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Shaw Floors®, a leader in carpet production, recommends that "in addition to frequent vacuuming, its important to clean your carpet on a regular basis. Cleaning systems will remove the oily, sticky soil that vacuums can't take out, and will help keep your carpet looking great over time.
Cleaning systems target the soils that result from cooking vapors, air pollution, and tracked-in dirt. The particles of oily soil deposited on carpet fibers can cause gradual but significant dulling of colors. The color isn't lost, but is hidden under the film. If this type of soil is allowed to accumulate, it begins to attract and hold the dry soil."
Shaw goes on to say, "Get on a cleaning schedule. If carpet is cleaned before it becomes too unsightly, the cleaning chore will be easier and more successful. Carpet in a typical household should be cleaned every 12 to 18 months, depending on the number of residents and amount of activity.
Choosing the proper cleaning system is important. Some systems may leave residues which accelerate re-soiling and defeats the whole purpose of cleaning."
Shaw's choice: Hot water extraction
"Research indicates that the hot water extraction system provides the best capability for cleaning. This system is commonly referred to as "steam cleaning," although no steam is actually generated. The process consists of applying a cleaning agent into the carpet pile and using water in the extractor to recover the used solution and soil. This can be done from a truck-mounted unit outside the home with only the hose and wand brought inside or by a portable system brought into the home.
Shaw warranties require that the homeowner be able to show proof of periodic cleaning by hot water extraction (commonly called "steam" cleaning) by a professional cleaning service or do-it-yourself system, using equipment that is certified under the Carpet and Rug Institute's Seal of Approval program."
The carpet is typically dry in 6 - 8 hours and completely dry within 24 hours. However, you can help to speed the process along by using fans or air conditioning or heat to reduce the humidity.
Many stains can be treated with simple solutions created from household items. A detergent solution can be made by combining one teaspoon of neutral detergent, such as hand dish soap and one teaspoon of white vinegar to one cup of warm water. The white vinegar in the solution will break down grease and oil based stains as well as treat urine or vomit.
Always test the solution on a small out of the way area, then tackle the stain by working from the outer edge towards the center.
For a more comprehensive list of stains and solutions, please visit the Bane-Clene® site.