This past weekend, I took the opportunity to do some fall cleaning around the home office. Boxes that had been piling up in the closet from our wedding, various gadget splurges, and God only knows when were finally gotten rid of. I finally got the internals cleaned in my home server, and found a few gadgets that I haven’t seen since we moved in. Needless to say, the office was past due for a cleaning.
Perhaps the most obvious sign of this need was the carpet. Because I live in an apartment, our floors are covered in this beige carpet that makes me cringe every time I set foot on it. It’s rough, poorly padded, and ridiculously difficult to keep clean. Vacuuming just doesn’t cut it on carpet, especially the cheap variety that covers the floors of budget apartments.
Whether you’re trying to keep your deposit when you move out, or maintain the carpets of your own house for years to come, understanding the fundamentals of maintaining your floors is important. A stain on your carpet can change the way your entire room looks, and become an expensive fix down the line. Here are five ways to keep your carpet clean.
Upright Deep Cleaner
In order to really give the office a thorough cleaning, you’ve got to bring out the big guns a few times per year. In my case, it’s our Bissell PROheat 2x that boasts superior water storage, an abundant assortment of bristles, and a heated water distribution system that combines with the shampoo to give the carpet a decent cleaning every time.
One of the advantages to having this particular upright deep cleaner is that (in cases where you own your home) the Bissell can replace the requirement of a yearly professional cleaning to maintain your Scotch Guard warranty. This means that by owning one of these uprights, you can avoid having to prove a professional company has been hired to clean your home on a yearly basis, should anything unfortunate happen to your carpet that demands warranty repair or replacement.
You might also include steam cleaners in this category. While many deep cleaners have built-in heaters, a true steam cleaner does its job by using extremely hot steam to blast stains right out of your carpet. Steam cleaning is a great way to sanitize and clean tile and other hard floor surfaces, too. Make sure you’re following recommended guidelines for both the steam cleaner and your carpet. The term “steam cleaner” is often mixed and matched in conjunction with deep cleaners, but they’re easy to tell apart.
You can rent deep cleaning (and steam cleaning) systems from local grocery stores. Usually, these rental units are giant red boxy appliances that aren’t very pleasant to look at. Contrary to their appearance, they’re actually pretty good at getting even the dirtiest carpets back to their factory-fresh shape without a bunch of manual labor required on your part.
After cleaning, you can spray a protective sealant on the carpet. Scotch Guard has a line of products that fits the job perfectly, giving you the same protection your carpet came with for many years longer than it would have otherwise.
Nothing can damage your carpet quite like the wheels of a desk chair. Not only do the wheels themselves dig into your carpet over time, but the lubricant placed on them (and the chair’s swivel point) can dry out and flake off, leaving a stain-inducing black powder behind. In short, chairs are really bad on your carpet. You can protect your floors from damage by buying a relatively inexpensive chair mat at your local office supply store.
If you’re really creative, you might find some really good ones online in a variety of styles to suit your decorative scheme. Bamboo, woodgrain, and transparent plastics in a variety of shapes are pretty easy to find and put into place. If you live in an apartment, this is a big recommendation as it could spare you from having to pay for repairs should your observant landlord spot the wheel tracks on the floor.
These mats are also great to put around high-traffic areas such as the entrance where outside dirt tends to be tracked in the most.
Sometimes, things happen. Your dog may have an accident, the drink on your coffee table tips over, or the kids track mud in from outside. Not every job is big enough to require you to grab the upright deep cleaner, or rent one. For these jobs, you can easily grab a spot cleaner and put it to work on the would-be stain. The faster you get to it, the less likely it is to become a permanent fixture in your living room.
In the video below, Chris Pirillo demonstrates a spot cleaner he uses to pick up small messes left by his pets around his home office. You’ll notice that spot cleaners (no matter their brand) are typically pretty compact and easy to store in a coat closet or other out-of-the-way place. While they may not replace the need for an upright solution, they are better than having nothing at all.
Hire a Professional
Sometimes, a job is just too tough to handle with consumer equipment. Carpet in heavy-traffic areas that goes a long time between cleaning, stubborn stains such as wine, and any number of other issues can make cleaning your carpet impractical or downright inconvenient. A professional carpet cleaning service can work wonders on stained and damaged carpet without a significant investment on your part.
Further to that, your carpet’s warranty may depend on having this done at least once per year.
Professional carpet cleaners generally charge by either the rooms or square footage involved. You might be able to get away with a deal by having multiple rooms done at once, or holding out for a special from the company. Many carpet cleaning companies offer a spring cleaning special of some sort to give you an extra incentive to choose them over the competition.
You can also find frequent deals on this service through group coupon services such as Groupon.
Half of all wear and tear on the typical carpet can be avoided by taking a few basic precautions during your day-to-day activities. A carpet takes a lot of abuse over years of use, and a few extra steps on your part can keep it looking fresh and new for many years to come.
Take Off Your Shoes
Get into the habit of either removing your shoes at the front door or switching to a pair of shoes you only wear inside. This will keep the outside dirt and grime from rubbing into your carpet, and avoid any friction damage as you shuffle the hard soles of your shoes across the floor. Even if you think you pick your foot up with each step, there are times when turning, stopping, and stumbling through the room (you know who you are) adds up to a worn and damaged carpet.
Get into the habit of vacuuming the carpet once or twice per week. This will keep the dirt from building up and being driven deeper into the fibers by day-to-day traffic. The longer you go between vacuuming, the darker and dirtier the carpet will become. You’d be surprised at how grey a beige carpet can turn in a relatively short period of time.
Clean Stains Quickly
Never let a stain set in for more time than it needs to. A spill, pet accident, or other stain-causing problem should be treated right away. Even red juices can come out of a carpet if caught quickly enough. Dab liquids with an absorbent towel, apply stain-fighting cleaners that have been tested on your carpet, and have the area shampooed as quickly as possible if traces remain. Getting a month-old stain out of carpet fibers is extremely difficult compared to one that’s only existed for a day.
Avoid Using Heat or Pressure on a Stain
Be careful, though. Pressing a towel into a carpet can actually set the stain deeper into the fibers. Treating a stain with heat such as a blow dryer will set the stain as well, even though it appears to be evaporating the cause. Often, the colorful components in a beverage don’t evaporate with the water, giving them nowhere else to go but into your carpet.
With these tips in mind, your carpets should look and feel great for years to come.