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?

Why Does This Spot Keep Coming Back?

Have you had the frustrating experience of the ‘recurring spot?’ Someone spills some food, the dog has an accident, or someone walks in with something on their feet. You go into action and work like crazy on the spot. Success! The spot is gone and you breathe a sigh of relief; the night continues. But, soon after, you notice that it is back! ‘What?’, you ask. So you work on it again, but, a little while longer and it’s back again! What’s going on? Let’s break it down so we can understand what we’re dealing with.

Where is the spot coming from?
I have had many people tell me in frustration that the recurring spot must be coming up from underneath, maybe even from the padding beneath the carpet. Is this the case?

Well, in most cases the answer is no. In order for the spot to travel , or ‘wick up’ it needs moisture. So unless there is moisture constantly present it’s unlikely that it is coming up from underneath. So in most cases it’s something in the carpet that is attracting soil. Before we go further you need to answer a question…

How long does it take for the spot to appear?
Don’t worry if you can’t remember exactly how many days or weeks it takes to reappear. It’s much simpler than that. If the spot appears during the drying process, when there is moisture present, that’s Type 1. If it takes weeks or even months to appear that’s Type 2.

Type 1
If the spot appears quickly, during the drying process, this shows that it is either not completely cleaned or is a chemical reaction. Some things, like coffee, can go deep into the carpet when spilled and often take several tries to clean out. Every time you wet the carpet the wicking action goes into effect and draws more coffee to the surface to be cleaned. Many time, though, you get a chemical reaction, commonly called ‘browning’, that happens. This is a similar reaction to the one that happens when taking a bite out of an apple and seeing the meat of the apple turn brown as it dries. This is a very simple reaction to fix. Try misting some white vinegar on the area to neutralize the spot. Of course, we are also willing to help you out. We use citric acid which has a ‘magical’ effect making the spot vanish before your eyes.

Type 2
When the spot takes weeks or months to come back, this takes more patience to get out. Something is in the carpet and is attracting dirt. Think back to the day the spot happened, the initial clean-up. What did you use? We’ve all done this: in a panic we go under our sink and grab the first cleaner we see and begin to work. Many times it’s dish soap, a highly concentrated cleaner. Many cleaners are not designed to be used on fabrics like carpet or they need to be rinsed out thoroughly. Honestly, often we are the causes of the recurring spot. What should be done? Use a diluted white vinegar solution (4:1 or even 8:1) and clean the spot. Try to blot it up as best as you can. The vinegar will break down the soap and rinse it out. It may take a few times but it will eventually come out.

Many blame carpet in general when these things happen. But, that’s not completely fair. When we understand what we’re dealing with we can spot like a pro.

Is Scotchgard Really Worth the Money?

When we are cleaning a carpet, we will ask if the homeowner would like the carpets protected with Scotchgard. Often we are asked in return, “Is Scotchgard really worth it? Does it really work?” Those are a good questions. The simple answer to both questions is YES. But let me explain why.

First, how does Scotchgard work? Scotchgard is a name brand. It is part of a large group of protectors called flurorochemicals. By far Scotchgard is the most well known of these (One study showed a 97% name recognition!). The treatments all work on the same principles. By reducing surface tension they make fabrics less absorbent. When applied either at the mill or after a cleaning they coat the fibers giving them somewhat of a non-stick surface. Dirt, water, and even oil do not stick to the fabric, allowing it to be removed more easily. On certain carpets you may even see the liquid ‘bead’ up and sit on top of the carpet. Even if it does not have that dramatic of a result, the effect is the same – easier cleanup.

We have to be reasonable, though, about what is expected from Scotchgard. Some have been led to believe that once you have this protection either built into the carpet or applied after a cleaning, the carpets are invincible; nothing can stain it. Although that would be nice, it just isn’t so. Scotchgard has limitations. If a red liquid is spilled on treated carpet and left it will stain. Think about it; even concrete can stain if you leave something on it. Scotchgard gives you more time and a better opportunity to clean things, but you still have to clean it. Another key factor is regular vacuuming. Scotchgard has the same effect on dry soil as on wet. But again, if regular vacuuming is not happening you probably will think the Scotchgard is not working.

Is it worth the investment? Yes, even if your carpets have a stain resistance built into it. Now, there is no doubt that the treatment put on at the factory is superior. It is done under controlled conditions and on new, never touched, material. Think, though, of what your carpets goes through over the year: kids, pets, parties, spills, accidents, constant wear in high traffic areas, cleaning. Each one of these can definitely have an effect on the carpets and on the protection. But, after a deep cleaning, you can restore this protection by applying Scotchgard. Is your carpet going to fall apart if you choose not to apply the protection. Absolutely not. But, think of Scotchgard like the wax on your car. You don’t have to wax your car, but if you do, it will look better and last longer. Same with your carpet.

Allergies and Carpets – Not What You Think!

We often hear a common thought, ‘I’m getting rid of my carpet because I’m worried about allergies.’ Now, granted, we are carpet cleaners, and, therefore, we love cleaning carpets and prefer you don’t get rid of them. But this thought process of removing carpets may not be well-founded. There are some circumstances where getting rid of carpeting is the best choice. Many times, though, this is based on a lack of understanding on how carpets really work and can benefit a home.

You carpet is a filter. Does that make you uncomfortable? Many feel that way. But really, should it? Your furnace has a filter. When you changed it last what did it look like? Probably filthy and dusty. Did you conclude that there was something wrong with your furnace or the filter itself? Did you feel that because the filter was dirty there was something wrong with it? Of course not! We know that the filter was doing exactly what it was supposed to do, trap allergens and dust. You either replaced it or cleaned it. How does this relate to carpets?

Carpets act like filters in your home. When air moves over or through your carpets, the fibers catch and hold dust, hair, pollen, dander, dirt, etc. Is this bad? No. Think about it. If you had hard floors would there be any less dust? Obviously not. Where would this dust go? Well, every time your furnace or A/C  turns on, or even when doors open and close or people and pets move, it causes air to move. With nothing to hold the soil and allergens, they get airborne easily and can find their way into us. Carpets prevent this from happening. They can actually make your indoor air quality (IAQ) better!

There is a big condition on this, though! Think back to your furnace. What do you do when the filter is full? You change or clean it. Most filters are designed to be replaced with new, clean ones. Your carpet is not designed to be changed every few months. It is up to you to clean it. This is done quite efficiently by giving it a thorough, regular vacuuming. Also included in this would be a deep steam cleaning to remove oils and deep down soil that vacuuming can’t reach. Unfortunately, many disregard these vital steps and blame the carpet when really they simply aren’t maintaining it. This is not simply conjecture, or opinion. Check out this link and the information linked to it:
www.carpet-rug.org/residential-customers/selecting-the-right-carpet-or-rug/green-label.cfm

So don’t be too quick to get rid of your carpet. Really consider the pros and cons of such a move. Carpet has gotten a bad rap the last few years and it is really not deserved at all.

What kind of vacuum should I buy?

We often get calls or inquiries about this. It’s a legitimate question. You want the best cleaning ‘bang’ for your buck. But, as with many questions of this nature most people seem to want us to tell them a brand and model that they should buy. But it’s not that simple. In order to answer that question consider what a vacuum actually does.

 

The vacuum simply creates a low-pressure system inside of it which moves air from the floor and out somewhere else on the body. It’s important to remember that all vacuums do this. Some move more air than others, filter the air better, have other gadgets (like a beater bar), have onboard tools, etc. There is a dizzying array of choices out there from units that cost less than a hundred dollars to ones that cost several thousand. Which should you choose?

 

Again, remember, THEY ALL DO THE SAME THING! That may seem obvious, but it is true, right? From our perspective as cleaners, the honest truth is that regular vacuuming with a cheap model is way better than only occasional vacuuming with a two-thousand dollar model. It’s the regularity that ultimately matters to the life and appearance of your carpets. Having an expensive vacuum DOES NOT mean you can vacuum less. Your carpets and floors don’t magically get less dirty because you have spent mega-bucks. A more expensive model may make the job easier and faster, but you can get the carpets clean with a cheap model.

 

So what kind of vacuum should you buy? TV commercials would have you believe that only the expensive models will work. Our answer is don’t be pulled into spending more than you can. Let your budget guide you. You may want to read over Consumer Reports or other similar things to find out about the reliability and durability of different models. Talk to friends and neighbors to see how they like their units. Personally we have had good success with Kenmore’s, but again, that is just us.

 

Sorry we don’t have a direct answer, but hopefully the above information can help you make a better choice.

Help! My pet had an accident!

 

Most people have pets, and many have more than one. How about you? One dog? Two? More? What about cats? Multiple? If you answered yes, you know that these members of your family make your home happier. Until, that is, an accident. Maybe you are getting up for work in the morning and literally step into something that happened the night before. Or you come home to find that they wanted to show that you were missed. These can be frustrating. But… STOP. Now is not the time to clean this up hastily. If you clean it incorrectly, you may be left with more than a memory. So, how do you clean it up? What do you do?

First, you need to understand why care and urgency must be shown in cleaning up urine. When urine is in liquid form it cleans up like any other liquid. You can soak it up and be done. The problem is when it dries! When urine dries, it changes. It creates urine salts, or crystals, on the carpet fibers and backing. Bacteria will immediately begin to grow and hence, the odor. The problem is that these salts do not dissolve with normal cleaners. Other spots will break down when exposed to soap, but not urine. When allowed to dry urine will have an odor that can last literally for years. Also, because of it’s composition, urine will often leave a yellowish stain that is usually permanent. So, as you can see, getting to it quickly is important.Let’s start with a fresh spot. Perhaps you catch your pet ‘marking’ an area or you can see it has just happened.

First, blot up as much as you can with a towel. Do this by using your weight or by standing on it. Do not scrub! This will only push it down further. Continue doing this until you are not getting any more moisture. This is perhaps the most important step, so take your time.

Second, use a carpet spotter to clean the spot (You can also use white vinegar in this step). Follow the directions on the cleaner. This will remove most of what is left. Again, use weight to BLOT UP the cleaner.

Third, spray with an enzyme deodorizer. Enzymes will break down and digest whatever is left in the carpet, eliminating the source of future odors. Enzymes take a while to work (sometimes up to three or four days) so be patient. Because it is a new spot, as an alternative, you can wet the spot with white vinegar. Then put a towel that is folded up over the spot and weight it down with books. This will continue to break down the urine and the towel, with pressure on it, will wick up any remaining urine.

So, now comes the more difficult problem: the old spot. Many times these are areas that may have been used for some time before you find them, having, perhaps, dozens of ‘deposits.’ What now? In these cases you must understand that this is not a surface problem. Because urine is warm when it hits the carpet and also based on the amount, often it penetrates into the backing and goes down to the padding and even subfloor. Many times these problem areas require professional help. We can do this. If you want to attempt this here’s what you do:

First, identify the size and scope of the problem. If at all possible, pull up the carpet and look at the backing and padding. Is it only a few square feet? Or does it span an entire wall length? Upon inspection you may immediately know if you can handle this or not. If it is more than a few square feet, we highly recommend calling us to help.

Second, replace contaminated padding. You cannot save this and it is not expensive to replace.

Third, does the subfloor need to be cleaned and/or sealed? A spray polyurethane will work nicely for this. What about the wall, trim, and any furniture? Does that need to be cleaned or removed? Often urine is not limited to the floor.

Fourth, clean both sides of the carpet. Start with white vinegar. Use plenty of it. This dissolves the urine salts. Let is sit in the carpet for 20-30 minutes to allow it to work, then blot or extract. Follow up with a carpet cleaner and again clean both sides according to the directions.

Fifth, treat both sides with an enzyme deodorizer. Again, use it liberally. It needs to get as deep as the urine did. Allow it to work for a few days.

Sixth, assess the situation after a few days. Can you still smell it? Than you may need to repeat steps four and five. Urine is stubborn; be patient. (With urine, odor and stain are two different problems. Often the odor is treatable but the stain is not.)

Hopefully, with these few tips you can be in a better position to react the next time an accident occurs.

Why get your carpet cleaned at all?

If you have carpet you know that it’s inevitable that something is going to happen: someone walks in with muddy feet (“I’m just walking a few feet!” as if dirt doesn’t have a chance to come off); Rover gets sick and has an accident; someone at your dinner party spills a drink. When that happens, it’s obvious – it’s time to clean the carpet. But what about when it’s not so obvious, when it’s been maybe a year or two and ‘they don’t look that bad?’ Why get them cleaned? There are a couple of good reasons to do this.

First, cleaning your carpets before they look as though they need it will make them last longer. Sand, grit and dirt is often not visible in your carpet. But every time it’s walked on it acts like a tiny piece of sandpaper, wearing at the carpet. Also oils will attach themselves to the carpets. Oils come from a whole host of sources from us, animals, even cooking. The oils can attract dirt and cause a carpet to lose the ‘shine’ it had when it was new. A properly cleaned and maintained carpet should last 10-15 years. We clean some that are over 40! Do you really want to replace the carpet before you have to?Second, it’s good for your air. Carpets are like filters. They trap allergens, pollen, pet dander, and other things. Believe me, this isnot a bad thing. Because of your carpet these are things that will not be getting into the air and consequently into your lungs. But, there is a limit. If a carpet is not cleaned regularly, it’s ability to hold dust and dirt goes down. Cleaning it is the answer. Vacuuming is necessary, but so is a deep-cleaning.

If it’s been over a year, seriously consider having your carpets cleaned. You’ll be glad you did.

What kind of carpet should I buy?

I would say that a week doesn’t go by without us getting asked, “I’m thinking of buying new carpet. What kind is best?” Many want us to give them a manufacturer and a brand. But, this is not a question that can be answered in a word or even a sentence, although that’s what most want. So what is the answer?

It seems to me that many people have the opinion that ‘carpet is carpet’, that all carpets are pretty much the same. Unfortunately, that could not be farther from the truth. Let’s compare carpets to something else we all have, automobiles. Are all vehicles the same? Of course not. Not only are there different brands but also categories. What’s best: a sedan or a pickup truck? A sports car or a minivan? Let’s face it, it really depends on what you’re using it for. Each one has a place and is suited for specific needs. It’s the same with carpets.

Carpets are made with as much variety as cars and trucks. To determine what’s best you really have to decide on what you’re going to use it for, what your family is made up of and their habits, and what you expect from it.

For instance, a three-season room is very different from a formal dining room, a bedroom from a family room. Also, who’s in your family: kids? pets? how many of each? The harder you will be on a carpet, the tougher it has to be. Also, how long will you be using it? If you’re planning on moving in the next five years you may not want to purchase a carpet designed to last 20 or more years (yes, they will last at least that long!).

Although there are countless brands and lines of carpet, we can look at carpets by what they are made of. There are primarily four types of materials are used in carpet production: nylon, polyester, olefin(polypropylene), and wool. Each one has very different characteristics and properties, just as a pick-up is different from a car.

Nylon: the best overall material for carpets. It has excellent abrasion resistance so traffic patterns don’t develop quickly, is fairly stain resistant, especially with Scotchgard Protection, and responds very well to steam cleaning.

Polyester: very stain resistant, but, we’ve noticed it crushes or mats fairly quickly and only lifts temporarily after cleaning. This carpet lasts a very long time. We clean some polyesters that are over 40 years old.

Olefin: the most stain resistant carpet. Some are bleach proof (although we don’t recommend it for cleaning). This is an excellent carpet for indoor/outdoor settings, or areas where you need a lot of stain resistance, like a play room. These mat or crush almost immediately, so take that into consideration. It has been far overused in home settings. Personally, I think this is one of the reasons that people have torn out their carpets and installed other floor coverings in recent years.

Wool: no man-made fiber is a soft as natural wool. It resists crushing, is good for long term wear, is naturally fire-resistant, and usually offers rich colors. Unfortunately, it is pricey.

This is just a very short list on carpets. Within each category are numerous ‘levels’; the type of material (nylon 6,6, PET, etc.), the density and backing just to name a few. I highly recommend the Carpet Guru’s website, at www.carpetguru.com, for a very comprehensive but easy to understand explanation of carpet, padding, and manufacturing. Read it over before you purchase any carpet. Just like you do your homework before you purchase your car, do your research before you buy your carpets. You’ll be glad you did.