Edited by: FSSA Staff
Set the vacuum at the right height
If your vacuum is set too low, you can damage the carpet as well as the vacuum's roller brush and drive belt. If it's set too high, you won't pick up any dirt. To set the vacuum's ideal height, raise it to its highest setting, turn it on and lower it until you can feel the vacuum trying to tug itself forward.
Dirt is like thousands of little blades that cut carpet fibers. When you walk across a dirty carpet, you grind sharp dirt particles against the yarn, making tiny nicks in the fibers. All that fuzz mixed in with the dirt in your vacuum cleaner bags is your beautiful carpet headed out the door one bag at a time. When dirt scratches the fibers, it dulls the sheen, which is why high-traffic areas appear duller than the rest of the carpet. Over time, grinding dirt wears away the fibers too, which mats them down and makes them stain more easily. Follow these tips to keep your carpet as dirt-free as possible.
To protect your carpet, vacuum entrance areas and high-traffic areas twice a week and the rest of the carpeting at least weekly. Oily soils attract oily soils, and frequent vacuuming will reduce soil buildup.
Start with a clean bag or filter
A dirty bag, dirt cup or filter can cut a vacuum’s suction power in half. The main reason bagless vacuums stop working is that the filters aren’t changed often enough. Replace or wash (if possible) the filters on bagless vacuums every three months. Replace vacuum bags when they’re three-quarters full.
Vacuum at the right speed
Vacuum slowly enough to get out as much dirt as possible. Make one quick pass over low-traffic areas and two slow passes over high-traffic areas. Two slow passes removes ground-in dirt more effectively than several fast passes.
Use walk-off mats
Use walk-off mats inside and out to keep dirt off the carpeting. Coarse-textured mats outside your doors remove soil. Water-absorbent mats inside prevent wet shoes on the carpeting.
Choose a pro wisely
Most carpet manufacturers recommend professional extraction as the primary cleaning method for synthetic carpets. Although it’s often referred to as “steam” cleaning, there’s no steam involved. The carpet is pretreated with a detergent solution, and then a very hot rinse solution under high pressure is forced into your carpet and vacuumed out. When done correctly, this process cleans deep and doesn’t leave behind a soap residue. Quality pros charge $300 to $500 to deep clean 1,000 sq. ft. of carpet. At that price, you might be tempted to skip professional cleanings altogether and just rent a machine to clean the carpet yourself. The best strategy is to use a DIY machine most of the time and hire a professional every 12 to 18 months.
Don’t take bids over the phone
Quality pros will provide references, an inspection and a written estimate based on the square footage, type and condition of the carpeting rather than the number of rooms cleaned, and a written guarantee of their work.
Beware of “discount” carpet cleaners
Discount pros depend on making volume sales rather than establishing ongoing client relationships. They typically spray soap on your carpet, suck up the water and are gone in 30 minutes. These services leave behind a soap residue that will actually attract dirt to your carpet. Those “three rooms for 50 bucks” offers also get them into your house so they can sell you high-priced add-ons like spot removal and deodorizers—services that quality pros include for free.
You get what you pay for
Quality pros charge according to the type of carpeting, the services you need and the size of the job. The entire process can take one to three hours.
Use DIY machines carefully
Hurrying through a cleaning will leave soap residue, a soaked carpet and a pad that can mold or mildew. Larger rental machines require you to pull them across the floor rather than push.
Carpet pros do a more thorough job than you can, but hiring a pro is expensive. So the next-best approach is to alternate between DIY and pro cleanings. DIY “steam”-cleaning machines can be effective if you understand how to use them and take the time to clean your carpet carefully.
You can rent a quality steam cleaner from a local commercial distributor, but if you are a commercial facility, it is recommended that you purchase the equipment.
If you prefer to buy a steam-cleaning machine, plan to spend $500 or more. The pricier models have more powerful water jets and suction, and some even have a heating element to keep the water hot. Do some online research (type “carpet cleaning machines” into your browser) and consult a local commercial distributor before you buy.
Most rental machines weigh less, hold less water and come with a narrower wand than purchased models, making them less useful for larger, high-traffic areas. Purchased models are usually larger and more powerful. Whether you rent or buy, avoid damaging your carpets and make your cleaning last longer by following correct proceedures.
Clean the carpet before it becomes really dirty
How often your carpet needs cleaning depends on the kind of carpet traffic you have. Clean the carpet when the color starts looking dull. If you wait until the carpet is filthy, cleaning it will be much more difficult, take much longer and cost more.
Vacuum well before and after cleaning
Vacuum beforehand to remove large particles of soil. Vacuum again after you clean and the carpet is completely dry to pick up soil that wicks to the surface during drying.
Pretreat stains and high-traffic areas
Remove or elevate furniture
If your furniture is too heavy to move, put aluminum foil squares, wood blocks or plastic film under and around the legs of all furniture to prevent rust from metal casters or stains from paint and finishes from transferring to damp carpet.
Don’t over-wet the carpet
DIY rental machines put a lot of moisture into the carpet, and most don’t have strong enough suction to extract it thoroughly. Make only one pass with the soap and water solution. Then make two or three drying passes with the water off.
Let it dry thoroughly
Wet carpet is a perfect environment for mold and mildew. After you clean your carpets, use a carpet blower and put the AC on a moderate setting (72 to 78 degrees) to remove excess moisture from the air. Don’t replace the furniture or walk on the carpet until it’s completely dry. This can take up to 12 hours, though six to eight hours is typical.
Clean stains right—right away
Don't dig or scoop food spills
Digging or scooping can work the stain into the carpet. If there are solids on top of the stain, use a spoon or dull knife to carefully scrape the food toward the middle of the spill and into a white towel and then treat the stain.
If you get to a stain immediately, there’s a 99 percent chance you can remove it. The longer a stain reacts chemically with the carpeting, the harder it is to remove.
Try water first
Eighty percent of stains can be removed using plain tap water. To remove a stain, press a clean, damp, white cloth over the stain to absorb the spill. Repeat until the spill is absorbed. Then gently work water into the stain with a damp white towel and blot until the stain is gone. Change cloths when necessary. For a particularly stubborn spot, utilize the expertise of you cleaning products distributor. Use a blower to dry the area if it’s very wet.
Blot—don’t rub or scrub
Scrubbing a stain will damage the fibers and create a fuzzy area. Always blot from the outer edge toward the center of the stain to avoid spreading the spot and creating a larger problem.
Work water gently into the spill and then blot with a dry cloth. Repeat until the stain is gone and all the water has been absorbed. If you’re patient, you’ll almost always be able to remove the stain.
Test commercial products first
Some products can cause carpet to get dirty faster or damage the carpet’s color and texture. For a list of carpet manufacturer- approved spot and stain cleaners, go online to The Carpet and Rug Institute. Test carpet-cleaning products on an inconspicuous area before using.
Follow the above steps and you can double the lifespan of your carpeting!
Carpet Maintenance 101.....
How to DOUBLE the life of carpeting!
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