Maybe you’ve lived in a house with many carpeted rooms for a while, or perhaps your favorite room in your new house features a lovely older carpet that you do not want to part with. The problem: You notice stains that you need to have removed as quickly as possible. Should you pull a quick DIY job with club soda, use your regular vacuum do the trick, or hire a professional to provide a full cleaning of the entire carpet?

Though it may be tempting to perform the cleaning yourself, if you are dealing with more than a minor stain, it’s usually best to call in the pros due to their extensive training in carpet handling, cleaning, and sanitization. Below are several facts about carpet cleaning including why you should regularly have your carpets cleaned, and what happens when you try to perform the task yourself. We’ll also answer the question that may be on your mind if you’ve already attempted to clean it with a DIY method: My carpet looks worse [dirtier] after cleaning. What happened?

DIY Cleaning vs Professional Cleaning

Just as there are different methods of DIY cleaning your carpet, there are also different methods of professional cleaning. The method you choose will depend upon the type of carpet you have, but most fall under the category of hot water extraction or “steam cleaning”. Steam cleaning uses small amounts of very hot water to wash your carpet. This water, and the debris removed from the carpet, is then extracted with a powerful vacuum.

  1. Quality of Equipment

While you could purchase or rent a carpet cleaner or steamer yourself, the machines available to regular consumers often do not heat the water to the degree that professional steam cleaners can, and they do not have the extraction power that will lift most of the dirt out of the carpet. In short, if you purchase a low-quality machine, you may be left with a semi-dusty, damp carpet that doesn’t look very clean.

If you have allergies, pets, or simply a lot of dirt that you need to have extracted from your carpets, DIY cleaning is not your best bet for creating a living space that’s as healthy as possible. Additionally, you run the risk of not solving your core problem: That spot where your dog peed in the corner of the bedroom or the apple juice stain your toddler left in the living room may not come out without the use of professional equipment.

  1. Understanding of Carpet Cleaning

If your DIY method provides substandard results, you will be out a few hundred dollars for your personal steam cleaner and you’ll still have your stain! Professional carpet cleaning, in the case of odors or stains you’re not sure you can remove yourself, is a less expensive and more efficient way to solve your problem than spending your money on equipment to do it yourself.

In addition to having professional-grade equipment, carpet cleaners have the training to accompany their high-quality vacuums and carpet shampoos. Most homeowners, though they may understand what to put on their carpets and what to leave in the kitchen cabinet, have not been trained to deodorize, sanitize, or use hot-water extraction methods in their own home.

Why Should I Shampoo or Sanitize My Carpet?

If you’re new to the world of carpet cleaning, you may be wondering why you need to clean your carpet at all (besides pushing a vacuum over the floors occasionally). Carpets just collect a bit of dust, right? If there was a bigger, more pervasive problem, wouldn’t you notice a smell, a stain, or something to signify the issue? Perhaps not. All types of floors get dirty over time. Carpets, especially if they are a neutral color, can hide multitudes of dirt, allergens, and even pet urine and feces.

  1. Dirt

As you vacuum, you have to periodically stop to change the vacuum’s bag, empty the dust canister, or clean out the vacuum’s filter if it has one. When you have your carpets professionally “steam” cleaned, as previously mentioned, there is no actual steam involved. Hot water can be used alone, or hot water and a combination of cleaning agents like carpet shampoo can be blasted on your carpet’s fibers at high pressure.

A vacuum will then suck out the dirt, animal dander, and allergens. It’s important to note that much more dirt can be extracted by this process than vacuuming alone. When you vacuum, you are simply extracting dust and dirt: You are not also washing your carpet at the same time.

  1. Allergens

If you have allergies, you probably understand the value of a good carpet cleaning. Other carpet owners may be able to have their carpets cleaned once a year, while your allergist recommends that you have your carpet cleaned at least twice a year to rid your home of dust mites and prevent mildew growth. Perhaps you were considering replacing your bedroom carpet with a cold hardwood you didn’t really want, but before you do, know that you may be able to keep your bedroom allergens low due to the science of hot water extraction.

  1. Pet Urine and Feces

Most cat owners, whether they admit it or not, live in fear of their cat urinating outside of its litter box. Cat urine contains chemical compounds like ammonia that make it one of the foulest smells that can exist in your house — and to make things worse, its pungent odor is not easy to extract from furniture, carpets, or even hardwood floors. Fortunately, hot water extraction can offer relief in the form of repeat carpet cleaning in the area where your pet has done its business. You’ve also got the option of including a deodorizing or sanitizing treatment that can be included with most hot water extraction services as well. Substances such as urine, feces, and vomit, like the messes that accompany the arrival of a sweet new puppy or even a human baby, can be purged from your carpet with this type of cleaning.

Typical Methods of DIY Cleaning (And Why They Don’t Always Work)

When you are aware of the buildup on your floors, you will likely want to have them cleaned on a regular basis! Many homeowners opt to do the chore themselves; however, the types of equipment and cleaners that most people purchase are not always up for the job of cleaning carpets as thoroughly as they need to be cleaned. Below are a few options that can be used for a quick DIY cleaning.

  1. Spot Cleaning

If you’ve spilled a spoonful of soup or baby food and it’s stained your new rug or carpet, you may be able to get it out by blotting it with a clean, damp towel and using a substance like vinegar or dish soap to extract the stain. This method sometimes works, but it sometimes results in the frustrated homeowner rubbing the mess further into the carpet!

If your carpet looks worse after you’ve tried to spot clean, it could be that the stain has been pushed further into the carpet. You’ve got to be very careful with spot cleaning: Depending on the substance that has been spilled and your experience removing stains from your own carpet, you may want to call in a professional — especially if the spot is on a nice carpet in a very noticeable area in your home.

  1. Vacuuming

Vacuuming is probably the most common method of carpet cleaning. Unlike other items on this list, you absolutely should vacuum on a regular basis in order to reduce dust, allergens, crumbs, hair, lint, and anything else that can become entangled in the fibers of your carpet. What vacuuming cannot do, though, is remove odors, get rid of stains, and extract dirt that resides deep in the carpet’s fibers. While it’s crucial that you vacuum your carpet to keep your home’s residents healthy and your carpet from looking dirty and worn, it is not the most thorough method of cleaning.

  1. Steam Cleaning

Here’s the tricky part: You can buy an at-home carpet “steamer” and perform a hot water extraction by yourself. Is this a good option, especially for those who are short on time? It’s possible that smaller areas, like the stains discussed above, could be saved with a DIY steam cleaner. If your carpet looks dirtier after you’ve steam cleaned yourself, though, it’s possible that you did not extract much dirt from the fibers and simply made your carpet wet with the cleaner. Professional hot water extraction is designed to use as little water as possible, and depending on the machine you purchase, this is not always the case with DIY products.

Why Does My Carpet Look Dirtier after DIY Cleaning?

There are a few reasons as to why that spot looks like an even bigger or darker stain after you tried getting rid of it by yourself. Here are the most common reasons as to why your DIY job didn’t deliver the results you were promised by that website or by the eager customer service representative who sold you an expensive piece of equipment that was supposed to remedy your problem.

  • You used equipment that wasn’t powerful enough to extract dirt, shampoo, and water from your carpet
  • You used a chemical cleaner that wasn’t strong enough to remove a stain
  • You used too much carpet shampoo, and now your carpet is sticky 
  • You used too much water, which led to mildew growth

You may be a little bit disappointed with your DIY job, but you likely did not ruin your carpet, so don’t panic! If your carpet looks extremely dirty after you cleaned it, fortunately, there are ways to remedy this.

My Carpet Has Mildew in It. Should I Toss It?

This is a common question for carpet cleaners, and we understand that mildew — or carpet that smells “musty” — can be a source of frustration for homeowners. How do you clean something you can’t see? If you notice a spot of mildew where the dog has overturned its water bowl a number of times, this likely occurred in this one spot because the carpet got wet and mildew was allowed to grow (mildew and mold like to grow in damp conditions). Using an anti-fungal spray on this spot, or having this performed as part of your routine carpet cleaning, can kill any mold that is living in the carpet and prevent more from forming.

If a large area of your carpet smells musty, or if you live in a humid climate, you could have a mildew problem. If this is the case, please do not try to clean it yourself with a DIY steam cleaner. You could simply make your carpet wetter, thereby giving the mildew a nicer place to live! If you have allergies, or if anyone in your household suffers from asthma, DIY mildew removal is not your best option. It could even be dangerous for the asthma sufferer to leave mold hanging out in your home. Asking a professional carpet cleaner to remove it — and to get their option on which products to use in the future — is a better option. After they clean your carpet, ask what you can do in the future to prevent mildew growth.

I Have a Dirty Rug That Is a Family Heirloom. Can I Restore It? 

Absolutely! Many people throw away old rugs — even very expensive ones — that are passed down due to fear of germs, dirt, and allergens like dust. If this rug is important to you, it’s a good idea to try to restore it. You should be very careful working with older fabrics, though: It’s easy to ruin an old rug when using DIY tricks like vinegar water, baking soda, or other household cleaning items.

A professional hot water extraction could help loosen and remove years of grime from your rug. Make sure to ask your carpet cleaner if they’ve dealt with older fabrics or restorations before they begin; some cleaners specialize in bringing new life to old fabrics while others are used to cleaning a carpet that’s only a few years old. Take heart in the fact that your rug likely can be cleaned to look new again.

How Often Should I Replace My Carpet?

If you’re a homeowner who is fed up with your carpet and you’re thinking about replacing it because it looks worn or dirty, wait a minute! Your carpet could just need a thorough cleaning to give it new life. While standard carpet may need to be replaced after five years, especially if your dog or cat has chewed on it, scratched it up, or urinated in corners, high-quality carpet can last up to 20 years if cared for properly. It may be a good time to replace your carpet, but you should speak to a carpet cleaning professional before you make a hasty decision — your carpet may be able to be saved after a thorough hot-water extraction cleaning, especially if it has not been cleaned in a long time.

If you would like to speak to a professional about the state of your carpets and how we could help you achieve your goals when it comes to your home, get in touch with Safe-Dry Carpet Cleaning today. We would love to give you personalized advice for helping you restore your carpets to their former glory.