Whilst some homeowners might prefer the convenience and the low maintenance of vinyl and wooden flooring, there can be no real substitution for a comfortable, plush carpet when it comes to creating a warm and homely atmosphere. Not only does carpet (with a decent underlay, of course) feel better underfoot, but it makes a room seem that much more complete and tidy.
However, whilst those first few weeks after fitting might be a glorious honeymoon period, even the best quality carpet will, unfortunately, lose its lustre as time and heavy use takes its toll. Particularly in high footfall areas like the hall and the living room, even after a few months, you’ll find the carpet piles starting to drop and the underlay losing its support, not to mention the ground in dirt, the stains, the grime, the surface marks and the general wear and tear.
However, just because your carpet isn’t looking the way it did on day one, that doesn’t mean its original beauty can’t be reclaimed with the right care and attention. Here, we’ll be examining not only why carpet cleaning is important and how to keep your carpet from falling into a state of ruin, but which cleaning methods to use and, of course, how to clean carpets yourself.
How to Maintain Your Carpet
The best way to stop your carpet from falling into a state of disrepair is to keep on top of it and make sure you’re giving it the TLC it deserves on a regular basis. This will not only prolong its life but will improve the overall hygiene in your home and will save you money in the long run.
How to Keep Your Carpets Looking Good
Put doormats outside and just inside your front door to make sure any dirt is kept out of the home itself. Also, remember to wipe your feet thoroughly and to remove your shoes before stepping off the doormat onto the carpet.
One of the most obvious problems with carpeting, particularly with a living room carpet, is the heavy furniture resulting in dents and marks. To prevent this, use scraps of carpet or furniture coasters/protectors to keep the marks to a minimum. Alternatively, you could move your furniture semi-regularly to stop marks from setting in.
Make sure you vacuum at least once a week. Failing to do so will mean that dust and dirt particles that are sitting on the carpet will work their way into the fibres as footfall increases. Also, don’t be tempted to vacuum around your furniture, but move it where possible to get to those pesky spaces underneath. Whilst you’ve got the vacuum out, a little dust wouldn’t hurt either!
Whilst you should always treat stains immediately, be careful how you treat your stains. Remember to blot instead of rubbing and take your utensils into account too. Using a coloured tea towel on a stain, for example, could make the problem worse as you could actually transfer some of the colour from the towel onto the carpet. Hairdryers (used on a low setting) are a good way to treat mild stains, but for certain stains, there will always be cheap fixes. Red wine, for example, is diluted by white wine, nail varnish remover can be used on a makeup stain and ink can be removed with an alcohol-based hairspray. Vinegar and baking soda can also work if used sparingly.
Which Carpet Cleaning Method is Best?
There are a number of carpet cleaning methods to consider. Which is suitable for you will depend not only on your budget but your carpet and how much time you’re willing to spend.
Hot Water Extraction
Similar in principle to steam cleaning, hot water extraction works by applying detergent to the carpet, which breaks down the dirt embedded in the carpet fibres over a number of hours. A cleaner is then used that scrubs the carpet with a rotating brush and uses high-pressure hot water to lift the dirt from the carpet and into the machine. The carpet is then left to dry.
Dry Carpet Cleaning
This method uses a dry compound that’s brushed into the carpet and absorbs the dirt, dust and grime, which is then vacuumed up. This is a simple and less intensive method, but always test it on a small area first as the compound might not agree with your carpet.
Dry Foam Carpet Cleaning
This uses a blanket of foam applied after a dry clean that removes any lingering grease from the carpet. An ideal solution for carpets that are sensitive to water but still require a deep clean.
Shampoo Carpet Cleaning
As the name suggests, a shampoo is diluted with water and then applied to the carpet, which is then scrubbed with a brush, left to dry and then vacuumed. This method has fallen out of favour in recent years, as it usually leaves behind a residue that attracts more dirt, leaving your carpet in an even worse state.
Encapsulation Carpet Cleaning
This uses a synthetic detergent that lifts the particles from the carpet and forms it into a powder that can then be vacuumed. It’s generally preferable to shampooing, but the detergent isn’t that strong, so is only recommended in situations where the carpet requires only a slight clean.
These modern devices are built like traditional vacuum cleaners, but also use rotary heads and spray jets or steam to bring up the dirt as it’s moved back and forth by the user.
If the methods above have all failed to give you the finish you desire, or the staining is too severe (red wine, for example), then you might need to hire or purchase a domestic carpet cleaner. Cleaners such as the Rug Doctor use a water tank sometimes mixed with a detergent and the method is similar to hot water extraction or vacuum cleaning, only more powerful.
How to Clean Your Carpet
Once you’ve chosen your cleaning method, you’re first going to want to prepare your carpet for cleaning.
- First, remove any furniture that you possibly can. If there is no way to move it out of the room, try to put everything in the middle of the room then clean the middle later.
- Next, give the whole room a thorough once over with the vacuum cleaner to get rid of as much surface dirt as possible.
- Make sure any stains have been pre-treated and left to dry if possible.
Using a Powder Carpet Cleaner
Powder cleaners will vary depending on the manufacturer, but generally speaking, you’ll need to start by scattering the detergent over the surface of your carpet and letting it sit for at least half an hour. Then, vacuum the powder and repeat the process if you’re not happy with the results. Remember, the longer you leave the powder to work; the better the results will be.
Using Carpet Shampoo
Some shampoos will be pre-mixed but others will require diluting so make sure you read the manufacturer instructions before applying the shampoo to your carpet. In any areas where there are bad stains, scrub them with a stiff brush, being careful not to damage the carpet pile. Leave the carpet to dry, which could take a few hours, and then vacuum up the results.
Using a Carpet Washer
These cleaners can be a solid investment as they will generally provide a deeper clean that’s more thorough than other methods. As always, consult the manufacturer’s guidelines, but generally speaking, they work in a similar manner to a conventional vacuum cleaner. You will, however, need to make sure the tank is filled with clean water and that if there is a detergent container it is also filled with the right amount and the right brand of cleaner. Also, make sure you remove the dirty water tank when it’s full and work slowly and carefully, focusing on a few feet at a time.
Using a Carpet Cleaning Machine
Using a specialist machine such as a RugDoctor will be slightly different to using a commercial unit and are a great choice if there’s dirt in your carpet that just won’t budge. These machines are also often quite heavy, so make sure the handle is adjusted so it’s comfortable to use and make sure the tank is topped up with the correct amount of hot water and detergent. Walk backwards, pulling the cleaner and turn the machine off when you’re turning it around. When using, make sure to carefully read the instructions and don’t deposit too much water and detergent on the carpet; be sparing and work slow. When finished, leave the carpet for a good few hours and make sure the room is well ventilated and your carpet should be quite literally as good as new!
Does carpet cleaning work?
Yes, as long as you follow the tips and steps above!
How often should carpets be cleaned?
At least once a month if footfall is heavy and if you have small children or pets and they should, of course, be vacuumed two or three times a week.
How are carpets professionally cleaned?
If all else fails, there are numerous specialist carpet companies that will be happy to offer you a quote. They will use industrial compounds and machinery that should be able to recover any carpet, no matter how seemingly hopeless.
Does carpet cleaning remove pet urine?
A professional clean will certainly remove pet urine, but for some urine stains, you might need to buy a specific urine removal compound to get rid of the smell. Make sure you read our guide on choosing the right carpet for pets.
Does carpet cleaning kill bed bugs and fleas?
Steam cleaners should kill fleas and bed bugs, but carpet cleaners that don’t use steam won’t reach temperatures high enough to get rid of them.