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!

Comments

Lillian Schaeffer
Reply

This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that renting a unit and cleaning your carpets yourself can’t replace professional services. My husband and I are going to be throwing a big party at our house in the next few weeks, and I wanted to deep clean the floors to get everything looking nice. Knowing that doing it myself is just for touch-ups, I’ll definitely look into just having a professional come and do the carpets. Thanks for the great post!

Jade Brunet
Reply

We have two dogs that live in the house and I think that it is about time to clean the carpets. It is good to know that one should not use too much water in this cleaning process. I did not realize that taking lots of vacuum strokes is a good method for drying. I have heard that it is helpful to clean carpet regularly to prevent allergens from getting caught in the fibers. Thanks for the tips.

James
Reply

This is possibly the best resource I have found on dos and don’ts if you decide to clean your own carpets. Coming from a professional carpet cleaner that means a lot that you would go so far to help indivduals. Thanks for doing your part in making the world a little cleaner.

George
Reply

Cleaning your own carpets does have advantages because it costs less. However, if you have serious stains then professional help may be needed

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