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How are we certified? Who certifies us?

Recently we received this great question: Who and what makes us “certified” to be a professional cleaner?

With my answer, rather than looking only at certifications I’ll cover equal, and in many cases more important subjects. Before I begin, it’s imperative to know that carpet cleaning is not a licensed trade, like say a builder’s license. Many states require a business license, but none require a cleaning or restoration-specific trade license. This is important because literally anyone can call themselves a “professional cleaner”, even if they only own a mop, bucket, some carpet cleaning products, and a Shop Vac. Legally, they aren’t in the wrong by their claim. That being said, certification is optional and does not preclude or exclude anyone from rightfully calling themselves a “professional cleaner”. So perhaps that’s the more important question: “What is a real professional cleaner?”

Let’s first let’s look at certifying bodies. There are a handful of independent certifications recognized by those who have chosen carpet cleaning, rug cleaning, and/or restoration as a career:

1. The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC)

2. The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI)

3. The Restoration Industry Association (RIA, formerly ASCR)

4. Woolsafe There are lots of other certifying bodies; however, those are the 4 big independent certs in the professional cleaning/restoration industry. Alright, now here’s where I get controversial. Like everything else in life, there is a good and a bad side. Certification is no different.

The Good

  • Generally-accepted safe and proper cleaning chemistry and methods are taught
  • Some IICRC certs are ANSI accredited
  • CRI certifies cleaning products, equipment, vacuums, and technicians
  • Woolsafe certifies safe cleaning products and technical training for wool rugs and carpeting
  • RIA focuses on the restoration industry (water, mold, fire/smoke damage, etc)
  • The attending technician will learn a lot from trainers and fellow classmates, *if he/she is interested

The Bad

  • Lots of politics to maneuver
  • If you don’t pay your annual fee you’re suddenly un-certified
  • In the case of IICRC, only if you pay an additional fee will your company name be listed as a “Certified Firm”. Other than Master Cleaner and/or Restorer, Certified Firms are the only referrals given out by IICRC, even if you’ve taken every single course multiple times and passed every test
  • Some bosses require their technicians to attend and are only there because their boss makes them *(i.e. – they gain little or no actual knowledge because they do not want to be there)
  • Certification does not equal: competency, experience, professionalism, honesty, or integrity


With all of that, let’s look at the bigger picture as I mentioned above: “What is a real professional cleaner? To me it means one must possess all of the traits I listed above: Competency, experience, professionalism, honesty, AND integrity. You can’t buy or gain certifications to acquire those characteristics. Now yes, training and certification can /help/ one become proficient at cleaning and/or restoration, but certification does nothing for experience, professionalism, honesty, and integrity. We had been long-time proponents of IICRC, and several of us in my company have taken and acquired Master Cleaner status over the years. However, we choose not to pay-to-play, and therefore our highly experienced and proficient technicians aren’t recommended by IICRC. And that’s fine by us. We attend courses to learn and interact, and a piece of paper means nothing to us, to be quite frank. We are certified by Woolsafe, but only because we enjoy the fact that they are smaller, more approachable, and we believe in their mission. Our cleaning and odor removal product, “Stain Fu”, is certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute because we believe it is important to show our potential buyers that it has been independently tested and proven to be safe and effective on carpet. Thanks again for your great question!

Scott Rendall
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