Carpeting can be one of the most expensive investments inside the home. Unfortunately most homeowners make costly mistakes with the care and maintenance of their carpeting. One bad cleaning job on a carpet can ruin it for good, yet many homeowners will hire a cleaning company based strictly on a price alone. So that $14.95 per room deal just cost them thousands of dollars worth of carpeting. Unfortunately the homeowner may not even be aware the carpet is ruined, all they know is it just doesn’t quite look as good as it should.

Today’s carpets are better than ever. They are made to last for years. But like anything else, carpeting needs proper maintenance and care in order to get the most out of it. The following questions and answers are intended to educate the homeowner on some crucial points they should know, and probably don’t.

What’s the most important thing I can do for the care of my carpet?

1. Vacuum, Vacuum, Vacuum. You can never over vacuum a carpet. It is best to use an upright with a beater bar adjusted at the proper height. Try to vacuum east and west if the direction of traffic is north and south and vice versa. This will reduce “corn-rowing” which is a wear pattern that develops from constantly walking one direction on the carpet. (Corn-rowing can be compared to wash-board on a dirt road.) Try to vacuum near entrances to your home more often, this will keep soil from tracking into the rest of the home.

2. Use good doormats. When I say good, I don’t mean the small 2’X3′ welcome mats. The bigger, the better. Outdoor patio carpeting is excellent for saving indoor carpet because it allows several steps to clean off shoes. Runners are good for high traffic areas. Also, they can be replaced less expensively than carpet installations.

3. Clean spills promptly. Most spills can cause discoloring or permanent stains if not cleaned promptly and for carpets. Never use Fantastic, Simple Green, Windex, etc, or any other cleaners that aren’t specifically intended for carpets. These cleaners may cause discoloration and can strip the protection off of your carpet. Blot firmly with a white paper towel or terry cloth and never scrub a spot. Scrubbing alters the texture of most carpets.

Can I clean my carpet with a Bissell, Hoover or any other Steam Vac on the market?

Yes! The new steam-vac are ideal for self cleaning carpeting BETWEEN professional cleanings. Bissell’s can remove the soluble dirt your vacuum can’t. However, be sure not to over-wet your carpet and make several dry strokes. Mix the cleaning solutions exactly as directed. Too much soap residue left in the carpet will attract more dirt and you will have wasted your time. Remember, clean once, rinse twice. Don’t expect to deep clean with these machines. If your carpet is severely soiled, it would be advisable to hire a professional using a truck-mount unit. Then maintain between professional cleanings with a personal steam-vac. Cleaning near doorways and entrances more often can keep soil from spreading into the rest of the home.

Can I use the spray foam cleaners on my carpet?

NO! Spray foam cleaners will leave an unnecessary residue in your carpet and has very little cleaning benefit. These foams can be extremely difficult to remove from the base of the carpet shafts. Don’t waste your money. Also, carpet-fresh powders and granules are equally as bad. Powders will stay in your carpet and can cause sinus problems, increase the indoor air pollution and gives little benefit other than smelling good. Any cleaners used on your carpet (or upholstery) should be rinsed out during the cleaning process!

What are the worst culprits for my carpet?

Dirt, rocks, and dust particles can get embedded into the carpet and become abrasive causing premature wear. Frequent vacuuming is the most crucial part of prolonging carpet life because it removes these non-soluble culprits.

Acne medicines and skin products – some contain bleaching agents. Once carpet is bleached it must be dyed by a professional and is very expensive. Household cleaners- tile, toilet bowl, drain and oven cleaners contain strong acids or alkalis that can cause permanent stains.

Chlorine bleaches – mildew removers and swimming pool chemicals will cause yellowing spots.

Pesticides – can cause discoloration and accelerated sunlight fading as will pet shampoos and flea and tick collars. Pets- for obvious reasons, can destroy your carpet quickly and effectively.

Plant foods – leaking flower pots will leave a permanent rust colored stain.

Incompetent cleaning services – Many cleaning services will over-wet your carpet causing delamination. Some may use brushes or buffers that can cause severe pile distortion. Should they use a chemical with pH over 10 they can strip the built-in protection off of your carpet. Soap residue- Most carpets today have the same problem. It’s loaded with soap from improper cleanings.

Unfortunately the owners of these carpets are frustrated and unaware of why their carpet stays dirty. Some may even give up hiring a cleaning service because they are tired of wasting money with disappointing results. A true professional cleaning company will use a minimal residue process as recommended by carpet manufacturers.

How do I choose a professional company to clean my carpets?

There are hundreds of carpet cleaners in business today. There are three main methods used for cleaning and they all claim to be the best method.

Here are the facts:
Chemical Dry Clean: Granules are soaked in a cleaning compound, rubbed into your carpet and vacuumed up. This method leaves a residue which will attract soils and is relatively ineffective as a thorough cleaning process. This method is used primarily as a maintenance program on commercial carpets.

The Bonnet Method: Carbonated cleaning compound sprayed onto your carpet and buffed with cotton pad under a floor buffer. This method is effective on very short-napped commercial carpets commonly found in theaters, airports, etc. because it is considered a topical cleaning method. However, this method may leave a residue which attracts soil and should not be used on most residential carpets. Floor buffers can also cause pile distortion on many carpets and void the warranty. This method, for obvious reasons, cannot extract a sufficient amount of soil. You can experiment with this method on your hair. When you wash your hair, lather real good, don’t rinse, then towel dry your hair. When it dries, vacuum thoroughly. This is the same principal as dry cleaning your carpet.

Hot water extraction: The method recommended by virtually all carpet manufacturers Most professional carpet cleaners using this method will spend thousands of dollars on truck-mounted units which provide high heat and up to 10 times the vacuum as the portable types. When done properly, most homeowners are nothing short of amazed with the results of a cleaning job performed with a truck mount. A proper cleaning job utilizing a truck mount will leave the carpet barely damp and is usually dry within two to six hours. Virtually all carpets should be pretreated with a specifically developed product which is non-cationic and has a pH of less than 10. The carpet is then hot water extracted with a rinsing solution for the same obvious reasons that you would rinse your hair or clothes.

So all companies that use a truck mounted unit can be trusted to clean my carpet?

Absolutely not – Truck mounts are only a tool. Improper training, improper maintenance of equipment, chemicals used, and bait and switch tactics can be the difference between an excellent company and a fly-by-night company. The best way to find a reputable company is by word of mouth. Ask several people who you think may know of a good carpet cleaner. Here are more tips on choosing a professional carpet cleaner:

1. Try to use a local company that has a proven track record in the immediate community and get references.

2. Ask if the company is bonded and insured and if they provide a written guarantee.

3. A good company will give you a price before they start and not try to add on charges before or after the work is completed. Get a written, exact quote, with a guarantee of your satisfaction.

4. Look at the company’s van, equipment and uniforms. Chances are a company that takes pride in its appearance will reflect that pride in the work they do for you!

5. Never hire a company that phone solicits or offers questionable deals like $14.95 per room. If you receive an ad in the mail that reads $14.95 per room, read the fine print! It may read like this: “Soiled carpets will require pre-conditioning for an additional .20 cents per square foot, nominal travel charge applies, truck mount available for additional fee, move furniture extra.” By the time they’re done with you, you’ll pay $50 to $60 dollars per room for a lousy job!! These companies are interested in your money and could care less about your carpeting. Some good companies are turning to phone solicitation as a means of acquiring new customers but this has been practiced for years by the bait and switchers. A truly excellent company is busy answering their phone! Besides, aren’t you sick of phone solicitors by now??

6. You can hire companies referred by the Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, and various trade organizations like the IICRC. However, these organizations cannot guarantee the work of their members. Memberships in most organizations can be bought. The IICRC member must pass a test to become certified with this organization. Beware of bait and switch companies who have gained this certification for advertising purposes only.

7. You can expect to pay between .25 to .40 cents per square foot of carpet space depending on the amount of furniture you want moved. If you pay more than this you’re probably being soaked. If you pay less, they may be cutting corners somewhere. If they charge you by the room, you can expect to pay between $20 to $25 dollars per room or area.

Although I have just tipped the iceberg on the subject of carpet maintenance, I sincerely hope I’ve convinced more homeowners to pay closer attention to one of the most expensive investments in their home. And, by the way, did I mention the most important single thing you can do for the life of your carpet? VACUUM, VACUUM, VACUUM!!!!!