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How to Shampoo a Carpet

Carpet Cleaning, Rug Cleaning, Upholstery Cleaning
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Many homes have carpeting in nearly every room except the kitchen and bathrooms. While carpets give both beauty and comfort to a room, they also collect more dirt then any other flooring surface. Dust, crumbs, and allergens settle deep into the carpet fibers where it can be impossible for a vacuum to completely remove them. Knowing how to shampoo carpet properly will help you to get your carpets and rugs as clean as possible.

Shampoo Foam Versus Steam Cleaning

The term "carpet shampoo" can actually refer to more than one cleaning method. When most people say "carpet shampooer," they're referring to a carpet steam cleaning machine which uses a combination of hot water and a cleaning solution to extract dirt from a carpet.

A commercial carpet shampoo, on the other hand, is a foam that is sprayed onto a carpet and allowed to dry before being vacuumed. These foams are designed to attract dirt, but unfortunately they leave behind residue that will continue to attract dirt and make the carpet look worse over time. They can even give a carpet a yellow cast that cannot be removed. Most of these foam products contain optical brighteners that give the illusion of clean, bright carpet.

For these reasons, using an actual carpet shampoo foam product is considered a poor cleaning method while the hot water extraction method is preferred.

Getting Ready to Clean

When preparing to shampoo a carpet with a steam cleaning machine, it's necessary to thoroughly vacuum the entire room first. For a total room cleaning, move out couches, chairs, end tables, and any other furniture before vacuuming. It may be a good idea to vacuum multiple times in various directions to lift the carpet pile and, thus, pick up as much dirt as possible.

The machine's instructions should be carefully followed since each machine works a little differently. On some carpet shampooers, the cleaning solution is diluted with hot water in a single tank. In other machines, the cleaner is added full strength to one tank while plain hot water is added to another tank. All steam cleaners will have a separate tank to hold the dirty water that is extracted from the carpet.

The actual cleaning process is rather simple. The cleaning solution is released into the carpeting as the machine is pushed along a straight path, and the machine then suctions the solution back into the waste water tank as the suction nozzle is passed over the same path two to three times. Rotating brushes on the steam cleaner help to loosen and remove much of the embedded dirt. The more times the machine passes over an area, the more water it will remove.

Opened windows and fans can help speed drying, and the floor should be completely dry before any furniture is moved back in. Placing furniture onto even slightly damp carpet can irreparably damage the fibers.

Cleaning Solutions

Numerous commercial carpet cleaners are made for use in carpet shampooers. Though the brand names of the cleaners usually match up to the brand names of steam cleaning machines, any cleaner can be used in any machine. Some cleaners are designed specifically to fight allergens, pet odors, or to clean high traffic areas. For stubborn spots and stains, it can be a good idea to spray on a stain pre-treater before steam cleaning the carpet as usual.

Some homeowners prefer to avoid commercial cleaners that are chemically based and not very eco-friendly. Plain white vinegar can be used in place of a commercial cleaner and may work just as well. The vinegar is simply added to the solution tank in the exact amount recommended by the machine's instruction manual. Vinegar has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that enable it to kill allergens and germs in the carpet.

Another option is to run the steam cleaning machine with hot water only--no cleaning solution at all. Some people have noted that hot water alone removes large amounts of dirt, leaves the carpet looking fresher and brighter, and never leaves behind any residue. Even if you use a cleaning solution, though, it's possible to rinse the carpet afterward with plain water to remove any lingering traces of the cleaner.

Cleaning Frequency

How frequently you should shampoo carpet depends largely on the amount of traffic a carpet receives. A carpet that is walked on daily should be cleaned at least once or twice per year, but carpet in an infrequently used room may need to be shampooed only every 18 months. Light colored carpeting will show dirt more easily and may need to be cleaned more often.

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