New carpet represents a substantial investment. The proper steps will make sure it stays attractive for years to come.
Walk-Off Mats Walk-off mats should be used at the exterior of all entrances to absorb the soil and moisture. They help trap the excessive dirt, sand, grit, and other substances such as oil, asphalt, or driveway sealer that would otherwise be tracked into the home. Mats should also be cleaned on a regular basis so they do not become sources of soil themselves.
Carpet Pad You should always use a quality pad under your carpet, particularly on stairs. Good pad not only gives better resilience and comfort underfoot, it can extend the life of your carpet. Because some carpets carry warranties with specific density and thickness requirements, be sure and review your warranty before purchasing your pad.
Occasionally Move Heavy Furniture Move heavy furniture occasionally to avoid excessive
pile crushing. You should also use floor protectors designed for carpet under the legs of tables, chairs, and other furniture to help distribute the weight. Do not use chairs or appliances with rollers or casters without a chair pad designed specifically for carpet or damage can occur.
Protect Carpet When Moving Furniture When moving heavy wheeled furniture (pianos, buffets, etc.), prevent damage by placing a protective barrier of heavy cardboard or plywood
between the wheels and the carpet.
Reduce Periods of Direct Sunlight Protect your carpet from prolonged periods of direct sunlight with blinds, shades, or awnings.
The most important step in caring for your carpet is vacuuming.
Vacuum thoroughly and frequently, particularly in high-traffic areas. Realize that walking on soiled carpet allows the soil particles to work their way below the surface of the pile where they are far more difficult to remove and can damage the fibers. Frequent vacuuming removes these particles from the surface before problems occur.
For rooms with light traffic, vacuum the traffic lanes twice weekly and the entire area once weekly. In areas with heavy traffic, vacuum the traffic lanes daily and the entire area twice weekly. Up to three passes of the machine will suffice for light soiling, but five to seven passes are necessary for heavily soiled areas. Change the vacuuming direction occasionally to help stand the pile upright and reduce matting.
Check the Quality of Your Vacuum. A good vacuum cleaner is vital to prolonging the beauty and life of your carpet. An inexpensive machine can remove surface dirt but will not effectively remove the hidden dirt and particles embedded in the pile.
To ensure that your vacuum will conform to the highest industry standards, make sure that your vacuum cleaner is certified through the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Vacuum Cleaner Indoor Air Quality Program. Visit www.carpet-rug.com for details and listings.
Select the Best Vacuum for Your Type of Carpet. Use a vacuum with a rotating brush or combination beater/brush bar that agitates the carpet pile and mechanically loosens soil for removal. Carpet with thick loop-pile construction, particularly wool and wool-blend styles, may be sensitive to brushing or rubbing of the pile surface and may become fuzzy. For these products, Shaw recommends a suction-only vacuum or a vacuum with an adjustable brush lifted away from the carpet so it does not agitate the pile. A vacuum with a beater/brush bar can be tested for excessive fuzzing in an inconspicuous location before regular use.
Pay Attention to Vacuum Bags. Replaceable paper vacuum bags do a better job of trapping small particles than cloth bags. With cloth bags, the particles can pass back into the room. High-efficiency vacuum bags, also called “micro-filtration bags,” trap even microscopic particles such as mold and mildew spores and dust-mite by-products, which are often found to be a source of allergies. All vacuum bags should be checked often and replaced when half full.
Check the Belt and the Setting. Make sure the belt is in good condition and that the brush or beater bar rotates when in contact with the carpet. To adjust the vacuum to the correct height setting for the carpet, raise the beater/brush bar to the highest setting and then lower it until it contacts the pile enough to slightly vibrate the carpet several inches away from the machine, but not so low that is causes significant slowing of the motor.
Change Vacuuming Directions. Change the vacuuming direction occasionally to help stand the pile upright and help reduce matting.
No Carpet is Absolutely Stain Proof. Some carpets have stain-resisting treatments that improve your ability to clean stains, but not prevent stains. Similarly, carpets with soil-resisting treatments reduce the rate of soiling, but all carpets require regular care and maintenance.
“Staining” versus “Soiling”. There is often confusion about the difference between soiling and staining. The majority of stain complaints are actually soil-related. For example, many sugar-based spills, such as soft drinks and coffee, leave a sugar residue after removal. This sticky residue readily attracts soil from ordinary shoe traffic, and the resulting discolored area appears to be a stain.
The same thing happens when spills are cleaned with a detergent solution and the area is not sufficiently rinsed with plain water, leaving a sticky detergent residue. It is important to rinse thoroughly with water and blot dry after removing any spill.
Protect Your Carpet. As mentioned above, no carpet is stain-proof, but since many are stain-resistant, you have time to act. Use the following general stain-removal quidelines.
- Remove as much of food spills as possible by scraping gently with a spoon or a dull knife.
- Absorb wet spills as quickly as possible by blotting repeatedly with white paper or white cloth towels. Always blot; never rub or scrub abrasively, as a fuzzy area may result. When blotting, work from the outer edge in toward the center of the spot to avoid spreading the spill.
- Remove the stain using one of the cleaning items from the checklist below.
- Rinse the cleaned area with water to remove detergent residue that may become sticky and cause rapid re-soiling.
- Absorb any remaining moisture by placing several layers of white towels over the spot and weighing them down with a heavy object. This step is necessary even when the carpet does not seem particularly damp.
Spot Removing. What do you use to clean the spill? Be prepared with the following checklist. It is important to use only the items listed, because many other household cleaners contain chemicals that may permanently damage your carpet.
- White cloths or white paper towels
- Detergent solution: Mix mild liquid detergent with water (no more than 1/2 teaspoon of detergent to 32 ounces of water). A clear, non-bleach liquid dishwashing detergent such as Dawn, Joy, or clear Ivory is recommended. Do not use detergents that are cloudy or creamy because they may leave a sticky residue.
- Vinegar solution: Mix 1 part white vinegar to 1 part water.
- Ammonia solution: Mix one tablespoon of ammonia to one cup of water. (Do not use on wool or wool-blend carpets.)
- Non-oily nail-polish remover
- Chewing gum remover (freeze or solid type)
- Spot Remover: Use spot removers designed specifically for grease, oil, or tar, such as Carbona or Energine.
Solution-dyed fibers can withstand bleach, but make very sure your carpet is solution-dyed before using bleach.
Difficult stains on carpets made from polypropylene or other solution-dyed fibers may be removed with a mild bleach solution (one part chlorine bleach to five parts water). But be careful. If you aren’t absolutely certain your carpet is solution dyed, call Carpet Mill Outlet Stores.
Carpet Cleaning. Vacuuming alone won’t protect your carpet. Even though vacuuming can remove most soil, it is also necessary to clean your carpet on a regular basis to remove the oily, sticky soil that vacuums don’t remove. These soils result from cooking vapors, air pollution, and tracked-in dirt from outside. The particles of oily soil deposited on carpet fibers can cause gradual but significant dulling of colors. The color isn’t lost, but is hidden under the film. If this type of soil is allowed to accumulate, it begins to attract and hold the dry soil.
If carpet is cleaned before it becomes too unsightly, the cleaning chore will be easier and more successful. Carpet in a typical household should be cleaned every 12 to 18 months, depending on the number of residents and amount of activity.
Choosing the proper cleaning system is important. Some systems may leave residues which accelerates re-soiling and defeats the whole purpose of cleaning. The recommendations below represent the best current knowledge and should help prolong the time between cleanings.
What cleaning system should you use? We recommends the hot water extraction system.
Research indicates that the hot water extraction system provides the best capability for cleaning. This system is commonly referred to as “steam cleaning,” although no steam is actually generated. The process consists of spraying a solution of water and detergent into the carpet pile and recovering the water and soil with a powerful vacuum into a holding tank. This can be done from a truck-mounted unit outside the home with only the hose and wand brought inside or by a portable system brought into the home.
Professional or do-it-yourself? It is to your advantage to use professional cleaners because their experience enables them to do a better job than you can do yourself. Their equipment has more extraction power than the rental units available to individuals, and the carpet should dry more quickly. True professionals have also understand the equipment, know the proper cleaning agents for the situation at hand, and recognize the differences in fibers and carpet construction.
How do you locate a professional cleaner? One way to locate a professional cleaner is to contact the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) at 1-800-835-4624. This organization maintains a national directory of independent professional cleaners who are trained and certified in a variety of cleaning specialties. Call and explain that you have purchased a new carpet, and be sure to ask for a cleaner near you who uses the “hot water extraction system.”
If you prefer tackling the job yourself, check these do-it-yourself guidelines before you begin.
Carpet Cleaning: Do-It-Yourself
If you decide to rent a steam cleaning machine and clean your carpet yourself, you’ll need to choose your equipment carefully. Most rental units available do not adequately clean and may actually damage the carpet. Check several cleaning systems before making a selection and consider the following:
Make Sure the Carpet Will Dry Quickly. The cleaning equipment you select should have enough vacuum power to allow the carpet to dry within 6 to 12 hours after cleaning. Units that do not have the power to extract the cleaning solution from the carpet adequately may actually damage the carpet due to overwetting.
Do Not Over-Wet the Carpet. Most problems in do-it-yourself cleaning are due to one of two problems, and this in one of them. Prolonged dampness may promote growth of mildew and bacteria in the carpet or cause separation of the backing. A carpet that is wet for more than 24 hours could experience these problems.
Do Not Use Excessive Detergent. This is the other problem most commonly experienced by do-it-yourselfers. You should use a cleaning solution with a pH less than 10, preferably near 9, and with a minimum of residue. The attraction between the detergent and the soil and oil particles is critical during the cleaning process. However, if it isn’t rinsed completely, the detergent residue continues to attract the particles after cleaning. Increasing the amount of cleaning solution beyond the recommended level does not increase cleaning performance, but makes the removal of detergent more difficult. Because buildup of detergent residue is the most common cause of accelerated re-soiling complaints, we also recommends a clear water rinse after cleaning.
Know Your Warranty Guidelines. Carpet with stain-resisting treatments must be cleaned with products formulated for this purpose, or the stain resistance will be impaired and the warranty voided. Do not use cleaning or spotting solutions that contain bleaches or optical brighteners because they can discolor the carpet.
Use Fans to Speed Drying Time. Reduce drying time by using several fans to move air across the carpet in combination with a dehumidifier or air conditioner to pull moisture out of the air. Carpet should be dry within 12 hours; even fewer hours is better.
Bonnet Cleaning Systems are Not Recommended. These systems employ a rotating bonnet of terry cloth or other absorbent material to agitate the carpet pile and absorb soil. A detergent solution is sprayed onto the pile and then worked with the bonnet attached to a rotary floor polisher. The Bonnet system has very limited capability for soil removal and leaves much of the detergent in the pile since it employs no real extraction. As a result, rapid re-soiling often occurs. Another disadvantage is that the spinning bonnet may distort the fibers of cut pile carpet, fuzz the pile, and leave distinct swirl marks.