Skip to main content

The Ins and Outs of Encapsulation Cleaning


By Tom Whittaker
July 1, 2019


Every facility wants its carpet to look its best and impress visitors, building occupants and employees. Proper carpet maintenance is not only crucial for upholding brand image, it extends the lifespan of a carpet, thereby reducing replacement costs, facility disruption and unnecessary landfill waste. Understanding carpet care challenges and encapsulation cleaning best practices can help facilities protect their investment.


Carpet Care Challenges


Foot traffic exposes carpets to contaminants like dirt, salt, sand and moisture, while people and even pets can contribute to food, beverage, oil, grease and bodily fluid stains. Over time, this accumulated dirt and hard-to-remove stains can negatively impact the aesthetic of a carpet. Keeping carpets clean in high-traffic environments like airports, retail stores and schools can be especially challenging.


In addition to constant abuse from shoes, carpets must also endure suitcases and luggage trolleys, shopping carts and office chairs. This takes a toll on carpet fibers and can result in premature wear and tear. It’s not uncommon for synthetic carpet to experience a condition called “uglying out.” This happens when the carpet fibers become scratched and matted down, and then take on a dull and permanently dirty appearance.


Improper carpet care can also lead to potential issues. Wicking is the process of cleaning a carpet spot, only to have it reappear hours later. It occurs when too much moisture is used during cleaning, or the drying process is prolonged. Water and cleaning solutions pull embedded dirt from deep within carpet fibers to the surface, making them visible to facility occupants and guests.



Encapsulation Cleaning


Encapsulation carpet cleaning is one component of a comprehensive carpet care plan that includes regular vacuuming and annual deep extraction cleaning. Encapsulation cleaning uses crystalizing polymers combined with detergent components to emulsify and bind dry and oily embedded soils. After about a half hour, the chemistry dries and can be removed through vacuuming. This low-moisture approach is beneficial because it does not require as much water while still removing soil and spots, thereby preventing the issue of wicking. And with low-moisture’s fast dry times, carpeted areas can be returned to service with minimal disruption.


Performing encapsulation cleaning consistently is essential because even carpet that appears clean may hold embedded dirt. Over time, this dirt can damage the fibers as it is pushed further down into the carpet.


Consider the following best practices for selecting and maintaining a system for encapsulation cleaning:


  • Look for a system that offers minimal disruption. The machine should operate at lower dBA levels so as not to disturb your facility’s customers or residents. The carpet should dry quickly to return areas to use shortly after cleaning is complete.
  • Make cleaning as easy as possible. A carpet cleaning machine should be as easy to operate as a vacuum to limit training and troubleshooting. Find one that offers simple controls, an ergonomic and lightweight design and a collection hopper for debris pick-up.
  • Select the right working width. The machine should be properly sized for your space. If it’s too small, it will take longer to clean. If it’s too large, you’ll have trouble navigating carpeted areas. Consider a two-brush machine, or one with three brushes for enhanced mechanical action and cleaning productivity. Carpet manufacturers and cleaning industry experts prefer cylindrical brushes for carpet cleaning and pile lifting.
  • Use chemistry that is effective against spots and embedded soils. Look for chemistry that adequately removes spots as well as dirt deep within carpet fibers.Stock a range of chemical formulas for specific stains, like red wine, salt, oil and grease, as well as products that can neutralize odors from urine or vomit.
  • Keep the chemistry spray even. An even spray pattern is essential for getting carpets clean. Flush the chemistry sprayer at the end of each cleaning to reduce clogging. Then, regularly remove the spray nozzle, inspect it for debris and corrosion, and clean it with a soft bristle brush if needed.
  • Clean the machine. After each use, empty and rinse the machine’s solution tank, remove debris from the collection tray, take the brushes out to clean the axles and wipe and rewind the power cable. Taking these simple steps will prevent build-up in the solution tank and collection tray and keep the machine’s components in good shape.
  • Replace worn brushes. Over time, brushes experience wear that can impact their cleaning effectiveness. Look for a machine that offers brushes with wear indicators so that you know when they’ve worn down. Frequently rotate cylindrical brushes and replace them when they match the appearance of the indicator.



To keep carpet in the best possible condition, facilities must approach maintenance as an ongoing process. Part of this process is encapsulation cleaning. Choosing the right machine and chemistry makes carpet care easier and more efficient and helps to remove unsightly build-up from carpet that can impact its lifespan and your facility’s image.


Tom Whittaker is the president of R.E. Whittaker Co., a family-owned business with over 30 years of experience and the pioneers of the first commercial carpet encapsulation system. For more information about low-moisture encapsulation systems from Whittaker, visit or contact