Originally published on GoodHousekeeping.com
Erase months of dirty feet (and paws) walking all over your living room.
Here’s the thing about carpeting: the plush, dense fibers we love to feel underfoot are also really great at clinging to dust, dirt, smoke, pet odor, and whatever other grime comes through the door.
Carolyn Forte, director of the Home Appliances and Cleaning Products lab at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, and Dennis Blake, former chairman of the World Floor Covering Association Board, spilled their tips for lifting dinge and stink out of carpeting.
1. Shop smart when you rent (or buy) a carpet-cleaning machine.
When we tested these machines in the GHRI, we learned a lot. Choose one that you’re able to lift and maneuver easily, and remember to factor in the cost of cleaning solution as you’re budgeting.
2. Time it right.
“Don’t clean your carpet on a humid day,” warns Forte. “You don’t want it to take too long to dry.” Extra moisture could invite mold and mildew, so open windows when your carpet is drying.
3. Vacuum first.
Before you deep clean with the machine, suck up loose dirt and debris with a thorough vacuuming. Otherwise, you might end up grinding dirt deeper in the fibers.
4. Remember to spot clean.
Give your carpet’s dirtiest spots and spills attention first. “Pretreat the worst stains with a spotting solution,” says Blake. “Let it sit for the recommended length — it will need some time to work.” We recommend the pretreaters by Bissell.
If your pets are accident prone, be sure to use a pretreating solution with enzymes (check the packaging), advises Forte. “Pets tend make messes in the same areas,” she says. “You may need to pull up the carpet to get down to the pad, and maybe even replace it.”
5. Clean a test spot.
Follow the carpet cleaner’s instructions for washing and rinsing, but try a test spot in a hidden area before you tackle the whole carpet. This will help you get comfortable with the machine.
6. Know when to seek professional help.
“We recommend getting your carpet cleaned professionally once a year,” says Forte. “Pros like Stanley Steemer (which we recommend) have more powerful equipment and know-how from years of experience.”
7. Keep it clean.
“Regular vacuuming is your carpet’s best friend,” says Forte. “Dirt is gritty, and actually wears at the fibers.” Vacuum at least once a week, and more often if you have pets, allergies, or lots of dirty-foot traffic. Place mats at doors and institute a no-shoe policy indoors.