Gritty dirt, such as sand, is the number one enemy of carpets as well as other types of floor coverings. Its abrasive nature (think how effective sand paper is!) can damage carpet fibers and wear down floor finishes. So, it’s important to place protective soil-trapping mats at all entries of your home and to vacuum regularly. Vacuuming alone, however, will not keep your carpeting from eventually looking dingy and discolored. Nor can it remove deeply embedded soil.
Professional carpet cleaners have many treatments and methods they can turn to, depending on the type of carpet fiber they are cleaning. Although several of these approaches have their place in the carpet cleaning industry, hot water extraction (aka warm water extraction or steam cleaning) is considered the best for deep carpet cleaning. After a thorough industrial strength vacuuming, warm or hot water – often mixed with a cleaning agent — is sprayed into the carpet pile. A powerful vacuum (sometimes truck-mounted and connected to the house by a long hose) immediately sucks up the solution, along with dirt particles that have been dislodged, and delivers it to a holding tank. A final rinse, followed by a second pass of the vacuum, removes any remaining dirt or remaining cleaning solution.
Other methods include various types of shampooing. Mild detergents, not unlike the shampoo you use on your hair, are applied to carpeting with bonnets, rotary brushes, or cylindrical brushes and are then removed with a vacuum. Typically, shampooing only cleans the upper portion of the carpet fibers. In addition, this method is more likely to leave detergent residue that quickly attracts soil and makes the carpet look dirty soon after it was cleaned.
The advantage of hot water extraction is that it uses little or no detergent or chemicals, so there are virtually no residues to attract soil once the carpet has been cleaned. Although some water remains on the carpet after cleaning, it evaporates quickly with good ventilation and the use of air conditioning or fans. The carpet should not be walked upon until it is dry. In some cases, a dehumidifier may be called for. Most carpet manufacturers recommend profession carpet cleaning using hot water extraction methods for their products.
Carpet and upholstery staining is made worse by delay. When a potential staining event occurs, react immediately. For semi-solid sources of staining, such as vomit or auto grease, scrape up material with a spatula and dispose of it. Then vacuum remaining residue and blot with a clean absorbent cloth or with paper towels. For liquid stain sources, blot immediately. Depending on the stain, follow up with an appropriate stain remover. Opt for the least toxic formulas first, such as hydrogen peroxide-based stain removers that can handle everything from blood to auto grease. Avoid using flammable solvent-base stain removers unless you’ve exhausted all other options. They bring harmful pollutants into the home.
When a spill or accident is not discovered for several days, stain removal is going to be a lot tougher. Call in a trained professional to handle situations where you feel you’re only going to make matters worse. In fact, many carpet warranties require that carpet owners hire professional carpet cleaners to remove stains.
Why to Avoid Doing it Yourself
The best carpet cleaning methods involve equipment that you can’t rent at your local home center. The equipment that is available can actually cause more problems than it solves, including yellowing, over wetting (setting the stage for mold growth), and fiber damage. It also increases the likelihood of leaving detergent behind, which causes carpeting to become dirty quickly.