Carpet Care 101
By Joanne Eglash
Although carpeting varies in price, quality, and texture, all carpeting has one element in common: it is subject to wear, tear, and stains ranging from wine spills to grease spots to pet pee! This article describes how to care for your carpet so that it stays in good condition.
The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) recommends vacuuming the areas that receive frequent footprints more than twice a week. Typical areas in that category include entrance ways, stairs, hallways, and (in most homes) the walkway to the kitchen. In addition, the entire carpet should be vacuumed at least 2 times a week.
If you have children or pets, the odds are high that they often track in dirt and mud. As soon as you note those common culprits, the CRI advises that you vacuum the area slowly, going with the direction of the pile and then reversing the direction.
Take the time to inspect your vacuum cleaner regularly, keeping the brushes clean and in good condition. The CRI also recommends inspecting the vacuum head, belts, and vacuum hoses for any rough edges or obstructions. Don’t forget to check the bag level: according to most manufacturers, the vacuum becomes less efficient when the bag is more than ½ to ¾ full.
You may want to hire a professional occasionally to do a thorough deep-cleaning. Ask friends, neighbors, and family members for references, and follow up by checking with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) before you ask the professional to come to your home to inspect your carpet and provide you with a quote.
Consider the Carpet Type
As Vice President of Training and Technical Support for restoration and cleaning company Rainbow International, Jack White oversees Technical Services, Training, and Research and Development. “Most carpets manufactured today in the US are totally synthetic,” notes White. The most popular fiber is nylon. It is “resilient,” so that it “will bounce back when walked on. It cleans easily and protective coatings have been formulated that make nylon carpet very stain-resistant.”
The ideal for most residences? “A 40- to 60-oz. nylon carpet with a 6- to 8-lb. cushion is a good carpet for most residential installations,” according to White. To take advantage of the protective coating on the typical carpeting, act promptly to clean up food spills. “Blot the spill immediately with water and an absorbent cloth. If you use a paper towel, make sure there are not prints on the towels as the colors might bleed onto the carpet,” White cautions. Not all stains are removed with just water and a cloth, however. Included among difficult-to-get-out stains are “mustard, pet stains, hair dyes, candle wax, some food dyes, furniture stains, etc. The removal of these stains might need the skill of a professional cleaner.”
President of the Carpet and Rug Institute, Werner Braun, recommends using the Spot Solver on the institute’s Web site (www.carpet-rug.org) to pinpoint the best way of tackling various spills and stains. Before you follow the directions for a specific type of spot, pre-test “the spot removal agent in inconspicuous area.” That way, you can check to see if the solution harms the fiber or dye. “After applying several drops to the testing area, hold a white cloth on the wet area for 10 seconds. Examine the carpet and cloth for color transfer, color change, or damage to the carpet. If a change occurs, another cleaning solution should be selected,” he advises.
After you have chosen the correct cleaning solution, put a small amount on a white cloth, let it sit for about 10 minutes, then gently work it in, moving from the outside edge of the spill to the center. Avoid scrubbing; instead, use a blotting motion. “After the spill has been completely removed, rinse the affected area thoroughly with cold water, and blot with a dry cloth until all of the solution has been removed,” says Braun. “Some cleaning solutions will cause rapid re-soiling if the solution is not completely removed. Apply a ½-in. layer of white paper towels to the affected area, and weigh down with a flat, heavy object. Continue to change paper towels as needed. A dry, absorbent, cleaning compound may be used as a substitute to accelerate drying time.”
Have a pet?
Braun offers the following special tactics for pet-owners:
- “Blot damp areas as soon as the urine is detected, with plain white paper toweling. Apply a solution of ¼ teaspoon of a liquid dishwashing detergent (non-bleach and non-lanolin) with 1 cup of lukewarm water. Do not use automatic dishwashing detergent or laundry detergent.
- Absorb the moisture with paper towel, rinse with warm water and repeat the application of detergent. Continue rinsing and blotting with the detergent solution and water as long as there is a transfer to the toweling or improvement in the spot.
- Follow the detergent application with a solution of 1 cup white vinegar to 2 cups water, and blot dry. Apply a ½-in. layer of paper towels to the affected area, and weigh down with a flat, heavy, non-fading object. Continue to change paper towels until completely dry.”
Regardless of the type of stain, the time will come to call in a professional. The institute’s Web site includes a section designed to “help the consumer in picking a reputable cleaning specialist,” Braun notes. Such an individual can also help you assess whether the carpeting needs to be replaced. “Carpet warranties cover up to about 10 years. The design life of a carpet is dependent upon the type of carpet and its make-up, but generally speaking, carpet usually lasts between 10 to 12 years,” he adds.
When In Doubt…
In summary, it’s worth the time needed to vacuum your carpet regularly and check for any soiled areas. If you do find any stains, be sure to test the cleaning solution on a small area of the carpet before you cleanse the entire area. And never scrub or rub; instead, gently blot the area, working from the outer edge of the stain to the inside.