DIY Carpet Cleaning: How to Look like You Got New Carpet

Installing new carpet in a house is one of the most dramatic improvements you can do to make a house look more beautiful. Unfortunately, this is often beyond the budget.

There are, however, some steps you can take to give your old carpet a facelift at a fraction of the cost.

What can you do?

The first thing to realize, if you care about having nice-looking, long-lasting carpet, is that you have to give it basic care. If you do, you can extend the its useful life by ten or more years.

If your house has the cheapest carpet sold, then you may have to give it basic care to get even five years out of it.

If you have moderate-quality carpet (or better), you can get up to 20 years of good life out of it with basic care.

What is basic carpet care?

The vacuum
Of number one importance is vacuuming the carpet regularly. Not the most fun activity, but oh, so important. The ideal is every day or every other day, but this isn’t realistic for most of us. Once a week is a good compromise. If you vacuum less often, dirt particles work their way down to the bottom of the pile where they act like little saw blades every time anyone steps on them, cutting away at the pile of your carpet. Bit by bit, they scalp your carpet!

You need a good quality vacuum cleaner. Don’t buy the cheapest one you can find. You don’t need the top of the line either. It will more than pay for itself by delaying the need for new carpet. You must change the bag regularly to get much benefit from your effort. And don’t forget to clean any filters. (My Hoover Wind Tunnel has two filters.) This will not only make your vacuum work better; it will extend the life of the machine and save you more money there as well.

When I finally invested in a good vacuum cleaner, I couldn’t believe how much junk it took out of my carpet. I’d been in the habit of vacuuming fairly regularly, but I had no idea how inefficient my old vacuum was.

Not only did it clean better, it made the nap on my carpet stand up again. That alone gave a fresh look to the carpet. After a thorough going-over with the new vacuum (it took two bags!), the carpet already looked noticeably newer.

The upright cleaner
Your carpet needs to be “washed” as well as vacuumed. Every six months is the recommended interval to have it steam cleaned according to many carpet manufacturers, but that can vary depending on how heavily traveled your rooms are. A lot of pets and/or kids may cause you to wish you could clean the carpet more often. I suggest you invest in a carpet cleaner of your own so you can whip it out whenever the mood strikes you. I’ve tried several types, including the ones you rent at the grocery store, and I wasn’t impressed until I borrowed a Hoover Steam Vac. It’s easy to use and it does a great job. I now own one.

It was a little embarrassing to see how much dirt this machine took out of my carpet the first time I used it. My carpet was 12 years old at the time and still looked pretty good. But after cleaning it with the Steam Vac, I was amazed. It looked different and I could remember now why I’d chosen it in the first place. I really liked the way it looked. And the icing on the cake was when two different people asked me if I’d gotten new carpet!

Here’s a tip on which carpet detergent to use with your cleaner. Try none. Use just hot water. I’ve experimented with and without detergent. The hot water gets out almost as much dirt and it makes your carpet cleaner in the long run because of an interesting phenomenon. It’s hard to get the soapy water completely out of the carpet. Any soap residue left behind attracts dirt like a magnet. Your carpet will “dirty” up much faster. If you must use detergent, try using ¼ as much as the directions say.

Stains
It’s important to deal with stains and messes promptly. The longer they wait, the greater the odds they’ll permanently discolor your carpet. Pick up any non-liquid parts with paper towels, then use your carpet cleaner to remove the stain.

If it’s a pet stain, especially urine, you’ll need to neutralize it as well. This is important for two reasons. One, you probably don’t want to smell urine in your house. Two, if you don’t remove the urine smell, you risk having your pet stain the same area again.

I’ve tried many, many brands of urine neutralizer and my favorite is Nature’s Miracle. It contains enzymes that digest urine. I would suggest a modification to the directions, however.

They say blot up as much liquid as you can. I say use your carpet cleaner because it gets more liquid out than you can blot. The directions tell you then to saturate the soiled area with the product, being sure to get clear down to the carpet pad. I agree. The next step is where we differ. They say to let it air dry. I say cover the entire area with a piece of plastic (like a garbage bag) and weight it down. Leave the plastic on for 24-48 hours. This gives the enzymes enough time to completely do their job. After 24-48 hours, remove the plastic and let the area air dry. If you still smell urine, repeat the process.

The hand-held cleaner
I also own and recommend a more portable cleaner, like the Bissell Clean Green Machine. Having both this and the upright cleaner is a bit of a luxury. You could do with one or the other. But having both means small stains get cleaned up right away. The portable cleaner is faster and easier than the upright cleaner for small areas but it’s not practical for a whole room.

A little time can save big money

A small but regular investment of your time can easily double or triple the lifespan of your carpet. This is a mixed blessing. With proper care, you’ll probably be sick of the color of your carpet long before it’s wearing out!

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