What is filtration soil? and what can be done about it?

Washington Post article that featured us

Recently we were contacted by columnist Jeanne Huber from the Washington Post in reference to filter soil.  Jeanne told me that readers send in questions and pictures of problems they have in and around the house. Most recently a lady sent in a photo of her white carpet that had ugly black stains around the base molding, under doors, and at the edges of the stair treads. Filter soil is more common than one might think. As a busy carpet cleaner here in Fredericksburg Virginia we see a lot of it.

Unfortunately these black lines don’t come out with the standard carpet pre-spray and hot water extraction that many carpet cleaners use. There are techniques, chemicals and special detail tools that carpet cleaners can use.  In most cases this eyesore can be brought to an acceptable level.  We can usually achieve an 80% improvement or better. There are some homes that are too far gone to fix. Replacement with a darker colored carpet is recommended for these.  Houses that have very severe cases where the black has made it’s way further into the rooms and around items that have sat on the floor for a long time. Items such as big desks, box springs with no bed frame, or boxes stored on the floor in closets.

Read the Washington Post article here

What is filtration soil and what causes it?

The simple answer to this question is pollution within the home. The carpet actually acts as a filter, trapping very fine particles that circulate through the home. These microscopic oily particles are most commonly the bi product of anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces, furnaces, stoves, etc. These polutants are then circulated throughout the home by the homes heating and cooling system. When carpet is installed there is padding under it, except at the last couple of inches along the wall where the tack strip gets installed to hold the carpet in place. This allows air to flow down the wall cavities and pulled through the carpet edges to make it’s way back to the air return. If you have ever taken a light switch cover off for a painting project you can place your hand close and actually feel the air flowing through the wall cavity.

What can be done about filtration soil?

Unfortunately filtration soil can be very difficult to both prevent and remove once it has set in. Here are some things you can do to help.

  1. When choosing carpet consider a darker color as white and other lighter colors will show this gray/gray filter soil more.
  2. Cut back on the candle burning and fireplace usage.
  3. Keep up with the furnace filters, we do ours quarterly and set a reminder. Unfortunately, the filters with the higher MERV ratings that are capable of catching the finer particles are not recommended by hvac manufacturers as they can put too much strain on the system.
  4. Keep doors to unoccupied rooms open. When the bedroom doors are kept closed the air return in the hall will suck the air out of the room from under the door, leaving a black line.
  5. Frequent vacuuming, utilizing the crevice tool along the edges.
  6. When possible, keep items off of the floor such as cardboard boxes, and other flat items. Box springs should always be on a bed frame, never directly on the floor.
  7. Annual professional carpet cleaning.

Help from a professional carpet cleaner

Once filtration soil sets in the only hope will be a professional carpet cleaning company that is experienced in filter soil removal. They will have the right products and tools to get the job done. Because soil filtration removal is a difficult and time consuming process it comes with a price tag. Many folks aren’t willing to go for the cost, especially knowing that it will likely return.  Many carpet cleaners will often tell customers that it simply will not come out and it is permanently stained. This is because it is such a hassle. It is always worse behind furniture that never sees a vacuum. So all the furniture needs to be moved, cleaned under and replaced to their original place with furniture blocks. Most of the filter soil jobs we do are for people that need to sell their house and just don’t want to replace the carpet.

We first got into the carpet cleaning business back in 2006. Quickly we realized that we needed to ask every caller if they noticed any black lines. Under doors or around the perimeter of rooms. Nothing is worse than showing up to a carpet cleaning job and realizing there is a filter soil issue. We then have to explain to the customer, whom will likely have thought it was just dust and you’re trying to pull the ol bait and switch.  So educating folks on this subject before arrival is key!

Do all homes have filter soil?

Not every home has these filter soil issues. Some have it in just some rooms or along some walls, but not every wall. Some have it along every wall.  I have been trying to take note over the years to find patterns such as age of home? interior wall or exterior wall? but I have not really pinned it to any of the above, it just seems some walls are more air tight than others.

I took this picture on a job as I found it interesting that during the original installation of the carpet they used a knee kicker, which is a standard carpet installation tool. This knee kicker pierced holes in the carpet backing allowing air to flow through and filter soil to set in.

This is the picture that was in the Washington Post article. It appears to be a a stair riser with severe filter soil. This most likely took many years to set in and as you can see this was a white carpet, which I suggest avoiding for future installations.

This picture is a good example of the typical/average filter soil we see.

Steam Cleaning


Hey folks! thanks for stopping by our jobs post, here I will post pictures and videos of jobs we have done around Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania and King George Virginia.

Carpet Stretching

This was a carpet stretching job we recently did in Spotsylvania Virginia, the customer was so happy she sent us these before and after shots she took.

Unfortunately carpet installers do a rush job and don’t use power stretchers to install to manufactures recommendations, causing these wrinkles to appear in a year or two.  Very common.

Very dirty rec room in Spotsylvania, cleaning up great!

Basement Carpet Cleaning

Pet soil

These renters left this basement room go to the dogs.

After Re-Grout

shower re-grout

Before and after, full re-grout and re-caulk , Idlewild 02/2018

Pro tile & grout cleaning 22408

Tile & Grout Cleaning at a commercial building down on the Tidewater Trail

Bathroom Tile & Grout Cleaning at an office in Fredericksburg Virginia 06/18/2018

Steam Cleaning

Move out carpet cleaning, removing the orangy clay soil from this rental 06/06/2018

Another moveout in Fredericksburg, heavily soiled but no match for our extremely powerful truckmounted equipment. 06/08/2018

Pristine Tile & Carpet Cleaning Sign

Our sign under the Aquia Creek train tracks, only visible to boaters. 06/17/2018

Carpet Cleaning with Filter Soil Removal

We were called out to do this home for sale after another carpet cleaner failed to get the stains out and address the filter soil issue. 05/04/2018

Does your pet keep peeing on the carpet in the same place?



Why, why, why do they keep peeing on my carpet?

Ahhhh cats and dogs….my favorite topic. We love our pets to death but lets face it, they can cause problems around the house from time to time. One of the most common things we hear while out in the field cleaning carpets is “my cat(or dog) always marks in the same place, I’ve tried everything but the smell always comes back”  Pets urinate on the carpet for many reasons, if there is a large spot or puddle, that usually means the animal had to go but couldn’t or didn’t want to go outside. Maybe mom and dad got stuck in traffic or maybe a bad storm kept Fido from wanting to go out.  Puppies need to be house broken, this is the second biggest reason we get to suck pee pee from the carpet. Another very common reason is “marking” pets like to mark their territory and the things they think belong to them too, and unlike us they think it smells great!  Our pets also grow old and become incontinent and don’t even know they are leaking.

Dogs and cats can also mark due to behavioral issues, they could be mad at you because you left them, something changed with your schedule or perhaps you introduced a new animal to the home.  Cat pee can be some of the worst, most difficult odor to remove, and I can almost guarantee  it’s on more than just the carpet. My black light has shown on many instances where cats have backed up to a wall and sprayed the wall and base boards as well. Another thing I would like to point out is that dogs and cats that never ever pee on the carpet might do so if brought to a friends or relatives for a visit. We hear this all the time, people go on vacation and bring the dog to a friend and next thing you know the friend has a house full of pee pee spots, and gets upset that their good friend would bring an untrained dog to them. The case can also be reversed, you go on vacation and have your friend stay at your home to watch the pets but when you get back from your cruise you find out that your friend did not do their job very well, or did they and your dog is letting you know leaving this person here with them for a whole week is unacceptable.

What can be done once the damage has been done?

Well the first obvious thing is to try and find out why the pets are making your life miserable. I am no pet psychologist, but I do know some believe it or not, so if  it’s a behavior problem maybe look into that. If you have a  cat box, it is super super important to clean it out daily. If a cats box is not clean they will use the carpet, I know this for a fact from my own experience. If vacationing consider boarding your pet, my vet offers these services, and then I know they are well taken care of.  If you pet is peeing due to bladder or health reason be sure to visit the vet as they do have medications that can help. You must work hard to train your dog to go outside, this is a given. Cleaning the carpet well is a very important step to help stop the markings in the same spot, but how?

Cleaning the carpet of all urine and odor contamination, using the water claw flash extractor. 


Water claw tool, flushing out the carpet

First the pet urine location needs to be  identified, this can be done with a black light,  many of my customers can usually bring me right to the trouble areas.  When pet urine gets down into the pad and sub floor it needs to be fully removed with specialized tools and enzymes, saturation of the effected area and dwell time is most effective.  Then full extraction of the area using a subsurface tool such as the water claw will remove the urine salts and the odors they produce. Most good carpet cleaners will offer these services as an added treatment and cost, but it is unlikely that the “fly by night $79 whole house hack” will give you the results you want.

Most moderate pet issues can be reversed, however we have seen our share of carpet that we have recommended replacement as the only surefire fix. These very severe cases also have to have the sub floors sealed before new carpet goes down.



Why do my carpets have wrinkles?

Carpet wrinkles everywhere!

As carpet cleaners in Fredericksburg Virginia, naturally we see a lot of carpet. One of the most common things we come across is wall to wall carpet that have unsightly wrinkles in them, not only does this look terrible but it can be a trip hazard as well. Leaving these wrinkles in the carpet for extended lengths of time can cause permanent damage to the carpet, including uneven wear or delamination (when the carpet backing and the secondary backing separate from each other) once the carpet becomes delamaninated the wrinkled area will most likely still be slightly visible , even after the carpets are stretched tightly.

Carpet wrinkle

Wrinkle in a closet










Why does the carpet get wrinkles?

So you buy new carpet and after the installation you stand back and marvel at how much better it makes your home look, you can’t help but to ask yourself why you didn’t do it sooner. You’re so happy you cheerfully write the check and even throw in a tip for the young man because he did such a great job. Now after a couple of years pass, you start to notice wrinkles appearing and ask yourself why? Some folks think maybe it was from the guy who cleaned the carpets last, but that is not the case at all. The carpet begins to move at pivot points, like at the top of the stairs where people turn to go down a hall, or in traffic lanes. Dragging heavy furniture over the carpet can also cause loosely installed carpet to move.

Over 90% of carpet is not installed to the manufactures specifications, unbelievable right? I really don’t understand why this industry is like this, but why should a good paying customer have to pay again in two years to have the carpets re-installed again properly, makes no sense, but i can almost guarantee the reason is money.

The retail carpet industry is very competitive, every carpet salesman is trying to convince potential customers why they should buy carpet from them. The lower price just always wins, especially when selling to builders and property managers. The faster they can get the carpet installed the faster they can get to the next unsuspecting customer. The installers just throw the carpet down and use a knee kicker to push it over the tack strip and tuck it under the base molding, it is impossible to achieve the manufacturers recommendations regarding installation, using a knee kicker.  The proper way to get carpet as tight as it should be is to use a power stretcher. This tool has long steel tubes that run across the room to push off the opposite wall using leverage to pull the carpet very tight. Using this tool is more time consuming than using a knee kicker, so installers don’t use them. It’s not even an option you could request, could you imagine a salesman saying “I can put new carpet in your house for this great price, but if you want it done right  it will cost a lot more”

The power stretcher is the proper tool for installing carpet properly.

The power stretcher is the proper tool for installing carpet the right way.








What can be done to get the wrinkles out?

As much as the industry standard makes me angry, I shouldn’t complain as it brings us a lot of  business re-installing carpets the correct way…using a power stretcher. You would be amazed at how much excess carpet we cut off around the perimeter of a room after power stretching, quite often a good inch or even two. If a customer has a hole or burn mark in the carpet they want repaired but don’t have any spare carpet, quite often I can stretch the carpet enough to get a donor piece out of the edge, cool…right!

If carpet cleaning is also being done at the same time we recommend to do the stretching first and then the cleaning.