Zero Residue Carpet Cleaning, Fact or Fiction?

zero residue carpet cleaning nashville pic

There is a carpet cleaning company that claims to leave zero residue behind after each cleaning. What’s interesting is that the cleaning solution they use contains Sodium Hydroxide, and when Sodium Hydroxide is applied to oil it creates soap! Knowing that human, pet and cooking oils are the most prevalent soils found in carpet, is their claim of zero residue fact or fiction? The following is a brief explanation as to how this company might actually create soap residue instead of leaving zero behind.

Simple, Age-old Soap Making Formula: Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) + Fat (Oil) = Lye Soap (Saponification)

1. Sodium Hydroxide: Their Active Ingredient 

“SafeWater B is an extremely effective saponifier…an affiliated carpet cleaner organization, uses EAU’s Empowered Water™ generators to create SafeWater B…” “The active ingredient in SafeWater B is Sodium Hydroxide…”


2. Oil (Fat): Humans, Pets & Cooking Oils

From the article: The Science of Carpet Cleaning: “Probably the least recognized, but most significant source of problem soil that builds on fibers comes from animal and vegetable oils…”   


3. Saponification: The Creation of Soap

“…saponification is a process by which triglycerides are reacted with sodium…hydroxide (lye) to produce glycerol and a fatty acid salt, called ‘soap’. The triglycerides are most often animal fats or vegetable oils. When sodium hydroxide is used, a hard soap is produced…”  



The claim of leaving zero residue behind is quickly debunked when the company itself states it can only remove up to 95% of its Sodium Hydroxide-based solution (quoted below). That means 5% Sodium Hydroxide-based solution is still in your carpet, not Zero. If any remaining Sodium Hydroxide saponifies with any remaining human, pet or cooking oils after the cleaning, it will result in the creation of crude soap residue.


Many carpet cleaners believe that several of the claims made in A Message From the Founders are misleading. Read through their quotes below to see if you feel their comments have merit.

10:35 – 10:55 “Our…wand is designed to completely rinse the entire carpet fiber with our empowered water, without the fluid ever touching the carpet backing. We recover 95% of our water while completely rinsing out all other soils and previous cleaning products thus faster dry times. There is no residue.”

  • The two statements, “We recover 95% of our water” and “completely rinsing out all other soils” contradict each other: If 5% moisture still remains after the cleaning that negates the claim of complete removal. If 5% moisture still remains after the cleaning so does the possibility of at least 5% additional soils, oils and Sodium Hydroxide-based solution.
  • “Completely rinsing the entire carpet fiber” without touching the carpet backing is inaccurate considering each carpet fiber is attached and glued into the backing. A similar claim would be to completely wash each hair on your head without getting your scalp wet.

10:09 – 10:32 “The entire industry uses the wrong products to clean with and can’t remove the dirt that is already in the carpet and because their toxic chemicals actually add soiling to the carpets their retrieval systems are wrong every time. Their flood-and-suck or spit-and-shine removal methods cannot completely remove the soiling leaving as much as 30% behind from each cleaning…”

  • It is unreasonable to believe that an entire carpet cleaning industry has been doing it wrong for so long when the answer was to simply create Sodium Hydroxide solution out of water.
  • It is also unreasonable to claim that an entire carpet cleaning industry cannot remove dirt from carpet.
  • Not all carpet cleaners use toxic detergents. For those that do, however, most toxic detergents are diluted to non-toxic levels prior to applying to carpet.
  • The company in question uses truckmounted extraction equipment similar to most of the industry yet they claim all carpet cleaners remove only 70% of soils while they can remove 100% of soils.
  • No carpet cleaning company can completely remove all carpet soils.

5:45 – 6:05 “Now when you put empowered water to that textile, it acts just like a detergent, but when you clean it back out we can get it all back out and it leaves absolutely a zero residue base. That carpet is clean just like it was from the factory- brand new and it appears brand new.” 

  • Used carpet fibers become scratched causing light refraction known as graying or abrading. It is impossible to clean used, scratched carpet fibers to “factory brand new” standards.
  • Getting “it all back out” and “it leaves absolutely a zero residue” is misleading as some of their solution remains in the carpet after the cleaning.

Other video, 00:23 – 00:33 “We simply use empowered water [Sodium Hydroxide-based solution] that goes in, grabs the dirt out of the carpet fiber – and that fluid acts as a detergent without the chemicals, without the residue.” 

  • Sodium Hydroxide is a chemical.
  • Sodium Hydroxide-based solution leaves residue if not fully removed.

7:02 – 7:17 “It is true that carpet cleaners offer a service of cleaning carpets; unfortunately, that is not what they actually do. While their methodologies allow them to pick up some debris, the fact is their process is to stir the soiling around… “

  • The Hot Water Extraction method removes soils from the carpet and places it into a waste tank, not the carpet.
  • Carpet cleaners remove significant amounts of soil, not “some debris.

8:45 – 8:59 “Our unique cleaning fluid. It is called electrolyzed oxidative water. We create this water through a proprietary machine. It is non-toxic and replaces the soaps and detergents that are used by all other cleaners.”

  • Their proprietary machine splits a water molecule so hydrogen atoms bond to added sodium molecules to create Sodium Hydroxide, yet the company continually refers to its cleaning solution as water. I suspect that if a competitor were to add Sodium Hydroxide to water this company would call it a toxic chemical.
  • It is likely non-toxic because it is highly diluted; however, Sodium Hydroxide in concentrated form is not only toxic but caustic.
  • Not all carpet cleaners use surfactant-based detergents.

8:59 – 9:09 “When detergents are left behind from cleaning, that detergent acts like a literal dirt magnet where carpet actually gets dirtier faster after each cleaning.”

  • This was moslty true decades ago when carpet cleaners used tallow-based soap to clean carpet. Today’s detergents do not include soap, but surfactants that do not contain oils or tallow. When cleaned by a professional carpet cleaning company, residue is not an issue.
  • Everyday living delivers significantly more soils than any residue from detergent that might be left behind.

9:09 – 9:25 “Our cleaning product is called empowered water, and it is able to emulsify oils and clean carpets as if it were a soap or a detergent. This water allows us to not add more toxic chemicals to an already overloaded carpet fiber avoiding the dirt-magnet problem.”

  • Saponify, the creation of soap from lye and oil, is a better description rather than emulsify.
  • Most carpet cleaning detergents that are toxic are also considered non-toxic when diluted as instructed prior to use.
  • Considering everyday living and gravity, carpet itself is a “dirt magnet.”

9:33 – 9:43 “[The Company] is committed to using green products. Everything we use is green and non-toxic. This allows us again to separate ourselves from the competition.”

  • This company uses the same chemicals to most carpet cleaners as proven by their own training manual: T-Rust (rust remover: Toxic), P.O.G. (Paint, Oil, Grease remover: Toxic), Red Dye Remover (Toxic), Citrusolv (detergent: Toxic).
  • Does electrolized oxidative water sound green?

12:22 – 12:30 “We strive to live the golden rule…to do unto others as we would have them do to us…” 12:50 – 12:59 “This is the capstone of our commitment to serve, to treat all people as real people not just as objects or as a means to an end. Not just a way to get a financial gain…”

  • Reading the inaccuracies above as well as a majority of previous employees’ reviews online tells a different story as to their business culture.


The amount of possible residue from surfactant-based detergents is insignificant when the service is done by an ethical and professional carpet cleaning company. Moreover, the soil that accumulates with everyday living is far greater than any residue that might be left behind. I hope this article sheds light on the ongoing marketing hype of zero residue carpet cleaning.