Carpets add a special coziness to any home, but they require regular maintenance to keep them looking and feeling luxurious. Regardless of how regularly you vacuum, every carpet can benefit from a deep cleaning in the form of a carpet shampooer. So to keep that accent rug or wall-to-wall looking new, it helps to know how to keep it clean.
Why Use a Carpet Shampooer?
Dirt and grime can be very stubborn, clinging to surfaces despite superficial attempts to wipe them away. Think about how your linoleum or hardwood floors can darken a bucket of clean water after mopping, even after preparatory sweeping or vacuuming. Sometimes dirt just has to be scrubbed out with soap and water. Carpet is no different.
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In fact, when dirt comes in contact with carpet, it grinds and weakens the fibers. Regular foot traffic can noticeably deteriorate the plush look of your carpet. The best defense is to incorporate deep-cleaning into your carpet care routine.
Carpet Shampooer Options
The most affordable carpet cleaners are small, hand-held models that hold about half a liter of water at a time. You'll have to get on your hands and knees to use this type effectively. They are best for small areas or spot-cleaning. If you have kids or pets and need a way to instantly clean spills or messes out of carpets, this option is perfect.
Where those small cleaners are wildly inefficient, the upright carpet shampooers save the day. You walk behind these models, a bit like a lawn mower, and can cover an entire room in minutes.
If you only have one or two carpeted rooms, buying your own upright carpet shampooer may seem like an unnecessary expense. On the other hand, if you have a high square footage of carpet to clean, or what little carpet you do have tends to really take a beating, a high-end model could pay for itself.
Regardless, you have the option to rent carpet shampooers from local home supply stores. If you're on the fence about buying one, start by renting. Test out the carpet shampooer and decide if it truly cleans your carpet the way you hoped it would. In most cases, you're in for a delightful surprise as your carpet is restored to its original bright color.
Using a Carpet Shampooer
Carpet shampooers have two different compartments: one holds the clean water, and the other will hold the dirty water once you start shampooing. To begin, fill the clean water compartment to the "fill line" and add the cleaning solution as directed. In many models, you simply add the soap to the clean water. Other models may have a separate compartment for the soap.
Make sure you use a cleaning solution that is meant to be used in a carpet shampooer. The wrong kind of solution could damage the machine or simply be ineffective. There are a variety of options available so that you can find one with ingredients you are comfortable with and a scent that you like.
Firmly reattached both compartments and plug in the machine. Before you turn it on, familiarize yourself with the soap and vacuum components. Even rented machines should come with an instruction manual. Generally, the machine will default to "vacuum," and you need to press a button to release the clean water and soap.
Turn the machine on and hold the clean water button as you slowly push it over the carpet. Then release the clean water button and pull the machine backwards over the same path to allow it to suck the water back up into the dirty water compartment. These compartments are usually see-through, so you get the instant satisfaction of seeing that dirty water get pulled out of your carpet.
Repeat until you have covered the entire room. Severely soiled carpets might require several treatments.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Carpet Shampooer
Carpet shampooers are meant for deep cleaning, not for superficial vacuuming. Before you use the shampooer, make sure you thoroughly vacuum the carpet to remove all surface debris, pet hair, dirt, etc.
You should also expect to remove any furniture in the room if using an upright machine. These are bulky machines that are not easily maneuverable, and they tend to be powerful. In other words, they give such a deep clean that your carpet will surely change colors. To avoid awkward streaks and outlines, remove furniture so you can clean the entire floor.
When you're done cleaning, the carpet might feel moist, but it shouldn't feel soggy. Keep vacuuming up liquid until you can't see any more coming into the machine. Let the carpet dry before moving any furniture back onto it.
Finally, follow the directions carefully when it comes to how much water and cleaning solution to use. More is not always better. If you feel like a rented machine is not doing a good job, take it back and trade it for another one.
Carpet manufacturers recommend using a carpet shampooer at least once a year, but it may need to be done more often in busy households.