Keeping your carpets clean will make them look better and last longer. Vacuum regularly and pay special attention to high traffic areas. Prevent stains by dealing with them immediately.
Blot, don’t rub – this is one of the most important tips for cleaning your carpet like a pro! When you rub, you’re working the stain further into your carpet fibres.
1. Blot Stains
Whether it’s a wine spill, pet poop or a toppled plate of spaghetti, the first step to successfully cleaning carpet stains is always to blot, never rub. The rubbing motion pushes the stain deeper into the carpet fibers and can actually cause it to set permanently in many cases. It also agitates the top layer of the carpet and can cause it to fray, which will change the appearance of the entire area even after the spot is removed.
For water soluble stains like washable ink, milk, food dye or latex paint, use a clean white cloth (color-fast to avoid the possibility of the fabric transfer) to blot from the outside of the stain inwards. The blotting motion pulls up the stain and moves it to the top of your cleaning solution. It also removes excess liquid before it can sink deep into the carpet and make the problem worse.
If the stain is something more stubborn, a little hydrogen peroxide mixed with dish soap can do wonders on most old grease stains. Mix one tablespoon of dish soap with a cup of water and apply it to the stain, making sure to protect your hands. Then, blot the stained area again, pulling up on the wet, soapy cloth frequently and moving to a fresh spot on your clean white cloth to avoid transferring the stain.
The same method can be used to treat blood stains, as well. Obtain some hydrogen peroxide, apply it to the stain and use a toothbrush to work it into the carpet. Then blot the area with a clean, white cloth, pulling on a fresh spot of the cloth every few minutes. The blotting process pulls up the stain and the soapy solution before it can soak into the carpet and damage it further.
Other stains may require special treatment. Those that aren’t water soluble, such as blood, grease and most food stains, will need to be treated with a combination of a heavy duty carpet cleaner and a good ol’ fashioned scrub brush or carpet scrubbing machine.
2. Don’t Rub Stains
Carpets get a bad reputation for being dirty, and it’s true that they can collect lots of dust, dirt, and allergens over time. But if you keep up with regular vacuuming and occasional deep cleaning with a commercial steamer or rental machine, carpeting can look good for the entire expected lifespan. It’s also possible to take care of pesky stains yourself with a little know-how. Stain expert Mark Tarbox gives us the scoop on his top tips to clean your carpet like a pro and avoid that dreaded stain.
The first thing you should do when a stain occurs is to blot the spot, not scrub it. Scrubbing will work the stain deeper into the carpet fibers and make it more difficult to remove. Always blot, no matter what kind of cleaning treatment you’re using, and always start from the outside of the stain inward to prevent spreading.
Blotting will also help you determine how severe the stain is. Some stains will disappear with just water, while others may require a pretreatment or chemical solution. For example, blood stains are often treated with hydrogen peroxide or a commercial stain remover that is mixed into a spray bottle with cool water. Then, the solution is sprayed directly on the stain and blotted with a white cloth or paper towel. This process should be repeated until the stained area is clean.
Oil-based paint stains can be particularly tough to remove from carpet. To remove these, soak the area with denatured alcohol before applying a liquid stain removal product. Make sure to test the treatment on an out-of-sight area of the carpet first to see how it reacts and if it’s likely to bleach or discolor the fibers. After the stain is removed, use fans or a dehumidifier to expedite drying time, as prolonged exposure to moisture can cause mildew and bacteria to grow. Also, if you have stain-resistant carpets, be careful not to use harsh cleaning products that could impair their effectiveness or void the warranty. It’s also a good idea to vacuum frequently on all sides of the carpet, even the side that faces the stairs, to prevent the buildup of dirt and grit.
3. Don’t Skip the Prep Work
Carpeting can get a bad rap: It’s stain-prone, dingy, and attracts and holds allergens. But it’s not inherently dirty, and with a little effort and maintenance, your carpet can look clean, fresh, and new for years to come. Vacuuming, stain removal, and other steps can keep your carpet in top shape.
If you’re tackling stains or dirt, always vacuum first. This removes loose soil and prevents it from getting driven deeper into the carpet fibers. If your carpet has particularly stubborn stains or odors, pretreat them with a stain remover or a mixture of one part white vinegar to three parts cold water. Then, allow the solution to sit for an hour or more — and blot dry if necessary — to help eliminate smells and stains that have set in.
Before using any cleaning products on your carpet, always spot test them to ensure they’re safe for the material. Pick an out-of-the-way area, like under a table or chair, and apply the product to a small patch of carpet. If the color or texture changes, choose a different product.
You’ll also need to take precautions when moving furniture before cleaning your carpet. Protect the floor underneath by putting plastic sheets or newspapers under furniture legs, and remove any decorative items that could be harmed by moisture.
If possible, clear out half the room and then clean it; you can replace the furniture after the carpet dries. This allows you to still use the room while you’re working and will keep you from having to carry heavy, bulky furniture back and forth from one end of the room to the other — which can be difficult if you have stairs.
Aim to clean your carpets once a week, or more often if you have pets or high traffic areas. Keep up with vacuuming, and don’t forget to use the right attachments and do it properly (clean the collection bin, change out the brush hose, and use the highest settings for the best results). For a speedy refresh, mix baking soda with ten drops of your favorite essential oil; sprinkle on carpets, wait a few minutes to let it soak in, and then vacuum it up to remove the powder and any lingering odors.
4. Don’t Skip the Drying Time
When carpet is cleaned, it should be allowed to dry completely before anyone walks on it again. This is important to prevent stains and other problems that can occur with trapped moisture. A few simple steps can help to speed up the drying process.
Start by removing furniture and moving anything that may be on top of the carpet. This will allow the area to dry better and reduce the chance of rust from metal casters or staining from paint and other finishes. If possible, open a few windows to let in fresh air and accelerate the drying process.
If you have a pet, be sure to keep it outside during the cleaning process. This will prevent it from tracking dirt and odors through the freshly cleaned areas. Once the carpet is dry, replace any items that were on it. Vacuum it once again to remove any remaining debris and soil.
For the best results, schedule regular deep cleaning sessions at least twice a year. This will eliminate pesky dirt that your vacuum cleaner can’t reach and can make a big difference in how your home looks and feels.
In between professional cleanings, it’s a good idea to vacuum frequently and spot clean spills and stains as soon as they happen. For most stains, blotting instead of scrubbing will work well. It’s also a good idea to have a bottle of stain remover on hand to treat tougher stains.
By following these tips, you can give your carpets a better look and extend their life. Remember to vacuum regularly, especially under furniture, and to get a professional carpet shampooing at least once a year. By keeping up with these routines, you can avoid having to spend a lot of money on expensive repairs or replacements. By using a dehumidifier or opening the windows to allow fresh air in, you can also improve your indoor air quality and decrease allergens like mold and dust mites. And of course, always be sure to have a pair of protective shoes on hand to wear while your carpet is drying.