Carpet Steam Cleaning – To Use or Not to Use an Emulsifier?

Most carpet cleaners don’t run an emulsifier rinse through their carpet steam cleaning machines during the extraction steam cleaning process.When asked during carpet steam cleaning – to use or not to use and emulsifier? The vast majority of inexperienced and unqualified carpet steam cleaners don’t even know what an emulsifier surfactant rinse is!

Unlike Metro Carpet Cleaning you would expect this from a novice to the industry, however the sad fact is, that even some of the most reputable, highly experienced and very expensive carpet steam cleaning companies don’t use a rinse either. Why? Well put simply, to save money.

To think that some “high end” carpet steam cleaning companies can charge as much as $45.00 per room without using an emulsifier surfactant because they are “concerned about leaving detergent residue in carpet” or “we save money by using less chemical” and call themselves an award winning professional carpet steam cleaning company, is put simply, ridiculous.


The water molecule is not a good cleaner by itself because it has way too much surface tension. A high-quality surfactant emulsifier, such as used by Metro Carpet Cleaning, increases the ability for water to penetrate carpet fibres, by making water a better “wetting agent” which in turn releases dirt much easier and quicker so that the carpet steam cleaning process is much more effective, and carpet dries a lot faster.

If comparing when to use or not to use and emulsifier, only a minimal amount of emulsifier will be needed to make a huge visual difference in a finished carpet steam clean with a proper rinse used and one without. All soiling will be suspended and removed and the detergent that carpet steam cleaners concern themselves leaving behind, will also be removed along with the soiling. The carpet pile will feel softer on completion of steam cleaning which is another great “look and feel” feature for consumers.

It leaves carpet in a PH “neutral” state, with no sticky residues which again, dries carpet faster because, as previously mentioned, less water has been required to steam clean.

Furthermore, detergent traps a significant amount of moisture and the effective removal of these detergent and dirt residues by extraction with an emulsifier, quickly releases moisture to evaporation and in turn speeds up drying times because anything that is wet will always go to dry during the natural drying process.

On the flip side to our previous comments of carpet steam cleaners not using an emulsifier product. There are some and very few professional carpet steam cleaners regularly using emulsifiers or acid rinses who claim, that using these products ads another step in the cleaning process. This is not the case. This next step in the steam cleaning process should always be regarded as a rinsing step and NOT an additional steam cleaning step.

There are many companies who actually state in their advertising or promotional material, that using a surfactant rinse gives their steam cleaning process a “double” cleaning effect, making their carpet steam cleaning system twice as effective.

This is a misleading claim that many carpet steam cleaning companies use and is another way they can use sneaky tactics to upsell their service and make it sound as though it is a “deluxe” steam cleaning service, when in fact it is just another step in the cleaning process. If you are unsure when having carpet steam cleaning – to use or not to use an emulsifier? EVERY professional carpet steam cleaning service should use as part of their standard system.


Fabric Steam Cleaning

When having fabric steam cleaned you may question whether to use or not to use and emulsifier in this process as well. This same emulsification rinse process must also be used to steam clean fabric, soft furnishings and drapery as well. Using a surfactant rinse can assist in maintaining colour fastness in fabrics and prevent colour bleed or run. This is a major issue when trying to successfully steam clean some of the more delicate fabrics like Haitian cotton or linen fabric.

Rinse surfactants also prevent a lot of the lighter coloured fabrics from having any “browning” or water damage residual marking due to over wetting or excessive water pressure during the cleaning process.

Alkaline detergent streaking left behind after the fabric steam cleaning process, is another problem that can also be avoided by using a proper emulsifier surfactant rinse.

We have seen many instances of streaking after fabric steam cleaning because no surfactant emulsifier was used, and residual cleaning product was left behind due to the fabric not being properly rinsed out during the steam cleaning process.

In some cases, this residual damage is reversible but in many cases, it is not, which can lead to an insurance claim from the consumer. The last thing a carpet and upholstery steam cleaner needs after a hard day’s work is a phone call from a consumer demanding a new lounge. Whether during fabric steam cleaning – to use or not to use an emulsifier? Many take shortcuts and choose not too which unfortunately it happens more often than one thinks, due to fabric steam cleaners taking short cuts.


Persian and Oriental Rug Steam Cleaning

The rinsing process is especially important when steam cleaning any type of Persian or Oriental Rugs. If there is any material that has the propensity for colour run or bleed after cleaning, it is the pile in a Persian or Oriental rug.

Many of these rugs are hand tufted and dyed using natural vegetable dyes. Dye migration, especially to the fringe edges during and after the steam cleaning process is not uncommon.

Metro Carpet Cleaning highly recommend that before you call a carpet steam cleaning company to clean your centuries old hand-woven rug, it may make sense to consult with a professional rug laundry service first. It is not uncommon for an excessive amount of dye to be used during the manufacture of an Oriental rug, which in turn can make it’s dyes naturally fugitive during any cleaning process.

It is best practice to have the rug steam cleaned at an experienced rug laundry plant submerged in a rug bath. This process is a safeguard, so in the event that there is any dye migration, it can be quickly isolated on the spot by a qualified rug cleaner.

If your rug is cleaned on site by a carpet steam cleaning service, the chances of your rug having a dye release issue is much higher after the cleaning event and during the drying process, making it much harder to rectify because these events usually occur after the carpet steam cleaner has left your premises not during the steam cleaning process.

This can make your rug steam cleaning request go from a cleaning process to a restoration process, or even worse a non- restorable process, where an insurance claim is inevitable due to a carpet steam cleaners negligence and short cuts in proper emulsification and rinsing.

Click here to contact us or call on 1300 300 243.

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