How often should you?

How often you should clean your carpets — and the right way to do it

Dirty carpets not only look bad, they’re loaded with pollutants and grime. These dirt particles act like sandpaper, breaking down carpet fibers every time you walk on them. That’s why it’s important to clean carpets regularly. We asked Dean Carter, owner of Carter’s Carpet Restoration in El Dorado Hills, California, to share some of his carpet-cleaning savvy with us.

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Vacuum

The best way to keep carpets clean is to vacuum them s-l-o-w-l-y in back and forth repetitive strokes. How slowly? Carter says it should take about 15-20 minutes to properly vacuum a 300-square-foot room. Doing so removes 83% of the dry soil in the carpet. In the average household, vacuuming should be done at least twice a week.

Professional cleaning

Now here’s the surprising bit of advice. If you want to extend the life of your carpet, it is important to have it professionally cleaned at least once a year. According to Carter, most carpet manufacturers recommend the steam cleaning method. This penetrates deep into the fibers and lifts out the dirt and the many pollutants we track in on our shoes. Also, it removes most of the moisture, so carpets dry fast. (Always check with your carpet manufacturer before cleaning.)

DIY steam cleaners

Sure as the sun rises, there will be times when your carpet needs an emergency cleaning. For larger messes, a DIY steam cleaner works but, cautions Carter, do not use the cleaning solution that comes with the steam cleaner. This leaves behind a soapy residue that will attract dirt. Instead, use water and, if you need a boost, a drop of blue Dawn dish detergent or a bit of white vinegar. Carter also advises that you take care not to apply too much water when using a DIY steam cleaner. Water left in the carpet can cause mildew and odor.

If one of those “emergency” cleanings is due to muddy footprints, Carter offers a time-saving tip. Allow mud to dry first, scrape dried mud off the carpet, then vacuum. Clean remaining stain with steam cleaner or with the water/drop of Dawn solution and a cloth. Blot dry.

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