Proper carpet maintenance can make the difference between enjoying your carpet well beyond a reasonable expectation to being frustrated with your carpet within a few short years after installation. In fact, the industry has a saying, carpet will “ugly out” before it “wears out” due to improper maintenance. Perhaps you’re a first time home buyer or have just moved out on your own and never contemplated the wonders of maintaining or cleaning your carpet and now you are suddenly faced with this responsibility. No worries, it’s really not that hard once you’re armed with proper information. So here are a few tips to help you keep your carpet in excellent condition.
WIPE YOUR FEET
Simply put, soil harms carpet. When soil is left to its own devices, the tiny particles rub against the fibers when carpet is walked on. This abrasive action causes fiber to break down resulting in matting, crushing, and fraying of fibers. While no one can completely prevent soil from finding its way into a carpet you can take some preventive measures to slow down soiling. Preventive measures include feet wiping, shoe wiping and shoe removal at the entry way.
Removing shoes upon entry is a friendly suggestion, but not always a priority or reasonable expectation especially for those in busy households; however, most soil is tracked into a home through shoes. So, if possible, start with shoe removal. To encourage compliance from family members, it helps to have a shoe rack readily available or predesignated location to store shoes upon entry.
Most everyone can keep a sturdy mat at the front door to wipe away the grit and help minimize the soil tracked in.
In dusty and windy areas, when possible, keep windows closed.
Even if these steps are difficult to adhere to, the good news is many carpet fibers can stand up to the challenges of soil if attended to with appropriate vacuuming.
Liquid culprits are dastardly opportunists seeking to permanently discolor your carpet. The longer they dwell the more likely they will penetrate the yarn causing the yarn to be forever stained. “Alas,” you declare, “I have a new fangled fiber with super strength stain resistance.” This is good news; yet, another problem lurks with certain liquid spills and that is unpleasant odor as usually associated with milk or- hmm, how to say this politely- pet mishaps, toddler mishaps, and other unmentionable mishaps. Furthermore, where there is a remotely sticky liquid, there is a soil attractant. Leaving a sticky substance on your carpet will reveal itself with an unattractive build up of soil a.k.a. “spots”.
How to attend to spills:
Keep a shop-vac handy for immediate extraction.
No shop-vac? Blot up spill using a clean, dry cloth. A white cloth is preferable to prevent color transferring to your carpet, but if a white cloth isn’t handy, make sure you are using a colorfast cloth. White paper towels work too.
Use direct pressure and restrain yourself from scrubbing and wiping. Scrubbing can damage the fibers. Circular or wiping motions can cause the spot to spread. Sparingly use warm water to rinse any residue out of carpet then repeat actions above until moisture is significantly reduced to the point that the carpet only feels slightly damp.
After following the steps above, using a fan will speed up the drying process. Opening windows, when climate permits, will also increase circulation speeding up evaporation.
VACUUMING A MUST
To some, the mere mention of vacuuming makes them cringe. While such phobia might make an interesting case study, the reality is that even those who are unafraid of wielding a vacuum seldom vacuum enough. Truthfully, routine vacuuming is essential to maintaining the textural appearance of your carpet and has the added benefit of freshening up your indoor air environment, but just how much vacuuming is enough? Good question! In an unofficial survey of carpet vendors, it is estimated that vacuuming should occur one day per week for every person living in the house. Translation: five people living in the house equals vacuuming five days a week.
All Things Considered
Take into consideration the activity that occurs on your carpet as well as your surrounding environment:
Do you eat meals or snacks in a carpeted room?
Is shoe wearing permitted on the carpet?
Do young humans inhabit the house who are completely oblivious to carpet maintenance?
Do you live in a dusty area or are susceptible to air borne particles from freeway traffic?
Do you have indoor / outdoor pets known to:
Shed copious quantities of fur?
Excavate the backyard garden?
Navigate the perils of tall grass?
Bear gifts of the day’s hunting expedition?
The more “Yes” answers multiplied by the number of people and pets in the house, the more frequently you should vacuum.
A common defect of most vacuum users is inadequate vacuuming. If you happen to be among the "single swiper" group (swiping the vacuum once over a room), then you can be sure abrasive particles are being left behind to grate at your carpet yarn. In order to attain to "super vacuumer" status (I'm sure that's a thing) a.k.a "vacuuming adequately", the question arises as to how many swipes should be made over the carpet with the vacuum? Considering that the majority of vacuums on the market today are bagless and have clear plastic canisters that allow the user to see just how much grit and dust is being extracted, then the simple answer is to keep vacuuming until grit and dust are no longer filling the canister. Of course, you need to dump the canister intermittently to check your progress. If you happen to have an old school vacuum requiring a bag, then all you can really do is check the fullness of the bag by its girth and determine beforehand to go over the carpet repeatedly.
My personal experience has been that there's always more dust in the carpet than I expect and I can track my progress easily since I have a bagless vacuum. I usually dump my canister before I start a new room and vacuum the exposed areas. I dump the canister again and repeat the process until I'm no longer extracting any new dust or particles in that room.
Choose The Right Vacuum
Not all vacuums are created equally and, surprisingly, some very powerful vacuums can literally damage softer yarns such as Triexta. A good vacuum typically has features that allow you to adjust the height, beater bar rotation, and fan speed. Vacuums with large wheels, self-propelled vacuums and/or specialty tools can also help ensure easy and effective carpet maintenance. Check with your carpet manufacturer regarding recommended vacuums particularly if you have a premium soft yarn or long pile such as shag. You can also refer to the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Vacuum Rating Chart. The CRI rates vacuums according to a vacuum’s ability to remove soil, contain dust, and cause minimal change to surface appearance. After testing, CRI categorizes the vacuums into Green, Gold, Silver, and Bronze ratings.
PROFESSIONAL CLEANING: Truck Mount Steam Cleaning Recommended
Think of carpet as clothing for your floor, after all, carpet is a textile, albeit a sturdier textile than typical clothing, nonetheless it is a textile so why not “wash” it as you would your laundry? Now consider how often you clean your clothes and compare that to how often you clean your carpet. Since carpet endures much tougher and abrasive wear and tear than clothing, it makes sense to maintain it with routine truck mounted steam cleaning. Professional cleaning will remove deeply embedded grit as well as air borne grease, and other environmental films, that settle on the carpet which are also known to cause moderate odors. When choosing a company for your cleaning, be aware that most carpet manufacturers require the carpet to be professionally steam cleaned using truck mount equipment at least every 18 months to maintain your carpet warranty.
Here is a quote from carpet manufacturer Shaw Floors:
"Research indicates that the hot water extraction system provides the best capability for cleaning. This system is commonly referred to as "steam cleaning," although no steam is actually generated. The process consists of applying a cleaning agent into the carpet pile and using water in the extractor to recover the used solution and soil. This can be done from a truck-mounted unit outside the home with only the hose and wand brought inside or by a portable system brought into the home.
KNOW YOUR WARRANTY
Shaw warranties require that the homeowner be able to show proof of periodic cleaning by hot water extraction (commonly called "steam" cleaning) by a professional cleaning service or do-it-yourself system..."
At any stage of a carpet’s life, proper maintenance and cleaning are essential components to extending the life and appearance of your carpet; however, it is particularly important to adhere to the manufacturer’s maintenance stipulations in order to meet the requirements of your new carpet warranty. If your carpet fails to live up to the manufacturer’s claims, be sure that the fault does not lie with you. Would you expect an automobile’s warranty to be honored if your new car engine failed after 50,000 miles of use because you never changed the oil? The same concept applies to your carpet warranty. Proper maintenance keeps your warranty active.