Mistakes happen, and when it comes to owning a carpet or rug, mistakes usually mean stains. The plush softness of carpet and rugs comes with a price: the time and care required to clean them. Cleaning your carpet or rugs can require some extra work and special techniques that differ from typical hardwood or tile floors. In some cases, you may even need to hire a professional to get the best results.
For minor stains or routine cleaning, it's possible to effectively treat a carpet or rug yourself. If a thorough vacuuming doesn't get rid of dirt in certain areas, here's how to tackle them on your own.
A number of liquids can stain carpet or rug materials, including wine, coffee, nail polish, or blood, to name a few. Depending on what caused the stain, the carpet or rug's material, and how long it's been there, you may need to use different techniques or cleaning supplies to get rid of it. In general, though, keep the following ground rules in mind for stain removal:
- Apply a cleaning solvent directly on the stain, if needed, and allow it to soak in for a few seconds.
- Use a damp cloth to blot the spot. Don't scrub or apply too much pressure, as this might only further embed the stain into the carpet or rug.
- Rinse the cloth and continue blotting until the stain is removed.
Take these steps to remove a stain as soon as possible to prevent drying.
Some stains may come out with little more than water or a mild soap. More serious stains may require a solvent to make removal easier. The best solvent to use depends on what caused the stain.
-Water-soluble stains: These include berries, cola, food dye, jelly, mud, washable ink, or wet paint. Mix a solution of 1/4-teaspoon nonbleach detergent (or white vinegar) with 32 ounces of water.
-Dark water-soluble stains: Chocolate, coffee, mustard, tea, wine, and bodily fluids often stain much more readily than other water-soluble materials and need a different solvent. Use 1 tablespoon of ammonia mixed in 1 cup of water first. If this doesn't work, try combining one part chlorine bleach with five parts water. These solvents may remove color from certain fabrics like wool, so check with the manufacturer for the best cleaning method.
-Oils and waxes: This would include glue, gum, nail polish, and cigarette residue. The best way to clean each of these varies - some may need to be simply scraped off or, if possible, frozen to make it brittle and then chipped away. Most glue can be dissolved and removed using a solvent like rubbing alcohol. Nail polish may also be dissolved using rubbing alcohol or with nail polish remover containing acetone.
Why You Should Hire a Carpet Cleaner Service
Unfortunately, some stains may prove difficult to remove using household products. In any case, vacuuming and spot cleaning may not be enough to get your carpet or rug looking like new again. That's why many homeowners opt to hire a professional carpet cleaning service on a regular basis, around once every 12 to 18 months.
When it comes to heavy-duty carpet cleaning, you have many options to pick from. The two most common methods for cleaning carpets are steam cleaning and dry cleaning.
Steam Cleaning Carpets
Steam cleaning is a common method for professional carpet cleaning, but the name is somewhat misleading. Steam-cleaning services use machines that utilize hot (but not boiling) water in combination with a vacuum. The water is heated inside the machine and sometimes mixed with detergent before being sprayed directly onto the carpet. At the same time, a vacuum sucks up the water almost immediately after hitting the fabric. The hot water extracts far more dirt and stains than would be possible by hand.
Cleaning machines using hot water extraction can be purchased or rented for home use, but they aren't always as powerful as what professional cleaning services use. Improperly drying the carpet may also cause bacteria or mold growth. Professional cleaners also employ a number of other methods to pre-treat the carpet and ensure adequate drying. For these reasons, professional carpet cleaning may be preferable to do-it-yourself methods.
Carpets or rugs can also be thoroughly cleaned using a dry-cleaning method. As the name suggests, there is much less water involved in dry cleaning, which means the carpet can be ready to use in less time. Using powerful solvents to break down dirt and stains, dry cleaning puts less physical stress on the carpet, and thus might be better in the long run. However, dry cleaning is usually more expensive than hot-water cleaning services. In addition, the chemicals used to dry clean carpets might irritate pets, people with sensitive skin, or anyone sensitive to strong odors.
What to Ask a Professional Service
Before choosing a professional carpet cleaning service, make sure you will be getting what you paid for by asking the right questions and doing your homework.
Decide Which Method to Use
Again, there are pros and cons involved in using a hot-water-based cleaning service or dry cleaning. Take into consideration not only cost, but how long the process will take from start to finish, including drying time. Also take note of the material your carpet is made from, and consult the manufacturer if possible to learn about the best ways to clean it. If you or your family is sensitive to any chemicals, be sure to keep this in mind and ask about what chemicals are used.
Research Online or in Person
You can find reviews of most professional carpet-cleaning services online, as well as information about a company's specific process, the chemicals used, and cost. It's also wise to ask friends and family members about services they've used in the past to get a recommendation. Don't always go with the service offering the lowest price, or hire a service who advertises door-to-door or over the phone, unless you have done thorough research on them.
Ask About Employees and Services Offered
Carpet cleaning services will be entering your home, potentially while you aren't there, so you want to feel comfortable with the business you trust with this responsibility. Ask if the company conducts background checks on employees, as well as if they are insured in your state. Without liability insurance, a mistake that results in damage to your home or furniture may be your responsibility to pay for.
Getting a Quote
If you've found a carpet-cleaning service you can trust, ask to get a quote. This may involve specifying exactly what services you would like performed, as well as the size of your home's carpeted area. Make sure you understand exactly what is included in a quoted price. Some businesses may charge extra to move furniture, clean stairs, or use special treatment methods. It's also common for businesses to sell customers on products and services they don't need. Don't hesitate to ask questions if any detail about the quote is unclear.
Choosing a Carpet Cleaner
If you instead want to rent or buy a carpet-cleaning machine to use yourself, you have many options to pick from.
Since heavy-duty carpet cleaning isn't a frequent activity for most homeowners, many choose to simply rent one of these machines. Of course, renting is usually much cheaper than owning a machine or hiring a service, which is the biggest advantage in this situation. But not all rental units perform equally, and some might require extra drying time or the use of special solvents that will cost more. There's also the time and effort that goes into carpet cleaning - renting a unit means you must also move furniture yourself and pay close attention to ensure you're operating the unit correctly. Making a mistake could mean damaging your carpet or the unit itself. Also, improperly drying carpet could allow harmful bacteria and mold to grow. Before renting a carpet cleaner, make sure you're up for the task at hand.
Owning Your Own
Homeowners can purchase carpet cleaners ranging from compact units to full-size industrial-strength machines. Besides price, take note of the features of a unit and compare them to what you most need from a carpet cleaner. Some models specialize in removing allergens from pet hair, while others may work better on tough stains, for example. Another key consideration: Make sure you have room for it. Some carpet cleaners can be bulky and require ample storage space.
Other features you may want to look for in a cleaning unit include:
- Attachments: Some models include special attachments that work on upholstery, stairs, bare floors, or small spaces.
- Brushes: Some units may not use a brush to agitate the carpet, while others might use a stationary one or multiple actuating brushes.
- Hose length: Bigger machines can be hard to maneuver around a room. Having a detachable hose of considerable length can make it easier to clean open spaces as well as more cramped areas.
Make the right choice in carpet cleaners by considering all the options available to you and how they fit into your needs and budget.