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carpet care & cleaning

Carpet cleaning and care should be on your mind as you think about buying carpeting for your home. You can save yourself a lot of hassle by simply purchasing the style of carpet that fits the type of traffic you expect for the room. For more information on choosing the right type of carpet for your living space, consult our Carpet Types section.

Give your carpet first-class treatment by using floor cleaning products recommended by your manufacturer or by using products recommend by the Carpet and Rug Institute. Upon purchase you should receive a guide on carpet care, maintenance and prevention. If not, make sure you request one before leaving. Note that if you don't follow the manufacturer's instructions, you may risk voiding your warranty. Below are more carpet cleaning tips that can provide guidance when maintaining your carpet surfaces.

Prevention and Maintenance

  • Carpet damage prevention begins before you buy. The best way to make sure your carpet doesn't receive undue wear and tear is to choose the best carpet for your needs. Be sure to take into account how much traffic the area will receive and the frequency with which food and drink will be consumed there. Being aware of your specific needs can help you when choosing carpet style, pile type and even color.
  • Place walk-off mats at all entrances to the home, especially the entrances that see the most traffic. This will prevent dirt and debris from outside from being tracked into your home. Be sure to check the manufacturer's guide first to see which mats are recommended for use with your carpet.
  • For most carpet styles, you can use a standard vacuum with a rotating brush or combination beater/brush bar which agitates the carpet's pile and loosens soil for removal.  However, some carpets with a thick loop-pile construction, particularly wool and wool-blend styles, may be sensitive to brushing or rubbing of their pile surface and may become fuzzy from the use of a vacuum with a beater or brush bar. Additionally, shag (or cabled) carpet styles, which have seen a recent resurgence in popularity due largely to the "California casual' design trend, have long yarns that tend to wrap around beater bars or become damaged by brushes. For both wool/wool-blend and shag carpets, use a suction-only vacuum.
  • Make sure you buy stain resistant carpet to prevent many stains from sticking.
  • Clean up spills immediately, especially liquid spills.
  • Prevent spills from spreading by always cleaning them from the outside edges inward.

Care and Cleaning

  • Liquid spills should be blotted with a clean, dry, white absorbent cloth. Don't scrub at the spot, as that can damage or distort the carpet in that area. Apply weight to the dry cloth or paper towels until the spot is dry. If the spot remains, it's best to use a specialized type of carpet cleaner to remove it. Look for a cleaner specifically formulated to handle that type of stain to get the best results. Consult the manufacturer's guide for recommendations.
  • Remove chewing gum from carpet by first freezing it with ice (in a plastic bag) and then scraping up with a spoon. Don't use a knife, as this could damage your carpet.
  • When cleaning up a spot, use a small amount of carpet cleaner on a white cloth, letting it soak in for a minute. Carefully blot at the spot from the edges to the center so that the spot doesn't spread. Blot until the spot is removed, then rinse the area with cold water and blot with another dry cloth until the cleaner is gone.
  • Semi–solid spills, such as candle wax, may be gently scraped up with a spoon.
  • If you spill something solid, break it up and then vacuum until no trace remains.
  • If you find that your carpet has just gotten dirty from general wear, call in a carpet cleaning professional. This is most likely required in order to keep your warranty.

Professional and DIY Carpet Cleaning Methods

  • Hot Water Extraction (Steam cleaning): The hot water extraction method consists of hot detergent solution sprayed into the carpet at high pressure. This solution is extracted immediately, bringing the dirt particles with it. You may also see the use of rotary brushes or a similar device to work in the cleaning solution and loosen dirt. This method is the one most recommended by carpet manufacturers, as many other types of carpet cleaning methods  may not thoroughly clean your carpets and extract the cleaning solution, and may also leave a residue behind on your carpet.  In fact, failure to use IICRC certified carpet cleaners periodically may void your carpet's warranty.
  • Shampoo: Carpet shampoo is a detergent solution that is distributed onto the carpet using a rotary brush. This brush turns the solution into foam that's worked into the carpet. After a drying period, the carpet is vacuumed to remove the loosened dirt. Steam cleaning and shampooing can also be combined to clean extremely soiled carpets, and is generally not used to clean residential spaces.
  • Foam: Similar to shampooing carpets, foam cleaning involves foam being applied to the carpet, rubbed in, and then vacuumed away once dry, taking the dirt with it. Foam cleaning eliminates the risk of overwetting your carpet, but it also makes the cleaning less effective than shampooing.
  • Bonnet cleaning: A rotary machine sprays detergent solution onto the carpet while a special attached absorbent pad (bonnet) agitates and removes dirt. This cleaning technique is often used in commercial spaces.
  • Absorbent dry compound: Powdered detergent/solvent is scattered over the carpet and then massaged into the surface by machine. The particles in the detergent are designed to absorb dirt particles like a sponge. Afterwards, the carpet is vacuumed to remove all of the loose dirt.

For immediate help from a flooring professional or fellow remodeler, you use our Flooring Forums.

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