Cleaning 101


How to Extend the Life of Your Carpet, Rugs, Flooring, and Upholstery

A Basic Understanding of the Effect of Soil on Carpet and Rugs

Over 99% of carpet today is made from plastic, with nylon being the most popular, followed by polyester and olefin.  Oriental rugs are typically made of two natural fibers, wool and silk. What happens when we introduce soil to a these fibers?

First, we need to determine what is in soil.  Soil is made up of air pockets, water, organic matter, and minerals.  You could obviously see large mineral pieces if it was on your carpet, but you don’t see the little mineral pieces that are in your carpets and rugs unless you have an abundance of them.  What these mineral particles do to your carpet is the problem you can’t see:  As you walk on your carpet, your weight causes the mineral particles, which are hard, to rub against your carpet and rug fibers, which are softer than the minerals, resulting in scratching of the fibers.  When the fibers are scratched, they begin to deflect the light into different directions than unscratched fibers, resulting in what appears to us to be a change in color.  Please note, I said it appears to us to be a change in color.  It didn’t change color; it just changed how much light is reflected back to you, resulting in a difference in appearance.  Once this happens, the damage is irreversible.  That is why you need to clean your carpet and rugs regularly.

When you have spills on your carpet and rugs, the effect can be magnified.  Many things we spill contain sugar and/or fats, along with dyes, acids, and other chemicals that can alter the appearance of your carpet.  Soils like to stick to the sugars and fats, concentrating mineral particles in those areas, increasing premature wear as you walk on your carpet and rugs.

A Basic Understanding of the Effect of Soil on Tile and Grout and Wood Floors

The concept of damage caused by soil in your carpet and rugs apply to your wood floors as well, and to your tile and grout to a lesser extent.  The finish on your wood floor is very suspect to damage caused by the abrasive effect of soil.  Your wood floors can become scratched up rather quickly if not properly taken care of.  Since most homeowners don’t like the interruption of having their wood floors refinished, it is better to maintain the floor properly using preventative maintenance and cleaning.

Since tile is much harder, you will have less chance of the tile being scratched by soil unless you have particles in the soil that are very hard.  However, soil really likes to gather in the grout lines of tile, causing a darkening of the grout line.  Since grout lines are lower than the surface of the tile, when you mop your floors with the wrong type of mop, the soil gets pushed around and settles into the grout lines.  You will find this effect especially in kitchens in front of stoves, sinks, and refrigerators.  Look at the grout lines against the wall where you cannot walk and compare it to the appearance of the grout lines in the more heavily traveled areas.  That will give you a good indication of when it is time to have your tile and grout professionally cleaned.

A Basic Understanding of the Effect of Soil on Upholstery

Upholstery is not affected by ground in soil like carpet and rugs because we’re not walking on it with our weight concentrated in a very small area.  Most soiling on upholstery is due to our body oils.  Look at your furniture and you will find the areas with soil problems are typically where we sit the most and will be concentrated on the arms, where our legs touch the edges, and where our heads and necks touch the back.  Unfortunately, if left there too long, these oils can interact with the fibers and can cause fabric and dye deterioration, especially if exposed to sunlight.  In addition, the fabric covers of furniture are more likely to have natural fibers in them, making it more difficult to clean.  If these natural fibers are left dirty too long, the oils and soils may not removable without causing damage to the fibers.

So How Do You Extend the Life of Your Carpet, Rugs, Flooring, and Upholstery?

Prevent Soiling

Most soil enters our house on our shoes, pets feet, etc.  Proper entrance rugs at the points of ingress will make a large difference.  You need to have a scraper mat to get the bulk soil off your shoes, followed by an absorbent rug to remove the smaller soils left on your shoes.  These need to be vacuumed twice a week, and more if heavily soiled. If your rugs have more soil on them than your shoes, you will actually pick up more soil on your shoes. They should be cleaned regularly.

Preventing soiling is much more difficult in upholstered furniture.  We all have our favorite chair, couch, etc. that we love to sit on when we need to relax and unwind.  Covering the upholstery to prevent soiling spoils the appearance and sometimes the feel we enjoy and find comfort on.  Taking the next two steps is even more important on your upholstery.

Vacuum Frequently

The next thing you can do is vacuum your points of ingress and then your traffic lanes two to three times per week.  Our traffic lanes are where we walk through the most and are typically two to three feet wide.  You need to vacuum the remaining areas weekly.

Vacuum your upholstery monthly to remove the dust that settles onto it, as well as the stuff we drop on it.

Have Your Carpet, Rugs, Tile and Grout, and Upholstery Professionally Cleaned

The final thing you can do to extend the life of your carpet, rugs, tile and grout, and upholstery is to have it professionally cleaned by an IICRC Certified Firm.  If you have a newer carpet, be sure to look at the manufacturer warranty requirements and be sure to follow them.  Otherwise I would recommend cleaning them once per year, unless you have pets or small children.  (Yes, I know, teenagers can make a mess of carpet and upholstery to!),  If you have pets, I would recommend cleaning every 6 months. If you have small children, you may need to clean more frequently than every year.

Just remember this, if your carpet looks dirty, you may be too late.  It may be wear caused by improper maintenance. The same thing holds true for rugs and upholstery.  Keep them cleaned!