Steam Cleaning Glossary

Abrasive Wear

The wearing away of the pile surface of a carpet by friction created by walking or rolling traffic. This refers to actual fiber loss, as opposed to matting or crushing which occur with normal use.


Taking up of a substance into the carpet through pores or small opening (i.e. chalk, talc, and sawdust are absorbent powders).

Acetic Acid Rinse

Acts as neutralizing agent for detergent residues. Sets fugitive colors.


Any substance, which when dissolved in water, yields a pH below 7.


That which is taken onto the carpet by adherence to the surface (i.e. soot, etc.)


Any substance which when dissolved in water, yields pH above 7.

Animal Stain

Discoloration of the carpet caused by animal waste.


A chemical that prevents the growth of mold, bacteria, mildew, etc., reducing their destructive action to the carpet and eliminating accompanying odors. Applied to carpet at mill level, built into some fibers and applied on-location.


A carpet’s ability to dissipate an electrostatic charge before it reaches the level of human sensitivity.

Attached Cushion

In high-traffic, commercial installations, attaching an underlayment (foam, rubber, urethane, etc.) to the back of the carpet provides additional dimensional stability.

Auxiliary Tanks

Means of storing addition supply of water and returned dirty solution in steam carpet cleaning truck mounted units.


The fabric and yarns that make up the side of the carpet that lays next to the floor. In tufted carpets there are two types of backing.

Barber Pole

By twisting two yarns together, each of a different color, a “barber pole” or “candy cane” look can be achieved, giving the finished carpet an overall feathered appearance.

Base Unit

The principal power and supply source used in steam carpet cleaning.


Bulked continuous filament. Continuous strands of synthetic fiber formed into yarn bundles of a given number of filaments and texturized to increase bulk. Straight filaments can be texturized into kinked or curled filaments for added volume.


Large horizontal cylinders or spools. Warp yarns are wound on beams, as opposed to creels, used during tufting operations.


Special equipment used to remove loose dirt or dust from the carpet prior to cleaning.


A vessel for dyeing carpet in rope form (with the ends sewn together), consisting primarily of a large tank and a cylindrical reel that advances or rotates the carpet during the dyeing process.


A loop-pile carpet that offers great durability, a full comfortable texture and a casual, informal look. Often, these carpets incorporate flecks of color that contrast with the primary hue. In addition to loop products, the term “berber” has expanded to include many cut pile products.


A special stitch, band or strip sewn over a carpet edge to protect, strengthen or decorate the edge.


Has the capability of being decomposed by naturally occurring micro-organisms.


An oxidizing or reducing agent used to remove color.


This is a loss or transfer of color from one section of the carpet to another, usually under hot-wet conditions.

Bone Scraper

A flat blade-shaped tool that is made of bone or plastic. Used to remove or loosen encrusted dirt or material from the surface of the carpet.


Optical whiteners or fluorescent whitening agents used in cleaning process. Under the influence of ultraviolet light, emit a visible blue-white light.


A term used to denote carpet produced in widths wider than 54 inches. Broadloom is usually 12 feet wide, but is also manufactured in 13’6 and 15’ widths.


A yellowish or brownish discoloration of the carpet’s face, usually caused by impurities in the cellulose fibers, such as cotton and jute, which wick up to the face fibers on over wetting. Most often caused by: excess alkalinity in the cleaning agent used in steam cleaning; activated alkaline residue left by previous cleaning efforts; over wetting; a combination of any of these. May sometimes appear in shades other than brown or yellow depending on color of effected carpet.


A carpet that does not lay flat on the floor and has ridges. In properly installed carpeting, buckling or rippling should rarely occur. A power-stretcher (not a knee-kicker) should be used to correct the situation when this issue does arise.


Chemical agents that are used to maintain a constant pH level.


Material added to detergent formulations to increase their effectiveness by acting as a water softener and alkaline buffer, i.e. borax, sodium tripoly-phosphate.

Burn Test

A method of identification by noting the odor and ash from burnt fiber.


Any burns should be taken care of immediately. First, snip off the damaged fibers, then use a soapless cleaner and sponge with water. If the damage is extensive, see a professional about repairs.


Carpet with a casual cut pile construction featuring chunky tufts and long pile height.


In staple yarn processing, this method is used to remove impurities and short, unusable fibers. The fiber is cleaned and aligned to form a continuous untwisted string called a “sliver”.

Carpet Odor

Some new carpets and padding may have a noticeable odor. Such odors usually disappear within a few days with ventilation and frequent vacuuming. All Royalty carpet styles meet or exceed the certification guidelines for the Carpet & Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus program to insure low VOC emissions.

Cationic Fiber

Nylon polymer that has been modified chemically to make the fiber receptive to cationic (basic) dye. Cationic dyeable yarns are used in conjunction with acid dyeable yarns to create multi-color graphic patterns in piece dyeing.

Chemical Sponge

A special sponge that contains chemical agents used to remove soot from nearby walls and baseboards.


Circular streaks left on the carpet after a rotary shampooing because of improper cleaning technique by the operator.

Cleaning Agents

Detergent or emulsifying agent used in the carpet cleaning process.

Cleaning Head

Used in steam carpet cleaning, sometimes called a scrub wand. A lightweight tool used in back and forth motion (spraying on the back stroke, vacuuming on the forward stroke). Contains spray nozzles and vacuum slot solution control valve.


Usually caused by over wetting. Residue from previous cleanings which is not removed and left too wet will wick up the carpet fiber and cause a cloudy appearance on the surface. Customer complaint may state that carpet looked dirty after it dried.


A force which tends to squeeze or press together.

Continuous Dyeing

The process of dyeing carpet on a production line, rather than piece dyeing separate lots. Most often done on continuous dyeing equipment which injects dyestuffs onto the carpet, as distinguished from submerging carpet in separate dye becks. Allows for larger dye lots and greater manufacturing efficiency.

Continuous Filament

Continuous strand of synthetic fiber extruded in yarn form, without the need for spinning. This results in a cleaner finished appearance than staple fibers.


The large frame used to hold yarn cones that directly feeds yarn to the needles of a tufting machine.


This is a loss of the carpets excess color when rubbed in either the wet or dry state.


Furniture and traffic may crush a carpet’s pile. Frequent vacuuming in high traffic areas and glides under heavy furniture can help the problem. Rotating the furniture to change traffic patterns can also help minimize changes in appearance. A light steam iron on lowest steam setting may help to remove dents from furniture.


The material placed under a carpet for softness and support. It helps reduce noise, increase insulation benefits, and contributes to a softer feel underfoot. Purchasing an incorrect type of cushion may invalidate your warranty. Also known as padding or underlayment.

Cut and Loop Pile

A carpet fabric in which the face is composed of a combination of cut ends of pile yarns and loops.

Cut Pile

A carpet in which the yarn loops are cut to create a textured look and feel.


A surface-active agent that is used in cleaning to reduce detergent foaming.


Solvent used in the cleaning process to remove heavy oils or grease from the carpet.


The separation of the secondary backing or attached cushion from the primary backing of the carpet.


A yarn count unit. Denier is a direct numbering system; the higher the denier, the larger the yarn.


This describes the amount of fiber or yarn in a carpet and how close the tufts of fiber are to each other. In general, the denser the pile, the better the performance.


Products specifically formulated to destroy, mask or modify unpleasant odors from the carpet.


Any substance which is capable of dislodging, removing or emulsifying soils. Generally, the term is used for formulated products that contain surfactant builders, solvents etc.


A chemical agent, usually an organic enzyme, which is used to break down stains like blood or food products.

Disaster Repair

Those services that relate to cleaning, repairing or restoring carpets, resilient floors, draperies, upholstery etc. damaged as a result of fire, smoke, water etc.


An agent used to completely destroy all harmful bacteria. Labeling for such materials requires proof of effectiveness for registration with EPA.

Drag Tool

A heavy weighted piece of equipment (wand) used for hot water extraction “steam” carpet cleaning. The wand contains the vacuum head and detergent jets.

Dry Absorbent Cleaning

A carpet cleaning method that uses an absorbent powder that contains a solvent. The powder is worked into the carpet pile in order to absorb the grease and dirt, allowed to set for a period and then vacuumed.

Dry Foam Cleaning

In this cleaning method a concentrated foam is used as the cleaning element.

Dry Room

A large enclosed chamber through which hot air circulates. Carpets are hung in this room to dry after in-plant cleaning.

Dry Rot

Disintegration of carpet backing which is caused by mildew.

Dry Spotter

A stain removal agent which contains dry solvents. Used primarily for grease or oily type stains.

Dye lot

This is the amount of a particular carpet that can be dyed together in one lot (or made from yarn that was dyed together), to insure that each yard is the same color.

Dye lot Variation

The amount that a color can vary and still be considered a “match” without physically being in the same dye lot.

Face Weight

Refers to the amount of fiber (per square yard) that is in the face of the carpet (total weight less the weight of the latex and backing). However this is different than density because tall, less dense tufts may have the same face weight as short, dense tufts. On average, short dense tufts will be more resistant to wear and matting.


All carpet (like any textile product) is subject to color changes over time. This change is very gradual and is caused by oxidation through exposure to the open air within the home. Due to damaging ultra-violet rays, areas exposed to sunlight are subject to more dramatic color changes.

Fatty Acids

Oily acidic materials that are formed by degradation of animal tissues.

Feather In

Use of a bone scraper to work a stain removal agent into the pile of the carpet.


A single, continuous strand of natural or synthetic fiber.


A collective term denoting final processing of carpet subsequent to tufting and dyeing. Carpet finishing processes include shearing, brushing, application of secondary backing and application of soil retardant and antistatic chemicals.


Refers to loose fibers appearing on the surface of the carpet.

Foiled Tabs

Paper or plastic squares, usually about 3″ square, used to protect the damp carpet fibers from damage by furniture legs, rust, stain etc.


Carpet does not contain formaldehyde. While no formaldehyde is used in the manufacture of carpet, formaldehyde occurs naturally in the environment. Carpet, as well as any other textile, can absorb airborne formaldehyde.


Tightly curled or twisted yarn that gives carpet a textured appearance good for hiding footprints. Pronounced frih-zay’.

Fume Fading

Also referred to as gas fading, this is a loss or shift in the dye color of the carpet due to attack by atmospheric contaminants. Ozone, generated by thunder storms, and oxides of nitrogen from gas furnaces are the most common fading agents.

Furniture Protectors

Paper and foil squares set under furniture legs to avoid rust marks after carpet cleaning.


Occurs when fibers from the carpet slip out of the yarn bundle with use or sometimes after wet cleaning.


The distance between two needle points in tufted carpet. It is usually expressed in fractions of an inch.


Undyed, unfinished carpet.


How a product feels – a product with a good “hand” feels soft and luxurious.

Heat Setting

A process that sets the twist in a carpet pile with heat or steam. This process allows fibers to hold their twist over time, allowing them to bounce back with great resilience whenever they are stepped on.


A multi-color effect created by blending fibers of different colors prior to spinning carpet yarn.


Inches of mercury. Means of measuring vacuum.

Hot Water Extraction

Also known as steam cleaning, this is a restorative method of carpet cleaning that injects hot water (often combined with detergent) into the carpet, then extracts both the water and the soil. Royalty’s warranties require that carpets be professionally cleaned using the hot water extraction method every 12-18 months.


The part of a detergent molecule which has a high affinity for water.


To burst inward or collapse. The opposite of explosion.

In-plant Cleaning

Any cleaning process in which the carpet is brought to a plant for cleaning; as opposed to on-location in which the carpet is cleaned in the customer’s home, business etc.

Injection Kit

Device used to inject odor control solution into the source of odor problems.

Knee Kicker

A carpet installation tool used to make minor adjustments by stretching carpet (for installation with a tackless strip). By industry standards, the majority of this stretch must be performed using a power stretcher.


A water-based synthesis of synthetic rubber, natural rubber or other polymers. Latex is used to adhere secondary backing to primary backing in the carpet manufacture.

Level Loop

The fiber in the carpet is stitched in uncut loops of the same size. It creates a smooth, level surface.

Location Cleaning

All cleaning work performed in the home, office, store or other area, where equipment is brought to the area, regardless of method.

Loop Pile

The fiber in the carpet is looped and uncut. Can be either level loop or multi-level loop.


Brightness, sheen or reflectivity of fibers, yarns or carpet. Synthetic fibers are produced in various luster classifications including bright, semi bright, semi dull and dull. Luster of finished carpet also depends upon yarn heat-setting methods, dyeing and finishing. In high-traffic commercial areas, duller carpet is often preferred for soil-hiding abilities.


So small as to be undetectable to unaided human senses.


Fungus growth that can occur on carpet fibers. Causes odor and fiber degradation.

Moisture Regain

The amount of moisture an oven-dry fiber will absorb when it is exposed to the atmosphere. Usually expressed as percent at 70°F., 65%RH. Typical values are wool, 15%; nylon, 4%; polyester, 0.4%; olefin, 0%.


Another term for pile, usually used when discussing the pile direction, or the direction that the carpet came off the tufting machine.

Nap Finishing Brush

Long handled, nylon bristled brush used to set carpet pile in one direction.

Neutral Cleaning

Any cleaning product having a pH or 7, and is therefore neither acid nor alkaline.


A synthetic fiber first discovered by DuPont chemists in 1938, but not used in carpet until much later. Today it is the most often used fiber for carpet and can come in either filament or staple form. Features include cleanability, dyeability, stain and soil resistance, resistance to abrasion, ability to recover resiliency, moth proof, mildew proof, non-allergenic and color retention.

Odor Control Concentrate

Agent used in absorbing and controlling rancid odors in carpeting.


That part of a detergent molecule which has a high affinity for oil.


A highly reactive gas and oxidizing agent formed by passing a high voltage current through air. Used as a deodorizing agent.


Used to describe agent for removing paint, oil and grease from carpets.

Pattern Match

The measurement of repeating units (measured in width and length) within the design of a particular carpet style. When considering the purchase of patterned carpet, it is essential that your installer know the size of the pattern match as it could greatly affect the amount of carpet you will require.


A seam that is peaking is one that is generally higher than the other areas of the carpet. Most often this is due to improper carpet installation. It is also caused by the carpet installer running the padding seams in the same direction as the carpet seams (normally, this should not be done).


Used in some wet spotting preparations and browning treatment, this is usually sodium perborate. A mild oxidizing agent.


Any one of several strong oxidizing compounds, but generally hydrogen peroxide.


The visible surface of a carpet, consisting of yarn or fiber tufts in loops that can be either cut or uncut. Also known as the “face” or “nap” of a carpet.

Pile Crushing (carpet in transit)

This is a term used for the specific type of crush that can normally occur during the shipment and storage of rolled carpet. It can be especially apparent in a “velvet plush”, but can appear in any carpet style. Today’s soft yarns are particularly susceptible to pile crush. This condition is not permanent, and usually corrects itself as the carpet “conditions” to the environment. The carpet purchaser can speed this process along with additional vacuuming. Only in the most extreme cases will steaming the carpet be required to cure this condition.

Pile Crushing (carpet in use)

Pile crush will occur to some degree ; it is, in fact, unavoidable. It will be most noticeable in high traffic lanes and under the legs of heavy pieces of furniture. More frequent vacuuming will help minimize this condition in heavy traffic areas. Moving your furniture occasionally and using cups under the legs of furniture will also help minimize pile crushing.

Pile Distortion

When there is a loss of texture or pattern on the surface of the carpet.

Pile Height

A measurement (usually in fractions of an inch) of the pile of a carpet, from the base of the primary backing to the tip of the yarn.

Pile Lay

Direction taken by surface yarn during manufacture.

Pile Lifter

A heavy duty reel-type vacuum which is used to loosen embedded soil and erect the carpet pile. Usually done before cleaning.

Pill Test

A federal standard for the measurement of the flammability carpet or backing. Passing or failing this test is measured as a function of the size of the burn resulting from a timed Methenamine burning tablet.


A condition, often caused by heavy use, in which fibers from different tufts of carpet become entangled in one another forming hard fiber masses or “pills”. These pills can be cut off with scissors.

Plied Yarn

A yarn composed of two or more single yarns twisted together. Many two-ply yarns are used in carpet. In cut pile carpet, plied yarns must be heat-set to prevent untwisting under traffic.


A cut pile carpet in which the individual carpet fibers appear to be cut the same length. The carpet offers a smooth, luxurious surface.

Power Stretcher

A carpet installation tool used to stretch carpet (for installation with a tackless strip). According to industry standards, residential carpet installed over cushion with a tackless strip must be power-stretched to prevent wrinkles and ripples.


Prior to the overall cleaning of the carpet, pre-spotting is done to remove stains.

Primary Backing

A woven or non-woven fabric through which the yarn is inserted by the tufting needles.


Pounds per square inch. Measure used in determining solution pressure in steam carpet cleaning.

Random Shearing

A carpet texture created by running loop pile carpet through the carpet shearer whereby high loops are actually cut to become cut pile. Since cut pile is less reflective than loop pile, the resulting texture can actually appear to be different colors.


Repeating the stretching-in procedure, subsequent to the initial installation. This can be required if improperly installed, if the carpet is too easily stretched, or if there has been too much moisture introduced into the carpet.


Storage facility for hoses on truck mounted steam cleaning units.


Is material that has been left in the carpet after the carpet has been cleaned.


The ability of carpet pile or cushion to recover its original appearance and thickness after continued use.

Rotary Brush Cleaning

A cleaning method in which a high foam shampoo is scrubbed over the fabric by a rotary brush.

Rust Remover

Chemical applied to yarn surface for quick removal of rust and other iron related marks.


An agent which yields a significant reduction in the level of harmful bacteria. Legal labeling requirements for sanitizers are not as stringent as those for disinfectants.


The carpet fiber loops are cut and twisted to create a relatively dense, consistent look. Saxony carpet presents a smooth, luxurious surface and is generally for formal settings.

Seam Sealing

A procedure involving coating the trimmed edges of two carpet pieces of carpet to be seamed with a continuous bead of adhesive in order to prevent fraying and raveling at the seam. CRI installation standards require the use of seam sealer for residential carpet installations.


The line formed by joining two pieces of carpet. The pieces can be sewn together, or fastened with various seaming tapes or other adhesives.

Secondary Backing

Fabric that is laminated to the back of the carpet to reinforce it.


The untrimmed side edges of a roll of carpet.


A chemical agent which reduces water hardness by forming soluble compounds with calcium, magnesium and iron compounds.


After installation, carpet often appears to change color in certain areas. This phenomenon does not involve a true color change, but rather a difference in light reflection between various surface areas. Shading is not a manufacturer’s defect, and is actually considered to be the beauty of a cut pile carpet, simulating the look of velvet or suede. Normally, this condition is temporary (such as with footprints or vacuum marks). In rare cases, the condition is permanent. The latter is referred to as pooling or water-marking. The reason for this condition is unknown except that it is traffic related and random in nature. The pile fibers take on a permanent set based on the traffic patterns, and this set cannot be changed.


A carpet texture characterized by long pile tufts laid over in random directions in such a manner that the sides of the yarn form the traffic surface. Modern shags are made from plied, heat-set yarns and are either cut pile or cut and loop styles.

Shag Rake

A rake with plastic tines that is used to align or lift high pile shag after cleaning and yield improved appearance.


Generally a high foam detergent preparation and used for rotary cleaning or in-plant cleaning.


Shedding is not a defect, but rather a characteristic of all new carpet manufactured with staple yarn. It is caused by short fibers within the pile that work loose during service. Shedding will gradually decrease. The length of time required to eliminate shedding is dependent upon the type and amount of vacuuming performed.

Side match

The level of match of the color and texture of a carpet from one side of its width to the other. Poor side-matching can result in visible seams. This condition is easily corrected by a process known as color blending.

Slot Velocity

The amount of air wash passing the lips of the cleaning head. Measured in feet of air per minute.


Sharp edged objects can grab or snag a carpet yarn (exposed nails in ladies’ high-heels are a very common offender). If your carpet is snagged, simply cut off the snagged yarn with a pair of sharp scissors. Do not try to pull out these snags, as they are most likely attached to other yarns in the carpet itself, which can then be loosened as well. If the snag is especially large, contact a carpet professional for service.

Soil Retardant

A chemical finish applied to carpet fibers or surfaces that inhibits the attachment of soil.


A build-up of soil particles and similar materials that cling to carpet fibers. Thorough and frequent vacuuming is the key. If vacuuming is not enough, it’s time for a professional cleaning.

Solution Dyed

Yarn that is dyed in conjunction with being extruded, as opposed to yarn dyed (dyed after it has been converted to yarn), or beck or continuous dyeing, both of which are means of dyeing carpet after it has been tufted.

Space Dyed

Yarn where each individual yarn is dyed two or more colors that alternate along the length.


Occasionally, you may find small tufts of fiber sprouting above the carpet surface. Simply clip with sharp scissors. Don’t try to pull them out since you may also pull out other fibers in the process.

Stain Resistant

A chemical finish applid to the carpet fiber and/or surface that inhibits the propensity for stains to attach to the carpet.


Stains are spills of normal household substances that have either not been tended to in time, or are of a material that somehow “over-dyes” the carpet. High quality carpet is dyed using a specific combination of water pH, temperature and the presence of “dye stuffs”. Some household products (such as coffee and mustard) can actually work very effectively as a carpet dye. In all cases, spills and stains must be tended to immediately. Their severity is affected by the type of carpet fiber, color of carpet, how long the stain has set and the cause of the stain.


Short lengths of fiber that may be converted into spun yarns by textile yarn spinning processes. The fibers are usually 6” to 8” in length and are then transformed into yarn during the yarn manufacturing process.

Steam Cleaning

The cleaning method in which the detergent solution is forced through jets under high pressure into the carpet pile and immediately removed along with loose and emulsified soil though a wet vacuum. The vacuum head and jets are usually mounted on the same piece of equipment.


The number of yarn tufts per running inch of a single row in a tufted carpet.


A strong reducing agent that is used like bleach to remove color.

Stuffer Box

In yarn manufacture, a device into which individual fibers are forced in mass in order to crimp or add volume to the fibers.


Specifically, a surface active material used in detergent formulations as a wetting or penetrating agent, emulsifier or dispersant.

Tip Sheared

A carpet texture created just like random shearing, but is typically less pronounced.

Total Weight

The weight of a finished carpet (per square yard), including pile, primary backing, secondary backing and latex.

Traffic Lane Paper

Paper placed in high traffic areas, which must be opened to foot traffic while the carpet is still damp.

Truck Mounted

Steam carpet cleaning equipment which is mounted in a vehicle. Usually only the cleaning head and hoses are taken onto the premise to be cleaned.


An individual yarn (either cut or one-half of a loop) resulting from a single penetration of the primary backing by a threaded needle.

Tuft Bind

The force required to pull a tuft from the carpet backing.


A yarn manufacturing process, whereby the fiber bundles are brought together and wound around each other (twisted and then heat-set) to help the yarn bundle stay together and to improve performance by increasing its resistance to pile crush.

Water Hardness

The amount of metallic salts, such as calcium, magnesium or iron dissolved in water. These can form in soluble “curds” with some surfactants and reduce the effectiveness of the cleaning.

Wood Blocks

Small blocks of wood, usually 2″x 2″x 1″, used to prop up console type furniture and allow air passage under the piece.

Yarn Encapsulation

The degree to which the yarn on the back of the primary backing is surrounded by and infused with latex before the secondary backing is applied.

Yarn Ply

The number of single fibers twisted together to form a plied yarn.