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How to Fix Foam in Your Commercial Carpet Extractor

How to Fix Foam in Your Commercial Carpet Extractor

Carpet extractors are a powerful tool for cleaning and maintaining the carpets in your facility.

Like with any janitorial equipment, there may be some issues that require extra attention from you and your cleaning staff.

One of the most common and easily preventable issues you may encounter with your carpet extractor is foaming in the recovery tank.

Foaming in your commercial carpet cleaning equipment can lead to a lot of problems for your cleaning staff that complicate the carpet cleaning process.

Foaming in your recovery tank can cause problems like:

  • Premature Machine Shut-off
  • Damage to Carpet Extractor Motors
  • Frequent Recovery Tank Dumping When Not Full
  • Dirty Water Leaking onto Floors

If you can successfully avoid foam in your carpet cleaning machine, you can prevent these problems as well as costly reworks, equipment repairs, and additional labor costs.

You can avoid foaming in your carpet extractor tank with proper maintenance and cleaning after each use.

In this article and video, we’ll discuss what causes foaming, how to avoid it, and the best way to fix foaming in your carpet extractor tank if you notice it.

What Causes Commercial Carpet Extractor Foaming?

Foaming in your carpet extractor is likely caused by one of two improper cleaning practices:

  • Using the Wrong Floor Cleaning Solution
  • Failing to Fully Remove All Cleaning Solution From the Floor

Using the Wrong Floor Cleaning Solution 

During any carpet cleaning procedures, selecting the right commercial cleaning solution is key.

Carpet extraction is the process of applying cleaning chemicals to your carpet and removing them using water and vacuum suction.

If you use the wrong chemical during the extraction process it can negatively react in the extraction machine and cause foaming in the tank.


You should NEVER use carpet shampoo with a carpet extractor. This is because carpet shampoo is meant to be used with a floor buffer with an attached tank. The agitation from the floor buffer allows the carpet shampoo to foam up and “shampoo” the carpet.

When used in a carpet extractor, carpet shampoo will fill the recovery tank with foam. Then, the foam can be sucked through the vacuum motor and drip dirty water back onto the carpet.

Always use a low foam extraction chemical when using a carpet extractor. 

Having the right combination of janitorial equipment and cleaning chemicals will ensure that you don’t experience any problems when your staff completes cleaning tasks.

Failing to Fully Remove all Cleaning Solution From the Floor 

Periodic carpet cleaning procedures, like encapsulation, can be used to prevent the attraction and build-up of dirt in your carpet. When done correctly, encapsulation can extend the time between deep cleanings.

Encapsulation is the process of using an encapsulant chemical on your carpet and working the chemical in with a floor buffer, sometimes referred to as a swing machine. The foam is then allowed to dwell and dry. Once the chemical has “encapsulated” the dirt in your carpet and dried fully, it should then be vacuumed away.

As with any periodic procedure, deeper cleaning, or restorative procedures will eventually need to be performed. Carpets will need to be extracted during the restorative phase.

While carpet extraction is effective for restoring the look of your carpet, it can lead to foaming in your carpet extractor tank because it uses water to clean your carpet. This can be problematic if encapsulation was recently performed.

This is because encapsulation is made for dry removal, as mentioned above. As a result, if there is leftover shampoo in your carpet it can cause foam when your carpets are extracted.

After performing encapsulation, it is critical to ensure that as much of the encapsulant is removed from the carpet as possible. If all of the encapsulation chemicals are not removed from the carpet it can lead to foaming in the carpet extractor tank the next time the carpet gets extracted.

How Do I Fix Foaming in My Commercial Carpet Extractor?

If you’ve noticed that your carpet extractor is producing foam in the recovery tank, you can apply a defoamer directly to your recovery tank before you begin cleaning.

Pro Tip: Never put defoamer in your solution tank. Defoamer can cause your carpet to become slippery and increase the risk of slips and falls in your facility.

Make sure you check the manufacturer’s instructions on your product label for the proper dilution ratio.

There is no dwell time for a defoamer since the defoamer eliminates foam on contact.

In some self-contained carpet extractors, you can feed defoamer directly into the suction wand in order to coat the hose and reduce foaming before the dirty solution reaches the tank.

Is There A Way to Avoid Foaming in My Commercial Carpet Extractor Tank?

The only way to avoid foaming in your carpet extractor tank is to make sure that you are properly using your machine with the correct extraction process. Proper use of your machine includes using the right cleaning chemical and performing the right cleaning steps. For more information on commercial carpet extractors visit:

Commercial Carpet Extractors: Types, Sizes, & Features

Final Thoughts

As with any piece of janitorial equipment, you could experience issues with your carpet extractor.

While some janitorial equipment problems require you to take your machine in for service, you can likely fix foaming in your commercial carpet extractor tank on your own.

Foaming can be caused by improper carpet extraction by using the wrong chemicals. It can also be caused by residual chemicals left in your carpets that can cause foaming when extracted.

If you notice foaming in your carpet extractor, it can be fixed by putting a defoamer in your recovery tank. You can put a defoamer in both your hose and the tank to eliminate foam as it enters your machine.

To avoid foaming in the future, make sure you and your staff are properly trained on how to use and maintain a carpet extractor.

Your staff should know which cleaning chemicals are compatible with your commercial carpet cleaning machine and the correct way to use them to avoid foaming in your carpet extractor.

In the event that you notice foaming in your commercial carpet extractor tank and need help fixing it, Imperial Dade locations have a wide range of commercial floor cleaning equipment and products, including carpet defoamer. Contact us for support.

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