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Carpet Maintenance: How to Clean and Repair Carpeting

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Your carpets endure a lot of wear and tear in your home. They are constantly accumulating dust, dirt and debris. Even with regular vacuuming, they still need to be cleaned to maintain their condition. Learn how to clean and repair your carpets, so they continue to add beauty and style to your new or current home.

How to clean and repair

Common stains and how to treat them

  • If a guest spills some red wine on your carpet, dilute the spill with cold water or club soda. Then cover the spot with table salt. Wait 10 minutes before vacuuming the salt.

  • Blot coffee and tea spills immediately. The cream added to these drinks makes the stain doubly difficult to remove. Cream contains oil which also stains easily. Mix one teaspoon of mild detergent, one teaspoon of white vinegar and one quart warm water. Apply the solution to the spot and let dry. Vacuum the carpet once it's dry.

  • The carbonation in sodas and soft drinks help you clean them quicker, but you still need to act fast. Some of the dyes in sodas can permanently stain your carpet. Using the same mixture as above, blot the spilled liquid and apply the solution. Allow it to dry before vacuuming.

  • Muddy shoes can be a carpet's worst enemy. With the same vinegar and detergent solution, you can make your carpet look brand new. Apply the solution, and let dry before vacuuming. 

  • If you have young children, you know how it difficult it can be to get rid of pesky grass stains after a day of outside play. Dab rubbing alcohol into the greenish-brown streaks, allow it to air-dry, rinse with more alcohol and repeat until the stain has faded. You may need to repeat the process several times before the stain is completely gone. 

  • To remove fresh blood stains, blot the area with an ice cube covered in salt. If the stain remains, apply a three percent hydrogen peroxide solution and rinse. For older blood stains, peroxide or even milk can work to loosen the stain.

  • Drop a greasy slice of pizza face down on your carpet? Grease and oil stains are incredibly stubborn, because they sink into fabric fibers and don't budge. Blot the oil with a paper towel to remove the excess and gently rub a stick of white chalk over the stain, working from the stain's center outward. Baby powder and baking soda also work but are not as effective.

  • To get ballpoint ink out, spray the area evenly with aerosol hair spray from approximately four to six inches away. Next, blot the area gently and repeat the process as necessary.

Basic carpet care and daily maintenance

If you aren't already, you should be vacuuming your carpets and rugs at least once a week. If you have a pet, you should vacuum more frequently - depending on how much your furry friend sheds. Pay close attention to areas where people sit as well as high traffic areas; dirt and debris accumulate in these spots faster.

TIP: Before vacuuming, add baking soda to the bag to filter out odors.

Take your time when vacuuming. If you have wall-to-wall carpeting in your home, divide it up. Concentrate on one section entirely before moving onto the next. Make overlapping strokes for an even clean.

If you apply any deodorizers or cleaning products to the carpet, follow the manufacturer's instructions based on your type of carpet or rug material.

Professional carpet cleaners for hard or unmanageable stains

Hiring professional carpet cleaners require a little bit of effort on your part -- mostly in finding dependable ones that will be able to meet your needs. There are a few things you should check about a carpet company before you let them steam away.

Ask about the following:

  • Are they licensed to clean carpets in your area?
  • Are they members of a carpet cleaners' association?
  • Do they offer a guarantee on their work?
  • Are they (and, by extension, your home) insured against potential damage?
  • Do they follow the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) standards?

The cleaners will then likely use a steamer and mix of chemicals designed to get certain stains, odors and contaminants out of your carpet. Expect to have your furniture moved and not to have access to the carpeted rooms in your home for a little while; they have to be cleaned and have time to dry.

Dry cleaners for area rugs

Dirty area rugs should be taken to a dry cleaner. There are certain businesses that specialize in cleaning oriental and antique rugs. Those latter cases are especially important, because antiques hold value outside of emotional or decorative purposes.

There are also professional carpet dry cleaners that can perform procedures with powders or sprays. The process won't be completely dry -- there is always some moisture involved for the cleaning agent to work -- but your carpet is wet for a much shorter time than with a traditional steam cleaner.

Simple carpet dry cleaning can be done by you, but there are more thorough options involving equipment and expertise that a professional should handle. Just make sure the people you are working with really are professionals. There is no shame in asking the right questions and getting things in writing; a damaged carpet could be detrimental to your home's aesthetics and value.

Deep cleaning carpets once a year

Carpets get dirty; it's a fact of life that everyone has to contend with. Even if you're extra careful and remove your shoes before coming inside, dirt manages to find its way in. Regularly vacuuming will go a long way toward keeping your carpet clean, but grime still tends to work its way down into the carpet fibers.

Every 12 to 18 months, your carpet deserves a deep cleaning.

If you don't own one already, you'll need to buy or rent a steam cleaner from your local hardware or grocery store. The machine you rent should come with the proper cleaning products. If it doesn't, they probably have them for purchase them at the rental store.

  • Before you go about steam cleaning, vacuum the carpet thoroughly to take care of the surface-level dirt
  • Pre-treat any particularly soiled areas with pre-spray or traffic-lane cleaner
  • Follow the directions provided with your carpet cleaner on filling its reservoir with the appropriate levels of hot water and shampoo
  • Shampoo the carpet
  • After the carpet is shampooed, make at least two water-extraction passes with the cleaner
    • The first pass will be with the water spray on and is the equivalent of a rinse cycle
    • The second pass will be with the water spray off, to remove as much excess water as possible
  • Use your hand to test the wetness of the carpet
    • If your hand is damp, make another pass with the water spray off before testing again
    • The carpet should feel saturated but wrung out
  • Let the carpet dry overnight before walking on it
  • Leave windows open and fans on to help aid the drying process

Deep-cleaning your carpets isn't something that you need to do all the time, but the occasional pass keeps your carpets looking newer, longer. Dealing with the rental cost for a steam cleaner far outweighs replacing carpets.

Repairing damaged sections of carpet

Carpets endure a lot of wear and tear over the years. All it takes is a spilled glass of wine or some particularly stubborn mud to damage a new carpet. However, completely replacing the entire thing may not be necessary.

If done correctly, you can actually cut out the damaged piece and replace it will little-to-no evidence that it was done. Make a replacement piece from any carpet remnants left over from the original installation. Another option is to cut a piece from the back of a closet or other spot that won't be seen.

  • Press an empty can (or other appropriately sized container) onto the carpet remnant to leave an outline
  • Cut out the shape using a sharp utility knife
  • Place a piece of masking tape over the replacement piece, marking it with an arrow to indicate the direction of the nap
  • Mark the direction of the nap on the carpet next to the damaged spot in the same way
  • Using the same can or container, create an outline around the damaged part of the carpet
  • Cut along the outline with a utility knife
    (Avoid cutting too deep, as this will damage the carpet padding below)
  • Cut a length of carpet tape about two or three inches wider than the hole you just made
  • Remove the backing of the tape and slide it into place in the hole and under the surrounding carpet
    (Be patient; dealing with sticky tape in this way can be a hassle)
  • Insert the replacement piece, making sure the nap is going the right direction (use tape arrows for reference)
  • Press down firmly on the piece so it sticks to the carpet tape
  • Use scissors to trim any uneven carpet fibers and blend the new piece into the surrounding carpet

Re-stretching loose or lumpy carpeting

Over time, wall-to-wall carpeting can become loose, especially in high traffic areas. You can have it re-stretched or re-stretch it yourself. You'll need a carpet cutter or utility knife, a power carpet stretcher, a knee kicker, a stair tool, tackless strips and pliers.

  • Remove any floor molding
  • Start pulling the carpet away from three of the four walls, removing it from the tackless (or tacked) strips
  • Start at one corner, using pliers until the carpet is undone enough to grip by hand
  • Slowly work your way around the room, pulling the carpet from the strips
  • Remove the staples holding the carpet padding into place around the three walls you pulled up the carpeting
  • Remove the old tackless strips, and, once they are out of the way, lay in the new ones
  • Make sure there are no gaps between strips and that the tacks are pointing toward the wall
  • Re-staple the carpet padding back into place, putting a staple every three inches and along all seems

Rent a power stretcher and a knee kicker for the actual stretching. Start with the power stretcher -- doing one section, shifting the stretcher over about 18 inches and stretching the next section. Repeat the process, working your way all around the room. You can use the knee kicker to stretch the carpet in areas the power stretcher won't reach (e.g., in corners or around built-in cabinetry).

Cut away any excess carpeting with a utility knife or carpet cutter. Then, use a stair tool to tuck the edges of the carpet into the space between the tackless strips and the wall. Finish by replacing the floor molding.

With a little time, determination, and some rented tools, you'll have your old carpet looking like new again!

Ana M. Ferrer  Posted by Ana M. Ferrer on October 23, 2018

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