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Carpet Cleaning & Care

Submitted by Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

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Carpets get a lot of abuse during the winter months. There's the holiday onslaught of guests, the furniture gets rearranged for the Christmas tree, the pine needles leave their trail, and the snow, the slush and the outdoor debris all want to come in from the cold.

Don't wait until the spring cleaning bug hits to give your carpets some attention. By treating them now with some TLC (that's "tender loving cleaning"), you'll help prolong their beauty and their life.

Regular Maintenance

The first step to good cleaning is frequent and thorough vacuuming. "Frequent" means at least once a week. "Thorough" means going back and forth six to eight times on each section of the carpet. For the most efficient pickup, use an upright vacuum or a canister style with a power nozzle.

If your carpet is left untreated, dusty airborne particles can dull the colors, causing them to appear to change. For example, a soft rose shade might turn to taupe; light blue might take on a dull green hue. Fortunately, the original color is usually there under the soil. But if oily soils are left on the carpet for a long time, they may be absorbed into the fibers, causing the carpet to have a yellow cast that can be difficult, if not impossible, to remove.

Stains Be Gone

Spots and stains should be treated promptly. Many of today's carpets are treated with a stain-resistant finish, which means with immediate treatment many spots and stains can be removed. Here's what to do:

* Blot liquid stains, using a clean white cloth or paper towel.

* Scrape up semisolids, using a small spoon.

* Break up solids. Go at it gently, using a small spoon, and vacuum up the debris.

* No rubbing; no scrubbing. It will grind the stain into the carpet.

* Pretest the spot-removal agent in an inconspicuous area of the carpet. Wait 10 minutes, and then blot the area with a white cloth to make sure there's no dye transfer to the cloth or color change or damage to the carpet. (For stains that need a solvent - Goof Off will work - use it according to directions.) White vinegar is good for many stains (use half water-half white vinegar).

* Apply cleaning solution to a white cloth and gently blot it onto the carpet. Work from the edges of the spill to the center so the stain doesn't spread. Blot and repeat as necessary until the stain no longer transfers to the cloth. This may take several applications.

* Rinse the area with cold water; blot with a dry white cloth until all the solution is removed.

* Cover the damp spot with a 1/8"-thick stack of paper towels. Weight them down with a heavy object, such as a vase or pot, and leave overnight so the paper towels can absorb any remaining moisture in the carpet.

If a good vacuuming doesn't restore your carpet to its natural tones, or if your carpet has spots or stains that have been left untreated, it's time for a more thorough cleaning. You can choose between a deep extraction cleaning and a heavy-duty professional cleaning. For light soil, a do-it-yourself deep extraction cleaning requires special equipment that is available for sale or rent. The first step is to remove as much furniture as possible from the room. For the pieces that are too heavy to move, you'll need to protect the furniture from rust and stains. To do this, use plastic film. Place it around the legs and, if possible, under them too. Vacuum thoroughly. Then follow the extractor's cleaning instructions, using the recommended cleaning solution. Avoid over-wetting the carpet as shrinkage, discoloration, mildew or separation of the backing or seams may result. Allow about 12 hours for the carpet to dry before returning the furniture to the room.

For deeper soil or for set-in stains, or if your carpet hasn't had an extraction cleaning in the last 12–18 months, a professional carpet cleaner is your best bet. To locate a reliable cleaner, ask your friends for recommendations and/or contact The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (800-835-4624 or ) for the name of a certified cleaner near you. Be sure to get a written estimate before the carpet is cleaned.

Take proper care of the carpet now and it will last longer and save you money in the long run.

Ask Lorene

(This resource was added January 2009 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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