Perhaps it was a big spill that left behind a stain that just won’t budge. Or a pet odor you cannot quite locate (and even worse—cannot seem to eliminate). Maybe you have simply noticed lately that your carpet isn’t quite the original color you remember. The time has come, you realize. Your carpet needs a good cleaning.

You are faced with a choice: call a professional or rent a machine and tackle the job yourself. The latter is certainly tempting. You see machines for rent at the grocery store at an attractive price. You think, my rooms aren’t that big, cleaning shouldn’t take long, what is the harm in trying? In this month’s blog we examine some of the potential pitfalls of Do-It-Yourself carpet cleaning, and what you should watch out for if you do take on the task yourself.

Tips and tricks

When it comes to taking care of spills and stains, quick action is definitely key, and spot cleaning is a relatively simple DIY task. The trick lies in how you tackle a stain. Your first instinct might be to grab some cleaner, spray heavily, and scrub away. Stop yourself before it’s too late! Scrubbing a stain will work the grime even deeper into your carpet fibers and spread it around. If you act fast enough, the stain may still primarily be resting on the surface, so adding a small amount of cleaning solution gently blotting it with a clean cloth or paper towel can help lift up (most of) the stain and avoid working it deeper into the carpet, where it can do more damage.

Blotting can work for a liquid or gel type stain, but what about something sticky? Candy might not feel like a big deal at first, but those little crushed bits can really bond to your carpet fibers. You want to start by getting as much of the candy out by combing the fibers before applying any type of liquid that will dissolve the sweet and spread the sticky. Once you have lifted as much out as possible, soak the spot with a sponge dipped in water mixed with a mild soap, then blot dry with a clean cloth. When it comes to gum, grab some ice to freeze the blob, which you can then remove. If necessary, you can use scissors to cut a tiny amount of the fibers right up on the gum. As long as you remove just a tiny bit of the fibers, the spot won’t be detectable, but working slowly and carefully is key.

When it comes to strong stains like wine, juice, or grease, you want to find a cleaning solution that works well against the particular stain. For wine, you should first try blotting with a clean cloth dipped in club soda. If club soda does not do the trick, the next step is a one-to-one ratio of water and white vinegar sprayed onto the stain and then soaked up after 10-15 minutes with a clean sponge. Dish soap works well on grease, and shaving cream can also serve as a good backup for many stains.

As you can see, there is a lot to know when it comes to removing even a relatively small stain. We did not even delve into removing pet stains, wax, or blood. In order to preserve your carpet fibers, understanding what type of solution you need and how to extract the stain and ensure it all dries properly is key.

Understanding the job

Even with an instruction manual, understanding the carpet cleaning process, your equipment, and your cleaning supplies is critical if you clean the carpets yourself. Without the proper knowledge, you are likely run into these potential hurdles:

What are the right proportions for cleaning solutions? A bad mixture could result in not getting carpet clean enough, actively damaging the fibers and adding a stain, or wasting solution (and $$).

What to do when the machine goes wrong? A badly attached hose, overworked gears, or parts not secured properly can result in an even bigger mess, a lost deposit for equipment damage, or even an accident. Understanding how to identify and avoid major problems is important, especially when it comes to extracting excess water from your carpet and avoiding the possibility of creating conditions for mold growth.

Why is the carpet taking so long to dry? The average machine available to rent is relatively small, in order to be portable. A smaller machine will not have the suction power of the more substantial equipment used by the professionals, which means you will not be able to extract quite as much water and solution, and the wait for a dry carpet will be longer than you expect.

Professional cleaning can get pricey—is it worth the extra cost?

There are so many variables to consider when approaching a carpet cleaning job. First of all: time. Cleaning and extraction often take longer than expected and take more muscle power than you might suspect when pushing that machine out to your car. Speaking of which, that time spent picking up and returning equipment should be factored in, not to mention moving or raising any furniture. When you have your carpets professionally cleaned, all that work is done for you, and it is done by experienced cleaners who have built up an efficient routine when it comes to getting a room ready to clean. You also want to think about the spaces in your home that need cleaning. Stairs in particular can be tricky to clean properly, and risky to attempt with an unfamiliar machine.

As we mentioned above, with a professional cleaning, the job will be done by more powerful equipment—so powerful they usually won’t even bring it up the stairs, because it is housed in a van! This more powerful equipment means hotter water, more thorough extraction, and an overall stronger cleaning. This type of deep cleaning is particularly important for pet owners. Pet urine can get deep into carpet padding, which you might not be able to get out with a rental machine. More powerful equipment means that the cleaners can saturate down into the padding and still extract that water and solution mixture—and more importantly, get those odors out. The professionals will also know when the carpet is dry enough to walk on or replace furniture. They will usually also provide slippers you can wear over your socks or shoes while it dries, and they can provide helpful tips on any issues they noticed. All these factors mean that your overall experience will be more efficient, while getting a more thorough cleaning.

Cost-effective professional cleaning?

Of course the expense is a concern, but there are ways to have the most critical cleaning done, allowing you to save some money. That starts with identifying the high traffic areas that have attracted the most dirt and grime. You can prioritize hallways, stairways, and rooms that get the most visitors. If you are not prone to frequently rearranging furniture, you can ask for a cleaning that leaves beds, bookcases, and other large pieces in place, reducing the time and effort on the part of the cleaners. When your carpet cleaner comes to perform an assessment of your needs, they can use a strong black light to identify pet stains (sometimes the sniff test doesn’t quite work) so they know what spaces to prioritize. Ask for a few options on your estimate, so that you can decide how much of a cleaning you can afford.

When it comes to deciding on professional vs. DIY cleaning, don’t hesitate to first talk with the professionals and learn about what they offer, and ask what services they provide as part of the cleaning. When you call KleenRite, we will send over a representative to draw up a no-cost estimate and answer your questions. The assessment just requires a quick visit, and we can provide estimates for different combinations, to help you find what fits your budget.

Be ready for spills and accidents with our Spot Cleaning Kit. A 3-product comprehensive stain cleaning kit for a variety of occasions, including free refills of our Spot Out product! Contact us to order yours today for doorstep delivery in Champaign-Urbana!