Archive for allergy relief

Easy Tips for Asthma and Allergy Friendly Carpet Cleaning

Dustmites under magnificationRecently while watching television, I noticed a new commercial for a national carpet cleaning company claiming to be the first asthma & allergy friendly™ certified carpet cleaner.   Having an interest in the floor cleaning industry I decided to further review this newly discovered information.

According to the certifying organization’s website , “the asthma & allergy friendly™ Certification Program, is an independent program created to scientifically test and identify consumer products that are more suitable for people with asthma and allergies”.   In short, the certification is awarded to those Professional Carpet Steam Cleaning procedures that have been scientifically demonstrated to contribute to the goals of allergen reduction.  

Based on these criteria it would appear that only the products and procedures, rather than the individual cleaning technicians performing the work, are receiving the certification.   The effectiveness of this certification then seems limited to the skill, education and ethics of the technician using certified cleaning procedures and products.   If the technician is not performing the procedures properly does this then void the certification?

 Mold spore under magnificationAlthough at present there seems to be only one carpet cleaning company among the masses worthy of the A&A Friendly Certification, have no fear, many cleaning companies out there will continue to meet and exceed these standards just as they have for many years.   There is no dire need or advantage to changing your choice of carpet cleaners now, especially if you have been satisfied with their service.   Asking your local carpet and upholstery cleaning company a few basic questions should put your mind at ease.  Do they use external extraction, such as a truck mount system, to avoid the vacuum from contaminating the indoor air?   Do they use HEPA filters on their equipment?   Some basic steps you can take to reduce allergy and asthma triggers are:

  • Control Mites – wash bedding in 130 plus water at least once per week
  • Avoid Spreading Contaminants – keep windows closed if possible.   Remove garments and fabrics worn outside at the front door and launder.
  • Use a Certified Vacuum – use microfiber clothes and dusters on baseboards, sills, door jambs, air registers, vents and other hard surfaces.
  • Avoid Harsh Chemicals – avoid using products with heavy scents, VOCs and natural lemon.
  • Change Filters – service and clean air filtration equipment regularly, including vents, registers and ducts.  Use Certified Filters on air conditioning units and change every 60-90 days; follow manufacturer guidelines and recommendations.
  • Humidity – eliminate any water leaks and try to keep humidity levels under 50% to reduce the chances of mold.
  • Hot Water Carpet Cleaning – it’s recommended that carpet and heavier rugs be professionally cleaned 3-4 times per year.   Vacuum fabric upholstery at least once per week.

For the Top Five questions you need to ask your choice in carpet cleaning companies visit

The Four Factors for Effective Carpet Cleaning

Oriental rug being cleaned using the extraction processThere are four factors to be considered when it comes to effective carpet cleaning.   I use the word “effective” because cleaning carpet is not just soap and hot water.  They only account for half of the equation.

  • Cleaning solution strength
  • Water temperature
  • Dwell time
  • Mechanical agitation

The strength of water based carpet cleaning solutions is measured in Ph.   Solutions with a Ph range of 7.5-9 are common but it’s always wise to consult the manufacturer’s warranty information.   The wrong Ph can cause a host of issues including harm to the face fibers and backing materials, removal of factory applied spot and stain protection, rapid re-soiling and discoloration.

Dwell time, or the length of time the active cleaning solution is allowed to act on the soil being cleaned, is a crucial to the cleaning process.   Today, professional carpet cleaning companies apply pre-sprays before performing the actual cleaning process.   Dwell times will vary from product to product but should range from 5-15 minutes.   Rinsing agents are usually then employed to eliminate soapy residues, leaving the carpet clean, soft and not sticky.

In addition to solutions and dwell time, mechanical agitation and heat also play an equally important part in the cleaning of carpets and rugs.   Mechanical agitation can be the high pressure spray from an extractor wand’s jets, a rotating bonnet, brush or pad or the use of a groomer.   Care must be taken not to over wet the backing of the carpet being cleaned and to not disturb the natural twist and lay of the carpet’s face yarns.

The way in which a carpet lays is due in part to heat setting by the manufacturer.   Excessive heat either created through friction from a brush or pad or from the temperature of the cleaning solution being used, can permanently ruin your broadloom.   Water temperatures within the range of 120-200°F are usually considered normal for hot water extraction; however that is not the actual temperature of the atomized mist once it reaches the face of the carpet.

In closing it should be noted that the science of carpet cleaning is continuously evolving.   The changes in environmental regulation, new types of construction materials and customer expectations continue to drive these changes.   The four main factors for effective carpet cleaning will always play a critical role in the just how well the job gets done!   Finding the correct balance of “Cleaning Solution”, “Heat”, “Dwell Time” and “Mechanical Agitation” is the key to effective cleaning.


Seasonal Tips for Extending the Life of your Fine Area Rugs

Spring time offers a perfect opportunity for performing a few basic tasks that will definitely help preserve and extend the life of your most prized Oriental and wool rugs suspended from drying racksOriental and fine area rugs.   Aside from already being in that “spring cleaning” mode, the humidity is low, temperatures are a little warmer and the large amount of winter slop being tracked in on the carpet should be coming to an end.

Since a thorough spring time cleaning usually involves moving or rearranging furniture, this is a perfect time for rotating the area carpets in your home.   By rotating your rugs, the traffic wear pattern, the effects of any sun fading and other potentially damaging actions are more evenly distributed.   This helps to maintain a more uniform look to the entire floor covering and avoids one spot from receiving all the abuse.

When turning your rugs take an extra minute to inspect the surging and binding along the edges looking for breaks, tears and other excessive wear.  Check the fringes and backing for any loose fabric and the face for any rips or highly worn areas.   Depending on the monetary and sentimental value of the item, you might consider having the damage professionally repaired to avoid further damage.   You should try to identify and alleviate the source of any such damage.

Additionally the lower humidity and moderate temperatures make it ideal for taking the rug outside, airing out and beating.   Wool fiber and yarns are very soil retaining and can add up to 50% or more to the weight of the carpet.   Sounds a bit old fashioned but Amazon does sell rug beaters.  Dry soil removal is crucial element to extending the life of any area rug or carpet.

At a minimum you should be vacuuming your rugs and carpets daily.   It seems a bit extreme but I can’t stress enough, the importance of dry particulate soil removal.   If you don’t have the time for a seasonal rotating, cleaning and inspection, consider hiring a reputable area rug cleaning company.   Most professionals offer pick up and delivery or accept drop offs.   They should offer other services like mothproofing, deodorizing and carpet protector.

The 3 Ways to Control Reoccurring Pet Odors in Carpet

Does your home experience a reoccurring pet smell that seems to come and go with the changes in the weather?   No matter what you try the foul and embarrassing scent returns.   Humidity may be a factor and with summer coming soon it will only get worse.   Odors that seem to come and go, or change in intensity are an indication that bacteria and other contaminants are present.  

Three ways to control a pet related odor are

  • Completely remove the source
  •  Seal in the source
  • Masking over the foul smell with a more pleasant scent

Masking should only be considered as a temporary fix because the source still remains and can pose health problems.   It can also cause further damage to your carpet or sub floor.   Never place a liquid or deodorizing scent somewhere it can’t easily be removed.

Sealing in the source of an odor should be considered where the contaminated surface is highly porous and previous attempts to remove the contamination are proving ineffective.  This may require peeling back the carpet to expose the carpet padding and sub-floor.   Before sealing make sure the area is thoroughly washed, dry and able to be painted.   Most hardware stores carry sealing products for a variety of odor and surface applications and that can be painted on with a brush or in a spray.  

Completely removing the source of an unpleasant odor can also require peeling back the carpet to expose the carpet padding and sub-floor.   Other times flushing the area with the proper odor counteractant and a water claw might be effective.   Sometimes a syringe can be used to inject an enzymatic digester behind the carpet’s face.  Your professional IICRC certified carpet cleaner can help you choose the best plan of attack.

It also important to note that odors can saturate porous surfaces such as curtains, ceiling tiles, fabrics and unfinished wood.   You may eliminate the source of an odor however residual smells absorbed by other surfaces may remain.   Residual odors may dissipate but most likely an ozone machine or fogger may need to be employed.

Why Carpet Cleaning needs to be part of Spring Cleaning Routine

Children playing on clean carpetSpring is known throughout history and in most cultures as a time for purification, renewal and rejuvenation.   Aside from all the religious and pagan rituals citing spring as a time for purification, health should be a main reason for having your carpet and upholstery professionally cleaned.

After being cooped up with winters accumulating soil and germs it’s finally time to open the windows and let in some fresh air.   Carpeted floors and upholstered furniture all act like large air filters collecting any particulate soil that comes floating by.    Rugs, carpets and entry mats are considered the lungs of the house as most nasty allergy causing agents and other contaminants fall to the lowest point.   Studies have shown that inside air can be 5 times more toxic than outside air.

In addition to making your expensive home interior investments just look clean remember this; hair sprays, perfumes, common dirt, germs, spills, winter slush and other nasty substances have gathered and nested in your textiles for the last few months.   It’s time to remove these potentially harmful materials for an effective and healthy “spring cleaning”.

Choosing a true and trained cleaning professional can ensure a deeper cleaning and properly filtered equipment to eliminate soils from becoming airborne again while using safer and more effective cleaning solutions.   Just think of the cost of renting or purchasing a DIY carpet cleaner, the gas to get there, purchasing the detergents and selecting the proper carpet and fabric protectors and other specialty agents.   Then you still need to move the furniture and do the cleaning.  Hiring a reputable carpet cleaning company will actually save you time, money and aggravation in the long run while getting better results.  

On the subject of fabric upholstery, a thorough dry vacuuming is your first line of defense.   But it is important to make sure your vacuum cleaner is not blowing the soil back into the air.   Truck mounted cleaning systems have their vacuums located externally and therefore all soils are safely removed and collected outside the home.   If you decide to shampoo the furniture yourself make yourself aware of the manufacturer’s recommended instructions for cleaning.   Always check for the following codes as they each represent a recommended cleaning method;

  • “X” – Vacuum Only
  • “W” –  Wet Clean
  • “S” – Dry Clean
  • “W/S” – Wet or Dry Clean

Make carpet and upholstery cleaning an important part of your spring program.   Clean for health as well as aesthetics.    Above all read your manufacturer’s warranty and always follow their recommendations.

Pet Accidents on Carpet include more than just Cleaning Urine, Feces and Vomit

Carpets and rugs are prone to pet accidentsA recent pet emergency at my home this past holiday week reminded me that pet accidents can involve more than just odors and the usual urine and fecal carpet stain related problems.   Our 10 year old Black Lab, Princess Cleopatra, had a terrible medical issue and the mess in my home required a thorough deep carpet cleaning and sanitizing.

On the Monday before Thanksgiving, I arose from my bed at 6am and started toward the coffee only to step in several wet areas on the carpet.   My first thought was the dog had gotten sick and vomited as she was not feeling well the night before.  But the more I stepped, the more I began to change my mind and started thinking maybe she had urinary problems.   I spotted the dog at the top of the stairs and seeing that her entire rear end, rear legs and tail were completely soaking wet I knew we had bigger problems.

Upon further investigation my wife and I determined that Cleo had a serious infection which was causing a continuous and foul smelling discharge of blood and nasty fluids.   After rushing my faithful hunting companion and best friend to the Hazleton Veterinary Hospital, the fantastic staff there examined and admitted her for emergency surgery.   She needed to have her uterus removed.   Everything went well but now we were faced with the daunting task of cleaning up the extremely soiled carpet.

Identifying the properties and composition of the contaminants we were attempting to clean was our first consideration.   In this case we were dealing with blood which would normally require a protein type carpet spot cleaner.   Not only was there blood to consider but the byproducts of an infection, bacteria and possibly urine too.  That would require an “EPA Registered” germicidal cleaner.

My carpet extractor was not readily available so I had to initially make do with household items.   I was lucky enough to be able to use some clean white towels to quickly absorb the mess from the carpet before it had time to dry.   Also the mess did not penetrate the carpet backing and I did not need to treat the sub-floor or carpet padding.

Until I was able to use my carpet cleaning equipment, I used a mixture of about 10-12 ounces of water and one teaspoon of liquid laundry soap in a spray bottle.   Most liquid laundry detergents contain the necessary ingredients for doing an excellent job of cleaning carpet spots which are protein based.   I continued to spray and blot the area until there was no more visible transfer of the soil into the towel.   When spot cleaning most protein carpet spots and stains definitely avoid the use of hot water.   Heat can set a protein stain making it permanent and reduce the chances of a successful removal.  When attempting to remove a protein stain use cool water.

Furthermore I needed to treat the carpet for germs and bacteria due to the nature and severity of the incident.    Your local professional carpet cleaning company should carry a disinfectant.   Once I had access to my cleaning equipment, my choice was a product called “Microban Disinfectant Spray Plus”.   Microban Disinfectant Spray Plus is a water-based bactericide, fungicide, deodorant, and antimicrobial all in one unique formulation. One application kills allergy- and disease-causing germs, fungi, mold, and mildew. It kills odor-causing bacteria, including gram negative bacteria — the bacteria encountered in sewage backups and toilet overflow situations.

After the day was over we did use our hot water extraction carpet cleaning system to finish off the job.   If you encounter a pet emergency in the Hazleton PA or surrounding areas I “highly recommend” the Hazleton Veterinary Hospital located at 1094 N.Church Street in Hazle Township.   If your troubles require the services of a “professional carpet cleaner”, Services Etcetera Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning is located just down the road at 1620 N.Church Street, Suite #3.  We offer a full line of products and services to assist in sanitizing and removing pet stains and odors.   Call us at (570)459-0429 or request a free online estimate.


5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner

Carpet cleaning pre spray being mixed for commercial applicationWhen your pet has an accident on the carpet or someone has a spill it can be stressful enough, but choosing a “professional carpet cleaner” that best fits your needs can be more taxing.   There are a few factors that should be considered when making your final decision.   Having cleaned carpets in the Mountaintop PA, Berwick PA and Hazleton PA areas for 24 years, I highly recommend the following 5 steps for choosing a Professional Carpet Cleaning Company should be taken into consideration.     

  1. Narrowing Down the Field – first consult your warranty documents whether it’s upholstery or carpets.   The information provided by the manufacturer not only includes specific instructions for approved cleaning methods but most warranties now specify the certifications your cleaning company should possess.   Not following these guidelines may void your warranty.
  2. Look for an “IICRC” or “The Clean Trust” certified firm – when doing your research.   Companies like Services Etcetera Professional Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning and bearing these certifications are required to update their training regularly, adhere to a code of ethics and are usually the carpet mill’s preferred choice to handle warranty claims.
  3. Ask your Prospects – where they are located and if they are a franchise or chain operation.   Shopping locally, within 20-30 miles, will provide you more accurate references and better your chances at finding someone who wants a relationship rather than just another sale.   Remember, the handsome and knowledgeable serviceman in the TV commercial is not the person showing up at your door.
  4. Ask about a Guarantee – a reputable business either offers one with conditions or they won’t offer one at all.   Beware of the guy who promises the world because there is no magic wand and a true professional will usually under promise and try exceed your expectations.
  5. Word of Mouth Referrals – are an excellent source of information, ask a relative, friend or colleague.   Ask the company you call to provide the references; maybe they have a customer who had a situation similar to yours.   Having worked in the cleaning industry for over 23 years I maintain a file of report cards, pictures and other testimonials from my customers.

   After making your choice it’s a good idea to address your expectation up front to avoid any misunderstandings.   But the five questions you should be asking before you hire a carpet and upholstery cleaner are what does my warranty say, what certifications do they have, are they local, is there a guarantee and do they have references?

A Properly Maintained Vacuum is an Essential part of Carpet Cleaning

upright vacuumThere’s more to vacuuming your carpet than turning on the power switch and making a few simple passes.   Performing a regular inspection of your vacuum’s belts, filters, brush roller and bag or canister is very important part of proper carpet cleaning procedures.   All components of a vacuum cleaner must work in harmony in order to achieve optimal results.

  • Did you know a vacuum bag that is just 10% full may result in upwards of a 50% reduction in your vacuum’s efficiency?   A vacuum working harder to remove less soil causes a diminished life span of the vacuum itself.   Dry soil and grit left behind translates into more than just dirty carpet.   Particulate soil trapped down in your carpet yarns act like sandpaper, abrading and grinding away, reducing the life of the carpet and giving them that dingy trafficked appearance.   Consult your manufacturer’s manual or user guide for information on when to change the bag or empty the canister.
  • Bristles, brush rolls, agitators or beat bars on your vacuum do a large amount of the cleaning work and require periodic cleaning.   They gently lift the pile and kick up the stubborn particles of soil and other contaminants, allowing them to enter the vacuum’s air stream.  Worn bristles or brushes reduce the amount of debris removed causing soils to remain in the carpet.   Over time rollers and bristles become embedded with soil, hair lint, fuzz, carpet fibers and other nasty foreign materials.   If not cleaned regularly they can create a drag on the vacuum’s motor causing an early demise.   Dirty bristles can also cause built up soils to leave dirty streaks or black marks on the face of a carpet.
  • Vacuum belts are an important part of a vacuum cleaner because they help rotate the brush roller or beater bar.   With every use vacuum belts stretch from normal heat generated by the motor and can easily break.    Jammed or frozen rotating parts will also cause belts to melt, stretch and snap.   The heat created by friction can damage carpet fibers and also cause permanent unsightly black marks on the carpet face.   Ultimately a broken vacuum belt will result in very little soil from being sucked up.
  • Proper maintenance and replacement of  vacuum cleaners’ filters is essential to proper suction and airflow.    Filters trap and prevent the very fine dust particles not collected in the bag or canister from being blown back out into the air.   Some filters also protect the vacuum’s motor.   Blocked filters need to be washed or cleaned in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.   Blocked filters will cause reduced suction and a strain on the motor resulting in early replacement.

A quick check of these basic components before each vacuuming takes just a minute or two.   Residents in the Hazleton PA area can visit Johns Sweeper and Appliance for vacuum replacement parts and accessories.   Customers of Services Etcetera Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning can request a free vacuum inspection with every carpet cleaning.   Visit or call (570)459-0429 for a free carpet cleaning estimate or to schedule an appointment.

Fleas – How to Safely and Effectively Remove them from your Home and Carpet

Picture of a fleaBefore calling an exterminator and paying extreme bills, there are some simple yet effective ways to remove fleas from your pets, home and carpet.   It is important to note that while chemical use and “Green Cleaning” may be a concern, “Natural” remedies can be HAZARDOUS to your pets or small children too.   Whatever methods you choose be conscious of any changes in your family’s behavior and always read labeling information thoroughly.

With the winter months approaching, many Northeast Pennsylvania residents like me will be trying to squeeze in the last few days of nice weather.   Walking the dog, jumping in the leaves, cleaning up yard debris around the home and other outdoor activities may potentially expose you to fleas and other insects.   It is important to have a 3 step action plan:

    1. Treatment and care of pets
    2. Daily vacuuming and housekeeping
    3. A long term plan for treating carpets, rugs and fabrics
  • Ensuring that your pet is not acting as a carrier is the first step in achieving a flea free environment.   Eliminate the source by treating pets for existing fleas and from further contamination.   Purchase a flea comb from your local pet store and groom your pets regularly, especially before they come inside.   Make sure your pet has a flea dip, flea collar, topical treatment or other long term deterrent.   Ask your veterinarian about adding brewer’s yeast to your pet’s food, it causes an unpleasant odor causing fleas to migrate.   Be careful of home remedies made from Eucalyptus, tea tree oils and lemon as they can have serious health effects on your cat or dog.   Nausea, vomiting, lethargy, general weakness and digestive problems may all be indicative of a bad reaction.
  • Removing and killing live fleas, larva and eggs in carpets and fabrics is a daily essential.   Wash any blankets, bedding or linens that may have contacted your pet in hot water and detergent.   Thoroughly vacuum all carpeting, area rugs and upholstered furniture in your home.   Use a strong, bag type vacuum without a worn beater bar.   After vacuuming promptly remove and seal the vacuum bag inside a plastic bag and then discard outside.   Take care to vacuum hard to reach areas as fleas prefer cooler areas not in direct sunlight.   Consider hiring a professional carpet cleaning company that offers hot water extraction also known as steam cleaning.   An IICRC certified carpet cleaner can effectively reach deep down into the base of the carpet yarns removing much more than a typical vacuum.    Remaining vigilant about daily vacuuming of carpet and fabrics is important.  
  • You will not be able to get every last flea the first time around, so besides daily vacuuming you need to have a long term plan.   Even if you manage to kill or remove every remaining flea you still need to combat the eggs and larva waiting to mature.   Products known as insect growth regulators (IGR) disrupt the reproductive cycle of insects and are usually harmless to mammals.    Products containing Nylar such as Bio Spot from “PETCO” or other products found by visiting are effective long term treatments.   Some alternative remedies involve sprinkling diatomaceous earth (DE) or salt directly onto your carpets.   Keep in mind you should wear a respirator when using (DE).   A mixture of borax and water in your home carpet cleaning machine will drown fleas while the borax attaches to the carpet and prevents others from maturing.

In closing it is important to remember that removing fleas from you home will take time and some effort.   Regardless of using a home concoction or a store bought product, always keep an eye out for adverse reactions and follow all packaging and labeling information.   Pest control products only go so far.   Good housekeeping practices and keeping your pet free from fleas should also be a part of any flea control program.

Prevention, Protection and Presentation, 3 Great Reasons for having your Carpets Cleaned as Autumn Approaches

Carpeted classroom at the HASD 9th grade centerThere are many reasons for having carpet and upholstery cleaned but the transition from summer to fall brings several factors into consideration.   As in most areas of Pennsylvania, students in the Hazleton and Berwick Area School Districts will be returning to school this week.     While recently cleaning carpets at the 9th Grade Center of the Hazleton Area High School, I realized that I was doing more than just cleaning rugs.   I was actually performing 3 different jobs; presenting, protecting and preventing.

  • Presentation the manner in which something is shown, expressed, or laid out for other people to see.   

This time of year marks more than the start of school.   Very soon the “Holiday Season” will be upon us.   Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and other traditional holidays will soon find us inviting guests into our homes and businesses.    The appearance of these areas presents an image of your habits, your attitude and your professionalism.

Using the start of school as an example, imagine being a parent bringing your son or daughter to orientation and finding the commercial carpeting filthy, stained and terribly worn.   Now imagine having some guests come over to your facilities and witness the same conditions.   Presentation sets the tone of how others see us.   With increased traffic in our dwellings and places of business this time of year, “what image are you presenting”?

  • Protection – something that prevents somebody or something from being harmed or damaged.

The hustle and bustle of the coming holidays and colder weather will no doubt bring increased traffic to interior areas.   As guests, patrons and neighbors come to visit or shop, floor coverings need to be properly cleaned and protected or they face a premature demise.

Having cleaned the same school’s carpets for over 7 years proves that professional cleaning and maintenance of carpets can extend the life of your investment.   Subjected to heavy use, over the years we have removed gum, tar, food and other unknown substances.   The commercial grade nylon carpet is still in “very good condition and is far from replacement”!

Particles of soil embedded in the face yarns of carpet act like tiny pieces of sandpaper.      Motion and pressure from foot traffic cause these particulates to start grinding away at carpet fibers.   Failure to remove these soils on a regular basis will contribute to early replacement.    Cleaning your carpets and other types of floor coverings now will pay dividends in the future.   An application of carpet protector like Scothgard or Dupont Teflon can also aide in the protection process and extend the useful life of textiles.

  • Prevention   an action or actions taken to stop somebody from doing something or to stop something from happening

The cold and flu season is on its way and nasty, uncomfortable symptoms will soon descend upon some of us.   Cleaning carpets for health reasons versus for aesthetics is very important.   Your carpets, rugs and upholstery can harbor soils and other foreign substances that cause respiratory issues and infectious diseases.

“According to many IAQ experts”, the biggest problem with carpets may not be new carpet emissions at all. Once installed, a carpet acts like a filter for anything in the air, trapping particulates and pollutants. Anything carried onto a carpet on shoes or wheels can also become lodged in it.   View the full article.

Statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that 40% of children aged 5–17 years missed 3 or more school days in the past year because of illness or injury.    Visit the CDC website at for useful tips on disease prevention, statistics and data.

Services Etcetera Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning is an IICRC/Clean Trust certified carpet cleaning firm that has been serving Northeastern PA for over 23 years.   The friendly and well trained staff can address all of your cleaning needs with a free, no obligation estimate.