Proper cleaning preserves carpets

Maintenance is the key to keep it looking good

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Homeowners still love carpeting. It’s soft underfoot, makes a home quieter and is a great insulator. But keeping it looking great can be a challenge.

Mark Violand is the vice president of maintenance for D&R Carpet Service in Brooklyn Heights, Ohio. He is also a certified senior carpet inspector and investigator with The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration of Carpet.

“With 36 years in this business, if you asked me the best way to take care of your carpet, my response would be, ‘Can I take care of it for you?’ he laughed.

But with good reason, as the expert the manufacturer sends in when a customer files a warranty claim, he sees it all.

“Most of what I hear from consumers is that they just cannot keep the carpet clean. These are what we call soiling issues. I find out what has transpired since the carpeting has been installed. You would be surprised to know that nearly half of the vacuums in people’s homes are not working properly or are broken. I look at the impacted soil at the base of the carpet and determine how bad it is.”

They are either not vacuuming or using a defective machine. “A good rule of thumb is once a week per occupant in the home; that includes pets. So two adults, two children, two pets equals six times a week.” Realizing that most people do not have the time for that, he says that hitting the heavily trafficked areas once a day will do wonders for all of your carpeting as it prevents the dirt from traveling.

He checks the homeowner vacuum and finds worn brushes, belts that are broken or slipping, dirty air filters. He even met a homeowner who had a bag vacuum with no bag. “I opened the upright canister and all of the dirt fell out, I took a picture to use in my training class because you just can’t make this up.”

He often sees brush bars that are not moving at all and the plastic guides on the bottom that snag the loops and tear the rug. Vacuuming loose dirt is integral to extending carpet life, and there is proper way to do it.

“Setting the vacuum too low to the pile restricts air flow through the carpet fibers. Air flow is what gets the dirt out of the carpet. I am not interested if a vacuum has suction to hold a bowling ball. I want to see if it will pull a ball bearing into a vacuum bag.”

Mr. Violand says you should make sure that the machine is operating as it did when it was new. Overfilled bags and canisters, along with clogged hoses and filters, will not maintain air flow. He also points out that bagless vacuums should be emptied outside, and for those with allergies, a bagged unit is best.

When it comes to care, homeowners may not realize that improperly caring for your carpeting will void the manufacturers warranty. This includes proper professional cleaning,

“Hot water extraction is the best, and that is what maintains the warranty.” He says. “It is a misnomer, when you hear, ‘If a carpet does not look dirty, it isn’t.’ A carpet is doing its job, it is hiding the dirt. But it must be cleaned with a professional hot water extraction method every 12-18 months for a warranty to be maintained.”

He points out that he has sadly heard from many homeowners who have been “told by salespeople to hold off as long as possible on professional cleaning, and that is wrong.”

He notes that an upright cleaning machine does not replace a professional service.

“Those machines are only designed to clean lightly soiled carpet and maintain appearances in between professional cleaning. Certified test results by the Carpet and Rug Institute show those machines extract a very small amount of soil, around 13 percent, while professional hot water extraction removes around 90 percent of soil.”

He explains the simplest and best plan is to get the professional cleaning on schedule and to use your home carpet cleaner to deal with immediate spills and heavily trafficked areas as needed to keep it looking its best.

A word to the wise about spot removers, many are designed with optical brighteners and have chemicals that will set the stain. They also leave behind a residue that encourages more soiling, encouraging spots to “reappear.” He recommends visiting the CRI website and finding those that have been tested as safe and effective. The stain guide will also give advice about treating difficult stains caused by pets, wine and chocolate.

Lastly, he suggests entrance mats be used as a transition from any hard surface to carpet, indoors and out. “With proper care, there is no reason your carpeting cannot look great for as long as the warranty states.”

Rosa Colucci: or 412-263-1634.

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