What Chemicals Are Involved in Cleaning Carpets?

Stain Cleaning with Chemicals

Cleaning carpets is not something that should be viewed as a standard treatment or method. There are many ways that you might clean carpets, or have them professionally cleaned, and many different compounds and chemicals used to get the desired results. Additionally, many professional carpet cleaning firms are looking for cost-effectiveness or even “greener” options, and this also plays a role in the kinds of agents used to get carpets clean. Some turn to heat activated options, while others might use fluid mixes that are then extracted via specialty machines.


Based on that information, we can look at a brief list of the most commonly used chemicals in carpet cleaning and the methods used alongside them to get the job done.

Enzymes – Often used on particularly odorous stains (such as vomit, pet urine or feces, and so on), they actually digest the staining materials and convert them into a compound that can be easily vacuumed or extracted from the carpet and often the padding (if used). This is a heat activated method and will also be used by carpet cleaning services or the DIY owners that have odor and bacteria issues in addition to staining. This is considered a greener or environmentally friendlier way of treating carpet stains.

Surfactants or synthetic rinses – These loosen the bonds between the carpet fibers and the staining materials. They are often used on wool and synthetic rugs and are quite acidic in nature. They are going to be sprayed over the rug and then extracted with standard carpet extraction gear. They will easily remove chemical stains and residues, soils and more. This is a preferred method because it can keep the carpet softer and do a deep clean. Often used with foam and rotary equipment.

Hydrogen peroxides – Used for decades as a solvent, it is also great for eliminating bacteria, odors, germs and even viral compounds. Typically, this is done as a pre-cleansing treatment or for eliminating tough to remove spots. It works through oxidation and is often allowed to dry as a powder that is eliminated via an extractor or commercial strength vacuum. There are also phosphate-based cleansers used for stain removals, oxygenated cleansers, degreasing cleansers and more.


Naturally, not all are alike or can generate the same results. There are good ways of choosing the right compounds or carpet cleaning services, and the first step is to understand the compounds they use and how they will fit into your goals.


If you wish to have the best results, you can use a little bit of what you know about cleansers to make the right choice. For one thing, you will want to avoid any that contain VOCs or volatile organic compounds. You also want to consider the pH and steer away from those that are acidic. Also avoid anything that boasts of having optical brighteners since they can affect the look of the carpet’s existing colors. Also, steer clear of any firm that won’t test a small area of the carpet before using any chemicals to clean it. Whether wall to wall, an area rug or a fine antique, choosing the right chemicals and cleaning service is really the key to the long life and good looks of the carpets.