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An Effective Alternative to Bonnet Cleaning

Written by  Richard “Bo” Bodo

For many years one of the most widely used solutions for interim carpet care has been the bonnet cleaning method. Bonnet cleaning is the process of applying a cleaning agent to a cloth disc, called a “bonnet,” and using a 175 RPM lowspeed machine to spin the bonnet over the carpet. This process is the preferred method for many cleaners because there is little investment in equipment, since virtually every facility has a lowspeed machine, and the cleaning chemicals are quite inexpensive.

Done correctly, bonnet cleaning can be a cost-effective method for maintaining carpet, assuming the carpet is no longer under warranty. Effective bonnet cleaning involves the use of a pump-up sprayer to apply the cleaning solution to the bonnet, along with checking, flipping, and replacing the bonnet as soon as it becomes soiled, so as to not spread dirt to other areas of the carpet.

Almost all carpet mills have bonnet prohibition or rotary cleaning prohibition in their warranties. This means that if your customer is having an issue with their carpet and the carpet mill comes out to inspect the carpet and discovers that you’ve been bonnet cleaning, the warranty on the carpet may be voided. The reason for this is the way bonnet cleaning is practiced by most cleaners.

First, most cleaners who use the bonnet cleaning method are not vacuuming before cleaning to remove the dry soils that comprise about 80 percent of the soil in the carpet. Secondly, most cleaners using the bonnet cleaning method do not spray the bonnet with the cleaning solution; they dunk the bonnet in a bucket of cleaning solution and then wring it out with a mop-bucket wringer. Finally, most cleaners also do not check the bonnet for soil loading nearly as often as they should. Bonnets can become filled with soil in just a couple hundred square feet. And once loaded with soil, the bonnet will not hold any more; instead, it simply moves the soil from one area to another.

These factors combine to create a damaging force in the carpet. Dry soils that are not removed by vacuuming before cleaning become entangled in the overly wet bonnet and then scratch and de-luster the carpet fibers themselves, creating permanent damage. The overly wet bonnet also deposits residues that attract soils when they are dry, creating the need to clean more often.

Today, an effective and often preferred alternative to bonnet cleaning is encapsulation. In the encapsulation process, the carpet is vacuumed to remove dry particulate soils (remember, 79 percent of all the soil in your carpet is dry particulate, which is most easily and thoroughly removed when dry, so vacuuming is actually the most important step in carpet cleaning) and then a chemical agent is applied to the carpeting and agitated into the pile. Once agitated into the pile, the chemical contacts the sticky, oily soils that cling to the carpet fibers, surrounds them, and removes them from the fiber either by suspending the soil (the chemical surrounds the soil particle) or emulsifying it (the soil is dissolved in the chemical like a powdered drink mix in water).

Once the soil is removed and either suspended or emulsified, the chemical dries to a non-sticky, flaky crystal that can then be removed by vacuuming. Normally, it takes about 30 minutes for the encapsulation chemical to dry, depending on environmental factors. When the chemical is dry, the soil-bearing crystals can be removed with a thorough vacuuming.

There are a number of benefits to using encapsulation over bonnet cleaning. First, encapsulation methods typically use a dual counter-rotating brush machine to agitate the chemical into the carpet pile. Not only is this type of system easier to operate on the carpet, it has a “pile-lifting” effect on the carpet that lifts and combs the fibers and creates a much better appearance. Secondly, an encapsulating chemical will leave behind far less residue than a typical bonnet cleaning. This means that the carpet will not attract soil and will retain a good appearance longer.

Finally, encapsulation cleaning can be an effective process in managing your budget. Encapsulation cleaning uses far less water, chemical, labor, and time than extracting carpet. Plus, encapsulation cleaning can be done three to four times between extractions, which will help to maintain a clean, consistent appearance, which is exactly what your customers want. Bonnet and Rotary Prohibition Statements:

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