Cigarette Smoke and Traffic Lane Soiling…

Never one to shy away from a carpet cleaning challenge, this one tested even a seasoned cleaner!

Our client called and sheepishly admitted he had a “tall” request in cleaning his carpets!

Admitting he needed help with his mother’s carpets, he revealed the traffic lane soiling was ‘off the charts,’ and wanted to try to clean it up first, instead of replacing it out of the gate. Also, he admitted his mother was a smoker, and the resulting residues and soiling inherent in the carpet (on the walls, all over the contents, and about everywhere else needed), would need special attention.

And as a bonus, he asked us to clean up the vinyl in the bathrooms, kitchen and foyer. (After attempting on hands and knees the client realized it would take hours to clean to get all the embedded soils and dirt up off the vinyl, a task too big for him to tackle.) Frustrated he threw in the towel and hoped whoever he called could rescue him here as well.

Knowing it was a dire attempt, he hoped that cleaning it would be enough to show the house so a prospective buyer would not be so turned off. Realizing this might have not been possible given the appearance, and before pulling the trigger to replace it, he thought it was worth trying.It quickly became obvious to us it was as much an emotional challenge for him as a financial one.

It quickly became obvious to us it was as much an emotional challenge for him as a financial one.

But before we got in to the nitty gritty, he explained the house was his mother’s, who was recently deceased, and it was an estate matter. Also, he explained the timing was critical for a couple reasons. First off there was another funeral (his grandfather’s), to take place two days after we met at the property. Guests would be coming to the house after the services. And two, he wanted to get the house ready for pictures and to go on the market, to attempt a quick, “as is” sale of the home. Clearly dealing with grief, as could be expected he, like anyone would be plowing forward with all the estate tasks bestowed upon him!

I explained why our ‘hail Mary’ program for cleaning was the right fit for him.

Quickly I realized that this would qualify for what we call our “hail Mary” cleaning. I tenderly explained that this type of cleaning is an attempt to ‘tame down’ advanced soiling, dirt, spills and who knows what else that found its way onto the carpet. Not promising complete reversal, at least if it is lessened it wouldn’t be embarrassing while having his guests over after the funeral. And secondly, it wouldn’t be a real turn off causing a prospective buyer to walk out.

Of particular importance, I informed our client that this was no normal “everyday” cleaning. This cleaning would require specialized wands, heavy duty cleaning agents and skill beyond that of a novice. (And his hunch to concur that a brand-new carpet cleaner he spoke to was not well suited for the task was correct!) Most likely even if they have a truck mount (the main cleaning system best suited for the job), they probably did not have the upgraded, specialized wands at their disposal.

When the soiling is severe, specialized wands (that “kick tail and take names”) were essential for successful cleaning, and we have them both!

Carpet wand for severer soiling, heavy duty carpet cleaning wand
The RX-20 wand, a heavy-duty specialized wand with 5 rotating jets is ideal for severe soiling.

To reinforce my explanation, I discussed that we would be using one of a couple of specialized wands we have in-house that most cleaners do not have, depending on what Chris (my husband, owner and lead tech), decided was best for the job.  First choice was an RX-20, the “mother of all cleaning wands.” This is a carpet cleaning wand on steroids, with 5 individual jets (instead of 1) that spin simultaneously. Well suited for large open areas this is an industry “go-to” when there is severe soiling. Or, Chris could have decided to break out our “Zipper” wand, a similar multi-head engineered for smaller spaces and also better for severe soiling than a traditional 1 jet wand.

RX20's got 5 jets, 5 rotating jets for severe soiling
See the 5 rotating jets, the RX-20 is 5 x more powerful than a traditional wand.

Having 5 rotating jets not 1, the RX20 out cleans regular wands 5 to 1soiling. Or, Chris could have decided to break out our “Zipper” wand, a similar multi-head engineered for smaller spaces and also better for severe soiling than a traditional 1 jet wand. Click here to learn more about these wands and the other special wands we have “on board” to use when we need them. (They are not normally part of the average carpet cleaner’s equipment inventory, but certainly they are go-to’s ((for us)), and the well equipped professional executing work at the top of the game!)

Also of worth noting, we would ideally use a high pH cleaning solution geared to attack advanced soiling such as from cigarette smoke. With a pH of 12, or possibly a pH of 13.5 we weren’t planning to mess around! You see successful cleaning is the result of four components: temperature (as hot as possible), agitation (the scrubbing action), chemical (that to match the cleaning at hand), and time (the proper time to allow all other components to activate and work)!

As we spoke, I could hear him calm down and gain confidence in knowing he called the right people!

With some quick education, and validation we had the equipment and the skill, he started to become at ease about the cleaning. I comforted him he was in good hands. To help solidify my point I referred him to other jobs, as is noted below. (Which in I directed him to online where he could see the before and after pictures ((which we viewed together while on the phone)).) And I shared some very unique and prestigious opportunities we were invited to participate in (which we did), because of our credentials and reputation in the industry that were very telling!

I said we would respond on the spot and would get the carpets cleaned immediately for him. (I could hear the relief in his voice as our conversation progressed!)

As mentioned above, I referred him to our Case Study Picture Gallery (website), where he could see the results of a similar job, and how his possibly would turn out.

I referred him to see pictures of a similar job with exactly the same scenario (an estate, with advanced soiling that the heirs wanted to clean and hopefully not have replace). His too would be a cleaning challenge that would curtail the soiling, despite the fact that the carpet needed to be replaced.

Once he got to the section of our website, I directed him to “Case Studies.” Once he saw the pictures he immediately agreed his job was on the same par. Click here to see exactly what I showed him:  Severe Soiling- Carpet Cleaning Miracle In Marlton

Case Studies are critically important and helps viewers gain confidence our team is the right fit for the challenge!

Case studies is a section of our website that showcases our picture gallery by subject type. While visiting a viewer can see before and after pictures of our jobs. Also helpful is an explanation of the job, and what we did. They are organized by surface type, or client type. Included are categories as follows: carpet, tile & grout, hardwood, stone, and commercial services. Click here to see: Case Studies, by category. New categories to be added soon for installation and a section for Realtors.

And along with the prospect of improved appearance, I also made sure he had a “grounded expectation.”

That soiling this severe will calm down but may return to “haunt” us.

It is promised that we will definitely remove the surface dirt and soils, but that deeper embedded soils may reinfect the “face fiber” (the tippy top of the carpet yarns, what you see and the fibers you feel when you touch the carpet). Of course we will rinse off the surface dirt, but deeper embedded dirt that has sunk down to the backing may linger. Even effective cleaning may not retrieve it all (for it took years to accumulate there in the first place- stands to reason it may take more than 1 “hit” to remove it.)

Likewise, this analogy may help explain why- you have a pile of dirt, where a good deal is removed, but some remains. Now take what remains and put it in a clear drinking glass. Fill it up say 1/3 way up the glass. Now add water, and basically now it liquifies and resembles chocolate milk (right?).  Well in the effort of cleaning the top surface soils, the watery dirt solution activates from deeper down to the backing, and even in to below the backing. Over a short-0time this “milky” dirt solution migrates up the fiber re-soiling the recently clean top fiber, a condition called “wicking.”

Wicking remains a possibility due to overbuild up of deep embedded soils and frankly in this case exposure to nicotine film accumulation…

due to lack of proper or on-going care. (Even the visiting nurse was a smoker, although she smoked outside and in the garage (as evidence, a chair, a heater, a table and empty boxes of cigarettes).

It remains a conversation that any carpet cleaner, including the “good ones” cannot reverse years and years of neglect with 1 visit and one deep cleaning. That frankly is a huge ask! And although this family’s primary focus was on the loving care of their loved one, the reality of the fact is that this carpet and indoor environment was exposed to smokers, not one, but at least 2 or more. And with the stickiness of the nicotine film that develops, everything coming in contact with it so locks on creating the dirty film you see in the traffic area.

An easy way to understanding wicking is to refer to deodorant commercials or dressing in layers in winter to keep warm.

wicking of soils to reinfect carpet fibers
Wicking reinfects clean carpet fibers by moisture migration from deeply embedded watery soils due to long time build up

Wicking with carpet can be compared to “wicking” the perspiration away from your body (by dressing in layers to wick or cause the moisture from your sweating away from your body, to keep you warm). But in this case, a deeper embedded foreign soil (from neglect) will wick back up to re-contaminate the top fibers you see.

The trick is to remove as much of the dry soiling first, then have a powerful enough wand to extract deeper embedded soils. Then as is needed you re-clean any migrated wicking areas again by extraction, or by lightly surface treating without using copious amounts of water that repeats the wicking probability.

And secondly, there may also be a residual nicotine film (a more advanced contamination) that lingers that may or may not be removed with cleaning.

Again, building a grounded expectation is key to not overpromising perfect results. Even with this possibility the cleaning was most assuredly preferred over what was there to begin with (and worth trying as compared to jumping to replacing it(!

Our client understood, we shook hands and promised to offer a serious offensive!

We offered to schedule his job immediately and he couldn’t believe it- the timing is perfect!

Our client was amazed we had an immediate opening (we always build an emergency visit opening for critically important rush jobs, and this we considered one of them). The client was delighted beyond belief because of the upcoming funeral a mere two days out. This way the carpets would one, be cleaned prior to the family gathering at the house after the current funeral. And two, the carpets would be cleaned up quickly before a second realtor came in to tour the home, and before the first realtor returned to the home to discuss listing options.

Our client (who asked not to be named), had but one final question prior to approving us to clean, and that is would we be amenable to wearing masks during while doing the work. (He is immune suppressed, and although tired of the covid-mask protocol, the mask requirement would nonetheless be preferred and precautionary.) Of course, we were happy to comply!

The next morning, we were there bright and early, hoses, wands and masks in tow.

Again, Chris and our helper weren’t there to screw around. They got right on it. Taking pictures and video, they were delighted at the response of the cleaning. The dirt, soils and cigarette residues were rinsing out. First was the “zipping the tile”! It cleaned up beautifully with our hard surface steam wand. Then we attacked the carpet, and the RX-20 was the right match! Finally, we rinsed the edges with a traditional wand. And with the majority of the cleaning done, we went back over a few things.

I arrived to see the progress, and met the client outside, and I invited him in!

As we walked the areas that were completed all he could say is “wow”. Every room and every hall we went in he said “wow”!  And then I showed him the foyer and the kitchen, again he piped up “wow” Clearly taken back and totally impressed he was thrilled his guests weren’t going to see how badly soiled and dirty the carpets had become. And he was hopeful that once the realtors saw the results of the cleaning, they might well avoid (at the moment), the replacement of the carpet conversation.

Having seen such a transformation, he encouraged us to post the pictures and story about his cleaning…

So others in this predicament can see there is hope and opportunity for a cleaning solution! 

At ease with the burden of the embarrassment removed from his mind, he could now attend to the final planning of the funeral activities. He also could plan to look forward to positioning the house for sale without the constriction, concession or the necessity of the flooring replacement even before “testing” the house’s appeal in an as-is condition.

In his mind, we have given him perhaps a silver lining, and workable options, including the chance to get this sale handled with guarded outlay on his and the estate’s part and a fair chance at optimizing a good return!

Cigarette nicotine residue infects everywhere in the house, specialized cleaning for cigarette residue, nicotine film on walls, hvac vents
Beyond carpet cleaning, everything in the house needs decontamination cleaning- walls, fixtures, contents, air ducts. etc

PS- as needed we are at the ready to bring on the cleaning team to deep clean and perform “surface decontamination” procedures to remove the cigarette residues (in the form of a sticky contaminated greasy film), from the contents of the home. Secondly, we are standing by to address any wicking action that may occur. And thirdly, we can help or refer others for more correction procedures such as painting, and air duct cleaning, where we have competent professionals to refer our client to. Stay tuned!

Have a cigarette residues and embedded dirt in carpets and contamination elsewhere, give us a call! Free Estimates. Call 609.953.0472 or Contact Us on line and we will reach out to you!


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