Everything You Need to Know About Cleaning Your Carpet

Cleaning your carpet involves just a little more than simply scrubbing or blotting, or steam cleaning. This guide gives the rundown on the pros and cons.

Having your carpet professionally cleaned is rarely something that is in the budget, generally waiting until there’s something really bad that happens like a massive water leak or a heavy spill. However, carpet manufacturers actually expect you to have a deep cleaning done on your carpeting and rugs every 12-24 months in order to keep from voiding your warranty. While this may seem like insanity to most families, vacuuming your carpet truly isn’t enough to keep it in good shape over the long run. Carpets really take a beating, and the fluffing action of a simple brush  over can pop the fibers back into shape and get the big chunks.


Indoor Air Quality

When you don’t deep clean (or even vacuum!) on a regular basis, your indoor air quality can really suffer. From the dust mites that abound to the allergens that ride in on your central heating and air conditioning, your floors act as a filter to grab up all the bad stuff floating around your home. When you vacuum, you may only be kicking them back up into the air, so going deep on a regular basis will really help your family stay healthy and promote friendly breathing habits. While hiring a professional steam cleaner is still the best option, there are ways that you can keep your carpet in shape between regular steaming sessions.


Carpet Cleaning Vacuum


Getting Ready to Clean

Once you get started deep cleaning your rugs and carpet, it’s so much easier if everything is out of the way so you’re not  having to walk back across wet carpet to move furniture.  


If possible, move all of the furniture out of the room you’re going   to focus on and go one room at a time, giving everything plenty of time to dry before you move furniture and heavy items back onto the floor. Once you’ve got a clean slate to work on, then start out with a heavy vacuuming - go over the floor a few times until you’re sure that you’ve gotten as much out of the carpet as possible.


Empty Room with Carpet


Checking for Colorfastness

Before you start breaking out the heavy-duty cleaning products, you need to make sure your carpet is going to maintain the full beauty of its color. This is especially important for darker carpets, as they can tend to fade if you clean them with anything other than steam or water and mild soaps. Find a spot that is not going to show up glaringly if it does fade, dampen a sponge with the cleaner you want to use, and then let it sit for around an hour. Blot with a white cloth, and if you see any dye on the cloth then you should probably avoid that particular type of cleaner and try something more gentle.


Woman Hands Rubbing Carpet


Steam Cleaners / Water Extraction Method

Most home steam cleaners work by mixing warm or hot water with cleaner and injecting this liquid into the carpet, agitating it, and then pulling the water back out of the carpet fibers. You want to get the most powerful cleaner that you can afford - renting a high-powered one if needed - to ensure that you get all of the water out of your carpet quickly. If your carpets do not dry within 24 hours with this type of cleaning method, then you are running the risk of getting mold or mildew starting to grow.


Close-up Of Vacuum Cleaner With Foam Over Wet Carpet


Safe and Dry

While a steam cleaner is arguably the most effective, there are dry extraction methods that work well, too. With dry extraction, a compound is sprinkled over the carpet to absorb odors and dirt, and then vacuumed up vigorously. The benefit of the dry extraction is that you don’t run the risk of having your carpets get too wet and shrink or grow mildew.


Dry steam cleaner in action.


Spot Cleaning with Style

There are some big no-no’s when you’re spot-cleaning your carpet, most notably scrubbing. The tendency is to want to scrub away at the spot to get it to come out of the fibers, but blotting is actually the best option! When you’re blotting your carpet, you’re allowing the factory-applied stain guard to do its job and keep the spill or gunk floating on top of the fibers instead of sinking in. Use a small amount of club soda or white vinegar on the stain and then blot gently with a clean, dry white cloth. This is another place where you want to be stingy with the water that you add to your carpet for cleaning - any extra water can sink into the pad and cause a funky smell and some big mildew or mold problems.


Close up of woman with cloth cleaning carpet


Fresh as a Daisy

If your carpets have been getting stinky from the smells of pets, cooking and just general dirt, then there are a few different options. First, you can go to the store and invest in a variety of cleaning products - some of which may be harmful if not toxic to pets and small children who are close to the rugs, or you could head over to your pantry and grab some baking soda. The simpler and cheaper option is best in this case, as baking soda sprinkled over your carpet and left for several hours will suck up those smells and leave your home smelling fresh and clean - not overly-scented.


Baking soda with vinegar, natural mix for effective house cleaning


Carpet cleaning can be a chore, but as long as you carefully test your carpet for colorfastness and keep it from getting too wet, you’ll be able to keep it looking great for years to come.

Images used with permission, courtesy of www.bigstock.com and www.dreamstime.com

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