“Properly maintained carpet will enhance the indoor environment and aesthetic value of any residence,” according to the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), which is why they published new cleaning standards for residential and commercial carpeting. CRI’s Residential Carpet Standard for Maintenance and Cleaning stresses important carpet cleaning methods to make sure carpet continues to look great and perform well for as long as possible. CRI is the leading source for scientifically based guidance in cleaning and maintenance of carpet in commercial and residential environments. CRI tests and rates vacuums, carpet extractors, and cleaning solutions on carpets, and they developed the carpet industry’s only scientific program to test and measure the effectiveness of cleaning products and equipment. The program helps consumers make informed decisions, and manufacturers improve their products. The results are cleaner, healthier, and longer-lasting carpet.
CRI states, “Not only does carpet add unique properties of color and design to the home but the inherent characteristics of carpet trap soil, improve acoustics, increase safety by reducing the risk of slip-fall, and provides greater occupant comfort.” Purchasing carpet for your home is a large investment, and like any product in your home, must be maintained. The frequency of maintenance depends on use, size, number of occupants, location, outdoor environment, and pets in the home, along with other factors. To optimize the appearance and useful life of your carpet, following at least minimum recommended manufacturer maintenance guidelines is essential.
Carpet performance is directly related to proper maintenance. Regular vacuuming should begin soon after your new carpet has been installed. Vacuuming your carpet regularly will maintain carpet appearance and increase carpet performance. Regular vacuuming will not only remove soil but also enhance the appearance and indoor air quality. Home experts recommend carpets be vacuumed at least twice a week, especially if pets are part of the family, and more often in high traffic areas.
Cleaning is different from vacuuming. Clean your carpet as needed, but at a minimum of every 24 months. Use the cleaning frequency recommended by the carpet manufacturer to maintain your warranty. Do-it-yourself carpet cleaning machines are available for rent or purchase. While these machines are capable of cleaning spots and spills, and provide interim cleaning, they should not be substituted for periodic deep cleaning by a carpet cleaning professional. Here’s what you need to know about DIY extraction cleaning:
- Remove furniture or place plastic film under legs of furniture (to prevent discoloration transferring from legs to carpet).
- Vacuum thoroughly to remove dry soil – this is essential.
- Do not add other chemicals or attempt to make your cleaning solution stronger than the recommended dilution rate – using a higher concentration of cleaning solution than recommended may cause excess residue to be left in the carpet, which contributes to rapid re-soiling.
- Use CRI Seal of Approval cleaning solutions and equipment.
- Begin at the farthest point from the doorway and work back toward the door so you can step out when finished.
- Extract as much water as possible by making a dry pass after the initial wet pass. Multiple dry passes may be necessary – do not rush this step.
- Wait until the carpet dries before replacing the furniture or walking on the carpet. This step can take six to 12 hours.
- Ventilate cleaned areas to enhance drying time:
- Run the HVAC fan to create air movement.
- Open windows if outdoor weather conditions permit (sunny, low humidity and dew point).
- Operate the air conditioner (in warm weather) or heat (in cold weather) at a moderate setting to assist with dehumidification.
- Set up or turn on fans in the room as necessary.
- Never shut up a room with wet carpet.
- The carpet should be dry within 12 hours – if carpet remains wet past 12 hours, contact a professional.
Rugs deserve the same care as wall-to-wall carpet, and in some cases require special attention:
- If your rug is small and labeled, “Machine Washable,” shake the rug outside first and then put it in the washing machine at the recommended temperature. Use warm water (90 to 105 degrees F) and a mild detergent. Tumble dry on the lowest heat setting.
- If your larger rug is easy to pick up, shake it outside then put it over a clothesline and beat it. Next, take the rug inside and vacuum it. Many carpet cleaning professionals have rug cleaning expertise as well.
- Area rugs with a fringe require a special technique – Use gentle suction and start from the center of the rug, vacuuming toward the fringe, being careful not to catch the strands in the brush roller. Move the vacuum steadily and completely off the rug. Lift the rug edge to vacuum beneath the fringe.
- When caring for woven Oriental, Turkish, or Persian rugs, consult a professional.
With today’s stain-resistant carpet, treating spots and stains is easy. While no carpet is entirely stain-proof, the key is to act quickly with the right solution to kill the spot or stain. Cleaning spots and spills require a three-step process:
- Step One: Absorb the Spill – blot liquids with a dry, white absorbent cloth or plain white paper towel, no prints or colors. Using a printed or colored product may transfer ink or dye to your damp carpet. Continue blotting until the area is barely damp. Scoop up food spills with a spoon or spatula. Solid, dried foods can be vacuumed. Do not scrub or use a brush! Bristles and scrubbing can damage the carpet. Fraying and texture change are the likely result.
- Step Two: Treat the Stain – Use a CRI Certified Seal of Approval carpet cleaning solution. These have been laboratory tested, but you should still pretest any cleaner on an inconspicuous area of your carpet. Follow the product’s directions carefully. Using multiple spot, spill, or stain removal products one on top of the other, without rinsing with water between applications, can set a stain and make it permanent.
- Step three: Call a Professional – if the first two steps do not work, contact a professional carpet cleaner.