blank 10/03/11 09:34AM Carpet Cleaning, detailing, Dr Detail

Dr Detail...Carpet Cleaning...Part 8

Details … Details … Details!

Rx:  Is beauty only skin deep? 

Let’s see if we can change that!

Your baby’s interior is made up of many different materials.  There are polyesters, Acrylics, Rubbers, Vinyls, Leathers, Cottons, Polyurethanes, Wood etc.  Some are glossy and some are low gloss.  Some are hard and scratch, some are soft and mar or tear.  All of them get dirty and many can harbor unpleasant odors.  These materials are used to make carpets, floor & trunk mats, running board padding, weather stripping and seals, headliners, dashes, gauges, steering wheels, seats, door panels, light lenses, etc.  How does one care for all these different materials?  Well, let’s look at them each in turn and try to organize the chaos.  Today we’ll look at …


Carpet Materials:

There are eight (8) original automotive carpet materials (credit Auto Carpet Originals)

·    80/20 loop (80% rayon & 20% nylon, most common carpet type for American cars from the late 1940's to 1973) ,

·    “Daytona” (original for some 50's Chevy, Buick and Pontiacs, with a face yarn of 100% nylon & backing yarn of 30% nylon, 40% cotton & 30% rayon blend),

·    “GrosPoint” (original to some 50's & 60's vehicles, cut and sewn style carpet, a high-end automotive carpet made of 100% nylon that has the appearance of fine embroidery developed specifically for early model classic muscle cars and full size passenger cars built in the 50s & 60s.  Daytona is a reasonable alternative),

·    DuPont Nylon (loop for older vehicles including the Ford Mustang or cut pile found in most domestic vehicles since 1974), - counts as two.

·    “TruVette” (the original material for late model Corvettes which is 100% solution dyed nylon),

·    “Tuxedo” (found in some late 50's to early 60's Chevy, Buick, Olds, Pontiac and some others.  Olefin yarn added to the 80/20 Rayon/Nylon blend),

·    Vinyl/Rubber (although not OEM there are times when carpeting is not the appropriate floor covering for a vehicle that spends time off-road or at the construction site and unlike rubber, vinyl will not crack, fade or degrade.)

Each can vary in it’s method of dying, the size of the tufting, weight of material per square yard & type of backing – usually heavy rubber, latex or polyethylene.

Cleaning Carpets:

What are you likely to encounter in your carpet?

·    Stains from water leaks

·    Spilled milk, catsup fries, etc.

·    Animal urine

·    Cola and other soda spills

·    Spilled paint

·    Spilled gasoline

·    Cigarette ash

·    Nail polish

·    Coffee

·    Now it’s your turn to add one!

The full list is unlimited!

Whether you are cleaning carpeting or carpet covered mats, you will use the same technique.  The biggest difference is that you’ll want to remove mats from the car to work on them. 

Gather your materials from the following list:

Useful Materials:

·    •Carpet Cleaning System (i.e. Rug Doctor, Extractor, Wet/Dry Vacuum, etc.)

·    •Fan/hair dryer

·    •Cleaning Solution

·    •Clean Dry Towels

·    •Sponge

·    •Wash cloth

·    •Spray bottle

·    •White vinegar

·    •Foam fabric cleaner

·    •Paper towels

Methods of cleaning

·    •Hand Brush

·    •Rotary Brush Shampooer (The Cyclo polisher does this well)

·    •Soil Extraction (see Extrators – e.g. “Rug Doctor”)

  1. Vacuum - When preparing to shampoo a carpet, make sure to vacuum the carpet first.  If your vacuum has rotating brushes their vibration will help release the soil from deep inside the carpet’s nap.  Vacuum in different patterns.  Try east & west then switch to north and south.  You might even toss in a diagonal pattern.  By switching up patterns you’ll pull more debris out of the fabric before you shampoo.  Mats can be “spanked” clean when out of the car before you vacuum.
  1. Spotting - If you encounter a spot or stain, get to it as soon as possible while it’s fresh.  Remove any solid material on the surface first.  Pick up food or crayons etc. then blot up liquids (it’s best not to rub here or risk spreading it).  Blot from the outside and use a light colored cloth or paper towel so you can see how it’s coming along.  Blot until no more color is coming up. 

Use a spot cleaner for heavily soiled areas.  Meguiars offers All Purpose Cleaner in their Detailer line (as does 3D) for spots, heavy soil and general soils, which is very popular.  Use the highest recommended concentration for spotting.

Check a remote area of the carpet to be sure not to bleach the color from the fabric.  If you don’t know what caused the problem, use a solvent cleaner first.  Blot with the cleaner until no more soil transfers to the towel.  If you don’t pick up any of the spot your cleaner is probably of the wrong type.  Switch to a water-based all purpose cleaner.  Grease, crayon, lipstick and other oily materials can be removed with solvent-based spotters but protein (like food and blood) and sugar-based spots are best removed with a water-based, all purpose cleaner.  When finished follow general cleaning steps. 

For heavy cleaning mist it over the entire spotted area and let it soak a few minutes (maybe 10 to 15 minutes), mist it again and rub it vigorously with a brush made for carpets or a clean cloth if you don’t have the proper brush.

Brushes - The wrong brush can pull at the carpet nap and leave lint and fuzz while damaging the fabric.  Choose a brush (usually with synthetic bristles like Nylon, Polyethylene or Polypropylene) that has spring as well as firmness to the bristle.  Bristles that are too stiff and without spring can scrape the fabric and pull fibers.  One that is not firm enough will not agitate the fabric enough to clean it well. 

Cheap brushes will have broken bristle tips that can tear at the fabric.  A good quality brush (although it will cost you more) will protect the fabric with smooth tips.

Scrub in a variety of patterns again until the stain is removed.  If it doesn’t come up, switch to a different type of shampoo.  If the heavy soil was not removed with water based materials it may not be water soluble and will require a solvent based solution.  As an example, water does a poor job of cleaning up motor oil and solvent will not clean up a dried sugar solution.  Making a second pass with more of the same material usually doesn’t work.  You must change the type of material you are using to be effective.

Test the next solution in a remote area of the carpet to be sure it’s safe before applying it to the heavily soiled area.  Harsher solvents, or cleaning solutions may bleach, or fade, the carpet.

  1. General Cleaning - Once the major stains are gone, turn your attention to the rest of the carpet.  As the Doctor always says, “Use the mildest cleaner that will get the job done in a reasonable amount of time.”  Start with some soapy water again (car shampoo is fine).  If that does the job then use it over all.  Spray it over the entire soiled carpet without saturating the fabric.  You should avoid getting the backing very wet.  Let the soapy water sit for a few minutes, then scrub it with your brush or cloth.  Another method is to use a small orbital tool and a terry bonnet.  The same Porter-Cable, DeWalt or other dual Action polisher used to apply wax can be used to clean lightly soiled carpets.  Just buff until the soil is removed.  During the process, as the bonnet becomes dirty just turn it over.
  1. Wipe away dirty solution with either a damp sponge or wash cloth.  Follow with dry versions.
  1. Light cleaning can be done with foam or dry granular methods.  Foam avoids soaking into the fabric and is best for upholstery.  The latter method spreads moisture granules on the carpet and works them into the carpet.  The granules must set for 20 to 30 minutes to allow them to absorb the soil.  Finally, vacuum the granules up and enjoy the results.
  1. Whatever method you use, make sure that the carpets are completely dry, when done, to avoid mildew and mold.  Use a fan or a hair dryer to get everything completely dry.

OR …

Extractors - Carpets that look clean, are not always as clean as they seem.  Clean, spot-free carpet, rugs, and upholstery are a sign of a good detail and a great DETAILER.  Impress your clients and keep them coming back with a professional look.

For the best professional results, use equipment like the Rug Doctor (rentable at U-haul).  Follow the directions, and you are going to get professional results.  The Rug Doctor (no relation) falls into the “Extractor” category.  An Extractor forces a stream of hot or cold cleaning solution (your choice) onto the fabric surface but vacuums it back up before the material gets saturated.  The vacuuming action thoroughly cleans the fabric. 

Soil Extraction

What is correctly called "Deep cycle rinse extraction" or "Soil extraction" is a process sometimes confused with steam cleaning.  What appears to be steam coming from an extractor nozzle is simply vapors of heated solution.  Steam is water heated to 212 F or higher.

Use as much heated, low-foaming extractor shampoo as possible.  The hot shampoo does the work.  Don’t worry about all the liquid because an Extractor “sucks” it right back up again, leaving the fabric clean and close to dry in one step. 

Extractor shampoos are usually high pH so a "sour rinse" with a low pH of 4 to 5 can be used to neutralizes the shampoo.  Alkaline residue can cause dulling or browning of the carpet.

Consumer-grade Extractors are made by Shop Vac, Bissle Little Green Machine, and Rug Doctor.  Professional/Commercial models are made by Mytee, Durmaid, or Sensei 

Final Curtain Call!

While the carpet is still damp, and if it has cut loop pile, you can use that to your advantage.  Whether you do the work by hand or with an Extractor follow this simple trick to really impress your customer or your lady.  There is no limit to what you can do. 

Shape the pile into some sort of pattern.  I’ve seen carpets in Arizona left with the rising sun pattern.  Texans may appreciate a star.  Californians will be blown away with a bear (not likely to happen!). 

Cut loop carpet pile will “flash” differently based on how the pile lays.  Brush or vacuum the pile (especially when a little damp) by pushing or pulling the brush across the carpet to form the pattern.  The rising sun can be done by pushing a wedge-shaped section of pile from bottom to top, making it wider at the top.  Pull the adjacent section from top to bottom to form the next ray, making it narrower at the bottom.  Finish with the sun by arching from left to right (or right to left) to create a semicircle at the bottom. 

Dying Carpets:

Why would you want to dye auto carpet?

Believe it or not, you can dye auto carpet and TRY to get it back to it's original color.  It’s usually not likely you’ll bring the auto carpet back to exactly its original color, but you can get close.  CAUTION: You can not dye the carpet a lighter color, but you can always make it darker.

In order for this method to work, it’s best if you remove the carpet from the car, and then thoroughly clean it.  The cleaner the carpet, the more even the dye will look.  

Apply the dye according to instructions.  This is another RTL situation.  That’s’ “Read the Label”!  Once the carpet is completely colored and dry, replace it back into the vehicle.

This method can be messy, and tedious, not to mention the result will rarely be 100% perfect.  If you are fortunate, you will be able to find a close match for the color and the shade that you need.  The dye can cost anywhere from $25 to $75 depending on the brand of dye and how large the carpet is.

Carpet Odors:

Do something about the smell!  Sometimes, the only problem (or the worst problem) in a car's interior is the smell.  Some things like mildew and spoiled milk can cause a smell that just does not want to go away.  With a little investigation, you can find the source of those smells and get rid of those problems for good.  If the source of those smells has gone into the seats or carpet, it might take more work to remove them.

Find yourself a good “Odor Eliminator”.  Notice that I didn’t say “Deodorizer”.  Deodorizers are NOT!  In other words, they don’t deodorize but rather mask the odor by overpowering it with a more pleasant odor.  Much of the time, a cheap deodorizer will eventually go rancid and create that “old car in the sun” smell.  You know the one I mean.  Stick your nose into any no-name used car lot in Arizona and you’ll remember.  Then look under the seat and you’ll undoubtedly find a couple old, faded Xmas tree hangers.

Meguiars make an Odor Eliminator which DOES.  This class of products is best represented by Fabreeze.  However, household OEs will not stand up under the kind of heat the builds up in a car.  OE’s trap and encapsulate odor makers and lock them and their tell tale presents away as long as the capsule lasts.  If it breaks down in the heat, the problem returns.  Odor eliminators can be found in “fogger” form as well.

Get a good one and spray the source of the odor if you can find it.  If you can’t find it, hit the headliner, seats and carpet.  Might as well throw in the dash and door panels.  I once rented a car after a smoker and couldn’t see to drive with my eyes watering from the residual smoke.  Once I dumped an OE into the interior I didn’t get another whiff for the full 2 weeks I had the car!


When selling the carpet cleaning to the customer always suggest a fabric protectant application to prevent future staining. 

Now, get creative and wait for the razes!

So let the shine begin!

Please submit your questions for this column at and we’ll cover them in a future column.  You can also submit your own testimonials and comments about the subjects covered here and we’ll try to publish them as well.

Sorry for the long delay with this article. 

The Doctor has been busy opening a new “clinic” in Fullerton, CA

Thanx, until next time,

Dr. Detail


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