Believe it or not the average Americans carpet only lasts 8- 10 years with typical and consistent care. Whether it’s from wear and tear, staining, or just dated décor decisions you are most likely to get rid of you carpet within a decade.
That’s not to say that I don’t see households with twenty year old carpet. Vacuuming is recommended daily for traffic spots and getting to a stain is critical to avoid irreparable damage once it soaks in. Lastly, put a good foundational pad under your carpet and you should see its life extended.
How often should I clean my carpet?
At the very least, every 18 months. Most carpet manufacturers recommend cleaning with the hot water extraction method every year, and if your carpet is subject to very heavy traffic (such as in an office or a business) you should consider having us out to clean it every one to six months.
This applies whether your carpet looks dirty or not. For more on this, and other ways to maintain your carpet, see the Caring for Your Carpet.
Vacuuming your carpet at least once a week, preferably twice a week, is one of the best ways to maintain your carpets’ quality. Even if it does not look dirty, your carpet needs to be vacuumed. Very small sand, clay, and quartz particles are constantly tracked in by people and animals. These particles settle to the bottom of the carpet where they rub against the fibers almost like sandpaper. Regular vacuuming will remove these particles and lengthen the life of your carpet.
Carpets are also a very effective collectors of pollutants and allergens. Vacuuming will help remove these particles and prevent them from building up and affecting the air quality of your home or business.
We recommend a vacuum cleaner with a beater bar or rotating brush and good suction. Make sure to change bags and filters regularly—even a partially full bag begins to decrease the quality of suction. If you don’t have time to properly vacuum all of your carpets as often as you should, make sure to at least hit the heavy traffic areas.
Prompt Spill and Spot Cleanup
Even with the new stain resistant carpets, it is important to clean up spills and spots immediately. The first thing you should know about cleaning spots is what not to do. Never use all purpose spray cleaners, bleach, or alkaline soap. That spray bottle of carpet spotter you got from the grocery store may seem to do a great job cleaning up spots, but you are most likely damaging your carpet in the meantime. One thing we hate to see is bleach stains that appear when we are cleaning a carpet. These stains are almost invariably the result of someone trying to use spray cleaners or harsh soaps to get spots out. Once you have damaged your carpet with one of these products, there is essentially nothing you can do—a bleach stain will appear sooner or later.
As to what you can do to get rid of spills or spots, there is one important thing to remember: blot, don’t rub. Rubbing will damage the carpet fibers, as well as spread the stain. If you are cleaning up a first spill, use a clean, dry white rag or paper towels. Start of the outside edge of the spill and work your way in, continually refreshing the surface of your towel by rotating or replacing it. When the liquid seems like it is almost all absorbed, keep checking the surface of your towel. As long as color is transferring from the carpet to the towel, you are still getting liquid from the carpet. Keep blotting until there is no transfer. If there is solid material in the spill, scrape it up gently with the edge of a spoon.
The next step for a spill, and the first step for a dry spot, is to apply a small amount of warm (not hot) water, and soak it up with a dry towel. Continue doing this until you are no longer getting transfer to the towel. If spotting remains, apply some warm water with a small amount of mild, non-bleach laundry detergent, and blot it up. Repeat this until you are no longer getting transfer. When the spot is gone, or you’ve absorbed as much of it as possible, rinse out the soap by applying clean warm water and blotting it up. Be sure to rinse the soap out. Soap’s job is to attract dirt to itself and it will continue doing its job even if it is dissolved in your carpet, creating a new spot where you just worked to get rid of an old one.
Absorb the remaining moisture in the carpet by placing some white paper towels on top of the wet spot and weighing them down with a non-staining object (such as glass or ceramic) and leaving it overnight. The next day, run the vacuum cleaner over the area to restore the proper texture to the carpet. If the stain reappears, or if you couldn’t get all of it out, contact us. You need professional help (or your carpet does, at least). Speaking of which…
Regular Professional Cleaning
Get out the warranty for your carpet. What? You don’t know where it is? That’s okay, we’ll tell you what companies such as 3M Scotchgard™, DuPont Stainmaster®, and Solutia Wear-Dated® say in their warranties about professional carpet cleaning. They say you should have your carpet cleaned by a professional carpet cleaner at least once, maybe twice, every year. They specify that you should hire a cleaner that uses the water extraction method, and some even say that you should save the receipts because, if a warranty issue arises, they will want to see that you have been properly caring for your carpet using professional hot water extraction cleaners.
Why do carpet manufacturers put so much stock in professional, hot water extraction cleaning? Because it’s essential to keeping your carpet in good shape. And just like vacuuming, it should be done whether the carpet looks dirty or not. Your vacuum cleaner only goes so far.
What’s that you just mumbled under your breath about renting one of those portable units from the hardware store? Isn’t that good enough? Well, a professional cleaner will have a truck mounted machine that heats the water to around 200º. The engine in that machine creates a powerful, penetrating spray along with powerful suction to extract that water (and the dirt that’s dissolved in it) back out of your carpet. Remember what we said earlier about how detergent remaining in your carpet can bleach it and/or attract dirt? That is especially a danger with portable units that simply don’t have the power to properly heat or extract the water.
Even worse are foam, powder or rotary methods that tend to leave a large amount chemical residue. It looks clean when they are done, but the soap and chemicals left in the carpet simply do what they are supposed to do and quickly attract more dirt to your carpets. This soapy residue can spots to reappear and may actually be hazardous to chemically sensitive people.
Cleaning is really a secondary element of “carpet cleaning.” The primary element is the maintenance of your carpet. If your carpet is dirty, hot water extraction is certainly a great way—the best way, in fact—to get it clean. But carpet manufacturers recommend regular hot water extraction for the same reason that auto manufacturers recommend getting regular oil changes. It extends the life of your purchase.
Hot water extraction restores the proper texture of your carpet. The water and the heat reset the twist of the fibers, and regular treatment by a carpet care professional will extend the life of your carpet by keeping that texture refreshed. It will also extract the pollutants, chemicals, allergens, and dry particle soil that your vacuum cleaner is not powerful enough to get out.
When you look at the cost of the items in your house, it’s likely that your carpeting is one of the most expensive. You can protect that investment with regular maintenance. It actually saves you money in the long run, because your carpets will last longer.
Original content posted on CarpetCareExperts.com