How to Wash Your Carpet - dummies

By Gill Chilton

However often you vacuum, there comes a day when the carpet looks dull, it’s time to wash the carpet to get it clean. Grease from cooking, food spills, and body oils cannot be vacuumed up. It needs either to be dissolved in the wet, sudsy solution of a detergent or lifted dry by chemical absorption.

People often put off carpet cleaning thinking it’s a major heavyweight of a job. Only painting ceilings is worse! But actually having a carpet-cleaning machine out on an 12-hour hire gives you the motivation to tackle not just the floors but all those other cleaning/home maintenance tasks you never get round to, such as unsticking the sock drawer (rub candle wax on the runners and you’re done) or descaling the iron.

Low physical effort jobs sit neatly with the push and sweat of carpet cleaning and give you something to do whilst you take regular breaks. So go on – make a day of it!

For periodic washing you face two choices: getting in professionals – top choice is a wet high-pressure steam-and-water extraction method that costs around £20 per room – or to do it yourself. You can hire a machine from a DIY (hardware) store or supermarket for around £30 to £50 per day including cleaning solution. Or you can buy your own carpet-cleaning machine.

Deep cleaners are worth having. These shoot a high-pressure spray of hot tap water and cleaning solution deep into the base of your carpet. Almost immediately, this is extracted out by the machine to give carpets that are dry to the touch in an hour or so.

You can often apply stain protector to your carpet via a carpet cleaner. Some carpet shampoos add stain protection as they clean.

Give traditional combination wet-and-dry cleaners a miss. Although you get a cylinder vacuum and a carpet shampooer, they are bulky and awkward to use. The vacuum function is usually fine, and the shampooer may be okay for regular freshening up, but they don’t remove soil from deepest fibres.

To get great results from a carpet washer, use these tips:

  • Before you begin, spot test with a correctly diluted spot of solution to check for colour and shrinkage. Leave the solution to fully dry then compare your spot with the rest of the carpet. Look for any colour fade, or for pile that now looks visibly shorter, or distorted. These are signs of shrinkage.

  • Dilute shampoo as instructed. Using a stronger solution only increases the likelihood of leaving detergent residue in the carpet and won’t give you cleaner results.

  • Use warm water on wool to avoid shrinkage.

  • Spot treat bad stains first. Pre-treatments are sold alongside the shampoo.

  • Start from the far side of the room to avoid walking on the wet parts. Carpets are weaker when wet and your footprints can permanently depress the pile.

  • Go slowly. The water extractor needs time to work.

  • Make this a two-person job, or take regular breaks. Emptying bucket after bucket of dirty water is tiring.

  • Open windows and doors to speed drying time. Turn on central heating as you finish.

Take two pieces of identification with you when you go to hire a carpet cleaner. Most stores insist on seeing items with your address on, such as a driving licence and utility bills. Go prepared and save a double journey!