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Carpets

Carpet Cleaning Basics
Cleaning Carpets
Carpet Stains

Carpet Spot Cleaning Tutorial


CARPET CLEANING BASICS

Carpet is everywhere! People who understand carpet know that its immense success and consumer acceptance is not due to chance. Few construction materials offer the advantages that carpet does. Carpet is colorful, comfortable and yet easy to maintain. Even though it appears expensive, it is often the most economical choice for floor covering. Carpet and rugs found on the floors of residences and commercial buildings still represent a substantial investment. In light of this, is it not wise to maintain them correctly?

Like all textile materials, the beauty and life of a carpet depends largely on the care that it is given. Proper maintenance can add years of attractive life. Specific maintenance procedures for carpet are determined by where the carpet is installed. In general, proper maintenance involves regular vacuuming and periodic cleaning by methods such as hot water extraction, shampooing, bonnet cleaning, foam cleaning, etc.

Regular vacuuming is essential as it removes particulate soil that damages the fibers. Vacuuming maintains the surface appearance of a carpet and keeps the level of soil in the pile at an acceptable level. Vacuuming should be done at least once every two weeks, preferably once each week and even twice per week in soiled or heavily trafficked areas. It is important to use a well-maintained, good quality vacuum. Vacuuming removes only particulate soil and surface dirt; therefore, other methods of cleaning are periodically required to improve the appearance of the carpet. Wet cleaning methods are better for removing oils, greases and other forms of matter that cause soiling on carpet. These methods are mostly used by professional cleaners and trained personnel, but smaller, less powerful units, can also be rented for use by customers.

Brief Description of Carpet Cleaning Methods

It has been said that ignorance is bliss. Sometimes, maybe, but not always. Before having a carpet cleaned, you may find it helpful to understand some of the carpet cleaning methods. The best method for cleaning a particular carpet is dependent on a range of factors. All carpet cleaning methods offer various advantages, but also have some limitations. No single method is superior to all others. Properly performed under appropriate conditions, each method can provide satisfactory results. Often, several methods can be combined to achieve the desired results. The following are some of the more prevalent carpet cleaning methods. (Note: There is no significance to the order in which these techniques are presented.)

Hot Water Extraction or "Steam" Cleaning

In this method, hot water cleaning solution is sprayed on the carpet and immediately extracted (along with the dissolved soil) by a wet vacuum. Extraction equipment can be portable or truck-mounted, the latter being more powerful in terms of spray pressure, heating capabilities and power of the vacuum pumps. Hot water extraction is often referred to as "steam" cleaning. In actuality this is a misnomer as the temperature of the heated solution never reaches the point to generate steam.

Shampooing

In this process, the cleaning solution is showered onto the carpet through several openings in a circular brush. The rotary action of the brush whips the detergent into a foam and provides agitation or rubbing action on the carpet. This suspends the soil, and the wet/dry vacuuming that follows removes it.

Bonnet Cleaning

This method resembles the shampooing process described above. It employs a rotary floor machine on the bottom of which is attached a round absorbent pad (shag pad). The detergent is sprayed directly on the carpet. As the machine is operated, the shag pad rotates on the carpet. This removes the soil as it is absorbed on the shag pad. The shag pad can also be moistened with detergent. When one side of the pad becomes soiled, the pad is reversed until both sides are soiled, at which time it is replaced.

Foam Cleaning

This system uses detergent in the form of a foam. Machines are available that generate foam, which is agitated on the carpet by brushes. The foam is then removed, with trapped soil, by an extraction-vacuum pickup.

Dry (Absorbent Compound) Cleaning

In this process the cleaning agent, an absorbent dry compound (containing solvents and detergents) is sprinkled on the carpet and worked into the pile by a machine. It is vacuumed off after about half an hour, removing the soil suspended by the compound.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD CARPET BE CLEANED?

As explained earlier, vacuuming alone, although essential, cannot maintain the appearance of a carpet at an acceptable level for long. Depending on various factors, the appearance of any carpet will ultimately reach an unacceptable level. At that stage, cleaning is necessary by one of the methods mentioned above. The frequency of such cleaning will depend on a carpet's use conditions, soil conditions, fiber type, constructional specifications, color, etc. In general, residential carpet requires cleaning within one to one and one-half years; certainly before two years of use (and possible abuse).

When deciding to have a carpet cleaned, consumers have two basic choices:
1) clean the carpet themselves by D-I-Y (do it yourself) rental units or consumer products, or
2) have the carpet cleaned by a professional/specialist in cleaning and restoration.

 

Do-It-Yourself Cleaning

Like most decisions, the choice between having a carpet cleaned professionally and D-I-Y cleaning is based frequently on financial considerations. Electing to use a rental unit rather than a professional cleaner may be penny wise and pound foolish. Before deciding to do it yourself, several points should be considered.

Contrary to common belief, carpet cleaning is an intricate process. When spots, stains and traffic patterns have made carpet unsightly, cleaning by D-I-Y methods may not enhance the appearance to the desired level. Consumers in most cases have had little or no previous experience operating the machines. Therefore, there is a good possibility of misuse and/or overuse. Machines can be rented for D-I-Y cleaning that utilize one of the various methods already mentioned (shampooing, hot water extraction, dry absorbent compound, etc.). Shampooing machines, for example, leave some residue on the carpet. If the carpet is shampooed many times the residue can accumulate leading to various problems, such as severe foaming on later cleaning, stickiness etc.

Rental machines that use hot water extraction ("steam") cleaning are the most popular for residential use. Successful cleaning by these machines is largely dependent on the experience of the operator. Improper use can leave the carpet overly wet, causing possible backing delamination, odor from development of mold-mildew-fungi, cellulosic browning, color run, shrinkage, and other related problems. This can happen especially in areas of repeated, high volume use, or "traffic lanes". One or two passes of the cleaning wand may not be sufficient to enhance the appearance of such areas. Attempts to clean them over and over again can cause overwetting and its attendant problems.

D-I-Y cleaning by the dry-absorbent compound method will not cause such problems as overwetting, color run, shrinkage, etc. But it, too, can mean some headaches. If the final vacuuming operation is not thorough, some of the powder will be left in the carpet pile. With repeated cleanings, enough cleaning compound can accumulate to cause some discoloration by its own presence.

The obvious conclusion is that carpet cleaning by D-I-Y methods is not a substitute for professional cleaning. It can, at best, merely postpone the need or reduce the frequency of professional cleanings. Rental units lack adequate power, and consumers usually lack the expertise to succeed in properly maintaining carpet and prolonging its attractive life.

 

Selecting the Right Carpet Cleaner

Having established that professional carpet cleaning is essential for extending a carpet or rug's attractive life, the next question is how does one go about choosing the right person or firm to do the job?

There is no magical, single method for carpet cleaning. All methods have advantages as well as disadvantages. Moreover, different people can achieve different results while cleaning the same carpet with identical equipment. No method can compensate for an inept operator. Therefore, it is more important to select the right cleaner than the right cleaning method.

Not all cleaners are alike. In fact, the difference in the quality of service from one cleaner to another can be astounding. However, with so many claims, counterclaims and a diversion of equipment and technology available, how do you go about choosing the right person or firm? It can be difficult because there are so many choices available. There are a few guidelines to follow that can help you make the correct choice.

 

1. Affiliation with Professional Organizations

Carpet cleaning is an ever-changing field. Each year new cleaning systems, cleaning chemicals and extra services are introduced. Good professional cleaners keep abreast of such changes and constantly improve the services they offer. It's much like medicine. Would you like to be treated by a doctor who is not aware of the new medications and advancements in their field.

Affiliation with professional trade associations goes a long way.

2. Recommendations

Ask the cleaner for names of previous customers. Gauge how reluctant or eager they are in granting your request. Call the references and find out about their cleaning experience. Ask about the cleaner's appearance, their manner of presentation, the condition of their equipment, their ability to answer questions, etc. Find out if the overall cleaning experience was pleasant and if they would go back to the same firm.

3. Better Business Bureau (BBB)

Check with the local BBB to find out if any complaints are registered against the firm you are considering. If yes, how good and efficient was the firm's response to the complaint? Did they remedy the problem to the consumer's satisfaction?

4. Watch Out for the Low End

Misleading advertising and glib sales tactics leave cleaners who offer quality service at a disadvantage. Advertisements promising carpet cleaning at unbelievably low prices (like $5.95 a room; or two rooms for $10.95) are prevalent these days. If you think they are too good to be true, you are probably correct.

Have you been left with an overwet and still dirty carpet? Have you ended up paying several times more than what you thought you would be paying? If yes, then you have had firsthand experience with such cleaners.

Quality service requires investments and takes time. It is not possible to offer good service at ridiculously low prices. Do not fall victim to low pricing or Bait and Switch tactics.

5. You can Contribute to the Success of a Cleaning Job

Cleaning chemicals and procedures can be altered to fit the specific needs of the carpet being cleaned. Describe the use and conditions of the carpet and all previous home and professional cleanings to your professional cleaner. For example, if the carpet has been shampooed several times before, it is reasonable to expect the presence of some detergent residue. With this information, your cleaner may change the cleaning solution to compensate for this.

If your carpet has stains, point them out to the cleaning crew. Tell them how long the stains have been there and what may have caused them. Some spots and stains, such as those from bleaches, urine, mildew, etc., may be impossible to remove even by the most proficient cleaner. Knowing about them will prevent disappointments resulting from unrealistic expectations.

Do not remove furniture protectors placed under furniture legs until the carpet is completely dry. Mahogany, redwood and other kinds of wooden furniture can bleed color onto carpet. Metal legs may rust if placed on the floorcoverings that are still wet.

Remember, if properly selected, your cleaner is an expert professional, so follow care instructions he leaves behind after cleaning. In order to insure the best appearance retention of your carpet, we recommend that you follow these simple suggestions:

1. Circulate the air to speed up drying time. If possible, slightly open a window to let in fresh air.

2. Do not allow children or pets to crawl or walk on cleaned carpet for at least 24 hours- preferably longer - until carpet is thoroughly dry.

3. Do not walk on freshly cleaned carpet for at least 4 hours or more until dry to touch.

4. Do not remove aluminum or plastic pieces that have been placed under legs of furniture until carpet is absolutely dry.

5. Vacuum after carpet is dry and then vacuum on a regular basis.

 

Protect Your Investment

Carpet, rugs, upholstery, and draperies are probably among your most important possessions. Chances are you have spent a good deal of money acquiring them. Protect your investments. Take the time to find the right cleaner. You will be surprised at the number of problems that can develop from a poorly performed cleaning job. Even though choosing the right cleaner won't guarantee the complete absence of problems, it will greatly reduce the chances. Selecting a good cleaning firm will insure the highest level of satisfaction.

Cleaning Carpets

  • If spot is wet, blot it, don't rub. Rubbing spreads the soil.
  • If spot is dry, loosen soil and vacuum away prior to moistening it.
  • Always rinse cleaned area thoroughly. If not removed, cleaning products may cause the cleaned area to attract soil.
  • When taking out stains, always use a white cloth.
  • Clean spots and stains immediately. You will have much better chance of removing them.
  • When using any cleaner, dilute according to direction. A mixture that is too potent may cause damage.
  • Not every stain can be removed. Consult your ServiceMaster professional for cleaning options.
  • Always pre-test the surface to be cleaned. Apply cleaning solution to an inconspicuous area of the same material. If, after five minutes, the material's color transfers to towel, try another product.
  • Carpet shampoo is good to have on hand and is available at most hardware stores.
  • A mild mineral spirit solution is useful for many household cleaning applications.
  • For wax dropped on carpet or upholstery, set a clean, absorbent cloth over the wax stain and hold a hot iron on it. Lift cloth away and the wax should be removed with the cloth.

Carpet Stains

  • Scrape off any solids. Blot up liquids quickly, dabbing lightly with a clean white towel or paper towel.
  • To remove greasy stains, apply a nonflammable dry-cleaning agent to the spot with a white towel. Work from the edges toward the center. Don't scrub. Dab gently until the spot comes clean. Always pretest any cleaning agent on an inconspicuous part of the carpet and let it dry before continuing.
  • Coat less stubborn greasy stains with aerosol shaving cream or carbonated water. Use a hair dryer to speed dry. Then vacuum.
  • Sprinkle a greasy stain with baking soda, cornstarch, cornmeal, or talcum powder. Leave on at least 6 hours, then vacuum.
  • To remove water-soluble stains, apply some detergent solution (1 1/2 teaspoon mild detergent per pint of water), working from the edges to the center of the stain. Place several layers of white tissues or paper towels over the spot and weight down with books or pots and pans. Let stand about one hour. Replace with fresh tissues or towels and leave overnight. Then fluff up the carpet pile with your fingers.

Nail polish

Follow the tips listed below (in order) until stain has lifted from your carpet: Apply small amounts of the cleaning solution with a clean, white, absorbent towel. Continue to apply and blot frequently until the staining material is no longer transferred to the towel.

Tip 1:
Apply a small amount of dry cleaning solvent or alcohol (available at grocery, drug and hardware stores). Use small amounts to prevent possible damage to sizing, backings or stuffing materials. Do not use gasoline, lighter fluid or other flammables.

Tip 2:
Mix one-half teaspoon of white neutral detergent (a mild dishwashing dish washing detergent containing no strong alkalis or bleaches), with a cup of lukewarm water.

Tip 3:
Mix one-third cup of white household vinegar with two-thirds cup of water.

Tip 4:
Mix a solution of powdered enzyme laundry detergent following the label or box instructions. Allow the solution to remain on the stain for the length of time recommended by the manufacturer.
The final step is to blot any remaining moisture or cleaning solutions by pressing or padding the area with absorbent towel. Weight it down and allow at least six hours to dry.

 

Shoe polish

Follow the tips listed below (in order) until stain has lifted from your carpet: Apply small amounts of the cleaning solution with a clean, white, absorbent towel. Continue to apply and blot frequently until the staining material is no longer transferred to the towel.

Tip 1:
Apply a small amount of dry cleaning solvent or alcohol (available at grocery, drug and hardware stores). Use small amounts to prevent possible damage to sizing, backings or stuffing materials. Do not use gasoline, lighter fluid or other flammables.

Tip 2:
Mix one-half teaspoon of white neutral detergent (a mild dishwashing dish washing detergent containing no strong alkalis or bleaches), with a cup of lukewarm water.

Tip 3:
Mix one tablespoon of household ammonia with one-half cup of water.
The final step is to blot any remaining moisture or cleaning solutions by pressing or padding the area with absorbent towel. Weight it down and allow at least six hours to dry.

 

Furniture stain

Follow the tips listed below (in order) until stain has lifted from your carpet: Apply small amounts of the cleaning solution with a clean, white, absorbent towel. Continue to apply and blot frequently until the staining material is no longer transferred to the towel.

Tip 1:
Apply a small amount of dry cleaning solvent or alcohol (available at grocery, drug and hardware stores). Use small amounts to prevent possible damage to sizing, backings or stuffing materials. Do not use gasoline, lighter fluid or other flammables.

Tip 2:
Mix one-half teaspoon of white neutral detergent (a mild dishwashing dish washing detergent containing no strong alkalis or bleaches), with a cup of lukewarm water.
The final step is to blot any remaining moisture or cleaning solutions by pressing or padding the area with absorbent towel. Weight it down and allow at least six hours to dry.

 

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