"How Often Should I Have My Carpets Professionally Cleaned?"
How often you have your carpets cleaned professionally depends on whether you are cleaning for health and the longevity of your carpeting, or just for appearance.
Most people clean just for appearance, meaning they have their carpets cleaned when they see visible soil or dulling colors. Unfortunately, by this point, the carpet could be suffering from irreversible fiber damage, and the indoor air quality of the home is being diminished. I’ll explain more below.
As a general guideline, if you are cleaning for appearance only, most of my homeowners clean every 12 to 18 months, and some even go 2 or 3 years between cleanings.
If you are cleaning for health — to reduce the allergens, pollen, and bacteria trapped in the carpet, then a more frequent schedule is required. When people walk on the carpet, these particles are kicked up and become airborne, and that negatively affects air quality.
I use only the safest and most effective cleaning solutions available. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with specific chemical sensitivities, please ask, and I will happily supply you the Material Safety Data Sheets which lists all the active ingredients in my cleaning solutions, and I advise you to get your doctor to sign-off on the product.
And if you are cleaning for the maintenance and longevity of your carpet, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer's recommendations, especially if you have a warranty that you want to keep valid. And most manufacturers recommend an experienced professional cleaner who uses powerful hot water extraction methods, to remove soil from deep within the carpet without leaving any soil-attracting residues.
See my complete 10-step carpet cleaning process.
What about your home?
Every home has a different soiling frequency based on several factors, much of which depends on your maintenance habits, the number of occupants in the home, whether you have pets and/or children, and how often you have guests over. I’ll discuss below.
How oily residues gets into your carpet
There are several ways that sticky, oily residue can settle and build up on the face fibers of your carpet. In the business, we call it “filtration soiling” — carpets act like a filter to oily airborne pollutants.
Here are some sources you may not have realized are
directly contributing to the oily build-up in your carpeting:
Cooking oils that mist into the air, and settle on the carpet, bonding to the carpet pile
More oily cooking residue from kitchen floors being tracked onto the carpet on you shoes
The soot from burning candles and tobacco smoke
Plug-in air fresheners that are oil-based, silently pumping out residues that bond to carpet pile
Suntan sprays and foot lotion creams
In hot weather, asphalt leeches an oil that can be tracked in on your shoes.
Kids and pets are a whole other source of sticky residue which deserves its own section of this article below.
These oily residues cannot be vacuumed up, and they become a magnet for fine particulate soil which can cause permanent damage to the carpet fibers over time. They will build up in your carpet until they are deep cleaned by a professional using hot water extraction.
How do these soils damage carpet?
The particulate soils bond to the sticky fibers, and act like sand paper, slowly cutting into and damaging the fibers just from daily walking. If not removed, the soil particles significantly diminishes the carpet's life — it can take years off the life of carpeting. The result? A costly premature replacement. This is why carpet manufacturers require cleaning by hot water extraction to keep warranties valid.
My professional cleaning is required at this point. I can remove all the sticky residues and the offending soils. But I cannot reverse the damage the particulate soil has caused to the fibers. My complete 10-step professional cleaning process performed on a regular cleaning schedule PROLONGS the life of your carpet.
If you have pets ...
A home with furry pets should have the carpet professionally cleaned more frequently — I recommend every 6 to 12 months.
Your carpet takes a beating from your pets. Whether they are trained or not, they will often track in urine, feces, dirt, and grime from outside, which means getting your carpets cleaned is even more crucial.
And of course animals naturally shed fur and dander (dead skin) which is dispersed around the home. When kicked into the air by normal daily walking, these pollutants can aggravate some family member's allergies.
Also, animals naturally secrete oils from their fur and skin, so wherever they spend the most time and curl up for a nap on your carpeting and upholstery, you’ll begin to notice a concentration of these oils building up. These areas are an especially strong soil magnet.
If you have children ...
We love our children, but muddy shoes, paint, crayons, fruit juice, popsicles, etc. can wreak havoc on carpet. Babies and children often spend a lot of time on the carpet, so you want it to always be fresh and clean. If you are relaxed about letting your kids eat, drink, and play on the carpet, you may consider having your carpets cleaned every 6 months rather than the average recommended 12-18 months.
Whole House Cleaning vs. High-traffic Interim Cleaning
Depending on the specific soiling patterns in your home, it may not be necessary to clean the whole house every cleaning cycle. I quite often clean the whole house, and then a year later just clean the problem spots and heavy traffic rooms — living room, dining room, steps, master bedroom — and then I clean the unused bedrooms every 18 months depending on whether you are cleaning for health or appearance.
"But we hardly use the bedrooms, so we can skip those."
It's important to keep in mind — if you went away on a vacation for 3 weeks, when you get back, you’ll notice that your furnishing will have dust on top of them even though no one was home. It's not as noticeable, but the same goes for the carpet in unused rooms. Dust circulates throughout the house through the air ducts, and settles in every room. Again you clean the carpet for health first, appearance second. A carpet has been engineered to hide soil unlike the first carpets made years ago.
Tips to extend the time between professional cleanings ...
Vacuum on a regular schedule
Proper maintenance of your carpet can extend the time between professional cleanings. Regularly vacuuming your carpets, at least once a week, and more often on heavy-traffic areas, will help remove a significant amount of dirt and debris. If you have pets and/or children, I recommend vacuuming at least 3 times a week.
Most people move the vacuum far too fast across the carpets. For best results, slow down! And make sure you make overlapping and repetitive passes instead of just simply going over each area once.
Floor runners and mats help to keep the soil off the main house carpet. Carpet runners in garages helps the home owner remember to wipe their shoes as they step out of the car and walk into the house.
It takes about 10 to 15 steps on a CLEAN carpet for shoes to become clean. As soil builds up on the carpet, the soil pattern moves further and further into the house.
I recommend putting runners in your main entrances. Then every month or so, take the runner outside on a slope, and flood out the runner with a hose pipe with mild detergent. Dry out, then return to same location.
I recommend wearing indoor shoes. Some shoes have soles that are not good for carpeting. For example, some black soled shoes leave black marks on the carpet. Black flip flops are notorious for this.
The easiest way to test the sole of any indoor shoe is to wipe the sole with a damp paper napkin and see if a black skid mark appears on the napkin. If so, then this can transfer onto the carpet.
Beware of black rubber door mats
Those black rubber door mats can be tested in this manner as well. I see it all the time. A person wipes their shoes on a black door mat only to transfer the black residue off the mat onto the shoes, then onto the carpet. Those black rubber mats may be defeating the purpose, in terms of carpet care.
Clean Spots and Spills Immediately
Spots and spills must be immediately addressed by the home owner to minimize any permanent damage. I give out my spotter to my clients to use with instructions. Using the wrong spotters can cause irreversible damage to the carpet.
And always BLOT the spill. DO NOT SCRUB!
Be sure to blot out the spill. When you scrub a spill out of carpet, you may remove the spill material, but you’ll be left with a fuzzy damaged carpet pile.
Each home is different, depending on soiling frequency and the factors above, from light to extreme. I’ll be happy to work with you to determine the optimal length of time between cleanings — every 6 to 18 months — depending on your cleanliness goals and standards — UNLESS you have a carpet warranty to adhere to. In that case, follow the instructions stated in the warranty, and be sure to keep records of your professional cleanings. Remember to consider traffic and who is contributing to the traffic – how many occupants, children, pets, guests, or all of the above.
My 10-step carpet cleaning process is a complete deep cleaning process, which achieves the deepest possible clean without leaving behind soil-attracting residue that some of the cheap coupon cleaners may leave behind. Therefore, my cleaning does indeed achieve a longer-lasting result to keep your home clean and healthy, while prolonging the life of your valuable carpet.