Congratulations, you’ve purchased your very first carpet cleaner. While you might have what you need to clean your carpets, you may not quite know how to get the job done right. Fortunately, we’re going to help you with that particular problem.
Why bother going through the basics? Simply put, carpet cleaning in your home is a job that’s just a little too big to mess up. If you don’t clean your carpets correctly, the best-case scenario is that your carpets might be dirtier than before. The worst? You may actually do some real damage to your carpets in the process.
Luckily, you can go ahead and start looking at the right ways to clean your carpet. Doing so will give you a chance to get the job done correctly the first time and will give you the confidence that you need to clean your carpets without a worry in the future.
How to Clean Your Carpets
Start with a Plan
Given the size of the job, it’s important to have a solid plan in place before you start cleaning your carpet. To put together the right plan, you’ll need to start by thinking about how long the job is going to take.
As a rule, your carpet is going to end up wet for a few hours after you are done cleaning. Most will tell you that you should be able to count on your carpets being dry after about six hours, but the truth is that this estimate only works if you’ve got one of the best carpet cleaners and if you use precisely the right amount of water when cleaning. If that’s not the case, you might have damp floors for a full twenty-four hours. As such, it’s usually a good idea to plan to clean your carpets when you’ll be able to let them dry overnight.
What happens if you don’t let your carpets dry properly? You’ll end up leaving damp spots whenever you move in your furniture. This, in turn, is going to impact not only how your carpets look but also whether or not you’ve created an environment that is perfect for growing mold .
Remember, the biggest mistake made by most first-time carpet cleaners is using too much water when they clean. Though you might feel like you have to spray more water to get things really clean, the truth is that you’re just looking to clean off the top layer of your carpet. If you manage to get the unseen parts of your carpet too wet, you’re creating the perfect environment for the growth of mold.
Remove the Furniture
Now that you know the timing of your cleaning process, it’s time to start moving out all of your furniture. In a perfect world, you’d be able to move out all of the furniture from your home before you start. In reality, though, you’re probably going to have to move the furniture out room by room to clean.
As a note, this is also a good time to get any small children or pets out of the way—you definitely don’t want any little feet on your wet carpets.
Use Your Vacuum
Now that you have the furniture moved, you can start using the vacuum cleaner. Vacuuming is a very important part of the carpet cleaning process because it gets all of the loose debris out of your carpet before you start cleaning. This, in turn, makes it much easier for the carpet cleaner to do its job.
Try to make sure you vacuum each room twice. This will ensure that you’ve removed as much debris as possible before you use the carpet cleaner.
Read the Cleaner’s Manual
That manual that comes with your carpet cleaner is full of important information, so you really should take some time to read it and figure out what you need to know. No two carpet cleaners are exactly the same, so just taking the time to read through and figure out how much detergent to use with this particular cleaner is worthwhile.
Read your instructions carefully to figure out if you need to use hot or cold water with your machine. Some carpet cleaners can use either, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry when working with any kind of machine.
Add Detergent and Water
Now that you know how to use your carpet cleaner, it’s time to get the cleaning mixture right. Note that you’re going to end up using cold or warm water—never hot. This means that you absolutely should never add boiling water to the tank, as doing so can cause severe damage to the machine.
If you do have a choice as to whether to use cold or warm water, look at your carpet. If you have a wool carpet, for example, you’re going to use cold water. Other types of carpets will generally benefit from warm water.
Try to make sure that you carefully pour in your detergent and that it goes into the right place. Some carpet cleaners have a special tank just for detergent, while others might simply require you to put detergent in the clean water tank. Always use the recommended detergent brand when you can and definitely never use dish soap as a substitute.
The Pre-Treatment Process
Before you start, you’ll pre-treat. This usually means going to the spots on your carpet that are in the worst shape and using some kind of pre-treating spray. These sprays can do a great job of loosening up dirt and debris so that you’ll be able to use your carpet cleaner’s hose to remove whatever’s been left in your carpets.
Time to Clean
Now it’s time for the real work to begin. Start by moving your carpet cleaner as far from the door as possible, as you want to make sure that you are not going over the same area more than necessary. You also want to make sure that you’re cleaning in a way that keeps you from having to step on the wet carpet more than once if possible.
Take a look at your carpet cleaner and set it to the setting that’s right for the height of your carpet and the amount of work that needs to be done. More intense settings are usually used in those areas that see more traffic, while light settings might be better for areas of the carpet that still look very clean.
Start your machine in the corner of your first room and then slowly move towards the next wall. Turn around, then move back in the other direction. Try to think of cleaning your carpets like mowing your lawn, which means always moving in straight lines and trying to keep your lanes slightly overlapping so that you don’t end up missing any spots.
Think About Speed
Carpet cleaners aren’t meant to be used quickly. Your carpet cleaning sprays out water in front of it and sucks it back up as you move. If you go too fast, though, the machine won’t have time to get the water back out of the carpet. As such, moving slowly and methodically is always the best choice.
Your goal is to go slowly but not to completely stop. If you stop, you risk putting down more water than your machine will be able to soak up in a reasonable amount of time. If you absolutely have to stop moving, make sure that you completely turn off your carpet cleaner.
Changing Out Tanks
Many modern carpet cleaners are designed to let you know when the dirty water tank or tanks get full. If you have an older machine, though, you’re just going to have to keep an eye on your water levels. When the tanks are filled, empty out your dirty tank and fill your clean water tank back up. Depending on the size of the job, you may have to do this more than once.
The Rinse Cycle
Now it’s time to rinse out your carpets. This is an optional step for many, but it does help with the overall health of your carpets.
If you’re going to rinse out your carpet, start by filling up the clean water tank with cold water. You’ll skip detergent this time, instead of going back over the room and simply using water to loosen up any soap or dirt that might still be in the carpet.
Once you’re done, you need to leave the carpet alone as long as you can. Open up your windows if possible and turn on any fans, like oscillating tower fans or dehumidifiers that you might have in the space. If you can, try to leave the carpet alone for a full day before moving any of your furniture back in. If you cannot, though, you should wait at least five hours before re-entering the room.
A Note on Upholstery Cleaning
If your carpet comes with a hose, you may be able to get some upholstery cleaning done after you finish with your carpets. You’ll want to check your upholstery to find out whether or not you can use the machine without causing damage, though. If you have any doubts, consult your manual to figure out if there are any fabrics that you might be warned against cleaning.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do you keep cleaning the carpet until water is clear?
No. This is a good way to soak your carpets and cause future damage. Try to limit yourself to one pass through the room, with a maximum of two if possible.
2. What solution do you put in a carpet cleaner?
You should use whatever solution is recommended for your carpet cleaner. If you can’t find that solution, make sure that use a product that is specifically designed for use in carpet cleaning machines.
3. How do I clean my carpet myself?
Start by moving all the furniture out of the room, then using your machine as directed and moving slowly across the room from side to side. When you’re done, run back over the area using only cold water, then let the room dry for at least five hours before you bring your furniture back in.