Easy Cleaning Essentials

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Even if you don't use professional help throughout the year, consider calling a maid service or a professional organizer annually to help you whip your home into shape. And, while your carpet may not require the regular cleaning that other types of flooring demand, it should be professionally cleaned once a year. Professional carpet cleaning extends the life of the carpeting and contributes to better air quality, reducing allergies and illness.

Even if you don't use professional help throughout the year, consider calling a maid service or a professional organizer annually to help you whip your home into shape. And, while your carpet may not require the regular cleaning that other types of flooring demand, it should be professionally cleaned once a year. Professional carpet cleaning extends the life of the carpeting and contributes to better air quality, reducing allergies and illness.


Do-It-Yourself Damage


Ideally, your carpet should be professionally cleaned. However, to save money, many people alternate between the do-it-yourself cleaning and professional cleaning. While the do-it-yourself approaches are far less expensive, they are almost never as effective as professional cleaning and involve a considerable amount of time and hard work. Depending on the method used, it is also easy for the novice to damage the carpet.


Beware of the three most common ways do-it-yourselfers (and inexperienced pros) damage carpets:

Over-shampooing

Over-wetting

Failing to protect the wet carpet from furniture Over-shampooing occurs when either too much shampoo is used or the carpet is not adequately rinsed. Both are practically inevitable with some wet do-it-yourself approaches. This is the biggest reason why even hard-core do-it-yourselfers should occasionally use a professional. If they don't, the build-up of soapy residue can be impossible to clean out, leaving a carpet that is a virtual dirt magnet.


Over-wetting occurs when too much water soaks into the bottom of the carpet. Some backing materials cause the carpet to discolor if they get too wet. Some carpets will shrink, literally tearing themselves up from the floor. If the backing and pad get wet, it is very difficult to dry them, and you run the additional risk of mold and mildew problems.


The final hazard is stains caused by furniture coming into contact with wet carpeting. Many kinds of wood furniture will release some of the dyes in their stain if left in contact with a wet surface. Many pieces of furniture have feet that are at least partially metal. The metal can rust, leaving a stain in the carpet.


Do-it-yourselfers are more likely to encounter these problems because they often don't remove all the furniture from the room when cleaning, and they often don't have ready access to the foam blocks and foil-backed cardboard squares that the pros use to keep the furniture off the carpet until it is dry.


Professional Cleaning Methods


One carpet-cleaning method, dry extraction, isn't technically a "dry" procedure; it's more a "moisture-controlled" process. That is, it applies a controlled amount of moisture to clean the carpet and still leave it dry. This process is similar to the do-it-yourself "dry" method, but the equipment is larger and much more thorough.


Though it uses the same cleaning chemicals, the dry process alters the amount of chemicals used and how they're applied. A machine with two counter-revolving brushes moves the cleaning agents through the carpet's material. The cleaner supplies enough liquid to dissolve the dirt, then re-absorbs the soil and liquid, which leaves the carpet dry for vacuuming and immediate use.


Some professionals spray a carbonated cleaning solution onto the carpet. The carbonation allows the cleaning agents to get to the carpet fibers with minimal wetting. The solution doesn't contain the oil or detergents that typically leave a dirt-attracting residue. Dissolved dirt is removed with a machine that rubs soft cotton pads over the carpet.


When compared to wet systems, this method may not get as much of the deeper dirt out, but is very effective at cleaning the visible portion of the carpet. It does this without the risks of residue or over-wetting. Many businesses use this system because the carpet is usually dry and ready for traffic within an hour.


Otherwise, professionals use methods similar to do-it-yourself approaches, with two important differences. First, pros do this all day every day, and that experience helps them realize the maximum cleaning potential of each system and avoid the hazards of each.


Second, pros usually use much more powerful and sophisticated equipment and cleaning agents. Because they know what they're doing, they can use all that extra power without succumbing to the risks that power entails.


For example, on heavily soiled carpet a professional might first use a power shampoo system and then follow it with hot water extraction. There is equipment that does both in one pass. Often, the vacuums used in hot water extraction systems are extremely powerful and are mounted on a truck that is parked in front of the home.


Professionals have two other advantages as well. First, they're accustomed to moving the heavy furniture. Second, they usually know a lot more about how to handle specific challenges like heavily soiled areas and stains.


David Hollies is a remodeling industry educator and consultant. He is also the founder of Washington D.C.-based Home Connections, Inc.

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