Carpet Maintenance Tips

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Carpet is a warm and comfortable flooring material, but it also is a magnet for stains, spills and dirt. If you have children or pets, the problem is even worse. Dirty, stained carpet can make you want to throw your hands up in despair, tear up your flooring and start all over again with tile, but you don’t need to be so extreme. You can keep your carpet clean and attractive, extend its lifespan and help maintain a welcoming home.

Carpet care breaks down into three main categories: vacuuming, deep cleaning and stain treatment.

Vacuuming

Not only is the dirt and grime carried in on your shoes unhealthy, it also wears and tears at your carpet. Dirt and sand particles tend to be sharp, and abrade carpet fibers.

  • You should vacuum your carpets and rugs at least once per week, more often if you have a large family, lots of traffic, or shedding pets. A vacuum cleaner with a rotating brush or beater bar will remove the most dirt from your carpet, but if your carpet is made of wool, it is best to stick with suction only. The rubbing of a brush or beater bar can break wool fibers, creating a fuzzy appearance to the loop.
  • Your vacuum should have settings to adjust the height of the brush for your carpet’s pile.
  • Vacuum each room in sections, making multiple passes over each area of carpet.
  • Use the crevice tool of your vacuum to remove hair, dust and crumbs along baseboards, furniture and corners.
  • Pour a little baking soda into your vacuum canister or bag to absorb odors.

carpet maintenance tips

Deep Cleaning

Even if you vacuum several times a week, your carpet will still need periodic deep cleaning. The frequency depends on the traffic level of your home and the amount of staining and soiling in your carpet, but generally, you should have carpets deep cleaned at least every two years, and most likely annually.

Deep cleaning involves spraying a detergent specifically made for carpets deep into the pile of the flooring. Hot water is mixed with the detergent; many carpet cleaning machines will adjust the proportions of the mixture automatically. As the carpet-cleaning machine sprays the detergent mixture into the carpet, it vacuums the dirty water back up again, leaving fresh, clean carpet behind.

You can rent a carpet cleaner at most supermarkets or call professionals to tackle the job. If you have a large area of carpet, it can be quite a chore to clean it, so you might prefer to let the pros handle it.

The typical procedure for carpet deep cleaning is:

  1. Choose a dry, warm day to clean the carpets.
  2. Test a hidden area for colorfastness.
  3. Remove as much furniture from the room as possible.
  4. Vacuum the carpet thoroughly.
  5. Pretreat any stains.
  6. Attach the carpet-cleaning machine to a water source, and fill with cleaning solution.
  7. Start at the far corner of the room, and work your way towards the door, covering the carpet in even strokes in each direction.
  8. Wipe away any cleaning solution that sprayed onto large furniture left in the room.
  9. Open windows to speed drying time.
  10. Stay off the carpets as much as possible until they are dry.
  11. Replace furniture.

Spot Treatments

Even with regular vacuuming and periodic deep cleaning, your carpet will get spots and stains that require treatment. Food or drink spills, pet accidents, and tracked in mud or dirt are the most common mishaps your carpets will encounter.

  • When a spill or accident occurs, clean it up as soon as possible. The longer the offending substance sits on the carpet, the more difficult it will be to remove the stain.
  • Remove any solid material with clean paper towels, and then gently blot up any liquid. Do not rub or grind the substance into the carpet fibers.
  • While there are many commercial carpet spot removers on the market, you can often do the job with household, natural products if you treat the spot immediately. Blotting a spill with club soda will remove many marks.
  • A good solution that will treat many stains is 1-teaspoon mild detergent, 1-teaspoon white vinegar and 1 quart of warm water. Mix this in a mister bottle, spray on the spill, blot with a clean cloth, spray again, and let the mixture dry. Vacuum once the carpet is dry.
  • If something sticky like gum, cheese, peanut butter or wax spills into your carpet, hold an ice cube over the spot to freeze it, then pull away the mess. Use the detergent/vinegar mixture to remove any remaining stain.
  • For grease or oil stains, cover the spot with baking soda overnight. In the morning, vacuum up the baking soda, then use a clean cloth to dab a dry-cleaning solution to the stain. Blot until stain is gone, then blot the area with clean water.

You can help cut down on the general wear-and-tear to your carpets, as well as reduce stains and spots by:

  • Keeping doormats at all entryways
  • Declaring your home a no-shoes zone
  • Confining food and drinks to the dining area only
  • Laying a carpet runner along heavily trafficked hallways

Keeping your carpet vacuumed, periodically deep cleaning it and treating any spots or spills immediately will all go a long way toward keeping your carpets looking as good as the day they were installed. Though floor care might not be the most enjoyable household chore, the benefits will far outweigh the cost of your time and effort.

Last Updated: June 14, 2012
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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