How to Clean and Deodorize Your Carpet

Carpet-cleaning professionals say that the most effective method of keeping carpeting clean — and making it last a long time — is to vacuum it regularly. In fact, they recommend vacuuming three or more times per week, and daily in high-traffic areas.

They also point out that the quality of your vacuum makes a difference. An upright vac does the best job of removing deep-down dirt, but a big canister vac with a beater-bar head is good, too. Whichever you prefer, the motor must be powerful enough to create enough suction to remove the dirt, sand, and debris that is ground into the carpet. If the vac has a beater bar, its brushes should be free of lint, fuzz, and threads. The suction port and hose should be checked regularly for suction-robbing blockages, and the bag should be changed frequently to ease the flow of air through the vac.

Aside from regular vacuuming, the best way to keep your carpet clean and reduce wear is to place welcome mats outside every exterior door, and rugs on the inside to catch any leftover grit before it gets farther into the house. Finally, it really pays to have everyone remove their shoes when they come into the house.

But what do you do when little Nina spills some sticky red juice in the living room? Give her a big hug, tell her that you love her, and then spot-clean! Most of today’s carpets are made with a factory-applied stain guard. So usually, a small amount of water and a drop of vinegar or club soda will get out a stain. Use a clean, white, dry cloth. Don’t scrub — blot.

The most common mistakes people make when they try to spot-clean are over-scrubbing and using too much water. Scrubbing destroys carpet fibers. Excess water gets below the carpet into the pad, which leads to mildew and a funky smell.

Sooner or later, your carpet will need to be cleaned. Most do-it-yourself carpet-cleaning machines use the hot-water extraction method: A hot-water-and-detergent solution is sucked out of a reservoir, sprayed on the carpet, and immediately extracted with a powerful vacuum.

Here are a few tips that will help you be a carpet-cleaning success:

  • Before you head off to the hardware store to rent a machine, you need to know what your carpet is made of to select the right cleaning solution.

  • Before you start, test the solution on an out-of-the-way spot to make sure it won’t leave a stain of its own or bleach the color out.

  • Read the instructions on the machine and on the detergent. Follow them exactly.

  • Open the windows (or turn on the air conditioning) and use a powerful fan to help speed the drying process. The quicker you get the moisture out of the carpet, the better.

Time, home life (especially cooking), and pets can make carpets stinky. You may not notice anymore, but anyone who comes into the house probably does. If your carpet has picked up a funky smell, you can try a commercial carpet deodorizer or you can go to the pantry and arm yourself with a box of baking soda. Sprinkle it into the carpet, leave it for a few hours, and then vacuum it up.

For less money and a little extra work, you can try sprinkling grated potato (yes, potato!) all over the carpet in question. Let it stand for several hours and then vacuum. If neither of these methods works, stop trying to avoid the inevitable and call a carpet-cleaning company.

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