Blot up stains and spills, vacuum once a month or more often and that’s taking good care of your carpets, right? Um, no. Whether you’ve forgotten, or whether you never knew, almost every carpet manufacturing company requires you to professionally steam clean your carpet every 12 – 24 months in order to keep your warranty in effect. Likewise, many commercial and residential leases require steam cleaning when the tenant exits the property.
In other words, the folks who manufacture carpeting say “Vacuuming is not enough.” Like it or not, professional steaming is the only way to care for your carpet and keep the warranty, in most cases. It’s also a way to protect your family’s health.
Interior designer and allergy-free housekeeping specialist Robin Wilson says, “Indoor air quality can be 8-10 times worse than outdoor air quality if you fail to clean your flooring and drapes and let fresh air inside regularly.” With millions of Americans suffering from indoor allergies, air quality is an important consideration. Wilson and other experts say that to keep clean air in your home, it’s important to follow a few carpet-cleaning rules:
Call professionals to steam clean your carpet. Do it more often than you think you should!
Most carpet manufacturers will not honor your warranty unless you hire professional steam cleaners every 12 – 18 months, says Carolyn Forte, a director at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. In some cases, the requirement may be every 24 months – check your warranty for your carpet’s specifics.
Wilson, meanwhile, recommends even more frequent steam cleanings in order to foster a dust-free home: she says to call professional steamers every 6 months and every 4 – 6 weeks if you have a pet. This recommendation applies to carpet, not area rugs.
No matter how often you choose to engage your professional carpet cleaners, experts agree that the pros are absolutely necessary – you should not attempt to steam carpets yourself. Only steam can effectively lift dust from deep within carpet, Wilson says. If left there, the dust will wear down and rip the carpet’s fibers. But only professional machines can truly extract the moisture from the carpet when cleaning is completed. The results of trying to do it yourself can be sickening!
“I’ve been on job sites where you pull up the carpet and see a mold patch,” Wilson says. When you steam clean yourself, “you turn your house into an incubator for mold growth,” Wilson adds.
Sure, vacuuming remains the easiest way to keep carpets and area rugs clean between professional steam cleanings – experts recommend vacuuming once per week, to keep those abrasive dust particles out of carpet fibers. Bump up the frequency in high-traffic areas or if you have pets – these areas might need daily vacuuming, depending on how much debris you notice, according to Merry Maids Training Manager Debra Johnson.
Take area rugs out for spring and fall cleaning sessions.
Area rugs vary in their care instructions according to their type of fiber, so check your hang tag for the ideal cleaning schedule. Generally, Wilson says, you should vacuum rugs with the same frequency as carpets, then deep-clean them every 6 months with an old-fashioned broom-beating. Take rugs outdoors, shake them out, beat them with an actual broom (ideally while wearing a mask to protect your face) and let them air outside for a day.
Many area rugs can be steam cleaned – if yours can, you might have it steamed once a year.
Another secret: vacuum slowly.
“One of the commonest mistakes people make when vacuuming is that they do it too fast,” Johnson says. “Vacuuming slowly allows a vacuum cleaner to do its best work by vibrating carpet fibers and containing dust in the vacuum.”
Rubbing a spill will spread it around and can distort the carpet pile or fluffy shape. And waiting to clean it, causes the spill to seep moisture deeper into the carpet fibers – Forte recommends recommends cleaning spills the moment they happen.
Spray carpet cleaner on a light cloth and dab at the spill, working from the outside to the center. Rinse with a clean cloth in the same way and then blot dry. To absorb leftover moisture, pile on a stack of paper towels and place a heavy waterproof object on top. Leaving it overnight will ensure all the wetness is absorbed.
Pick a carpet that’s not a dust magnet in the first place.
To prevent dust buildup in the first place, choose a low-pile carpet, Wilson says. This means picking a carpet or area rug with short fibers – high layers of fluff or shag will trap more dust, mite carcasses, etc. Wilson recommends natural, durable materials like wool instead of synthetic ones like nylon. Carpet tiles are a great alternative to wall-to-wall carpets, she says – when there’s a spill, you can pull up the tile and clean it on its own. And you can remove them completely when you’re ready for a change of scenery back to hardwood floors.
If you keep it clean, you can keep it for a long, long time.
“You can keep a rug for a lifetime, if you keep it clean,” Wilson says. Carpet lifespans, however, range with quality – some well made varieties are made to last up to 15 years if kept dust-free, she adds.
Just a little more motivation to summon the steam machine!