1. Have your carpet professionally steam cleaned every one to two years, more often if you have children or pets in the home. Yes, it's expensive, but it's worth it. Hot water extraction cleaning, commonly referred to as steam cleaning, is the only cleaning method for carpets that is recommended by carpet manufacturers. Having your carpets professionally cleaned removes spots you thought were there forever, makes your carpets more hygienic, and helps prevent traffic wear.
Don't think you can replace a professional cleaning with a consumer-grade unit. Retail carpet cleaners and rental cleaners don't have the suction of a professional unit. As a result, they leave a lot of soapy residue in your rugs which can attract more dirt and actually leave your carpets looking dirtier in the end than when you started.
2. Avoid over the counter stain removal products. Many of those products contain oxidizers, which can take the color out of your carpets. It's a similar issue to that of the home carpet cleaning machines: without proper suction, you can't get out all of the chemicals you put in. When those chemicals sit in the carpeting and especially when they are exposed to sunlight, they act like bleach, leaving pale spots.
3. Clean spills by blotting, rather than scrubbing. Scrubbing at a spill breaks down the fibers of your carpet, leaving a damaged area behind. Even if you get the spot out, you'll still be able to see the area where you scrubbed.
Instead, blot with a small amount of pressure to soak up the liquid. Work from the outside of the stain to the inside, to avoid spreading the stain further. Once you have all of the excess liquid up, rinse the area with warm water and cover it with plain white paper towels. Put something heavy over the towels to apply continuous pressure and wait while the towels soak up the water.
4. Vacuum regularly. It's such a small thing, but it makes a big difference. Light colored carpets especially are prone to traffic wear and filtration (that dark ring that appears around the edges of your rug near the baseboards). Traffic wear happens when people walk on your rug, wearing down the fibers and grinding dirt into it. Regular vacuuming cuts down on traffic wear by removing the surface dirt, meaning that there is less friction between the feet of people walking and the carpet fibers. It can also reduce the effect of carpet filtration, by removing the dirt before it can stain.
5. Watch out for sun fading. Sometimes, it seems like you can't win with carpets: light colored rugs are prone to stains and traffic wear, while dark colored rugs get sun fading. Fading happens when a dark rug is exposed to bright sunlight for a long period of time every day, such as the rug next to a picture window or under a skylight. Eventually, the shaded areas under the furniture or out of the line of the line end up darker than the rest.
You can avoid fading in a couple of different ways. One way is to re-arrange your furniture on a regular basis, preventing shady spots from forming. The other advantage of this method is that your heavy furniture won't leave obvious "footprints" in the carpet when it is eventually removed. Another way is by using blinds or curtains to cover the window, only opening them when you actually want the light to come in.
Maintaining your carpets is one of the best ways to keep your home looking great, and it's really not that difficult. By using professional cleaning services, avoiding spot cleaners than can damage the carpet, cleaning stains properly, vacuuming, and avoiding fading, you can keep your carpet looking new for years to come.
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