Understanding Pet Accidents in the Home – Part 1

“Don’t you have something to spray on this to take care of the smell?” This is a question we often hear, especially in the humid summer months. We wish it was that easy. If we had a spray like that we would have probably retired already. But, unfortunately, there is not. The good news is that we can help with this. But in order to do this one needs to understand pet accidents in the home. First, why are pet accidents so hard to remove and second, the problem with amount.

Understanding Pet Accidents

Why are pet accidents (urine) so hard to remove? When the accident first happens urine is in a liquid form and quite easy to remove; just vacuum or absorb it up, and the problem is solved. The trouble begins when it dries. Urine that dries forms urine salts, crystals that form on carpet strands. (Imagine rock candy: sugar is dissolved in hot water and strings are placed in the water during the cooling process. The sugar collects around the strings in the form of sugar crystals. This process is similar to what is happening in your carpet, but not nearly as desirable.) Bacteria begin to feed on the dried urine and cause the unpleasant smell that prompts the opening question. Why not just clean the area? The issue with this is the urine salts will not clean off with detergents and water. They must be dissolved off with other types of cleaners and deodorizers. A cleaning will remove temporarily remove the bacteria but not the urine. Immediately bacteria begin to grow again.This process of removing urine is much slower and involved than a simple cleaning for soil, grease, food, etc.

Second, the pet accidents are often complicated because a pet may start to develop a bad habit in an area we may not see. Cats, for instance, may start spraying a wall behind furniture or in a corner in a lower level. A dog may start lifting it’s leg in an out of the way place. If the bad habit begins in drier months like winter it may not be noticed. As the warmer, humid air of spring and summer come, the problem seems to suddenly appear, the moisture triggering the smell. By the time the problem is noticed many ‘deposits’ may have been made, sometimes dozens! At this point the urine has penetrated the carpet, carpet backing, and padding. The tackless strip may be affected, trim may have absorbed urine, furniture and walls may have urine dried on them. While the carpet may be the most obvious source of odor it is by no means the only one.

So the bottom line: there is no simple spray. But it can be treated! We can discuss options that may work in your situation. Part 2 will discuss some of these.

Dealing With Small Floods.

You come home and find a present in your lower level. All that rain today and this is the day your sump pump decides to quit. Squish, squish, squish through your lower level you walk assessing the situation. Can you deal with this yourself? Maybe. Here are some things that may help deal with the problem and help you determine what is next.

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1. IS THE WATER STILL COMING IN? CAN YOU IDENTIFY WHERE IT IS COMING FROM?
This may seem obvious but it is very important. Some floods are obvious; water emanating from the overflowing sump pit, a broken basement window, etc. Sometimes it is not so easy; for instance, a water softener may only flood when it regenerates. We have helped some dry their carpet only to get a call a few days later telling us that the EXACT SAME FLOOD happened. Incredibly frustrating for the homeowner and very expensive. So, stop the water and get the problem fixed.

2.WHAT IS THE SOURCE OF THE WATER?
There are three categories of water:
Clear: This is fresh, clean water (a water pipe breaks, a filling hose on the washer ruptures, etc.)
Grey: This is water that has been used, it has things in it (the drain on the washer comes out, rainwater, dishwasher leaks, etc.)
Black: This is generally sewage or close to it (Ejector pump fails, floor drain connected to city sewer backs up, etc.)
Clear and grey water can be extracted and the carpet dried. SERIOUSLY consider replacing carpet that has been exposed to black water ESPECIALLY if you are on city sewers. Complete disinfection of the carpets is almost impossible.

3. IS THERE CARPET CUSHION THAT IS WET?
You may not think that there is any padding under your carpet but don’t assume that. Is there a metal piece (bull nose) where carpet and concrete or tile meet? That is a sure sign that there is a cushion under the carpet. Don’t go by feel either. Many cushions over concrete are quite thin. Good chance there is pad; most carpets have pad unless they are glued down. The pad must be removed if it has been wet for more than 36 hours. Even if it has been less than 36 hours, removing the pad greatly speeds up the drying process.

4. HOW MUCH AREA IS WET?
Always assume that more area has been affected that it seems. Often we look for visual clues, but water travels along the ground and will spread father than you think. Even if the carpet feels dry, the pad my be damp and in need of removal. A carpet will generally be wet underneath about three feet farther than the surface wetness.

This is just a brief guide to help you. If any of this seems to be a bit more than you can handle, call for help! Although expensive, the expense of professional help is minor compared to the amount of damage that water can do to your home and the long term effects of mold on your family.

Can you clean carpets in the winter? Do you?

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January is ending and February is about to begin. It’s cold and dreary. Why not add a little sunshine to the interior of your home? Often we are asked, “Can you clean carpets in the winter? Do you?” Without a doubt, the answer is YES. Consider the advantages and drawbacks of winter.

Yes, there are a few drawbacks.  These are often the reasons that winter cleaning is dismissed by some homeowners:

1. It’s cold outside!    This is very true. Our machines are truck-mounted, which means that all the hoses must go through an open door. Without a doubt, this leads to cold air entering the house. We do our best to minimize the effects of the cold by covering the door, but your house may drop a few degrees. Take heart, though, your furnace will warm up the house quickly when the cleaning is done.

2. It’s sloppy out!   This is true to a degree as well. Salt, slush, and snow are the mainstays of winter. But really, when is it not dirty out? Spring is rainy and muddy, summer is hot and humid, etc. Do you avoid washing your car in the winter because the roads are sloppy? Or do you wash it because the roads are sloppy? With good housekeeping practices that we know you have, the sloppy conditions will not cancel out the good effects of cleaning.

3. We are tight on funds!   Winter is a tough time financially for many of us. We, too, are not immune. We can work with you to get the most needed areas done. We can clean traffic patterns, spots, and the like to keep cost down but make sure you home looks great. Also, keep in mind that we accept credit cards. While we are not encouraging going into debt, these can serve a useful purpose.

Now consider the advantages!

1. Dry times are low!    Cold winter air has very little moisture in it -so- the humidity levels in your house are low! This allows carpets to dry quickly and efficiently with very little effort.

2. Humidity in the winter feels great!   No extra charge for the humidity. As the carpets dry, the moisture level in the air will increase, making the house feel warmer and more comfortable.

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3. Clean carpet = clean air!   We spend a tremendous amount of time indoors during the winter. Soiled carpets + dry air = lower indoor air quality. Clean carpets can help keep the air clean.

4. We have plenty of openings!   Winter is always a slower  time for us, so you can have your choice of times and days. No waiting lists and we can often respond the same day. Did your schedule open up today? Give us a call and we may be able to get you right in.  Yep, winter is a great time to have your home cleaned!

Green Cleaning – It doesn’t have to cost a lot!

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Green – it is a word that seems to be attached to more and more things. Manufacturing processes, fuel, cars, chemicals, cleaners, etc. (and the list could go on) are labeled as “Green.” No doubt, all of us want to take care of the planet and do what we can. But doesn’t it seem at times that the term ‘green’ seems to fit the money we spend and that companies make in the process? Home cleaning is no different. There are plenty of ‘green’ cleaners out there and you may have a few in your home.  Let’s talk about some things that you almost certainly have in your house that are often overlooked as excellent cleaners:

Hot Water: You can’t get any more environmentally friendly than this. So often when we want to clean or spot something we immediately think of detergents. Without a doubt, there is a place for those (i.e. grease, waste, etc.) but why not try water first? One of the things you can do is to heat the water first. The closer it is to boiling the better cleaner it becomes. When we clean carpets, we clean near 200 degrees! At that temperature you don’t need much soap.

White Vinegar: This is a great cleaner for windows, floors, and carpets. It dissolves urine, sweat, and other organic sources of odor. It also dissolves mineral buildups around sinks and faucets. It won’t leave a residue and is not harmful or toxic. Check this site out for more uses:  http://www.thenewhomemaker.com/cleanorg/vinegar.html

Hydrogen Peroxide (3%): This is the same stuff that you get at the supermarket or pharmacy. It works great to get out naturally occurring dyes and stains like wine or fruit juice. It can remove coffee stains, vomit stains, and may help with the stain left from feces.

Ammonia: This is also a very good all around cleaner for floors, kitchens and baths, carpets, and more. Check this site out: http://www.thriftyfun.com/Cleaning-With-Ammonia-1.html

Club Soda: I have been told by many people that they have gotten stains out of their carpets with this old remedy. I have not personally tried it, but it certainly is worth a try.

Hopefully, you get a sense that some of these old remedies still carry a lot of merit. Give them a try next time. It saves money and the environment. Hard to argue with that.

Does your carpet have those annoying filtration lines?

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Look at the picture here. Do you notice those sooty, grey lines along the baseboard? Many homes have similar lines, sometimes wider and darker, sometimes narrower and lighter. Either way they are both called the same thing: Filtration lines. I have talked to some very frustrated people who have vacuumed until their hands have blistered but cannot get them out. Often, the vacuum itself is blamed for not cleaning the edges well enough. Well I have good news and bad news for you.

The good news is that it is not due to poor vacuuming or the vacuum itself. The bad news is you need to have the carpets professionally cleaned to get them out. Why is this? Well consider the reason they are there in the first place.

Air is always moving in your home and it will use any area it can to do so. The biggest volume of air movements comes through the open doorways and staircases in our homes. That’s obvious. But, with the normal swelling and shrinking of building materials in modern homes due to the changes in temperature and humidity, there are other places for air to move as well. When air is heated it moves up and when cooled, down, and will use those small openings along walls that open up seasonally to do this. Winter is a prime time for Filtration Lines to appear because our homes are sealed up and dry. The building materials shrink making air movements easier up and down walls; combine this with ‘forced-air’ heating systems and conditions are perfect. But where do the lines come from?

The Filtration Lines come from your carpet acting like an air filter. As the air passes through the carpet, particles get caught in the carpet just like your furnace filter.  These are VERY small and therefore, not able to be vacuumed out. Cigarette smoke and the burning of candles enhances and accelerates this process as both put more particles in the air. When we come in to clean your carpets, we use a very strong cleaner targeted on the edges along with good old manual scrubbing. Usually these come out almost completely. In some cases, after years of this process with no cleaning, the lines can remain a bit.

Can you prevent these? Well, make sure you have a good furnace filter installed, limit smoke from cigarettes and candles (especially scented candles as these have a higher oil content and tend to burn more sooty), and get your carpets cleaned regularly. You can’t prevent these completely, but you can drastically reduce the unsightliness of them!

Thinking of buying new carpet? Read this first.

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Are you thinking of buying new carpet? There is a time to bite the bullet and pull out the old and put in the new. Before you do this, please ask yourself the following:

1. Does it really need to be replaced?

Many times what is considered ‘worn out’ is simply soil that can be removed with a good cleaning. Don’t give up quickly on your carpet. We clean for many who are having the “last cleaning” on the carpet. But the results are so impressive that they decide that there is really no need to replace. That’s a lot of money saved. Even if you really do need new carpets, a good cleaning can give a little more time to prepare.

2. What kind of carpet do you want?

This is a more important question than you might think. The reason is that unfortunately we see a lot of ‘buyers remorse’ in carpet purchases. Often, a homeowner wishes they could go back and just keep the old carpet they threw out! Whose fault is this? Blame is put all over; the carpet manufacturer and carpet salesmen take a lot of the heat. Now, admittedly, sometimes that is fair. But, often, a carpet consumer comes in knowing next to nothing about carpets. This needs to change.

Modern consumers have more information available to them than ever before. But often when buying carpets, a consumer may do next to no research! I have had numerous conversations with people that were only concerned with color and feel; ‘I want a thick blue carpet that will hold up to a lot of traffic and won’t show footprints.’  That is a good starting point, but what is a salesman going to do with that? Imagine going in to a car dealership and asking for a ‘blue car with a leather interior.’ What might you get? Who knows? You don’t really know what you want. The salesman will try his best, but most likely you are not going to be happy with his choice. We have been trained not to buy cars that way and we make better choices because of it. Perhaps you have spent hours, days, or even weeks scouring over websites and magazines before deciding on a car.

Approach carpet buying the same way. Consider the cost: some spend 5-10,000 dollars or more on new carpeting for their home. That’s like a car! But many go in ‘cold’ with no idea what types of carpet are available, the meaning of industry terms and brand names, the types of materials are used and their pros and cons, what cushions are needed, etc. Consider the amount of time and work to replace carpet; many are overwhelmed at how much has to be moved and replaced for installers to do there job. You don’t want to do this more often than you have to. Is it any wonder that ‘buyer’s remorse’ follows these purchases? As carpet cleaners, we benefit from your good choices. TAKE YOUR TIME AND DO YOUR RESEARCH!

P.S. Here is a good site to start with: www.carpet-guru.com

How often should I vacuum?

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Ugh! Who likes to vacuum. Okay, maybe some of you do. But realistically, most of us find it a chore. How often do we REALLY need to do this? Depending on how you feel about vacuuming, you may not like the answer.

First, can you vacuum too little? Without a doubt yes! At times we come into homes whose carpets have clearly been neglected. Perhaps weeks or months have gone by without a proper cleaning. This is very detrimental to the carpet; consider why. Soil is generally divided into two categories: oily and not oily. Soil that is not oily refers to things like sand, dirt, dust; mainly things that come in from outside your home. Soil that is oily refers to food, body and pet oil, tar, grease, etc. Now your carpet is going to get both.  If you are not vacuuming regularly, the soil just accumulates. The oily soil holds the non-oily soil near the top of the carpet. This is where most of the wear occurs. Normal use now becomes hard use and wear patterns develop prematurely, ones that cannot be cleaned out even with hot-water extraction, like we use. But vacuuming can greatly reduce the effects by removing most of the soil deposited. Just a side note: DO NOT SWEEP YOUR CARPETS! This is not an acceptable substitute and will accelerate the wear cycle. (Yes, we do run into this.)

Second, can you vacuum too much? Believe it or not the answer is no. Now, if you vacuumed continually 24 hours a day, yes, that would be too much. Vacuuming every day, or even a few times a day, is not going to create any long term problems. ‘But,’ you might be thinking,  ‘doesn’t the brushes spinning over the carpet on a beater bar wear it out?’ Sure, but a very small amount. The removal of the oily and not-oily soil is so beneficial that it negates the effect of the brushes.

So how often should you vacuum? That is a tough question to give a ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to. Each home will be different and each room in that house will be different. That being said we do recommend that all the carpets in the house are vacuumed at least once each week and the high traffic areas and/or rooms perhaps every day or every other day. Is this a lot of work? Maybe. But have you ever replaced your carpets? THAT is a lot of work and money.  A little elbow grease can go a long way!

Should I Clean My Own Carpets?

If you are like me, paying someone to do something in your home is distasteful. I know that in my line of work, that is exactly what I do. Ironic. But the fact is, if I can figure out a way to do it myself and save some money, I will. I fix my cars, repair my appliances, and do my own building. There is a real sense of accomplishment to figure things out. So what about carpet cleaning?

Even though I work as a professional carpet cleaner, I want to say straight out, that I am not in any way against cleaning your own carpet. Does this surprise you? Well, think about it from my standpoint: if you clean your own carpets, that means you want the carpets to last as long as possible; that’s what we want as well. But on a broader level, you care about the appearance not only of the carpets, but of your home as well. These are the types of people we like to work for!

Now this is not to say that cleaning your carpets can be done anyway you can think of. There are a lot of products that can be used to “clean” your carpets that we feel should not be used. We avoid naming brands to our customers as these change frequently, but instead focus on methods.

  • Liquids and powders that are applied, scrubbed in and left: This is a throwback method but we still run into it from time-to-time. This is a method that leaves most if not all of the detergent in the carpets. The problem is obvious. What happens to all the soap? It does not magically disappear or change. It sits in the carpet and will often attract more dirt especially when the humidity is high. When the carpets appear dirty, what do you do? Repeat the process. This creates a mess, no way around it. The carpets will appear dull and worn over time. This is a very tough situation to reverse.
  • Powders that are applied, scrubbed in and vacuumed out:These are advertised fairly frequently on TV and are often used in a pinch. They may contain odor absorbing compounds like baking soda. This has much of the same drawbacks as the above method. Again, a container of dry compound is sprinkled on the carpets and how much isreally vacuumed up? How many people are going to take the time to thoroughly vacuum? What happens to the the rest? It doesn’t go away. This method may give you temporary results but the long term results are poor.

What about methods that are good to use?

  • Home extraction units: These can be purchased at stores from Kohl’s to Home Depot. They work on the same principles as our truck-mounted units work. Water and a small amount of detergent are applied and then immediately vacuumed up. These work fine if used properly (SEE BELOW).
  • Rental extraction units: These are simply more powerful versions of the home units. The design may be different but they work the same. Your local hardware store, grocery store, and others may carry these (ex. Rug Doctor).

BE CAREFUL!!
Here are some things to consider when using the smaller extraction units:

  • DON’T — USE TOO MUCH DETERGENT!!!! This cannot be overstated. We tend to think that if a little is good a lot must be better. This is not true in this case. To illustrate, let’s compare detergent to fertilizer. What happens if you use too little fertilizer? The worst that can happen is the grass doesn’t grow as fast. What happens if you use too much? Well, has one of your kids ever tipped the fertilizer spreader in the yard? We found out effects the hard way in our house. The fertilizer acted like grass killer. It took two summer for the grass to recover. So it is better to use too little detergent when cleaning than too much. I suggest using perhaps half the recommended amount or less. You can always go over it again. But if too much is in the carpet, how are you going to get it out? Remember most of the soil you are trying to clean out is water soluble and doesn’t even need detergent to be removed.
  • DON’T — USE TOO MUCH WATER!!!! Anyone can wet a carpet. Honestly, all it takes is a hose. But, how are you going to get the water out? Make sure that you take a lot of vacuum strokes. Not only is this good for drying, as every drop pulled out is one less that has to evaporate, but remember, the water has soil in it. The carpet will be cleaner simply from this step alone.
  • DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE SIZE OF THE JOB!Doing the job right takes time with a smaller unit – no way around it. I have heard from my customers on many occasions that weekends have been lost to cleaning a relatively small area of carpet, an area that may take us an hour or so. You need to weigh the costs versus the benefits. Every do-it-yourselfer knows that there are some things it is better to pay someone else to do, whether because of the time, job size, or skill level required.
  • THIS DOES NOT REPLACE PROFESSIONAL CLEANING. I am not simply saying this for my benefit. It is the truth. While the small units work great for touch up cleaning or sprucing up for when the relatives visit, they simply don’t generate the heat and power that a truck mounted unit can. They don’t clean as deeply or as thoroughly no matter how much time is taken.

I hope this helps. Thanks for the nice comments about the blog. If there are other things that you have questions about let me know in the comments and I will try to address them.
Clean on!

How Can I Dry This Carpet?

Wet carpet! It is inevitable after having a hot-water extraction cleaning. You don’t want to walk on it, you don’t want to put anything back; your life seems like it is on hold. As carpet cleaners, we realize that the job is not REALLY done until the carpets have dried and life is back to normal. As a homeowner, no one needs to tell you this. So, how can this process be accelerated? Before I answer this, let’s consider some basic facts about drying.

Where does water go when it dries? That’s easy, right? Into the air; it evaporates and changes from a liquid to a gas. Why do things dry better on some days versus others? Basically, how much moisture the air can hold and how much it is already holding. What determines that? Mostly temperature. The warmer air is the more it can hold. Picture a balloon. When it is cold the balloon is small. As the temperature rises, the balloon gets bigger and can hold substantially more. As a matter of fact for every 10 degrees Celsius the temperature rises, the air can hold about twice the amount of water it did at the cooler temperature! What does this mean for us? Warmer is better for drying!

I consistently have well-meaning people proudly tell me that in order to dry their carpets faster, they are going to turn their air conditioning on. Based on the facts, is this logical? No. Think about it: we don’t do this in other areas of life. When your clothes come out of the washer, where do you put them to dry? In the refrigerator or the clothes dryer? The dryer of course. The dryer is HOT! Warmer air holds more water so things dry faster.

The other aspect of this is moving air. Again, remember the clothes dryer; it blows hot air around the clothes and blows it fast. So in order to dry your carpets faster, get the air moving! Fans, big or small, make a difference. Also, a simple step to take is to turn your furnace fan to the ‘ON’ position. This moves air throughout the home and can make your furnace act like a big dehumidifier.

Now, depending on outside conditions, there are a few other things you can do. You may want to increase the temperature in the house by turning the heat on. This works well in colder times of the year. Every degree helps. Opening windows is a great optionif it is nice outside. Even if it is hot and humid, the windows are still your best option. I get a lot of sideways looks in the summer when I say this. Again the air conditioning may seem like the best option. But consider: how does the volume of air that moves through your house with open windows compare to the amount moved by your furnace? The windows provide a massive increase in air movement, a must in drying.

So, we increase air temperature and air flow through the building. Now what? Time; we have to wait a bit. You can only remove so much water through extraction. Think again about your clothes. Even after an extended spin cycle they are still wet. It still takes time to dry. But we hope the results make it all worthwhile.

Common Misconceptions About Carpet Cleaning

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“How often should I have my carpets cleaned?” This is one of the most asked questions. What do you think? Every few months? Once a year? Once every two years? Only when absolutely necessary? Well, let’s examine what’s behind the question itself.

I’ve found that a person that asks this question usually has underlying concerns. Many times these are based on misconceptions.

Misconception #1 – Cleaning your carpets wears them out faster.
False. Wear in carpet does not come from any type of cleaning but actually from a LACK of cleaning. Soil is constantly being deposited in your carpet. This has a bad effect when it is walked on, much like sandpaper would have. You need to remove the soil, grit, sand, oil, etc. Vacuuming the carpets is a good start and is vital to long-term care. But you need to ‘wash’ out the deeper soil and especially the oils. Think about an oily spot on your counter. Doesn’t everything stick to it? The same thing happens on your carpet. Sand, grit, and other things readily stick to it causing further wear. You have to have it cleaned!

Misconception #2 – Once you clean your carpets they get dirtier faster.
False. This misconception comes from the days when you literally ‘shampooed’ your carpet. You soaped up your carpet, scrubbed it, and left it. It looked great for a while, but what do you think all that soap did? It attracted dirt. Time to scrub it again with more soap, and more dirt was attracted even faster. Do you see an issue? Today’s methods are far better. Hot-water extraction leaves very little detergent in the carpets. They will not resoil faster based on the cleaning.
Now it has to be said that cleaning can affect the factory protection. You need to replace this with Scotchgard protection. Often, though, the cleaning exposes the wear the carpet has endured. Worn carpet soils faster. Also, once clean, we are often sensitized to any soiling and it can appear that the carpet is soiling faster.

Misconception #3 – They don’t look dirty.
False. Carpets should be cleaned before they look dirty. When they look dirty, it is gone too far; damage is being done to the carpets and wear patterns are setting in. Remember, your carpets have depth. Soil does not stay on top for long. Where does it go? It works it’s way down into the carpet. Perhaps, out of sight, out of mind; but, it’s still there.

Sometimes, people using a combination of these misconceptions allow years, even a decade or more before cleaning their carpet. They are often quite surprised, even shocked, at the difference a cleaning makes. Don’t let it go this far. Regularly vacuum your carpet and have it cleaned professionally. Next time: How can I dry this carpet?