Maintenance and cleaning will help support a carpet’s durability and extend its beauty for many years. In some cases, regular and correct carpet cleaning is necessary to preserve the warranty on a carpet.
The homeowner is the first line of defense in carpet maintenance. Routine vacuuming coupled with rapid response to spots and spills is critical. Any spill is easier to address when it is fresh. Consult the website of the carpet manufacturer to get suggested treatments for various types of stains. For all carpet treatments, make sure you blot the spot; never scrub.
Even the most fastidious homeowners need professional help to keep carpet looking its best in the long term. For the pros, there are two effective types of carpet cleaning: hot water extraction (or “steam cleaning”) and low moisture (or "dry cleaning").
Hot Water Extraction
Hot water extraction, sometimes called "steam cleaning," involves injecting hot water and detergents into the carpet and then vacuuming out the water, detergent, and soils with a powerful suction system. Extraction systems can be either portable or truck mounted. Within the industry, truck-mounted systems are believed to offer the best results due to their superior vacuum strength; a truck-mounted system can recover up to 95 percent of the water used in the cleaning process. However, portable units are able to provide service to high-rise apartments and office buildings where truck-mounted units cannot go.
- Hot water extraction is recommended by all carpet manufacturers.
- The heat used with hot water extraction equipment works well to kill harmful bacteria and fungi within the carpet.
- Overwetting of carpets can occur if a technician is not properly trained in the process.
- Moisture left in carpets can encourage mold growth in climates with high humidity.
- Drying times for carpets are between 12 and 24 hours.
Dry carpet cleaning systems rely on a combination of dry compounds and application methods that allow for a faster drying time.
The Low Moisture Carpet Cleaners Association (LMCCA) defines Low Moisture Cleaning (LMC) on its website as follows:
LMC are methods and/or procedures that allow any fiber to dry to its natural state in two hours or less. For the purposes of standardizing criteria variables, we use 65% Rh and 70 degrees. This can be accomplished by using less moisture to clean, using absorbent mediums, using higher efficiency vacuums that efficiently extract water from the carpet, and by increasing the evaporation rate of the carpet by lowering the relative humidity of the environment where you are cleaning and by the use of air movers.
There are three types of processes professionals use that fall under the heading of dry cleaning methods for carpets.
- Cleaning foam is sprayed over the carpet and may be brushed or scrubbed in with a machine.
- Carpet dirt is attracted to the foam.
- The foam is vacuumed up, carrying the dirt with it.
- The carpet is dry immediately.
- Dry powder is mixed with a small amount of cleaning solution and sprinkled in a layer over the carpet.
- The mixture is scrubbed in with a stiff brush and allowed to sit to absorb dirt.
- Dry material is vacuumed up.
- The carpet is dry immediately.
- Club soda mixed with cleaning solution is misted onto the carpet surface.
- The surface is scrubbed with a round, absorbent buffer pad (or bonnet).
- The pad attracts soil and is rinsed or replaced repeatedly during treatment.
- The carpet requires a short drying time—only a few hours.
- Low moisture cleaning requires little to no drying time.
- The cost for a low moisture procedure is usually much lower than hot water extraction.
- Low moisture methods conserve water.
- Many low moisture methods only clean the top one-third of the carpet—they are generally recommended as interim cleaning methods.
- Badly stained areas of carpet may not respond to low moisture methods.
Before Hiring a Pro
Hiring the right professional can help restore the beauty of your carpet and improve your home’s overall indoor air quality. It is important to hire professional cleaners with the equipment, training, and experience to serve your needs.
When looking for a cleaning professional:
- Identify carpet cleaners with certification from a professional organization.
- Check with your carpet’s manufacturer for suggested forms of treatment. Some stain treatments can void carpet warranties.
- Walk the professional around the area of carpet to be cleaned and point out any and all spots that need special treatment, as they may affect the quoted price.
There are some standard questions you should ask before deciding on a carpet cleaning company:
- “How long have you been in business?”
- “Are all of your technicians certified individually?”
- “Do you vacuum before deep cleaning the carpet?”
- “Do you use Carpet and Rug Institute Seal of Approval cleaning solutions and equipment?”
With regular maintenance and periodic professional cleaning, your home’s carpets can be a beautiful and functional focal point in your rooms for years.
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