How To Clean Carpet And Upholstery With The Express Method

What is the express method? Basically, it's a faster, simpler way to clean. And it gives anyone, even those without experience, the opportunity to get professional results in a much shorter time and with much less training.
8 January, 2019 by
How To Clean Carpet And Upholstery With The Express Method

This training guide is designed to empower you with the skills and confidence you need to clean carpet and upholstery to the highest professional standards.

Plus, you will also learn the express method for removing tough stains and bad odours too!

What is the express method of carpet cleaning?

Basically, it's a faster, simpler way. And it gives anyone, even those without experience, the opportunity to get professional carpet cleaning results in a much shorter time and with less training.

The express method is not the only way to clean carpets and upholstery. There are others like the pre-spray method which we are huge fans of too. But we love our express method!

With modern carpet cleaning chemical technology, the express method of carpet cleaning is becoming very popular and in many cases the go to method for in-house cleaning teams who want to handle all or some of their facility's carpet cleaning tasks themselves.

Being a faster and easy way of cleaning, the express method is often used by professional carpet cleaners especially when they are under time pressure. With the use of the latest cleaning technology, we can eliminate the time taken to pre-spray yet still get amazing results quickly with fast drying.

Where can the express method be used?

If the carpet or upholstery you want to clean is washable (wettable) then the express system is suitable. But we always say to test any cleaning system in a small inconspicuous area on fibres that are unknown to you just in case.

The express method of cleaning carpet and upholstery is successfully used all over Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific in places such as...

• Hotels, Casinos, Resorts, Apartments, Motels, Holiday Parks.

• Schools, Universities, Colleges, Childcare Centres.

• Workplaces, Offices, Showrooms, Warehouses.

• Hospitals, Aged Care Centres, Medical Clinics.

• Shopping Centres, Retail Outlets, Homes.

Free quick reference guide and wall chart

In this article, we'll be getting right into the detail of cleaning carpets and upholstery with the express method. The quick reference guide below is a handy reminder that you can put up on the wall to remind you of the basics involved in the process. You can click on the image below for the pdf version that you can print or save, and use for free.

Let's get into it...


1. What you need for the express carpet cleaning method.

a. Vacuum cleaner

A professional vacuum cleaner removes dust, dirt, hair, dead skin, fluff, cotton, allergens and other debris on and in the fibres.

A good vac should be part of a great ongoing cleaning program. Proper vacuuming also reduces the dirt build up in the carpet fibres, extends the life of carpets, reduces the frequency and need for deep cleaning, and it improves overall cleanliness, hygiene and wellbeing.

There are 2 types of vacuum cleaners used for professional carpet care...

• Upright vac with spinning brush and HEPA filtration or...

• Pull along or backpack vacuum cleaner with HEPA filtration and either an air driven spinning brush or electric spinning brush.

Important: Use disposable dust bags in your vacuum cleaner and change them regularly for better performance, safety, hygiene and wellbeing.

b. Portable carpet extraction machine

A portable spray and suck machine is your launchpad into achieving professional results. Regardless of who you are working for, they will want: fast drying, clean fibres, stains removed, odours gone and they will want it done FAST!

New technology and innovation matched with the right program makes this achievable. So make sure you have a machine that ticks all the boxes…

• Suction: Powerful sucking vacuum system with motor protection and safety.

• Spray: Adjustable spray pump with working pressure of up to 250psi at the tool. Compatible with Express method chemistry, heat and powerful sucking systems.

• Manoeuvrability: Easy to use, setup, move and transport. On-board storage. Good wheels for transport and stair climbing.

• Professional tooling options.

• Easy use and care. No fuss.

c. Tools and accessories

The following tools and accessories are necessary requirements...

• Carpet Cleaning Tool

• Upholstery Cleaning Tool

• All-In-One Hose with carry bag (both hoses are together.) They are easy, tidy and non-marking. Ensure your hoses are heat, pressure, chemical and crush resistant. The hose bag is a great way to look after your hoses and make them easy to transport.

Gloves & Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

• Safety Signage

The following tools and accessories are optional, depending on the type of work you do…

• Stair Cleaning Tool

• Curtain Cleaning Tool

• Tile & Grout Cleaning Tool

• Furniture Protection Pads - to protect furniture from being damaged or causing damage.

d. Cleaning chemicals and spotters

The function of chemicals in cleaning is to help you work faster, easier and get better results.

Here are the main categories of chemicals used in the Express carpet and upholstery cleaning program.

• Primary cleaning chemical (Recommendation: One Step Quick Dry)

• Stain removers (Recommendation: Houdini, Houdini Wipes, Dry Safe, Wizz King)

• Odour removers (Recommendation: Odour Kill)

• Defoamer (Recommendation: Bubble Buster)

e. Dehumidifier

A dehumidifier is a transportable speed drying system that plugs into the wall just like a vacuum cleaner. They are the most effective way to dry and remove moisture from indoor areas. They are worth their weight in gold, especially when you have a flood!

After extraction and deep cleaning, drying happens through evaporation. That's why in wet, humid conditions drying is slow. And in dry conditions (low humidity at less than 60% relative humidity), drying is fast.

In a nutshell, a dehumidifier draws the moisture from the area and deep in the carpet fibre then converts it into liquid ready for disposal. It pushes dry air back out. It's recommended that you have at least one dehumidifier in your equipment kit.

f. Carpet blower / Air mover

Carpet blowers are a powerful fan usually with three speeds. They can assist in speeding up the drying process by circulating and moving the air around. However, if there is a lot of moisture and humidity in the area, the air mover will just move the moisture around and drying will be slow. Air movers are great to have but optional if you have a dehumidifier.


2. Health, safety and wellbeing

Health, safety and wellbeing is the backbone of great cleaning teams. Being health and safety conscious is your job, your priority and the culture within your organisation. It takes discipline, care and motivation, and it should be revised and refreshed continually. 

Safety should always come first in everything you do and should never be forgotten or ignored.


If you haven't already done so, we highly recommend that you and your team complete all of our Health, Safety and Wellbeing training programs.


3. The different ways to clean carpets

a. Carpet Extraction (AKA… spray and suck, steam cleaning)

This is the most commonly used method for carpet and upholstery cleaning. It has very little limitation, thus the reason for it being the dominant method. There are two main forms of the spray and suck method: Pre-spray with chemical followed by spray and suck, and the Express method which this guide is all about.

b. Bonnet Cleaning (AKA Dry cleaning, low moisture cleaning)

In this method, a specialty chemical is pre-sprayed onto the surface followed by a machine scrub fitted with a pre-moistened bonnet that agitates, and absorbs the chemical and dirt/soils back into the bonnet.

c. Encapsulation (AKA… Encap)

The encap system is somewhat the opposite of the above two! The goal is to scrub/agitate the specialty encap chemical into the fibres with a spinning brush or scourer pad and leave it for 12-24 hours. Once the chemical encapsulates the soils and dries into a fine crystal/powder not even visible to the eye, it is vacuumed out with a vacuum cleaner fitted with a spinning brush head.


4. Express carpet and upholstery cleaning program

Step 1. Prepare for the job

It's time to get your gear ready. Make sure you have your...

• Spray and suck machine

• Hose carry bag.

• Tools (Carpet tool, stair tool, upholstery tool, tile cleaning tool.)

• Chemical kit

• Accessories (Gloves, PPE and signage)

Step 2. Inspect the area

Take a moment to make yourself aware of any hazards and precautions you should take. This is also a great opportunity to come up with your cleaning plan.

• Is the area clear and safe?

• Is noise an issue in this area? Is now the best time to clean?

• Are there any extra dirty areas you will need to focus on?

• What can I do before I start to make my cleaning easier and more efficient?

• Come up with the cleaning plan. Start at the furthest point and work your way out towards your exit.

Step 3. Vacuum

A pre-vacuum of the area will remove the dust, dirt, hair, dead skin, fluff, cotton, allergens and other debris on the surface.

• Take note when vacuuming of any stains and extra dirty areas that may require special attention.

• Clear the area to give yourself a continuous run for when you start deep cleaning.

• The 'spray and suck' equipment is for deep extraction cleaning, not picking up dry dust and debris.

• Pre-vacuuming makes this process faster and easier improving overall cleanliness and hygiene.

Step 4. Position and setup

a. Fill the clean water tank.

• Put enough water into the tank to do the area.

• Do not overfill as you will create extra work at the end of the job for yourself by having to empty it, and you will waste precious water.

• Use warm to hot water if available. Cold water is fine if that is all you have.

b. Position machine

Position the machine and tooling in a safe and suitable position that reduces or eliminates the need to move it during cleaning. Ensure you:

• Are no further than 7 metres from power

• Face the machines exhaust away from walls and furniture

• Protect delicate floor surfaces under the machine

• Avoid potential slips, trips, falls and any other hazards by controlling the area. E.g. safety sign.

Connect to power, then connect vacuum and solution hose

• Connect machine power cords to the wall socket. Do not use double adaptors or boards. One cord directly into 1 wall socket.

• Connect the vacuum and solution hose to the machine.

c. Turn on the heat (if available)

Adjust the water heater temperature knob to 110 or your desired temperature if you have an inline heater. Or for portables with heater elements in the tank, turn the heater on to pre-heat the water.

d. Select a tool

Select and connect the relevant cleaning tool to the end of the vacuum and solution hose.

e. Add chemical

• Add detergent. Add the suitable amount of One Step Quick Dry into the clean water tank (av. 45Lt capacity).

- Normal Cleaning. Add 60ml to a full tank or 12.5ml per 10 litres of water.

- Heavy Duty Cleaning. Add 100ml to a full tank or 25ml per 10 litres of water.

• Add defoamer to the dirty water tank in the extraction machine. One Step Quick Dry is a low foaming product and has super fast foam dissipation times. The reason you need to add defoamer into the tank is due to chemical residues that have been left in the fibres from previous chemicals, systems or spills.

- Add 50mL of Bubble Buster directly into the machines Waste Water Tank per full tank load.

• Add Odour neutraliser (optional)

- If the area has bad odours, add 60ml of Odour Kill per clean water tank or 12.5ml per 10 litres of water.

Handy Tip:
Always fill your clean water tank before adding the chemical. This helps the chemical to mix, and avoids foaming and splashing.

f. Switch on the spray pump and vacuum motors

• Switch on spray pump, then wait 3 seconds

• Switch on vacuum motor #1, then wait 3 seconds

• Switch on vacuum motor #2 (if the machine has a second vac motor)

g. Adjust spray pump pressure

Adjust the water pressure to a suitable level. Recommended pressures are:

• Carpet cleaning wand / tool: 200psi

• Upholstery or stair cleaning tool: 150psi

• Curtain cleaning tool: 100psi

• Tile and grout cleaning tool: 350psi (or max. pressure)


Step 5. Start cleaning

• Spray and suck, pulling the tool back towards you while pulling the trigger on for a pass of approx. 90cm to 120cm or a comfortable distance. Keep your back straight and let the tool do the work.

• Release the trigger just before the end of the stroke and follow through so all the liquid just sprayed down is sucked up.

• Guide the tool back over the last stroke for additional moisture removal and faster drying times.

• Position the tool ready for the next spray and suck stroke. Overlap the previous stroke by 3cm.

• Dry. Before the area is opened to traffic allow to dry. Running air conditioners and ceiling fans during and after cleaning speed up drying. Using air movers and dehumidifiers also assists in faster drying.

• For very dirty carpets and upholstery, repeat Step 5.

• Use the Express stain removers to remove any stains that did not come out in the cleaning process.


Everyone wants their carpets and upholstery clean and dry with stains and odours removed… and they want it done fast! The Express system achieves this goal. 


Step 6. Pack down

a. When you have finished...

• Switch the spray pump off

• Pull tool trigger to release built-up water pressure in the line.

• Disconnect the vacuum and solution hose from the tool.

b. Empty the clean water tank

There are two ways to empty your clean water tank:

a. Remove the remaining water by sucking it out with your vacuum hose. Don’t fully submerge the hose in the water, just put it half in, half out. Be careful of foam buildup. If excessive foaming occurs stop extracting and empty the waste tank before continuing. Use a defoamer if required.

b. Connect a priming hose or male brass quick connector to the end of your solution hose. Direct the open end of the hose into the waste tank or suitable bucket, tank or drain. Run the spray pump until the water level drops to just above the spray pump's intake filter. Switch the spray pump off.

c. Empty waste (dirty) water tank in the machine

• Switch both vacuum motors off

• Dump the waste liquid. The method for doing this will depend on the make and model of your machine. Here are the two most common ways…

- Unclip the waste tank empty hose. Unscrew cap. Then direct waste into a bucket, tank or drain.

- Slowly lift the gate valve handle up 3cm and direct waste into a suitable bucket, tank or drain.


Looking after your machine pays dividends. Less frustrations, costs and hassles.


5. Equipment care, maintenance and troubleshooting guide

a. Daily maintenance

• Rinse and clean out the wastewater tank, including the vac motor protection device and empty hose/valve.

• Remove and clean the waste tank lid and run both vacuum motors for five minutes.

• Wipe down the external parts of the machine.

• Rinse and clean the inside of the vacuum hose and tools

• Check the condition of the power cords and plugs. If there is any sign of damage, contact an authorised service and repair centre.

b. Weekly maintenance

• Clean the spray pumps intake filter located inside of the clean water tank by removing and rinsing it under a tap. If it is out of shape or caved in, either reshape or replace it. It is important this filter is kept clean and clear, otherwise, the spray pump will be partially starved of water which will reduce its life and performance.

• Check the waste tank lid seal for damage

• Check under the machine for signs of fluid leakage


Cleaning your equipment after use is the best way to keep it working at peak performance and avoid downtime. 


c. Other maintenance and care tips

Service intervals.

• All of your equipment must be serviced at a minimum of every 6 months.


• Tanks should be empty

• Store with the waste tank lid removed and clean water tank lid up.

How to prolong the life of vacuum motors.

• Always use a defoamer. High-airflow machines generate more foam. Water-damage vacuum motors are not covered under warranty. Check the waste tank regularly for foam build-up.

• Your machine will have vac motor protection. This device lets you know when your waste tank is full and protects the motors from sucking up the wastewater and blowing up. This is a safety device only. Do not rely on the vacuum shut-off switch during normal use. Check often and empty the waste tank regularly before it gets full.

• If the waste tank float switch engages and switches the vacuum motors off, always check that the vacuum motor switches are turned to the off position before emptying the waste tank.

• Remove the waste tank lid and run the vacuum motors for 5 minutes at the end of each day

• Store the machine with the waste tank lid off (hang off the handle or in a safe position) to allow the inside of the tank and vacuum system to dry and ventilate.

How to prolong the life of your spray pump.

• Do not run the spray pump without water. Always ensure you have water in the clean water tank. Check tank levels regularly.

• Keep the spray pump intake filter submerged in water. Check and clean the filter weekly or as required.

• Do not allow water in the clean water tank to exceed 65°C as it can warp the spray pump head.

• Always turn the spray pump off when you are not using it.

Handy tip

Carry an Express carpet and upholstery how-to chart onboard your machine. It contains a condensed version of the step-by-step program and is a great reference.


d. Troubleshooting guide

Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for troubleshooting.

No suction.

• Check the waste tank level and in particular the vacuum motor protection device. Switch both vacuum motors off and empty the waste tank. Ensure the vacuum motor protection device in the waste tank is clean and free from obstruction before restarting the vacuums.

• If your machine is fitted with a high-level cut-off switch device, unscrew the clear cover, rinse and clean the float and cover, and then screw it back on. Ensure the 2 drain holes on the cover are facing down.

• Check that the power cords are connected to live power. Make sure that both vacuums are switched to the on position.

• Check that the waste tank lid is fitted and sealed properly. With the vacuum hose inlet facing directly forwards.

• Check the waste tank empty hose cap is properly screwed on and secured.

• Check vacuum hose and connectors for splits, air leaks and tight fitting.

• Check for blockages in the head of the wand, pipe and hose.

Spray pump not working or has no pressure.

• Check that the power cords are connected to live power, and the pump switch is in the on position.

• Check that there is enough water in the clean water tank

• Check the pump intake hose with the mushroom filter is fully submerged in water. Make sure the filter is clean and in shape.

• Turn the water pressure adjustment knob anti-clockwise slowly to fully open the pumping system. When the water adjustment knob is fully open, you should hear the pump and motor both running smoothly. Slowly turn the knob back in the clockwise direction and watch the pressure gauge for movement. (Switch both vacuum motors off whilst doing this check).

• Prime the spray pump

• Some tools have an additional filter in between the tool’s solution hose connector and trigger (the filter is covered and is inside a brass or metal part). Remove the filter, clean (rinse and scrub with toothbrush) and re-fit.

The spray pump seems to be working but no water comes out of the tool.

• Check all of the hose connectors are firmly and properly clicked and connected together.

• Check and clean the spray nozzles (jets) on the tool. Some nozzles have a filter underneath so it is always best to remove, clean (rinse and scrub with a toothbrush) and refit the nozzles and filters.

• Some tools have an additional filter in between the tool’s solution hose connector and trigger (the filter is covered and is inside a brass or metal part). Remove the filter, clean (rinse and scrub with toothbrush) and re-fit.

Spray nozzle/s are blocked and or not spraying evenly.

• Remove the spray nozzles and clean out with a toothbrush, fine needle or compressed air. In some easy cases, you can clear a spray nozzle by gently tapping it on a bench and/or blowing it out.

• Be careful not to damage the nozzle as they are very precise. Do not use knives or sharp objects as this will damage the nozzle orifice, face, spray patterns and flow.

• Some spray nozzles have a filter under them so it is always best to remove, clean (rinse and scrub with a toothbrush) and refit the spray nozzles and filters.

• Some tools have an additional filter in between the tool’s solution hose connector and trigger (the filter is covered and is inside a brass or metal part). Remove the filter, clean (rinse and scrub with toothbrush) and re-fit.


Stains are nothing to be scared of… the Express stain removal system makes it easy!


6. Express stain removal

Stain removal used to be an intimidating cleaning task.

Whilst you should always treat stain removal with care and respect, you don't need to be scared of it anymore.

This training guide has taken decades to develop so sit back, relax and learn how to remove stains with confidence, ease and peace of mind... the express way.

Yes, we have an advanced stain removal method and product range too. But be rest assured, the express method of stain removal is super safe and easy with incredible results.

Knowing what the stain is will help you in your stain removal process. The colour, appearance, location, odour and feel of the stain can give you clues if you aren't sure.

If you still don’t know what the stain is…

don’t worry...

just follow the Express How To Remove Carpet Stains chart from Step 1. If the stain persists, follow the table to Step 2 and so on until you successfully remove the stain.

Here's the quick reference guide and wall chart you can print out to help you along the way...


Is it possible to remove all stains?

Unfortunately no.

Some stains are the result of permanent damage… For example, bleach, sunlight and burns. Repair or replacement is required in certain circumstances.

a. Safety and preparation

• Safety. Always wear gloves and any other required personal protection equipment (PPE) stated in the product's Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

• Follow the chemical handling guidelines. Do not mix cleaning chemicals, unless the directions instruct you to do so.

• Know your products. Do not use a product before reading and understanding the label, Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and Training Information Guide (TIG).

• Use the kit. There is not one product that removes all stains. Stain removal products are part of a system. It is important to familiarise yourself with the different products and how each of them work for the ultimate result. Keep your products fresh.

Express How To Remove Carpet Stains Chart. Have it handy in your kit for quick reference.

b. Clean first / remove excess

• If you are going to be doing an Express carpet and upholstery clean of the area, do it first. This is due to the effectiveness of the Express cleaning method when incorporating heat. Most stains are removed during the cleaning process therefore not requiring additional stain removal.

• If you are just spot-cleaning stains and not deep cleaning the entire area, scrape, blot or rinse and extract any excess stain matter before you start.

c. Test for suitability

Test first in an inconspicuous area to ensure the procedure will give you the desired result. A big reason for testing first is to make sure you do not remove or change fibre colouring or damage the fibres. This is particularly important when working on poor-quality or delicate natural fibres like wool, cotton and silk.

d. Remove the stain.

Here are some common stains you will come up against and the recommended procedure to remove them.

Example procedure for... Drink and Liquid Stains.

This pretty well works on every removable drink stain on the planet like... red wine, coffee, tea, sports and energy, mixed alcoholic beverages, cordial, juices etc.

• Remove as much of the spill or stain by blotting up with white towelling or cleaning first. Test your procedure in an inconspicuous area to ensure suitability.

• Apply Wizz King to the affected area liberally by the spray bottle. Agitate in with your spotting tool and leave. Wizz King does not require further rinsing and it continues to work until it has evaporated and dried. However, you can blot (or machine extract) if you like.

*Some severe stains may require repeat treatment or could be permanent damage requiring repair.

Example procedure for… Oil, Grease, Paint, Gum, Wax & Ink.

• Remove as much of the spill or stain by blotting up with white towelling or cleaning first. Test your procedure in an inconspicuous area to ensure suitability.

• Apply Dry Safe to the stain. Agitate with your spotting tool and allow 2 minutes of working time. Agitate again and blot or extract to remove the stain.

e. Handy tips

• Keep your stain removers fresh (less than 3 months old). Store them in a cool, dry place out of sunlight.

• Be patient and work systematically. Never directly brush or agitate a stain, this will spread it. Do your stain removal working from the outside of the stain in.

• Never stop learning. Confidence comes from getting in there and having a go.

• Removing stains quickly is vital. The longer you leave stains, the harder they are to remove.

• Always have an Express How To Remove Carpet Stains Chart in your onboard carry bag.


7. Express Odour Control

A recent survey ranked odour problems as #2 in the top 10 biggest problems for cleaning teams. That being said, the survey also showed that the majority of the teams had not been properly trained and/or equipped in odour control. Now you know what the #1 problem was. Lack of skill training and development.

The following 2-step program has been tried, tested and massively successful at removing the worst of the worst odours including urine, cooking, smoke, vomit, decay, musty and pet odours. It not only removes the odours but treats the area, returning it to a safe, healthy and hygienic environment.

Step 1... Clean

Carry out the Express carpet and upholstery cleaning procedure paying particular attention to the location and source of the odour. Ensure you add XO2's Odour Kill, a high-performance odour eliminator, into the clean water tank.

Step 2... Treat and decontaminate

Treat and decontaminate the area with a can of XO2® Whoopin.

• Close the area down (windows, doors and air vents). Turn off all ignition sources such as pilot lights (shut off gas valves), other open flames, or running electrical appliances that cycle off and on (i.e., refrigerators, thermostats, etc). Cover exposed food, dishes and food-handling equipment. Open all cabinets and doors to the area to be treated.

• Press the button and place the unit in the middle of the area to be treated on a piece of paper. Leave the area and return after 2 hours.

• Ventilate and air out for 30 minutes before returning the area to use.

• Do not use more than one unit per room. Do not use in small, enclosed spaces such as closets, cabinets, or under counters or tables. Do not use in a room less than 2Mt x 2Mt or smaller; instead, allow fog to enter from other rooms.

• One unit will effectively treat 170 cubic meters of unobstructed area. That is a standard height room that is 7.5m x 7.5m x 2.4m.

Hot tips

• For musty odours and smells, we also recommend you add a dehumidifier to your equipment kit and complete the Express carpet drying and clean-up training program.

• Ensure you fit a passive odour control system into each area. This will keep your areas smelling fresh and clean without the need for continuous spray deodorising. For large areas and washrooms, fit a large area odour control system.

Related articles:

How To Do Fabric Protection For Upholstery And Carpets
How To Quickly Calculate Cleaning Chemical Dilution Rates And Ratios
Carpet Drying And Clean Up With The Express Method
How To Clean Carpet With Encapsulation
XO2's Top Tips for Removing Carpet Stains

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