09 January 2014

Cath's Guide to Carpet Care

After living with tiles, polished timber and carpet on our floors, my floorcovering of choice is carpet. It may not be the most fashionable choice at the moment, but it suits me and my family the best.

I've been told I'm silly, that carpet is too much work, that it is hard to look after and keep clean. Well I don't think it is.

Tiles and polished floors on the other hand are. The disadvantages outweigh carpet. Bare floors are noisy. They are cold. They are slippery when they get wet. They are hard. Anything that is dropped breaks. They show every speck of dust and dirt.  They must be swept every day and washed regularly to stay looking nice. Polished timber floors scratch easily.They are a lot of hard work.

Carpet on the other hand is warm and soft. It doesn't show dust and you don't need to vacuum every day. Yes, you do need to care for it, but it's easier to care for than boards or tiles.

Keeping your expensive carpets looking good and clean doesn't take a lot of effort or time, just regular maintenance, just as you do for tiles and floorboards, only not as often.

We have a rule: no shoes indoors. Did you know that the average family carries in an average of 2 kilos of dust and dirt on the souls of their shoes each week? So regardless of your floor type, a no shoes rule should be mandatory in all households.

Once your carpet is past the brand new stage, about a month after it has been laid, you should only need to vacuum once a week, twice at the most, with straight suction to keep it clean.  That's it for regular maintenance.  Easy.

Now there are a couple of extra things you can do to keep your carpets spic'n'span, just little things that make a lot of difference in how your carpet looks and feels.

Most modern vacuum cleaners come with turbo heads or power brushes, which sound like they will do a great job cleaning your carpet.  Try to resist using them. The brushes will brush the fibre from your carpet, weakening it. You may already be aware of this - when you empty your vacuum cleaner how much is actual dirt and how much is fluff?  Chances are most of the fluff is actually your expensive carpet being vacuumed away.

If your vacuum cleaner has a straight suction head, and you vacuum regularly, then you won't need to use the "turbo" brush.

Accidents happen. Things will be dropped and walked in or spilt. As soon as you see a spot on your carpet clean it up. The longer it sits, the harder it will be to shift.

1. To clean up spills and spots,  use the carpet cleaner (recipe below) and clean rags.
If there is any residue, scrape it off, from the outside in, with a butter knife or a spatula.

2. Using clean rags folded in four, blot any excess liquid from the stain, moving the rag around as it becomes soaked. Do not rub, it will cause your carpet to fuzz and pill. Instead press down firmly until the liquid is absorbed.

3. Lightly spritz the spot with the carpet cleaner and working from the outside in, so you don't spread the stain, press and blot with a clean rag. Use another clean rag to blot up any moisture. Continue in this manner until the stain is gone. Remember to lightly spritz the spot, you don't want to soak the carpet. Soaking the carpet can cause the dye from the backing or even the underlay to leach through, making the stain worse and almost impossible to shift.   

Best Ever Carpet Cleaner

1 quart of water
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 Tablespoons shampoo

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle and clean those carpets! Spray on a spot, blot with a damp cloth or mop, spray again if needed.

Dry Clean, Shampoo or Steam Clean?

That is the question. Pure wool carpets should never be steamed or wet cleaned, it removes the lanolin, which is a natural stain repellent, from the wool. There is also the possibility, although the manufacturer may deny it, that your wool carpet could shrink.

Before you clean or get your carpets cleaned, check with the manufacturer.

Depending on the style of carpet - loop, cut pile or twist pile - steam cleaning could be contra-indicated. Some twist pile carpets are heat set, so the heat from the steam will "untwist" the twist, causing your carpet to turn into a fuzzy, knotted mess.  

Ditto shampooing - some carpets are chemically set, so wet shampooing will ruin it.

Check first, it's worth the phone call.

And after all that, I still think carpet is easier to live with and care for than any other type of floorcovering. 

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  1. From a cleaner's perspective, carpet is quicker to clean (vacuuming only) requiring only one action instead of two (dustmopping/vacuum/sweep, then mopping), requiring less time. The best floor tool (that bit that goes on the end of the wand) I have ever used is the 'gulper'. It doesn't have a brush, does have wheels and makes light work of pushing the wand around. The other tool is the vacuum cleaner itself. I used commercial machines predictably. Consider a commercial machine for domestic purchase at it will suck better, last longer and will probably be cheaper than some of the upmarket machines. A commercial machine won't have many bells and whistles but should have the basics. If you choose to go that route, some retailers will allow you to exchange the floor tool that comes with the machine for a gulper mentioned above. Be aware that the fittings for commercial machines will be 32mm and for domestic 35mm so you can't easily interchange them without a sleeve thingy/adapter.

    On a slightly different tangent, I have made my own stain remover and it was quite effective, using liquid soap mix (homemade from soap, washing soda, borax and water), and a little bit of ammonia which was quite effective, but I have found that Britex spot and stain remover available anywhere you can hire those little carpet cleaners is better. Don't be tempted to use too much of it though or any that isn't removed will attract grime like a magnet!

    All that said, I prefer hard floors personally, although could possibly be tempted to have carpet squares...

    Margaret in Brisbane

  2. We had microfiber lounge suite cleaned a couple of months ago. Asked cleaner what he thought about 6 year old carpet (never cleaned). He reckoned it didn't need it and said hydrogen peroxide was the best to remove small spots and stains.


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