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Carpet cleaning 101

Carpet cleaning 101

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Don’ t worry; you’ ve got plenty of options.

Clean carpets can add sparkle and freshness to your entire home — but a dingy, stained, pet-hair-covered carpet can do just the opposite. Luckily, many products and techniques will work wonders, even on stained carpets — and you have several cleaning options that you can pursue.

Here’s a quick rundown.

Own up to it and buy a home carpet-cleaning system.

If you have light-colored carpets and a house full of kids and pets, you may want to purchase your own carpet cleaning system to battle dirt regularly. Ranging from about $80 to $400, home carpet cleaners can actually save you money in the long run compared to hiring a professional when your carpets look dirty. Remember, however, that home units don’t have the cleaning power that professional models do.

Elect for a steam cleaner — and do it right.

Most home carpet cleaning systems are water extraction units (also called steam cleaners) that inject a solution into the carpet’s pile. The dirty solution is then pulled back into the machine. To avoid the hassle of dragging a hose around the house, opt for models that do not require a clean-water hookup. Also, choose a machine with a most powerful motor, to ease extraction. When using a steamer, do not over-wet the carpets. Over-wetting can damage the carpet backing and underlayment, causing shrinkage, discoloration and odor—not exactly what you’re going for, if you’ve gone to the trouble of renting a steam cleaner.

Try the dry approach.

Other home carpet cleaning systems use the dry extraction method. These machines require spreading a dry absorbent compound over the carpets before vacuuming with the cleaning machine. Although they usually work better than home steamers, dry machines and chemicals are more expensive than steamers and wet extraction solutions.

Arrange for a rental.

Most grocery stores and rental centers rent professional-quality wet extraction cleaners that are more powerful than home units. At about $20 for a rental, plus the cost of cleaning solutions (shampoo, defoamer, spot removers, odor removers, etc.), rental machines can quickly become pricey. Still, they’re a convenient option if you simply need to get the job done — pronto.

Choose a cleaning pro.

If you elect to hire a professional, you’ll also need to choose between steam and dry cleaning. Each method — if handled by a qualified pro — should do a good job. Not only do professionals have far more powerful equipment than you’re likely to buy or rent, they offer stain-removing know-how that you really need. Prices may vary dramatically for essentially the same service, so shop carefully, and be sure to get a quote for the job at hand — plus any add-on fees — before engaging a pro.

(Better Homes and Gardens is a magazine and website devoted to ideas and improvement projects for your home and garden, plus recipes and entertaining ideas. Online at


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