When we remodeled our home, we replaced some of the carpet with dark hardwood. What a revelation. Now I could see the dirt and dust, and, honestly, I couldn't believe what accumulated in such a short time on those wood floors. Of course I never saw it on the carpet, but now I know it was there all along.
On the one hand, I love carpet for the warm, cozy way it can make a room feel, especially a bedroom. But the thought of what's in it gives me a slightly creepy feeling. I used to think that occasional vacuuming was sufficient. Now I know the truth.
Even with its ability to harbor and hide all kinds of dirt and grime, I'm not ready to give up carpet 100 percent. Even if I were to do that, you can be sure that soon I would be shopping for area rugs. So what's the difference? Carpet is carpet, and all of it gets skanky, gross and ugly if not well-cared for.
Vacuum regularly, as often as you sweep, mop and or dust your hard floor. Just because you can't see the dirt, dust, debris, footprints, crumbs and hair doesn't mean they're not there! Allowing any of that to burrow down into the carpet pile is going to turn your carpet into a disgusting situation.
If you own carpet, you need a good vacuum that will remove dirt, dust and grime quickly and easily. Weekly vacuuming is not too often. Twice a week — so much better. And daily vacuuming of heavy-traffic areas? Even better.
Treat spots immediately. Sugary liquids, sticky food, grease, mud, pet urine and excrement — these are the bane of beautiful carpet. If you don't want to hate your carpet, you'll pick up and remove spills and then deep clean the area as soon as possible after it occurs.
Wash frequently. At least once every three months, wash (shampoo and steam clean) your carpet. Investing in your own carpet cleaning machine would be a wise choice. The machine will pay for itself the first time you don't call in the pros. You won't find a better machine than the Hoover SteamVac. I've had mine for at least a dozen years, and it's working as hard now as it did when it was new. I use it in a very unconventional way. Hint: I don't use soap or shampoo — only super hot water. As long as I treat any spills immediately and wash the carpet often, that's all it takes to keep carpet looking great.
If it's been so long you can't remember when you last cleaned your carpet, and/or it is really, horribly, embarrassingly dirty and smelly, cleaning it with hot water alone is not going to cut it. You need to add a high-quality, commercial-grade carpet shampoo product to your cleaning machine.
One last thing: If you are getting ready to replace your carpet, don't go with a color that will hide the dirt! You want a color that will point out every bit of dirt, every spill and every stain. You want to see them so you can immediately take steps to clean them up, in the same way you care for your beautiful wood, laminate and tile floors!
You are not alone if you have come to hate the carpet in your home, but that can change. It might take a few go-arounds with vacuuming, stain removing and deep cleaning, but if you are diligent, you and your carpet just might fall in love again!
CAUTION: Always do a cleaning test in an out-of-the-way, inconspicuous spot (like inside a closet) first.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.