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Carpet Care

Your new carpet represents a substantial investment and like your other fine furnishings requires proper care to keep it attractive over the years of service that it must provide. A good maintenance regimen will help protect your investment by prolonging the life of your carpet.

Carpet rarely wears out in terms of the fiber wearing away, rather its appearance simply deteriorates over time to a point at which it is no longer acceptable. Experience has shown that proper maintenance can help reduce the rate at which a carpets appearance changes. The methods that follow were designed to achieve that goal.

The Dirty Facts

The accumulation of soil particulates on a carpet is probably the greatest contributor to it's overall appearance change. The abrasive effect of soil particulates distorts the yarn tips and can eventually gives the traffic lanes a grayish look. This has to do with the fact that the abraded yarn tips reflect light differently than the unaffected yarns. When the fibers become so distorted that they begin to become tangled with neighboring yarns, the term matting is used.

Fact #1.

80% of the soil that accumulates on your carpet was walked in from the outside.

This is the abrasive type of soil that combined with foot traffic can do damage to the carpet. If it were possible or practical for everyone to remove their shoes before entering the home, the problems of this type soiling would virtually be eliminated! The remaining 20% of soil is environmentally caused. This is the fine layer of dust that appears on tabletops and other furniture. This soil is not harmful to carpet.

Fact #2.

When you enter your home without wiping your feet thoroughly on a entrance mat, it takes about 15 steps for the soil on your shoes to be deposited on the carpet. That is a path of soil that stretches 30 to 45 feet! It is easy to see how soiled pathways can occur throughout the whole house.

Fact #3.

Once a pathway becomes heavily soiled, it is usually too late to return it to its original look. Even the best professional cleaning methods can not recover 100% of the soil from a carpet. Also, as the yarn tips become distorted from the abrasive effect of the soil, they reflect light differently than the yarns that are unaffected. This distorted reflection often has a grayish coloration. Lighter colored carpets usually show this condition more than darker tones.

Preventive Maintenance

  • Walk off mats should be used at all entrances to absorb soil and moisture, and the mats should be cleaned on a regular basis so that they do not become sources of soil themselves
  • Use a quality pad under your carpet. Good pad not only gives better resilience under foot, but can also add to the life of the carpet.
  • Move heavy furniture occasionally to avoid excessive pile crushing. Put coasters intended for use with carpet under the legs of tables and chairs to help distribute the weight and prevent excessive pile crushing.
  • When moving heavy wheeled furniture (pianos, buffets, etc.) prevent damage by placing a barrier of heavy cardboard or plywood between the wheels and the carpet.
  • Protect your carpet from prolonged periods of direct sunlight with blinds, shades or awnings.


The most important step in caring for your carpet is vacuuming. Vacuum thoroughly and frequently, especially in high traffic areas. Bear in mind that walking on soiled carpet permits the soil particles to work there way below the surface of the pile where they are far more difficult to remove and can cause damage to the fibers. Frequent vacuuming removes these particles from the surface before this happens.

For rooms with light traffic, vacuum the traffic lanes twice weekly and the entire area once weekly. Those areas with heavier traffic require that the traffic lanes be vacuumed daily and the entire area twice weekly. Up to three passes of the machine will be sufficient for light soiling, but five to seven passes are necessary for heavily soiled areas. Change the vacuuming direction occasionally to help stand the pile upright and reduce matting.

A good vacuum cleaner is vital to prolonging the beauty and life of your carpet. Most carpet manufacturers would recommend a upright vacuum cleaner that has both a rotating brush and a beater bar for the majority of carpets. However, if you have a carpet with a thick loop pile such as a berber style, it may be sensitive to brushing or rubbing of the pile and cause the pile surface to become fuzzy. In this instance, a suction only type vacuum or a vacuum with a adjustable brush lifted away from the carpet so it does not agitate the pile, may be used.

Spots and Spills

Prompt attention to spots and spills is essential. No carpet is stain proof, although most have been treated to be stain resistant. The sooner you can attend to the spill the greater your chances are of successfully removing it. 

Here is some general advice on spot cleaning. If your carpet came with a free care and maintenance phone number, call that number for spot cleaning instructions before trying the following.

  1. Remove as much of food spills as possible by scraping gently with a spoon or dull knife.
  2. Absorb wet spills as quickly as possible by blotting repeatedly with white paper or cloth towels.
  3. Always blot, never rub or scrub abrasively, as a fuzzy area may result. When blotting, work from the outer edge in toward the center of the spot to avoid spreading the spill.
  4. If you are using a detergent or other cleaning solution, always follow up with a clean water rinse to remove any residue from the carpet. If you omit this step soil can be attracted to the sticky residue left by the detergent.
  5. Draw out any remaining moisture by placing several layers of white paper or cloth towels over the spot and weigh them down with a heavy object that will not transfer color, such as a plastic jug of water.

Cleaning your Carpet

Even though vacuuming can remove most of the dry soil, it is also necessary to clean your carpet on a regular basis to remove the oily, sticky soil that builds up in the pile as a result of cooking vapors, air pollution and tracked in dirt from outside. The particles of oily soil deposited on carpet fibers can cause gradual but significant dulling of lighter colors especially pastel tones. The color is not lost but is hidden under the film. If this kind of soil is left to accumulate it begins to attract and hold dry soil. This is the reason cleaning is so important when dulling of the color is first noticed, if allowed to remain to long, it becomes gummy and difficult to remove.

If carpet is cleaned before it becomes to unsightly, the cleaning chore will be easier and more successful. It is a myth that cleaning the carpet before it is absolutely necessary will cause it to get dirty faster. Carpet in a typical household should be cleaned every 12 to 18 months depending on the number of residents and amount and type of activity. In fact, many of the warranties regarding a carpet, require that the carpet be cleaned every 12 to 18 months.

Cleaning Method

There are a number of different carpet cleaning methods available today but only one that is recommended by all three of the largest carpet manufacturers in the United States. They feel that the hot water extraction method removes the greatest amount of soil while leaving the least amount of residue. This system is commonly called "steam cleaning" although no steam is actually generated. The process consists of spraying a solution of water and detergent into the carpet pile and recovering the water and soil with a powerful vacuum into a holding tank. This can be done with a truck mounted unit outside of the home with only the hose and wand brought inside or, where a truck mounted unit can not reach, by a portable, self contained system brought into the home.

It is to your advantage to use professional cleaners because their experience enables them to do a better job than you can do yourself. Their equipment has more extraction power than rental units available to you, and the carpet should dry more quickly. True professionals have also made a investment in training and understanding their equipment, to know the proper cleaning agents for the situation at hand, and to recognize the difference in carpet fibers and construction.

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