Everyone has at least some carpeting. From your home, work, cars and even the establishments you frequent, carpeting is everywhere. Since the first carpets were made in the late 1700’s, someone has had to keep them clean. (Can you imagine the smell tracked in from streets with horse-drawn wagons?) The problem with cleaning carpet is that it is not a smooth surface. By nature, it holds soils. Whether it is a deep, plush style carpet or a low profile, indoor/outdoor pile, dirt gets trapped. Just to vacuum carpet does not get all of the dirt. Unlike solid surface floor coverings, where what you see is what you get, carpet presents a list of obstacles that hide soils. How do we get to the bottom (Pun intended) of carpet cleaning and improving your vacuuming?
With so many different types of carpet, there are just as many different methods for it to be cleaned. These methods can usually be broken down into 2 categories. The first is daily or regular cleaning. This would include, vacuuming and spotting. The second would be restorative maintenance such as extracting. Both are very important to keeping carpets not only looking good, but safe, healthy and extending the life.
Vacuum Carpet More Often
Vacuuming is the single most important part of carpet maintenance. In fact, I would go as far as to say that if vacuuming is not the focus of your carpet care, then you should probably replace your carpet with another type of flooring. If you do not vacuum effectively, all the other steps are really not important.
When you vacuum carpet, you must make sure the vacuum is not just removing the soil from the carpet, but it must also contain it, completely. There have been so many times over the years that I have seen custodians, shop keepers and even people in their own homes, vacuuming with a machine that either has clogged filers and bags or no filtering at all. They are picking up debris, but when they turn the unit on, a cloud of dust is released. This is just a small part of what it is constantly putting back into the air. If you are going through the motions when you vacuum carpet, you may as well actually contain the dirt.
Dirt and Water Make Mud
The best time to remove soils from carpets is while it is still dry. When you allow dirt to build up in carpet, then try to “deep clean” with an extractor you create mud. Dirt + Water = Mud right? Mud is much more difficult to remove from any surface but especially carpet.
“But I vacuum all the time with a (Insert high-priced vacuum cleaner here.) and every time I get a pile of dirt.” Try this. Empty your bag or dirt cup and vacuum the same area again. Did you get more dirt? I am going to guess the answer is “yes.” Even thought the vacuum went over the surface and removed some dirt, does not mean it is clean. Having a good vacuum cleaner is important, but does not mean less time vacuuming carpet.
There Is Always More Dirt In Carpet
One of my favorite questions that people pose is “We had someone spill water, or there was a leak in the roof. Now we have a stain ring from something in the water. How do we get this out?” It is almost never what was in the water, but what was in the carpet. Again, prove it to yourself. On a solid surface floor that is lightly soiled, pour a glass of plain ole’ tap water. Let it dry and there will be a dirt ring around the spill area. This is caused by the dirt that was already there, being pushed by the water to the outer edge of the spill. Since is concentrated and visible. This just proves that regular vacuuming has not removed enough soil from the carpet.
This same effect also happens when you “deep clean” carpets with water.
Keep Your Vacuum Cleaner Clean
Regardless of how much you pay for a vacuum cleaner, there are a few keys to it being successful. Keep the vacuum bag changed. Most bags are only effective until they are around half full. Once they are filled beyond half, the amount of air flow is restricted and moving the machine around only stirs up dust.
Keep the filter clean and changed. Again, once the filters are clogged, the air flow is restricted. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on cleaning filters if this is an option, otherwise replace as directed. It really does make a big difference.
Got To Go With The Flow
A vacuum cleaner is only as good as the motor that creates air flow. If the motor is too small or not working properly, there will not be enough air moving to pull the dirt into the bag. No air flow, no vacuum. If you just enjoy the noise it makes, tune your radio away from the station and turn it all the way up. That should create enough noise and not put more dirt into the air.
These tips will get you started toward a clean and healthy carpet program. When you vacuum carpet it’s great exercise, so make sure to include it in your daily routine!