Carpet Mold Beneath Carpet
Steam cleaning your carpet can cause carpet mold growth beneath your carpet if done improperly. Carpet is actually the largest filter in your home. Being a soft, porous surface, carpet fibers collect airborne particles including mold spores. Simply opening a door or window invites mold spores into your home. If your carpet has been steam cleaned in the past, and it took more than two days for your carpet to dry, you could have carpet mold beneath it.
Officially known as Hot Water Extraction, but commonly called “steam carpet cleaning,” this carpet cleaning method injects hot water into your carpet while simultaneously vacuuming it back out. Steam carpet cleaning is actually misnomer, however. The ‘steam’ is really just hot water forced through high pressure jets appearing as steam in form, not function. In an unregulated industry with a low barrier to entry, steam carpet cleaning companies can create mold in your carpet if done improperly.
Mold spores are tiny seed-like pods that have one mission: Seek and Destroy! They waft through the air and hide in tight spots, like our carpet. As they lie dormant, they wait for the perfect conditions to start to grow. While EverClean, LLC is not certified as a mold expert, we understand that mold spores seek two things: moisture and organic material. When introduced to these two items, mold spores begin to break down the organic material, which can create a hazardous environment within your home.
Why Carpet Mold Grows Under Carpet
If a steam cleaner has left your carpet too wet, there is a potential for carpet mold growing on the back of your carpet. Mold requires dark, moist areas that contain organic matter. Most of today’s carpet contains synthetic materials; however, the carpet backing contains latex glue, an organic food source. Most older carpets also have jute backing, another organic food source.
The latex glue within carpet backing can support mold growth. A larger concern, however, is the carpet pad and subfloor below it. Carpet pad contains the same sponge-like material you wash your car with. Carpet pad can not only hold water for weeks, but months! Worse, the wet carpet pad may laying on raw wood, a plentiful organic food source for carpet mold.
How Carpet Mold Can Start
1. Wand Dragging
Searching “steam carpet cleaning 800 psi” on YouTube will show plenty of videos where cleaners over-wet their customer’s carpet. The first dangerous habit occurs when a carpet cleaner drags his wand slowly across the carpet. This injects more water than usual into the carpet for a deeper cleaning. However, the excess water is absorbed into the sponge-like pad beneath. While the carpet cleaning wand is connected to a vacuum system, the excess water absorbs into the pad. Carpet backing is a mesh, similar to a fishing net, so water passes right through it. This allows the pad to absorb excessive water.
The carpet backing and wood subfloors commonly harbor mold when present. Plus, the dark environment under your carpet blocks mold-killing Ultra Violets light. This creates the perfect environment for mold to grow. The carpet may look very clean after an excessive steam cleaning, but mold that could soon follow.
Many carpet cleaners drag the wand to skip manually scrubbing the carpet. Thoroughly agitating the carpet fibers after applying detergent requires less water pressure, and water. But because dragging the wand requires less effort than manually scrubbing the carpet, it is often skipped unfortunately.
2. Excessive Water Pressure
Another mold-causing habit is turning the water pressure up higher than the 400 pounds per square inch (PSI) industry standard. Many carpet cleaners on YouTube that recommend an 800+ PSI, which is entirely too much water pressure. Considering the sponge-like pad just beneath those fibers, excessive water pressure can wet that pad for weeks! Even with high water pressure, the carpet may seem dry soon after, but the pad is likely still wet.
Similar to the air-cooling fins on a motorcycle engine, carpet fibers dry in a similar way through evaporation. This means the carpet will dry faster than the pad and subfloor beneath. If flooring is wet for more than two days, carpet mold can occur.
3. Choked Vacuum
Along with the first bad habit, many steam cleaners leave V-shaped lines in the carpet. This offers appeal while letting the customer know that the area has been cleaned. Leaving the wand on the carpet for extended periods of time creates a closed vacuum circuit. This reduces sufficient air flow and water delivery back to the vacuum waste tank. By not lifting the wand periodically, the technician reduces water lift and leaves excess water in the carpet.
It is important that your carpet cleaner lifts the wand off the carpet almost continually. Lifting the wand off the carpet between wand strokes allows for stronger air flow and increased water extraction. Once the wand is returned to the carpet pile, the vacuum removes more water as airflow builds. Keeping the wand on the carpet for long periods of time reduces airflow and extends dry time.
How to Reduce Carpet Mold
All carpet cleaners want to deliver the best results for their customer. Many however apply too much water, which can lead to the carpet pad getting wet and ultimately carpet mold. It’s true that using more water gets the carpet cleaner, but at a potentially heavy cost to your health and pocket book. Unfortunately, replacing carpet that contains mold is the only option. Salvaging carpet after mold is impossible as it is too porous for complete removal.
When contracting with a professional carpet cleaning company, we recommend you request the water pressure to remain under 400 PSI. We also recommend having the technician move the wand at about the pace of walking. And our third recommendation is to have them lift the wand off the carpet each time they move the wand to a new stroke position. This will greatly reduce the possibility of over-wetting your carpet. If you suspect mold under your carpet, have a professional environmentalist evaluate your carpet.
Steam Carpet Cleaning Alternatives
Dry Compound Cleaning
This carpet cleaning method uses cellulose powder, a type of wood flour, to clean your carpet fibers. A technician first pre-mists your carpet then brushes in the cellulose powder. The powder acts like tiny sponges that absorb the soils quite well. The carpet is then vacuumed thoroughly extracting out the powder with the soils attached to them. The carpet usually dries within an hour of pre-misting, so the chance of mold growth is unlikely.
Dry Compound Cleaning can include carcinogenic solvents within the cellulose to allow for better cleanability. It is best to ask the carpet cleaning company to provide you with a Safety Data Sheet (SDS). This informational sheet allows you to see what the cellulose powder contains prior to use.
Dry Carpet Cleaning
Dry Carpet Cleaning, or Very Low Moisture, is a common carpet cleaning method that uses a encapsulating detergent as the cleaner. The process involves pre-spraying the carpet with the special detergent that loosens the soils. The technician then uses dry pads to absorb soils and moisture into the pad. As the carpet dries, the detergent encapsulates remaining soils and crystalizes to a powder. Dry vacuuming the carpet removes the crystals that have trapped the soils. The carpet dries in only a few hours.
The Very Low Moisture method is somewhat controversial as the encapsulating detergents differ greatly in their effectiveness. I have seen some encapsulating detergents that leave a sticky, soil trapping residue. However, I have also seen other detergents that dry to a brittle crystal. The brittle crystal traps the soils and allows the method to work correctly. Overall, VLM eliminates the possibility of carpet mold, though clean is relative to the detergent used.
Exclusively offered by EverClean Carpet Cleaning in Nashville, TN, SteamDry combines the benefits of Hot Water Extraction with dry-pad absorption (VLM). SteamDry delivers deep cleaning results with only a few hours dry time because it uses up to 70% less water than traditional steam carpet cleaning!
Our technicians first apply hot water containing soap-free, nontoxic detergent to loosen soils before extracting it out with powerful vacuums. While the carpet is moist, we scrub the carpet fibers clean using dry pads to extract additional soils and moisture for clean, dry results. SteamDry Carpet Cleaning delivers the most thorough results of the dry cleaning methods because it includes both hot water extraction and dry-pad absorption. SteamDry also eliminates the possibility of carpet mold because the carpet dries in only a few hours.