Carpet & Rug Cleaning and Maintenance Tips
Plus a step-by-step "how to remove Spots, Soil and Stains"
First I’d like to give you a little background on my involvement in the Textile Cleaning Industry.
Before my life as a Rug Maker came into place I worked (twenty-four years) in Floor Maintenance, mostly Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning. Now, I’m not saying that I’m the Guru of the field, however as I mentioned, I do have a few years of this business under my belt.
My Credentials Include;
· “I.I.C.R.C.” (Institute for Textile Cleaning and Maintenance)
· “Fabric Cleaning Schools of America” Tamas, WA.
· “Ramsey Tech.” for Rug and Upholstery Spotting, Rug and Upholstery Cleaning
· “U.S. Research & Chemical Co. Attending and completing classes on Textile Cleaning & Restoration
· “Dyco Corp. Attending and completing classes on Textile Dyeing
Second, for my own protection I must give a disclaimer notice. Everything written here about carpet & rug cleaning and maintenance tips are my own opinion and have learned from my own experience. This information is not meant to defame, purge, humiliate, or injure anyone should they use or practice any of this information. I can not be responsible if you the reader damages there textiles or voids a manufactures warranty. Any cleaning processes used by the reader is there own responsibilities. I urge you to do your own research to be comfortable about cleaning your own textiles. If you find any of this information negligent or misleading please contact me so I can address any problems.
It is my opinion to achieve a quality cleaning job I would suggest using a certified professional. A true professional spends plenty of time in the class room, learning hands on techniques how to clean your carpeting, rugs and upholstery to get optimum results. Moreover, a good carpet cleaner keeps up with all the latest updates on maintenance and procedures.
Check with your carpet manufacture. You’ll find that most of them suggest hot water extraction (Steam Cleaning) Also they recommend having your carpets cleaned at lease every 12 to 24 months.
I know there’s a lot of do-it-your-selfer’s, so this is why I wrote this section, moreover, this is primarily written for spills in an emergence type situation. If you get a spill and let’s assume it’s in the evening or on the weekend, it’s something that you want to take care of now, not the next day. However, I do give you some general cleaning tips if you do take on the larger areas.
So without further ado, let’s get started!
Vacuum! Vacuum! Vacuum! Keeping the dry soil out of your rugs and carpeting not only keeps them looking better, but is essential to the longevity of all textiles. You can’t blame the carpet for prematurely wearing out if you don’t maintain it properly. Moreover, you’ll find that some of the manufacturers won’t honor there warranty’s if you neglect your carpets for the simple reason of not maintaining them.
If you don’t have pets routine vacuuming should be much easier and quicker for the simple fact that you don’t have the dander, fur, and hair to deal with.
Don’t make vacuuming a big deal; it shouldn’t be a dreaded chore. Use common sense. Let’s think about it. Most of us take the same steps from room to room, without many changes. So common sense would tell us that the traffic areas in the house should be where we spend most of our time with the vacuum cleaner. It’s fairly evident that in front of the couch and easy chair gets a lot of use from us sitting and shuffling our feet.
Some Oriental Rugs should be vacuumed with a vacuum only cleaner (No Brushes or Beater Bar) If you have a very old or expensive wool rug check with an Oriental rug specialist for proper maintenance. If you don’t know of one in your area give me a call and I’ll be happy to refer one to you. Also note that thick loop pile, frieze, and shag / cabled construction may become fuzzy or worn with the use of a beater bar vacuum. Be cautious, if you’re not sure, check with your manufacture.
Here is a sample of routine maintenance that can change depending on you particular situation. Again, common sense comes in handy, if you’re aware of a lot of sand and dirt coming into your home or frequent heavy traffic, you’re going to have to vacuum and clean the carpeting more often. Front door walk off mats do wonders to help keep sand and soils from entering your house.
Ø One to Two persons; once or twice a week
Ø Two to Three persons; two to three times a week
Ø Three to Four persons; three times a week
Ø Four or More; four times a week
If you have pets, daily vacuuming is recommended. I understand that some pets are small and have a short nap of fur or hair, so daily vacuuming may not be necessary. Do keep in mind, once sand and dirt gets far enough down into the tufts and in the backing of the carpet, it’s much harder and sometimes impossible to remove. Moreover, pets do venture in areas that we don’t, so more than just the traffic areas will need attention.
Lets clarify spotting verses staining; simply put spots can be removed while stains (as the word implies) for the most part are permanent. (Some newer carpets are almost totally stain resistant; we’ll talk about that a little later.) Each particular spot will need a certain chemical or cleaner for good results. If you’re cleaning large areas, remember most of the textile manufactures recommend steam cleaning. I would recommend renting a good extractor from a Janitorial supply, one that has at lease 100 PSI water pump and a good vacuuming system. If you’ve never done this before, get some instructions on how to work the cleaning wand properly. If you don’t do this correctly you’ll have a good chance in over wetting the carpet and the problems begin. It’s best to use a pump type sprayer to apply the cleaner. Do not apply to much cleaner on the carpet, more in the traffic areas and less in other area’s. You can always spray more cleaner down if needed. A carpet brush is best to break the surface tension and work the cleaner into the carpet. Do not pre-treat spots. You’ll find that the general carpet cleaning solution will remove most spots. Moreover, when cleaning carpets, less it better. Use the carpet steam cleaner for rinsing only. Don’t put any cleaner in the machine. It is okay to put a rinsing solution in the clean water side. This will insure that it neutralizes any cleaner that may be left in your carpets.
Rinsing solutions can be purchased at a Janitor’s supply. Use the hottest water you can. The hotter the water the better results you’ll get. Make sure that you go over the carpet making plenty of dry passes. After you’re done cleaning, put on all ceiling fans and any floor fans that you may have. Drying the carpet as fast as you can will result in a better job and prevent any browning. Browning, as the word implies looks like brown streaks from over wetting, taking to long to dry or both.
Do not set your air conditioner thermostat below 72 degrees. Any lower and it will cause condensation in the house and your carpets will not dry properly. If it’s a nice day out side, especially in the spring or fall, opening your windows and running the fans will get your carpets drying fast.
You can get fairly good results doing it your self, however it’s difficult to get professional results for the simply reason that a truck mounted steam cleaner is much more powerful, not to mention that they can create hot water up to and more than 200 degrees and heat makes all the difference when cleaning carpets. As I mentioned, I did this for years and doing a good job takes experience and is nothing short of hard work.
Before we talk about removing spots I’d like to mention cleaning some of the newer carpets, especially Polyesters.
Mohawk has come out with a new line of carpeting called Smartstrand. This carpet is very stain resistant and only needs steam cleaning to remove dirt, soils and stains. In some cases you can use a mild cleaner, but that’s all. Another great quality about this carpet is that there’s no need to apply stain repellant. The stain resistant property’s are in the fiber. This is another reason that you need to know what you’re doing. Each manufacture may suggest a different cleaning and soil protestant program for there particular product. If you don’t know what kind of fiber you’re cleaning, you could get yourself in trouble putting the wrong cleaner on the carpet and possible damaging it and voiding any warranty.
This section will show you step be step how to remove spots and spills easily and with surprising good results.
Tools you’ll need;
Photo of all tools (I'm working on the photos now)
Ø Stiff bristle brush with a handle
Ø Paper towels and white Terry clothes
Ø One bottle of Seltzer (soda) water
Ø Isopropyl Alcohol
Ø Denatured Alcohol
Ø 4 Spray Bottles (finger trigger type)
Ø Wet – Dry Vacuum if you don’t have one, get one. A small wet-dry vacuum is all that you’ll need, there’re inexpensive and it has many uses.
These Solutions are for Synthetic Carpets and Rugs, not wool!
Cleaning Solutions for your spray bottles
· Solution (1) General Cleaner; in one trigger sprayer use ½ teaspoon (good) dish soap only, (no conditioners or bleach) to two cups of water. Don’t use a cleaner with a PH of 10 or higher.
· Solution (2) Ammonia Cleaner; Check for colorfast as ammonia can change or reduce the color in some carpets, mix one tablespoon of ammonia to one cup of water.
· Solution (3) Rinsing Solution; in one trigger sprayer mix ½ quart white vinegar with ½ quart water.
· Solution (4) Isopropyl Alcohol use a bottle with a small orifice, an old mustard or ketchup container.
· Solution (5) Denatured Alcohol use a bottle with a small orifice.
· Solution (6) Paint Thinner use a bottle with a small orifice.
· Solution (7) Water (tap or soda)
Mark your spray bottles! I learned long ago that I was wasting
time trying to figure out which one was the cleaner and which one was for rinsing, just for the fact that I didn’t mark them. They look the same.
Photo of bottles (photos in progress)
Some do’s and don’t
v Don’t scrub (in a back and forth motion) your carpet or rug with any bristle brush, this can and will untwist some carpets, leave a fuzzy look on others and will leave permanent damage.
v Do use a bristle brush with a handle and strike the spot with the bristles, but not in a scrubbing manner. This will loosen up the dirt or soil without damaging the carpet or rug.
Photo of bristle brush and striking the carpet (photos in progress)
v Don’t rub a spot in a back and forth motion, this can spread out the spot and create a bigger problem.
v Do use cotton terry clothes or paper towels and work the spot towards the center. Photo of working on spot (photos in progress)
v Don’t use a cleaner on top of another cleaner without rinsing first. If you put one cleaner on top of another without rinsing, you’re making a chemical bomb. No, I don’t think you’ll blow up, but you could create a problem mixing cleaners and possibly damage you carpet or rug. Photo of multiple cleaner around spot
v Do use cleaners that are compatible with the spot. Water based spots, use water based cleaner. Solvent based spots, (grease, oils, lip sticks) use solvent cleaners. Always start with mild cleaner and progress to stronger ones.
Before putting any cleaning agent on your carpets, always test for colorfast in an inconspicuous place, like a closet.
Try to identify the spot or if you know what it is you’re already ahead of the game. Unidentified spots can take longer to deal with for the reason of trying different cleaners. With unidentified spots always start with the mildest cleaner and that would be Water, unless its oil based. Remember, cleaners can and will leave a residue. Water, being the worlds best solvent, is the best thing to try before going to chemical cleaners.
Removing spots quickly after it happens is essential for best results. Get out your wet-dry vacuum. Using water only, pouring directly onto the area and immediately removing the water using your wet-dry vacuum. Do this process several times. If you’re dealing with a water based spill (not oily) nine out of ten times you’ll be able to rinse it out with water only if you remove and rinse the spot immediately. If you still notice the spot now will be the time to apply some cleaner. INSERT PHOTO (photos in progress)
Check out the “type of spot” in the reference area located at the bottom of this page to see what might work best. Again I caution you about using the right cleaner for the job, if you’re not sure what to do, call a certified professional. Damaging your carpet or rug with the wrong chemical may not be reversible.
If you don’t have a wet-dry vacuum blot the spot using terry clothes or paper towels. I like using paper towels. Seltzer water (club soda) is also a good cleaning solution.
The question of using soda water verses plain water is a debate that has been going on for some time. Personally, I like the idea of using soda water for cleaning spots for the reason that it contains a small amount of carbonic acid making it slightly more acidic than plain water in turn helping in the rinsing process.
Just pour some right out of the bottle and work the spot towards the center of the spill. Once the spot looks clean blot the area a few more times. Place a small fan next to the area to dry.
If you notice some discoloration once the carpet is dry (some soil or substance may have wicked from the bottom) you may have to rewet and blot the carpet again. This time place a terry cloth on the area with a book or something with some weight directly on the spot. This should absorb the remaining matter.
Rinse, Rinse, Rinse!
The key to a good cleaning job is rinsing! Look at it as if you were cleaning your laundry. You wouldn’t clean you clothes and not run them though the rinse cycle would you? It’s the same with your rugs and carpeting.
I’ve heard it many times, “won’t my carpets get dirty faster once I have them cleaned?” The answer is NO, as long as you rinse out the cleaner. If you clean your carpets on a regular basis (don’t wait till there bad), you’ll get a lot of life out of your rugs and carpeting.
A word of advice before attempting spot removal on oily substances.
I understand that it depends on your particular situation, but without a wet-dry vacuum it’s easy to spread the spot out instead of removing it, making a bigger mess. Always work the spot towards the center. Also, with water based spots, always rinse with water after trying the suggested treatment.
Reference guide for Spot removal
(Remember try water first, then the suggestion, the numbers refer to the cleaning solutions in your spray bottles)
Type of Spot: Suggestions:
Beer & Wine 3-2
Grease & Oils 4-1or 6
Pet Urine 2-1
General Dirt & Soil 1-7
Pen Ink 4 or 5-2
Blood Cold Water
Paint (Latex) 7-1-5
Paint (oil based) 6
Lip Stick 6
I know there’s a lot more substances that can get spilt in your rugs and carpeting, but these suggestions should help get some good results.
"Industrial Strength Carpet Cleaning" was my business in Clearwater, Florida. This truck had all the goody's to do the job correct and fast.