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Many people prefer the softness of carpet over other floors such as hardwood, but fear that carpet is too high-maintenance. However, with just a few simple preventative measures – most of which require little to no effort – carpet can continue to look good year after year. Keep in mind, too, that many of the below suggestions also apply to help keep a wood floor in good shape.
Leave Your Shoes at the Door…
This should be obvious, and yet tends to get overlooked often. However, think about where you have walked in your shoes, and what is likely to have transferred to your soles from the ground. Wearing your shoes around the house – or even just dashing across your carpet because you already have your shoes on but forgot your keys – puts everything that is on the bottom of your shoes onto your carpet. All of the dirt, grime, and who-knows-what else from the outside world is now in your home, and on your carpet, where your children play, pets sleep…you get the idea. Taking your shoes off at the door, every time, is the ounce of prevention that is more than worth the pound of cure.
…but Don’t Go Bare Foot
This tip comes as a surprise to many, I know. “But my feet are clean!” you say. I’m sure they are. However, they also carry the natural oils found in your skin (and yes, everyone’s skin contains oils). These oils transfer to your carpet from your bare feet, and leave behind a small amount of oily residue. This residue can lead to soiling, which occurs when the residue becomes slightly sticky and attracts dirt particles, giving the carpet a soiled or dirty look.
So, the best thing to wear on your feet inside your home is socks or indoor slippers (that have never crossed the driveway to pick up the paper!).
Use Mats Inside and Outside
It is important to have a mat both outside and inside each exterior door in the home. The outdoor mat allows you to brush off any loose dirt from your shoes, ensuring it doesn’t get tracked inside the home. The indoor mat gives you somewhere to step while you take your shoes off, again preventing the dirt on the bottom of your shoes from sneaking past your entrance.
Regular vacuuming will help remove any dirt particles that may have made their way onto your carpet, from becoming embedded deep in the carpet pile. Left in the carpet, they can contribute to a dirty looking carpet, as well as potentially cause premature wear of the carpet by grating against the fibers.
Carpet manufacturers generally recommend vacuuming at least once a week, or more often in high-traffic areas.
Treat Spills When They Happen
Again, this one seems like a no-brainer, but bears mentioning. The longer a spill is allowed to remain on the carpet untreated, the more difficult it will be to remove, and the greater the chance that it could leave a permanent stain on the carpet. Save yourself time and effort by cleaning the spot as soon as possible after the spill occurs.
Wait…what? What I mean is, make sure to fully rinse your carpet after cleaning your spill, to ensure you don’t leave behind any residue from the cleaner. As mentioned above with the oils on your feet, the residue will become a magnet for dirt, and will make it look like the stain is still there. (If the stain itself really does appear, that’s another matter entirely – learn how to remove it completely.)
Prevent Filtration Soiling
Filtration soiling causes the edges of the carpet around the room to turn gray or even black, giving a dirty appearance. For more information on what causes filtration soiling and how you can prevent it, see Filtration Soiling.
Steam Clean Regularly
Carpet manufacturers recommend that your carpets be cleaned by hot water extraction (a.k.a. steam cleaning) once every 12 – 18 months. In fact, this is a condition of most carpet warranties.
Should you steam clean your carpet yourself, or hire a professional to do it? Review the pros and cons of each in this article.
Choose a Color that Suits Your Lifestyle
Sometimes, you have to decide between your carpet and your lifestyle. If your time doesn’t permit you to vacuum as often as you should, or you know that your teenagers are never going to remember to take their shoes off (or clean up that soda spill) you may need to choose a color that will be more forgiving, allowing you some leeway.
For example, if you have a white-haired pet and don’t want to see the pet hair on the carpet, but can’t commit to vacuuming every day, consider a lighter tone of carpet. If you want to allow eating or drinking in your family room but get heart palpitations every time someone carries a coffee into the room, consider a darker shade. You may have to give up the exact shade of carpet you had in mind, in order to get one that will allow you to relax and focus on enjoying your carpet. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?