Carpet/Upholstery Cleaner

The Job and What's Involved

Carpet and upholstery cleaners use specialist cleaning equipment to clean carpets and soft furnishings in domestic homes, businesses and buildings such as schools, offices and hotels.

They clean all kinds of soft furnishings, including:

- Wall-to-wall carpets
- Curtains and drapes
- Seat covers
- Rugs, including silk and oriental rugs
- All types of woven upholstery fabrics
- Tapestries
- Leather and antique furniture

Carpets and upholstery need regular cleaning to remove stains and smells caused by day-to-day wear, grease, cigarette smoke, pets, mud, food and drink. As well as maintaining levels of hygiene, it is also suggested that regular cleaning may prolong the life of carpets and upholstery. These surfaces can attract pollen, bacteria and chemicals, as well as being breeding grounds for dust mites, fungi and fleas.

In addition to regular cleaning, carpet and upholstery cleaners may also be involved in specialist cleaning after incidents such as floods and fires. Some also carry out repairs such as stretching and re-fixing fitted carpets, replacing upholstery buttons, securing fringes on soft furnishings or replacing curtain hooks.

Before starting cleaning work, a carpet and upholstery cleaner visits the site to assess what sort of cleaning is needed and how much the job will cost. They usually put together a written assessment and quotation.

For carpets, the carpet and upholstery cleaner uses their specialist knowledge to decide on the most appropriate way to carry out the cleaning work, based on the type, age and condition of the carpet. The most common methods of cleaning are:

  • Applying stain remover or shampoo
  • Hot water extraction and steam cleaning
  • Brushing cleaning products into the carpet before later removing them with a vacuum cleaner.

For upholstery cleaning, the carpet and upholstery cleaner will select the appropriate cleaning system to use, based on the type of furniture, degree of soiling, wear and tear, and type of fabric. They may use a pH-balancing solution to remove deep down dirt.

Other processes include spot and stain treatments, applying odour-eliminating or anti-static chemicals, stain repellents and flame-retardant treatments.

They may work alone, with a partner or in a team of cleaners.

The hours of work can be long and may include evenings and weekends.

Carpet cleaners can be constantly on their feet, moving heavy furniture and equipment from room to room or up flights of stairs.

Carpet and upholstery cleaners normally drive to jobs, loading and unloading equipment and supplies, such as cleaning machinery, vacuum cleaners, cutting tools, hammers, irons and adhesives. Curtain cleaning may involve using a stepladder.

They wear protective clothing, such as overalls, gloves, goggles and face masks to prevent skin or lung irritation from chemical solutions.

The work may not be suitable for people with asthma, or allergies to dust mites or pets.

The starting salary for a carpet and upholstery cleaner may be around £11,000. When fully trained, carpet cleaners may earn up to £14,500 a year. Some specialist cleaners may earn up to £25,000 a year.

Overtime is often available and uniforms may be provided. Some companies offer a bonus scheme.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Carpet and upholstery cleaners may work for specialist or general cleaning companies that have contracts to clean carpets and upholstery in locations such as offices, shops and government buildings. Many carpet and upholstery cleaners are self-employed.

Vacancies may be advertised in local newspapers, newsagents, Jobcentre Plus offices and Connexions centres and on company websites.

Education and Training

There are no set qualifications to become a carpet and upholstery cleaner.

An Apprenticeship in cleaning and support services may be available.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Carpet and upholstery cleaners normally train on the job.

They may take courses such as:

  • NVQ Level 1 and 2 in cleaning and support services, including the unit carpet/soft furnishing cleaning.
  • Regular specialist courses from the National Carpet Cleaners Association for both new and experienced cleaners.
  • The British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) Cleaning Operators Proficiency Certificate (COPC).
  • City & Guilds Level 2 Award, Certificate and Diploma in cleaning principles.

It is also important for cleaners to keep up to date with the latest cleaning techniques and health and safety legislation.

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You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A carpet and upholstery cleaner should:

  • Have physical strength and stamina.
  • Pay attention to detail.
  • Know how to operate a variety of cleaning equipment.
  • Communicate effectively with customers.
  • Be able to follow instructions and routines.
  • Have a basic understanding of how fibres and carpets are constructed.
  • Have a basic knowledge of the chemicals used in cleaning.
  • Work well alone or as part of a team.
  • Work within health and safety guidelines.
  • Know how to make minor repairs to equipment.
  • Have basic numerical skills for calculating prices.

Your Long Term Prospects

There may be opportunities for promotion to supervisory and managerial roles.

Some carpet and upholstery cleaners progress by setting up their own business.

It may also be possible to buy into a franchise operation.

Get Further Information

British Cleaning Council (BCC Ltd),
478-480 Salisbury House,
London Wall, London EC2M 5QQ
Tel: 020 7920 9640
Website: www.britishcleaningcouncil.org

The British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc),
9 Premier Court, Boarden Close, Moulton Park, Northampton NN3 6LF
Tel: 01604 678710
Website: www.bics.org.uk

National Carpet Cleaners Association (NCCA),
62C London Road, Oadby,
Leicestershire LE2 5DH
Tel: 0116 271 9550
Website: www.ncca.co.uk

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