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Avoiding Scams


“Cleaning Carpet Can Be a Dirty Business” “Not All Scum Is In the Carpet” “Don’t Let them Pull The Rug Out From Under You” “Clean Your Carpets Without Cleaning Out Your Wallet” “Don’t Get Taken To The Cleaners”. These clever phrases have appeared recently in newspaper articles and televised consumer news programs across the nation warning consumers about carpet cleaning scam operations. Media has related horror stories of trusting consumers who have responded to low-price carpet cleaning specials only to become victims of unethical cleaners who refuse to honor the advertised price, intimidate the consumers, and do poor quality work.

Bait-and-switch operators are prevalent in many industries, and the carpet cleaning industry is no exception. This does not mean that all carpet cleaners are rip-off artists. How do you know who is and who is not? The professional carpet cleaning industry has cited these scam activities as a major industry concern and is taking action to help eliminate unprofessional workmanship and unethical tactics. One of the leaders in this campaign is the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), an international, nonproft organization that certifies cleaners who meet prescribed levels of technical proficiency and pledge to operate by a Code of Ethics.

To help educate consumers so they will not become victims of fraudulent practices within the cleaning industry, the IICRC has released a list of guidelines to consider when selecting a carpet cleaner.

Price – If an advertised price sounds too good to be true – it is! Often carpet cleaners advertise a low price just to get their foot in the door. Use common sense, a low price usually equates to low quality for any product or service. Legitimate business people have legitimate expenses they must cover, including license, taxes, insurance, employee wages, and benefits, and quality tools of the trade. A professional carpet cleaner who must cover all of these business expenses and make a profit to stay in the business cannot afford to drive to your house for $5.95, much less clean a room of carpet when there.

Quality – Never should the price of cleaning services be the sole criterion for selecting a carpet cleaner. A price that sounds high may not be a signal of a rip-off. In all professions, quality work deserves a quality price.

Truth in Advertising – Read the fine print in advertised specials to find out exactly what the price includes, and request a firm price in writing before the work begins.

Training – Professional cleaning firms require management and employees to engage in formal training in a variety of cleaning disciplines, and these educational efforts will be ongoing. Con­sumers should ask about the formal training background of technicians who will be cleaning their carpet. Certification – Professional firms require Certification of technicians through such certification organizations as the IICRC or through comparable franchise or independent training and testing organizations. Experience – The years of experience a firm has, combined with formal training programs, contribute significantly to the experience and proficiency of its employees.

Knowledgeable Professional firms employ and train technicians who have the ability to answer basic questions regarding carpe performance and maintenance, as well as spotting and cleaning. References Consumers should ask for references from previous customers, and they should consult friends and business acquaintances about the reputation of the cleaning firm they are considering. Do not hesitate to call the Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau.

Trade Associations Professional cleaning firms are members of regional or national trade associations or other organizations that promote high ethical standards and continuing education. Look for trade association logos in advertising.

Credibility – Community involvement through the Chamber of Commerce and/or professional business, charitable, or similar organizations will be undertaken by concerned, caring professionals. Look for logos indicating involvement in these organizations.

Cleaning Standard – Ask if the cleaner is operating according to the IICRC SOO I -Cleaning Standards. Request to see a copy of this industry-prescribed document.

Method – Ask the cleaner which method of cleaning will be used and the advantages and disadvantages of this method compared to other methods.

Proof – Never hesitate to ask for proof. Ask to see the cleaner’s certification card, business license, and insurance certificate. No Pressure – Technicians must be courteous and willing to take the time to thoroughly explain the cleaning and to answer all questions. The consumer should never feel pressured.

There is no single criterion for selecting a carpet cleaning service. Several combined factors must be considered in the selection decision. If you wish to locate a Certified cleaner in your service area, you may call the IICRC Referral System 1-800-835-4624.


“2 Rooms Cleaned Free” “$5.95 Per Room Normal Cleaning” “Free Deodorizing” “Free Carpet Protector”. Such carpet cleaning ads are seen every day by consumers, but is something really free? What is normal cleaning? Unsuspecting consumers who are lured by specials often find themselves victims of bait-and-switch advertising. They realize, often too late, that these advertised specials have conditions, either written in small print or not stated at all. They are often told that “preconditioning” costs extra or that the carpet is too soiled for normal cleaning at the advertised low price.

Knowing what to expect from a professional carpet cleaning job is difficult. Varying practices and services offered by cleanersjust add to the carpet cleaning confusion. What is included in the price? What will cost extra? What are the industry-accepted standard practices of a professional carpet cleaner?

Having the answers to these questions and knowing which questions to ask are essential in avoiding the scam artists when having your carpet professionally cleaned. Educating the consumer on what to expect, and demand, from a professional carpet cleaner and helping to expose unethical practices within the cleaning industry are major goals of the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).

The IICRC is a nonprofit certification body that sets and promotes high standards and technical proficiency within the cleaning industry. The IICRC has developed a list of what consumers should expect from a professional carpet cleaning job:

Cleaning Standard – The Professional carpet cleaner will follow the guidelines as stated in I1CRC SOO] – 1999 Carpet Cleaning Standard

Trained Technicians – Technicians must be willing to take time to pre-inspect carpet in ail of the areas that need cleaning. They must identify the carpet’s construction and fiber, evaluate individual needs and recommend an appropriate cleaning method or procedure. The technician is the key to quality results not a particular method, machine or process.

No Hidden Costs – Consumers have the right to expect itemized services and firm prices before technicians begin each portion of the work sold. While technicians may offer added services such as deodorization and carpet protector at an additional cost, consumers should never feel pressured to accept anything more than the services they request and authorize.

Safety – All cleaning and specialty agents and equipment used before, during and after cleaning must be used in strict accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations and appropriate safety regulations.

Customer Satisfaction – Cleaning firms should offer workmanship guarantees in writing. Fiber type, carpet construction, installation and maintenance may present circumstances beyond a cleaning technician’s control; however, responsible workmanship must be implicit in any work performed.

Prevacuuming – Technicians should carefully pre-vacuum all carpet before other cleaning techniques are employed, regardless of the method of cleaning used. Special emphasis should be placed on vacuuming major entry areas where soils accumulate.

Furniture Moving – Unless clearly specified otherwise, furniture moving to access and clean carpet underneath should be considered part of the normal cleaning job. Items such as fish tanks, water beds, loaded china cabinets, computers, or extremely delicate or fragile furnishings (pianos, antiques) are considered exceptions.

Spotting – Special attention to spots and stains is included in normal job performance. However, time-consuming specialized spotting or prolonged effort on color-added spots may incur an additional charge. Customers should be advised of additional charges before extensive spotting procedures are undertaken.

Preconditioning – Special treatment with “preconditioning” agents in heavily-soiled entry and traffic areas should be included in the cost of cleaning. However, the job cost may increase in extreme soiling situations and consumers should be advised in advance of the need for such increased charges.

Minimal Drying Time – It is the cleaner’s responsibility, with the consumer’s cooperation, to ensure that the carpet is dried and returned to normal use within a reasonable time frame. The amount of time required for drying will vary with different methods, the degree of soiling and the aggressiveness of cleaning. However, under no circumstances should carpet drying require more than twenty-four (24) hours with proper ventilation. The consumer’s cooperation in providing continuous airflow and/or ventilation to expedite drying cannot be overemphasized.

Thorough Cleaning – There should be no differentiation between “normal” cleaning and “special” cleaning. Clean is clean. Every effort must be made to physically remove as much soil as possible from carpet during cleaning. Further, technicians must take steps to leave fibers as residue free as possible to prevent accelerated re-soiling.

When trying to save money by taking advantage of carpet cleaning specials, make sure the specials don’t take advantage of you. If you wish to locate a Certified cleaner in your service area, you may call the IICRC’s Referral System, 1-800-835-4624.