It is the rare person who can say they love their carpet years after they’ve purchased it. That’s because time has a way of showing the stains of the past, despite futile attempts at cleaning. There are ways however, to keep your carpets looking new if you understand the principles of carpet and dirt and what attracts stains and compounds them. Also, using the best portable carpet and upholstery cleaner can help you do the job easily.
The two biggest factors that affect a carpet’s cleanliness and maintaining its plush or fresh look, are moisture and air contaminant’s or pollution. Moisture can result from a too humid house, or simply cleaning a spill or stain with water and not drying it properly or thoroughly. Air pollution can be in the form of smoke, aerosol sprays, cooking steam or an inadequately ventilated room. Even the use of some ionizers can pull contaminants from the air and attract deposits to carpet fibers. And let’s not overlook the obvious human and pet factor of accidents and hair and dust.
The best way to care for your carpet is through frequent dry vacuuming. The suction of dirt without moisture takes care of half the battle. Additionally, to maintain the carpet’s longevity, texture and appearance, a yearly shampooing is recommended. Don’t confuse steam cleaning with shampooing. Most companies that advertise steam cleaning your carpets, really aren’t cleaning with steam, they are simulating steam by using very hot water often accompanied with cleaning solutions, which is essentially “shampooing” your carpet. With carpet shampooing, you are extracting the excess water. In simple terms, clean water with detergent goes in your carpet fibers and the dirty water is pulled out. The more extraction of water the better. If your carpets are taking hours and hours to dry after shampooing, then you are not helping your carpet, but damaging it. There are many consumer grade steam vacs on the market which more than pay for themselves after two uses as opposed to having hired a professional company to have cleaned your carpets.
The worst thing you can do to clean stains, when spot cleaning by hand, is use hot water. Use clean cold water and a damp white cotton cloth, such as a 100% cotton terry towel, to work on loosening and removing the stain. Then use a dry white towel to blot any excess dampness. You don’t want to use a lot of water because it can destroy the carpet fibers. You don’t want to apply heat to a stain because it “heat sets” it. This is why some carpet stains reappear a few weeks after being cleaned, almost as if they were ghost stains coming back to haunt you. This is much like the principle with caring for your face. If you wash your face with cold water, you close the pores. If you wash your face with hot water, you open the pores. Using hot water on a stain is essentially opening the “pores” (the fibers) of the carpet, so you are making the stain deeper and more wide-spread. Many products on the market designed for spot cleaning, from liquid sprays, to foams, to chemical solutions, to aerosols, can temporarily remove a stain and a 2 weeks later you start to see the stain reappear. More often than not, the reason the stain recurs is due to how hard (physical force), you tried to clean the stain. You don’t want to rub the carpet roughly, but rather use gentle blotting and circular brushing movements to retain the carpet pile. Additionally, you should never vacuum a stained area that is wet because you can damage your vacuum cleaner in the process too. The vacuum is best for cleaning the dirt on a dry stained area and then you can work the stain with moisture after surface dirt has been removed. The key is always to blot the excess moisture as you try to “extract” it.
If we lived in a perfect world, then stain resistant carpets truly would resist stains. But the reality is, carpets don’t repel stains, and the more you do to keep a carpet dry and free of loose ordinary traffic dirt and dust, the easier it will be to treat a stain when it happens. Applying moisture to an already dirty carpet will only make the stain worse.
Understanding the importance of moisture control to keep carpets dry, coupled with the knowledge to only use cold water on spot removal (as opposed to hot water), you have won half the battle in ensuring lasting carpet you can be happy with.