is a sign that you are using too much shampoo, a bad shampoo, or there was excess shampoo in your carpet from previous cleanings. Recovery tanks normally have a float built in to cut off the suction when they are full, but the foam isn’t enough to lift that float, so it then gets sucked into your motor. A simple dash of defoamer in the recovery tank will immediately stop this problem. This doesn’t go in the solution tank or the water tank. It goes directly in the recovery tank.
Always Rinse Your Carpets
It is important to get as much shampoo out of your carpets as possible so that the residue doesn’t attract more dirt, but simultaneously you are flushing all the shampoo out of your machine, which is one of the most important maintenance steps you can take. A rinsing-agent neutralizes the shampoo and helps break it down in your carpet and in your machine. I have had tons of positive feedback about Misco’s Rinse & Nuetralizer. You basically use it just like shampoo, and go over your carpets a second time.
Clean The Lens
Clean the lens especially. Getting all the grime out from underneath the lens will maximize the performance and put less strain on the motor. You should do this after every use. If you let it dry up, it hardens and is very difficult to remove. Hoover makes a clean-out-tool that looks a little silly, but actually works very well, and is inexpensive.
Perform Routine Maintenance
Perform all routine maintenance that is required specifically to your machine. Most machines have screens and filters that need to be cleaned. Some models have stretch belts that need to be replaced periodically and regardless of how frequently you use the machine. Refer to your owner’s manual, because these things can be curiously inconspicuous. This is the general advice I give to all my customers, and they have had great success when applying it. Good Luck!