Carpet Dirt


Every carpet has four basic materials that need to be removed.

  1. Insoluble dirt – won’t dissolve
  2. Spots - surface
  3. Stains - dye type
  4. Soiling - dissolvable dirt

Insoluble Dirt (Soil)


Sand and hair are examples of dry “particulate” (particles, pieces) insoluble soil.  Vacuum cleaners do better, removing dry dirt, than water extraction wands.

Dry carpet dirt is tough on carpet fiber and fabric. It can work like sandpaper, abrading (scratching the sides of fiber) and weakening.

Good vacuuming of carpet can make it last longer than one that gets little to none. The same is true for upholstery.


  1. Vacuuming removes surface soil before it gets seriously embedded into the fiber.
  2. Vacuuming makes carpet and upholstery look better
  3. It can make carpet and upholstery last years longer vacuuming.
  4. A vacuum does a good job doing what water extraction tools aren’t so good at; removing dry dirt.

Tests have shown that 74 – 79% of carpet dirt is dry, insoluble soil.


Spots, Stains and Soiling


Spots, soiling and stains are a small percentage of what needs to be removed, but usually require the most time.


Spots can be material adhered to the fibers. Spots, such as gum and wax, sometimes, require special attention with spotters designed to dissolve, with the help of, time, agitation and heat.


Stains are “dye” type material that has re colored the fibers.

Stains or dyes, often acid dyes, such as fruit juice and cold foods, might be removed by normal cleaning or require an “Acid Dye Remover.” Acid Dye Removers have developed to be very effective and easy to use.


Overall soiling is the material that, often, sticks to fibers to give the “dirty” look.

Removing overall soiling is a process that can start with “soil suspension”. Imagine sugar in water. It’s not gone; it’s being held or “suspended” by the water. Muddy water is another example.

When we “prespray” carpet and upholstery, we are attempting to dissolve the dirt, spots and stains that “will” dissolve.


Heat, adds chemical reactivity to the cleaning solution, giving it greater cleaning ability. Heat also breaks surface tension which you can have in liquid (like the skin on pudding) to make the liquid a better “rinse”

When the “dissolvable” carpet dirt dissolves, it goes into “suspension” in the prespray. This suspended material, in the liquid prespray, is now waiting to be “rinsed”The cleaning (rinse) wand sprays a rinsing product that combines with the pre spray and suspended soil and is vacuumed up by the wand.

So, here’s the process:

             Remove the dry insoluble dirt - vacuuming does best.

             Work on stains and spots, that normal cleaning won't remove.

          Remove soil, stains and spots that will "suspend" and rinse out.


The IICRC Carpet Cleaning Technician class gives direction on some spots and stains that should be worked on before normal cleaning, to get better results. 

PS  - The IICRC S100, carpet cleaning standard, refers to dirt as "soil".



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               Dennis Klager                    

               IICRC Instructor





Copyright 2012 by Dennis Klager