If you have taken care to vacuum your carpet regularly and remove spills, you may not need to clean your carpet for a year or more, even if it is a light colour. However, when the carpet does start to look soiled, you can either have it professionally cleaned or do it yourself. If you decide to clean the carpet yourself, make sure you use a good quality cleaning agent and carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
It is important to use a neutral shampoo – certainly not one that is alkaline, never use household detergents, and don’t use shampoos which smell of ammonia. To check proprietary carpet shampoos, leave a bit in a saucer overnight, pour off excess and allow to dry to see if it leaves a sticky residue to which house dust could cling.
If you use a shampooing machine, follow the instructions carefully. Remove the furniture from the room, if possible, and vacuum thoroughly before shampooing. Allow to dry overnight before vacuuming and putting the furniture back in place. It’s important not to allow the carpet to get too wet in case the pile and backing become distorted.
There is a range of cleaning powders available which are either solvent-saturated or detergent-saturated. Check the manufacturer’s instructions. After vacuuming, the powder is sprinkled liberally on the carpet, brushed into the pile and then vacuumed out. It is not necessary to remove all the powder from the pile as it can help minimize future soiling. The powder method is an easy way of freshening up a carpet. It also distorts the pile less and, because the carpet is less wetted, the room is ready for re-use sooner.
Aerosol foam shampoo
For light cleaning of small areas, aerosol foam shampoos can be used. It is advisable to test the shampoo first for sticky residue which may attract dust. Foam is usually sprayed sparingly on the carpet and worked into the pile with a moistened sponge or brush. Vacuum after the carpet is dry. In all cases, check the manufacturer’s instructions.
With this method, sometimes incorrectly referred to as “steam cleaning,” the carpet pile can be injected with a hot water and detergent solution under pressure so that the soil is suspended in the water which is extracted almost at once by a high suction, wet vacuum system. This method is particularly useful for very dirty carpets as it removes deep-seeded dirt, but it may not clean the surface as well as other methods. It is also useful for removing excess detergents from successive wet shampooings – and together the two methods can restore a very dirty, flattened carpet. Although a machine can be rented, it is best to have this type of cleaning done by a professional cleaner because care needs to be taken not to over-wet the carpet and thus distort the pile and backing.
Professional factory cleaning is ideal for rugs and carpet squares because all the dirt can be effectively removed. It is not as suitable for wall-to-wall carpet as on-site cleaning because of the inconvenience and expense of removing and refitting the carpet.