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What is Carpet Shampoo?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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Carpet shampoo is a specially-formulated liquid detergent compound used to clean carpets and rugs. It is often used in conjunction with a rotary-style carpet cleaning machine or a cylindrical model which uses compressed air to generate foam before agitation. The general idea of using this product is to create a thick foam which will attract and suspend dirt particles scrubbed out of the carpet pile. Once this dirty foam has dried, the residue can be vacuumed away.

A good carpet shampoo must be able to generate a considerable amount of long-lasting foam to be most effective. This means the use of ingredients similar to those found in hair shampoos. A chemical called sodium lauryl sulfate gives the shampoo its foamy quality, while dirt removers called anionic detergents provide cleaning power. Because dirt particles actually form an electrostatic bond with carpet fibers, anionic agents are used to break that bond and provide a more attractive alternative.

Because the carpet cleaning machine uses strong brushes to agitate the foam, a good carpet shampoo must also have a lubricating quality to protect the carpet from tangles and distress. One used in conjunction with a wet extraction machine should also contain water softeners.

The use of this product is not universally embraced by the carpet care industry, however. One major problem with a detergent-style cleaner is the possibility of resoiling. The sticky residue left behind after a cleaning session may actually attract more dirt. Professional carpet and rug cleaners may use a much lower concentration shampoo, if they use it at all. Some cleaning experts suggest that pure hot water does an effective job of cleaning without the harsh chemical odors or potential for moisture damage.

Some eco-friendly companies do produce a more organic version of carpet shampoo. Chemical deodorizers and detergents have been replaced with herbal concentrates and natural surfactant cleansers. Consumer-friendly treatments are also available in the cleaning supplies aisle at grocery stores and retail outlets. These carpet and rug cleaning sprays eliminate the need for rented commercial rug machines. Be sure to vacuum thoroughly before and after application, and allow the carpet shampoo to dry completely for best results.

One controversial element of a carpet shampoo system is called an optical brightener. Because the actual detergent properties of some shampoo brands are decidedly weak, manufacturers may add a special dye to the formula. The dye, called an optical brightener, creates little more than an optical illusion. Carpet fibers receiving this dye convert ultraviolet light to visible light, creating a temporary brightening effect. Over time, the fibers become permanently yellowed, with little hope of restoration. Professionals suggest that consumers avoid any product which features optical brighteners.

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Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to HomeQuestionsAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon75278 — On Apr 06, 2010

How to remove the oil stain from the carpet.

By anon39405 — On Aug 01, 2009

how do i remove eyeliner stains from the carpet?

By indu — On Aug 31, 2008

how to remove ironbox stains from carpet? please help me in removing those stains.

By ecoclean — On Jul 10, 2008

you can buy a defoamer from any carpet cleaning product supplier like Bridgepoint. Just follow the instructions.

By anon3761 — On Sep 15, 2007

You can use a defoamer solution.

By anon3359 — On Aug 25, 2007

Straight white vinegar cuts the soap suds. Baking soda is a water softener and softer water creates suds faster. If you have soft water, use less soap.

By cnith — On Jun 18, 2007

OK so I'm doing the carpet cleaning thing and I've got foam from H double hockey sticks in the water...

This is a pain because the tank is so small it fills up with foam and the machine thinks the tank is full.

Is there a way to reduce/remove the foam? Can I put something in it to dissolve the foam? I was thinking oil but I think that might make it worse, then I tought baking soda but I don't know how that reacts with soap or if it even works. I need something to break the soap bonds...

Any ideas?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to HomeQuestionsAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
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