Carpeting is a fact of life in our modern society, and who doesn’t love a carpet that’s clean and in good condition. It makes a room look richer and cozier (invites lounging!), and it helps dampens sound in the process. Keeping it clean, however, is often a tough job because it’s a given that anything we use regularly will get dirty. Few households can afford the space to isolate a ‘company only’ room to maintain its carpet in pristine condition.
And then you can’t mess with Murphy’s Law – or at least a logical corollary: “The likelihood of an open faced peanut butter and jelly sandwich landing face down correlates perfectly with the price of the carpet!” While we may generally win the battle against messy food, carpet care remains problematic for most and too often constitutes an embarrassment when we fail. Here are some important carpet care tips to simplify the challenge.
Regular vacuuming is the primary strategy for maintaining a clean carpet. Under normal circumstances, vacuuming twice a week is typical, and more often is recommended when heavier traffic and use is unavoidable. Vacuuming doesn’t cause excessive wear, so there’s no real limit to frequency. In some families, vacuuming is on someone’s daily to-do list and actually gets done that often.
Most users realize that vacuuming slowly with repeated passes over an area is the best technique. Follow recommend procedures to maintain the vacuum (empty the bag, fool!) to insure optimum results. First off, however, remember to remove potentially damaging objects before starting – paperclips, marbles, legos, power cords, small animals (gerbils really mess with suction!), and incendiaries. Breaking an otherwise good vacuum belt as a consequence for inattention is truly annoying!
Regular vacuuming is the best preventive strategy, but won’t affect stains once they appear. The number one technique for handling stains is to do it fast. The longer a stain remains, the harder it is to remove. Some spills are more problematic than others. Regular soda makes a resistant stain, whereas diet soda doesn’t stain at all (something to do with the fixative power of sugar!).
Don’t forget home remedies for stain removal. Club soda blotted on a stain with a simple cloth isn’t an uncommon solution. Using baking soda and corn starch as a kind of paste with a cloth or brush can be used to remove oil stains. Undiluted vinegar can also be used to successfully remove unsightly chocolate and coffee stains. As a general rule, use the friendliest solution possible to remove the stain.
Carpet shampooers are readily available and should be used periodically to keep carpet from developing resistant stains. Domestic models are becoming more popular so homeowners and renters needn’t wait as long to deep-clean their carpets. Commercial cleaning solutions and spot removers are readily available for both types and work well, especially if allowed to soak for 30 minutes or more. ‘Stubborn’ stains tend to stay that way if the cleaner is in too much of a hurry. Scrubbing a resistant stain with a brush is advisable for durable carpet types, whereas less durable fibers may be damaged by repeated mechanical action. Know your fiber! If in doubt, always test somewhere inconspicuous.
One strategy for reducing dirt and stains is to declare a ‘no shoe’ zone and require visitors to remove footwear before entering a carpeted area. Living in Hawaii, I’m used to this tradition, but realize how difficult it might be to suddenly institute the practice. Dealing with seasonal changes in footwear would likely complicate a change. If this approach is for you, make the changeover in late spring or summer when compliance would be the easiest.
Finally, consider using runners or small area rugs to complement the carpet and protect high traffic areas (e.g., in front of the lazy boy!). Entryways into the carpeted area or high-use spots like in front of sofas are logical targets. This is a no-brainer solution for keeping dirt and stains away from the carpet. Another no-brainer is to strictly ban high-stain substances from a carpeted area. Hosting a wine tasting party over expensive carpet would be a true Homer Simpson moment!
Carpet says a lot about our homes, but must be cared for regularly to keep it looking clean and presentable. Regular vacuuming and periodic shampooing are two solutions for aiding this goal, as is a commitment to remove stains quickly. The rest is behavioral – use common sense guidelines about what gets even close to the carpet. Employ critical carpet care tips and keep it clean!