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Wool Berber Carpet Cleaning 101

by Matt Goering

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Cleaning wool berber carpet is trickier than you might think. For starters, few berber carpets are made of wool anymore. Most are constructed of nylon or olefin fibers. And since each fiber has its own peculiarities when it comes to sound cleaning practices, your first step is to identify which type of carpet you're dealing with. Once you do that, you can move on to determining the best cleaning method possible.

Genuine Wool Berber Carpet
If you're lucky enough to have genuine wool berber carpets, then you need to take the extra precautions that cleaning wool demands. Wool is largely heralded as the fiber of all fibers, and almost all other carpeting fibers are compared to it. It is soft, durable, and naturally repels soil and other contaminants. It's also very water absorbent, and is natural fiber, both of which can present problems in the cleaning process.

Cleaning Wool Berber Carpet
For starters, wool won't hold up well to excessive agitation, and you should never clean it with water temperatures over 150 degrees. Remember how that wool sweater shrunk from an XL to something your 5 year old fit into when you accidentally washed it in hot water? Same principle applies here, and the last thing you want is your carpet pulling away from the wall as it dries because you used water that was too hot. The other thing to remember when cleaning wool berber carpet is to avoid using excessive moisture. Wool is famous for its ability to absorb and retain water, making wool carpets very difficult to dry out if they've been over saturated. This can lead to a number of other problems, including the development of unpleasant odors, and further carpet shrinkage.

Cleaning Olefin Berber Carpet
At this point you might be thinking that you're lucky your berber carpet is made of olefin, as opposed to wool, when it comes to cleaning. Think again. Unlike wool, olefin fibers absorb almost no moisture at all. This wicking property is what makes them a "stain proof" carpet fiber. That glass of wine you spilled the other night didn't stain your carpet because the olefin fibers simply shucked off the grape juice and let it drain down into the carpet pad. That's great for day to day use, but it can present a problem when you call in a pro for a deep clean.

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Hot water extraction, or steam cleaning, generally wets the entire carpet, including the pad underneath, to achieve the deepest clean. With olefin, however, that means all those stains that never happened, are now going to wander up with the moisture and magically appear on the surface. Multiple vacuumings are usually enough to get rid of these stains that appear out of nowhere, though there are a number of other steps your carpet cleaner can employ in the cleaning phase that can help reduce this effect. Ask ahead of time if your carpet cleaning contractor has worked with olefin berber carpet before, and make sure they take the necessary measures to reduce the chances this spotting will occur in the first place.

Cleaning Nylon Berber Carpet
Nylon berber carpet is the easiest of the three to clean. You don't need to take as many precautions here, but keep in mind that berber is by definition a very thick carpet. Like wool, nylon will absorb a lot of moisture and take a long time to dry out. That being the case, it's not a bad idea to choose a "dry" carpet cleaning method when having your nylon berber carpet professionally cleaned. It will save you the effort of setting up fans around your carpet, and the worry you're sure to feel when you realize it's taking a really long time for your carpet to dry out.

Final Thoughts
Whether you're cleaning wool berber carpet, or a synthetic one, remember that regular vacuuming is your best tool in keeping these tough, durable, and attractive carpets clean in the first place. Finally, make sure you buy a vacuum without a beater bar. Failure to do so will disturb the intricate carpet weave, and you'll be investing new wall-to-wall carpeting before you know it.

Matt Goering, formerly a carpenter and house painter, is a freelance writer for the home improvement industry who has published over 600 articles.