Glossary of Carpet Cleaning
and Maintenance Terms
From "Installation & Cleaning Specialist" Oct. 1993
Absorb - Taking up of a substance into the carpet
through pores or small opening (i.e. chalk, talc, and sawdust are absorbent powders).
Acetic Acid Rinse - Acts as neutralizing agent for detergent residues.
Sets fugitive colors.
Acid - Any substance, which when dissolved in water, yields a pH below 7.
Adsorb - That which is taken onto the carpet by adherence to the surface
(i.e. soot, etc.).
Alkali - Any substance which when dissolved in water, yields pH above7.
Animal Stain - Discoloration of the carpet caused by animal waste.
Anti-microbial - A chemical that prevents the growth of mold, bacteria,
mildew, etc., reducing their destructive action to the carpet and eliminating accompanying
odors. Applied to carpet at mill level, built into some fibers and applied on-location.
Anti-stat - A chemical substance applied to the carpet, or a special
backing, to reduce static electricity to acceptable levels.
Auxiliary Tanks - Means of storing addition supply of water and returned
dirty solution in steam carpet cleaning truck mounted units.
Base Unit - The principal power and supply source used in steam carpet
Beater - Special equipment used to remove loose dirt or dust from the
carpet prior to cleaning.
Biodegradable - Has the capability of being decomposed by naturally
Bleach - An oxidizing or reducing agent used to remove color.
Bleeding - This is a loss or transfer of color from one section of the
carpet to another, usually under hot-wet conditions.
Bone Scraper - A flat blade-shaped tool that is made of bone or plastic.
Used to remove or loosen encrusted dirt or material from the surface of the carpet.
Brighteners - Optical whiteners or fluorescent whitening agents used in
cleaning process. Under the influence of ultraviolet light, emit a visible blue-white
Browning - A yellowish or brownish discoloration of the carpet's face,
usually caused by impurities in the cellulosic fibers, such as cotton and jute, which wick
up to the face fibers on over wetting. Most often caused by: excess alkalinity in the
cleaning agent used in steam cleaning; activated alkaline residue left by previous
cleaning efforts; overwetting; a combination of any of these. May sometimes appear in
shades other than brown or yellow depending on color of effected carpet.
Buffer - Chemical agents that are used to maintain a constant pH level.
Builder - Material added to detergent formulations to increase their
effectiveness by acting as a water softener and alkaline buffer, i.e. borax, sodium
Burn Test - A method of identification by noting the odor and ash from
Chemical Sponge - A special sponge that contains chemical agents used to
remove soot from nearby walls and baseboards.
Circling - Circular streaks left on the carpet after a rotary shampooing
because of improper cleaning technique by the operator.
Cleaning Agents - Detergent or emulsifying agent used in the carpet
Cleaning Head - Used in steam carpet cleaning, sometimes called a scrub
wand. A lightweight tool used in back and forth motion (spraying on the back stroke,
vacuuming on the forward stroke). Contains spray nozzles and vacuum slot solution control
Clouding - Usually caused by over wetting. Residue from previous
cleanings which is not removed and left too wet will wick up the carpet fiber and cause a
cloudy appearance on the surface. Customer complaint may state that carpet looked dirty
after it dried.
Compression - A force which tends to squeeze or press together.
Crocking - This is a loss of the carpets excess color when rubbed in
either the wet or dry state.
Defoamer - A surface-active agent that is used in cleaning to reduce
Degreaser - Solvent used in the cleaning process to remove heavy oils or
grease from the carpet.
Deodorizer - Products specifically formulated to destroy, mask or modify
unpleasant odors from the carpet.
Detergent - Any substance which is capable of dislodging, removing or
emulsifying soils. Generally, the term is used for formulated products that contain
surfactant builders, solvents etc.
Digester - A chemical agent, usually an organic enzyme, which is used to
break down stains like blood or food products.
Disaster Repair - Those services that relate to cleaning, repairing or
restoring carpets, resilient floors, draperies, upholstery etc. damaged as a result of
fire, smoke, water etc.
Disinfectant - An agent used to completely destroy all harmful bacteria.
Labeling for such materials requires proof of effectiveness for registration with EPA.
Drag Tool - A heavy weighted piece of equipment (wand) used for hot water
extraction "steam" carpet cleaning. The wand contains the vacuum head and
Dry Foam Cleaning - In this cleaning method a concentrated foam is used
as the cleaning element.
Dry Absorbent Cleaning - A carpet cleaning method that uses an absorbent
powder that contains a solvent. The powder is worked into the carpet pile in order to
absorb the grease and dirt, allowed to set for a period and then vacuumed.
Dry Room - A large enclosed chamber through which hot air circulates.
Carpets are hung in this room to dry after in-plant cleaning.
Dry Rot - Disintegration of carpet backing which is caused by mildew.
Dry Spotter - A stain removal agent which contains dry solvents. Used
primarily for grease or oily type stains.
Fatty Acids - Oily acidic materials that are formed by degradation of
Feather In - Use of a bone scraper to work a stain removal agent into the
pile of the carpet.
Fluffing - Refers to loose fibers appearing on the surface of the carpet.
Foiled Tabs - Paper or plastic squares, usually about 3" square,
used to protect the damp carpet fibers from damage by furniture legs, rust, stain etc.
Fume Fading - Also referred to as gas fading, this is a loss or shift in
the dye color of the carpet due to attack by atmospheric contaminants. Ozone, generated by
thunder storms, and oxides of nitrogen from gas furnaces are the most common fading
Furniture Protectors - Paper and foil squares set under furniture legs to
avoid rust marks after carpet cleaning.
Hg - Inches of mercury. Means of measuring vacuum.
Hydrophilic - The part of a detergent molecule which has a high affinity
Implosion - To burst inward or collapse. The opposite of explosion.
Injection Kit - Device used to inject odor control solution into the
source of odor problems.
In-plant Cleaning - Any cleaning process in which the carpet is brought
to a plant for cleaning; as opposed to on-location in which the carpet is cleaned in the
customer's home, business etc.
L.E.D. - Light emitting diodes used for digital read out.
Location Cleaning - All cleaning work performed in the home, office,
store or other area, where equipment is brought to the area, regardless of method.
Micro - So small as to be undetectable to unaided human senses.
Mildew - Fungus growth that can occur on carpet fibers. Causes odor and
Moisture Regain - The amount of moisture an oven-dry fiber will absorb
when it is exposed to the atmosphere. Usually expressed as percent at 70°F., 65%RH.
Typical values are wool, 15%; nylon, 4%; polyester, 0.4%; olefin, 0%.
Nap Finishing Brush - Long handled, nylon bristled brush used to set
carpet pile in one direction.
Neutral Cleaning - Any cleaning product having a pH or 7, and is
therefore neither acid nor alkaline.
Odor Control Concentrate - Agent used in absorbing and controlling rancid
odors in carpeting.
Oleophilic - That part of a detergent molecule which has a high affinity
Ozone - A highly reactive gas and oxidizing agent formed by passing a
high voltage current through air. Used as a deodorizing agent.
PSI - Pounds per square inch. Measure used in determining solution
pressure in steam carpet cleaning.
Perborate - Used in some wet spotting preparations and browning
treatment, this is usually sodium perborate. A mild oxidizing agent.
Peroxide - Any one of several strong oxidizing compounds, but generally
Piezoelectric - Transformation of mechanical force to electricity, or
conversely, transformation of electricity to mechanical force.
Pile Distortion - When there is a loss of texture or pattern on the
surface of the carpet.
Pile Lay - Direction taken by surface yarn during manufacture.
Pile Lifter - A heavy duty reel-type vacuum which is used to loosen
embedded soil and erect the carpet pile. Usually done before cleaning.
P.O.G. - Used to describe agent for removing paint, oil and grease from
Pre-spotting - Prior to the overall cleaning of the carpet, pre-spotting
is done to remove stains.
Reels - Storage facility for hoses on truck mounted steam cleaning units.
Residue - An unremoved material that has been left in the carpet after
the carpet has been cleaned.
Rotary Brush Cleaning - A cleaning method in which a high foam shampoo is
scrubbed over the fabric by a rotary brush.
Rust Remover - Chemical applied to yarn surface for quick removal of rust
and other iron related marks.
Sanitizer - An agent which yields a significant reduction in the level of
harmful bacteria. Legal labeling requirements for sanitizers are not as stringent as those
Sequistrant - A chemical agent which reduces water hardness by forming
soluble compounds with calcium, magnesium and iron compounds.
Shag Rake - A rake with plastic tines that is used to align or lift high
pile shag after cleaning and yield improved appearance.
Shampoo - Generally a high foam detergent preparation and used for rotary
cleaning or in-plant cleaning.
Slot Velocity - The amount of air wash passing the lips of the cleaning
head. Measured in feet of air per minute.
Soil Retardant - An agent that is applied to the carpet to retard or
decrease the rate of soiling.
Stain Repellent - An agent that is applied to the carpets surface which
primarily acts as a water repellent.
Steam Cleaning - The cleaning method in which the detergent solution is
forced through jets under high pressure into the carpet pile and immediately removed along
with loose and emulsified soil though a wet vacuum. The vacuum head and jets are usually
mounted on the same piece of equipment.
Stripper - A strong reducing agent that is used like bleach to remove
Surfactant - Specifically, a surface active material used in detergent
formulations as a wetting or penetrating agent, emulsifier or dispersant.
Traffic Lane Paper - Paper placed in high traffic areas, which must be
opened to foot traffic while the carpet is still damp.
Truck Mounted - Steam carpet cleaning equipment which is mounted in a
vehicle. Usually only the cleaning head and hoses are taken onto the premise to be
Water Hardness - The amount of metallic salts, such as calcium,
magnesium or iron dissolved in water. These can form in soluble "curds" with
some surfactants and reduce the effectiveness of the cleaning.
Wood Blocks - Small blocks of wood, usually 2"x 2"x 1",
used to prop up console type furniture and allow air passage under the piece.
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