Needle felt or fleece is not a challenge for the professional carpet cleaner due to its construction materials but due to its structure.
A needle felt floor covering consists of three layers:
the top or utilized layer,
the intermediate layer and
the bottom layer
The top layer is a fleece made of synthetic fibres, just as the bottom layer is. The intermediate layer consists of a foil, that is made of glass-fibres web or fleece and often is called the carrier material. In order to make this type of floor covering the three layers are densified with a chemical bonding agent. The result is a covering that consists of random over- and underlying fibres and shapes.
Structure of Needle Felt (Fleece) Floor Covering
Because this structure has a lot of empty space, a wet cleaning, for example by extraction is problematic. It is a problem because the moisture introduced into the flooring does not adhere to the fibres but is pushed to the bottom due to the spray pressure. This has the result that a removal of the moisture and the loosened soil contained in it cannot not be removed satisfactorily. It should be noted however, that there are some types of ultra-dense needle fleece that permit a successful extraction cleaning of it. Recognizing the covering as such requires a certain degree of experience however, because the danger involved in extraction cleaning other than an unsatisfactory cleaning result is that the remaining moisture starts to dissolve the glue used to fix the covering on the floor. This problem is especially critical today where most glues are water-based making this scenario highly likely, contrary to 10 - 25 years ago, where these glues were all solvent based and this problem was virtually unheard of. When cleaning this type of floor covering the cleaner should always have this risk in mind when considering cleaning by extraction.
The whirl-like structure with the many hollow spaces of this covering also makes the dry-powder extraction method an unsuitable cleaning method. Even though there are supposed powders that are specifically developed for this type of flooring, that are 100% removable, the cleaner that has worked with this method knows: 100% does not exist, especially on needle fleece.
Brushing the powder into the flooring causes the powder particles to lodge deeply and tightly in the narrow, hollow spaces of the whirl-like structure of the needle fleece. Removal, even with the strongest brush vacuum, is a problem. The residual powder causes not only the cleaning to be unsuccessful but also has a negative impact on the optical appearance of the floor and will not cause the customer to jump with joy.
A thoroughly tested and successful cleaning method for needle fleece is shampooing. With the right shampoo - it has to have a dry, stable foam with excellent cleaning properties - the floor can be cleaned without a problem. The mechanical action of the brushes ensures a certain depth in cleaning and additional cleaning power. The loosened soil and stains are caught between the foam bubbles and kept on the surface and are then removed with a wet vacumm or an extraction machine without rinsing. Shampooing cleans the flooring without allowing moisture to penetrate too deeply into it thereby avoiding the above mentioned problems that can be caused by extraction cleaning.
An alternative to shampooing is the bonnet mop (pad) method. This method also lets the user clean needle fleece successfully. Since it is a damp cleaning method the only danger in over-wetting lies in spraying too much solution onto the floor, the problems encountered with extraction cleaning are avoided. In order to be successful with this method one needs not only the right cleaning product but one also has to exchange mops (pads) regularly. The right cleaning product (eg. Tapi Bonnet or BioMatrix¨)ensures optimal soil and stain loosening. The regularly exchange of mops ensures that the loosened soil and stains are absorbed by the mops and thereby removed from the floor.
In conclusion one can say that when cleaning needle felt (fleece) floors the amount of cleaning methods available is restricted. Powder Dry-Cleaning should not be considered at all. Extraction cleaning may be used by the experienced carpet cleaner under certain conditions. Only the Bonnet Mop Method and Shampooing are useful without restriction. The choice between the two has to be made under consideration of costs and state of the floor.
For the cleaning of needle felt (fleece) we recommend: