Carpet Cleaning Tips
Clean Carpets, Not Cleaned-Out Wallets

From:, October 1, 1999

We asked the certified expert we consulted for our carpet cleaning story, Joe Polish of, to put together this consumer guide to help you protect yourself from carpet-cleaning scams: Here are six mistakes consumers should avoid making when picking someone to clean their carpets:

6 Mistakes to Avoid

Choosing a cleaner based on low price.

Most of us are attracted by low price, but some cleaners use price as the bait for their misleading advertising. They offer a cheap price — usually between $3.95 and $9.95 per room; then, once they’re in your home or office, they pressure you into buying add-ons. It’s as if you were buying a car and found out that the dealer was charging you extra for the tires and steering wheel. Professional carpet cleaning is not as cheap as some unethical cleaners would like you to believe. Low price could also mean the cleaner has cheap equipment or untrained personnel who won’t do a good job.

Choosing a cleaner based on one call.

Instead, invite the person to your home and ask for a written quotation. Then you’ll know exactly what the cleaner recommends — and you won’t be the victim of high pressure tactics when the technician steps into your living room.

Not getting comments from other clients.

Any cleaner can say anything about his past jobs. Sadly, some of what he says may not be true. So first ask friends to recommend cleaners they’ve been happy with in the past. Another option is to get references from the cleaner and check with them to see if the work was done to their satisfaction.

Choosing a cleaner that isn’t certified, or has a bad record with the Better Business Bureau.

If you want to be sure you’re hiring a competent professional, make sure he’s certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification. (All certified cleaners are listed on their Web site.) But don’t stop there. It’s also very important to check with your local Better Business Bureau to make sure the cleaner (certified or not) doesn’t have a long list of complaints from past customers.

Choosing a cleaner that isn’t a member of a trade association.

Local trade associations are groups of cleaners who are dedicated to:

  • Honest, ethical business practices.
  • Staying current on the latest methods for carpet and upholstery care, cleaning and restoration.
  • Customer satisfaction.

Choosing a cleaner that doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee.

Every cleaning company should be fully accountable for its work. If you aren’t pleased with the job in every way, you shouldn’t have to pay for it, period. Not all cleaners offer a guarantee. Or, if they do, the guarantee may be “limited”. Ask the cleaner if he offers a money-back guarantee and then make sure he includes his guarantee on his written quotation.

What to Expect from a Good Cleaning

Knowing what questions to ask is essential in avoiding problems. The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification is a nonprofit certification body that sets and promotes high standards and technical proficiency within the cleaning industry.

Here’s what they say you should expect:

  • No hidden costs. Expect itemized costs for services and firm prices before technicians begin each portion of the work sold. Consumers should never feel pressured to accept anything more than the services they request.
  • Customer satisfaction. Cleaning firms should offer workmanship guarantees in writing.
  • Vacuuming. The cleaner should start by vacuuming high traffic and open areas where soils accumulate.
  • Moving furniture. Unless clearly specified, moving of most furniture to clean carpet underneath should be considered part of the normal cleaning job.
  • Spot-cleaning. Special attention to spots is included in normal job performance. However, time-consuming specialized spotting may incur an additional charge. Customers should be advised of additional charges before extensive spotting procedures are undertaken.
  • Preconditioning. Special treatment with “preconditioning” agents in heavily soiled entry, traffic and general areas should be included in the cost of the cleaning.
  • Minimal drying time. It is the cleaner’s responsibility to ensure that the carpet is dried and returned to normal use within a reasonable time frame. The amount of time required for drying will vary with different methods, the degree of soiling and the aggressiveness of cleaning necessary. But under no circumstances should drying require more than 24 hours with proper ventilation. However, the consumer’s cooperation in providing continuous air flow and/or ventilation to expedite drying cannot be overemphasized.


There should be no differentiation between a “normal” cleaning job and “special” cleaning job. Cleaning is cleaning. Diligent effort must be made to remove as much soil as possible from the carpet. And technicians must take steps to leave fibers as residue-free as possible to prevent accelerated resoiling.

Do not expect an exact price quote over the phone. Honest, reputable carpet cleaning companies almost never price carpet cleaning by the room. Carpet cleaning is usually priced by the square foot; if you’d like to know the exact cost, you need to know the exact number of square feet you want cleaned. To get an accurate measurement, cleaners should use a measuring wheel or tape measure to calculate the exact size of the carpet area.

Other variables affect the price as well:

  • The type of carpet. Some are harder to clean than others.
  • The amount of soiling. Carpet that hasn’t been cleaned for 10 years will take longer to clean than carpet that was cleaned within the past six months.
  • The amount of furniture that must be moved. In many cases, if you move your furniture, you’ll save money.


In shopping around for a cleaner, you’ll find out that there are several different cleaning methods offered. Obviously, each company will be biased toward their own method. And each method does have advantages. But some carpet manufacturers recommend specific methods for their products, so check your warranty before making a final decision.

Joe Polish is a certified carpet cleaner. He is part owner of AA Certified Carpet and Floorcare in Tempe, Ariz., and President of Piranha Marketing and

Arnold Diaz joined ABCNEWS' 20/20 in 1995, after establishing his reputation as one of the leading consumer and investigative reporters in the country during his 22 years at WCBS-TV in New York City.

ABCNEWS' Michelle Woo contributed to this report.

Ethical Services is an organization of men and women all over the world who operate honorable cleaning companies.  Ethical Services is a fantastic resource for consumers to who are looking for more than average carpet cleaners.  Members of Ethical Services must abide by a code of ethics (

Both current clients and those who might be interested in becoming clients of All Brite Cleaning & Restoration, Inc. are encouraged to visit to view numerous testimonials and perhaps post one of your own!