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Carpet Cleaning Guide

Carpet cleaning text overlaid dog sleeping on plush white carpet

Carpet has its advantages as a flooring material: it adds warmth, texture, and color to your rooms. But it also comes with its downfalls as spills, stains, and even just daily traffic takes quite a toll on the material. While regular vacuuming is a great first line of defense against dirt that damages carpet fibers and spot-cleaning is spot on for quick cleaning, your carpets need a thorough cleaning to look better and last longer. You should plan to have your carpets thoroughly washed every 1-2 years; the higher traffic in the area, the more often it needs to be cleaned.

While there are some DIY methods that people attempt to use to clean their carpets, we highly recommend you have your floors cleaned by a carpet cleaning professional. So we’re going to run through the two carpet cleaning methods that professional carpet cleaners use, mistakes that are commonly made when attempting a DIY cleaning method, and some measures you can take to eliminate pet odors.

Carpet Cleaning Methods

Professional carpet cleaning falls into two categories: dry extraction and hot water extraction. The method they decide to use will depend on the type of carpet you have in your house.

Let’s look into each method a little more closely:

Dry Extraction

Dry cleaning methods are more properly coined “moisture-controlled” than “dry” because while it doesn’t require water or wet shampoos, it applies a controlled amount of moisture. The biggest advantage of dry cleaning is that you can walk on the carpet again almost immediately after because it leaves your carpets dry. The downside is that, although it uses the same cleaning chemicals as wet processes, it is not as effective as methods that use water.

Hot Water Extraction

This method forces heated water and cleaning agents into the carpet to remove the dirt; the water and grime are then vacuumed up and your carpets are left spotless. Again, this process is more effective than dry cleaning, but there is a waiting period while the carpet dries.

Common Carpet-Cleaning Mistakes to Avoid

In an ideal world, you would have your carpets professionally cleaned. But people often alternate between DIY and professional cleaning and while doing it yourself is far less expensive, it is also typically far less effective. Depending on the method you use, it is easy for a novice to damage carpet and make these three common mistakes.

Mistake #1: Over-shampooing

When you apply too much shampoo or do not adequately rinse it out, a soapy residue tends to build up and becomes nearly impossible to remove later. This will leave you with a carpet that constantly attracts more and more dirt and has a gross film over the fibers that leaves it feeling not nearly as plush as carpet should.

Mistake #2: Using too much water

Over-wetting occurs when you use too much water that soaks into the bottom of the carpet. In some cases, the backing material can cause the carpet to discolor if it gets too wet and in other cases, the carpet will shrink, literally ripping itself up from the floor. Plus, if the backing and pad get wet, it’s very difficult to dry them and can form mold and mildew.

Mistake #3: Failing to protect wet carpet from furniture

When you clean carpet, it’s essential to remove all of the furniture from the room but oftentimes do-it-yourselfers will replace the furniture before the carpet has a chance to dry thoroughly. Many kinds of wood furniture are stained and will release the dyes within those stains when it comes into contact with a wet surface. Other pieces of furniture have feet that are made of metal which can rust and leave a stain in the carpet as well.

Removing Pet Odors From Your Carpet

Pet odors are notoriously difficult to remove from your flooring and home. Whether you’ve moved into a new home where pet odors and stains already exist or you’re a pet owner that feels like you’re constantly dealing with this challenge, we have a few suggestions that will aid you in tackling those pesky odors. Hope is not lost!

stock photo of dog on white carpet

Eliminating Urine Smells

When it comes to pet odors, urine is one of the hardest to eliminate. There are a few proven techniques when it comes to removing it from carpeting, some proven techniques and, others, old-wives-tales, the validity and effectiveness of which is often questioned.

The best method is to purchase an enzymatic-based pet odor remover from your local pet supply store. These cleaners contain natural enzymes that eat away at the substances in urine that causes it to smell. Pour the cleaner over the offending area - including the carpet pad - and cover it with a piece of cardboard or other material. The point of doing this is to let the cleaner sit on the spot as long as possible; time is your best friend in this situation so don’t attempt to quickly clean and dry it up.

Many common wives-tales include soaking the area in vinegar, applying a baking soda solution, and using color safe bleaches. But proceed with caution if you go this route.

If All Else Fails

There are some cases - especially with cat urine - where getting rid of the odor is almost impossible. Your best bet is to remove the flooring and replace it. You’ll want to, however, make sure that the urine hasn’t saturated into the flooring beneath. Animals are attracted to areas where that have already been soiled, particularly if it was by themselves, and will likely re-soil the new flooring if they can smell it. You may need to go ahead and replace the subflooring.

Eliminating Other Pet Odors

While pet urine is the most offensive pet odor, there are certainly other scents that absorb into your carpet and can plague your home. One of the best treatments is sprinkling baking soda on high use pet areas, letting it sit, then vacuuming it up. This can work wonders to freshen your rooms.

For a truly deep clean, however, nothing can beat a deep steam carpet cleaning. Hire a carpet cleaning professional to use the hot water extraction method to give your carpets the deepest clean possible. You’ll want to tell them ahead of time that your biggest concern is pet odors because they take special measures to eliminate those.

Cleaning Pet Stains on Carpet

The hot water extraction method can work wonders on pet stains too, but one of the best things you can do for your carpet is spot clean as soon as the stain occurs. Soak up the stain first, apply a carpet cleaning solution (consider one specifically formulated for pet stains/odors), and make sure not to scrub vigorously which can drive the stain deeper into the carpet fibers. Repeat the process as need - soaking and lightly scrubbing - as needed.