Hiring a professional carpet cleaner may only seem necessary after a particularly nasty spill, but regular cleanings can help floor coverings look like new even as time wears on.

Hiring a professional carpet cleaner may only seem necessary after a particularly nasty spill, but regular cleanings can help floor coverings look like new even as time wears on.


David Beckwith, owner of Beckwith Carpet in Quincy, Mass., said consumers should look for companies that use truck-mounted cleaning systems.


While commonly called "steam cleaners," these hot-water extraction systems actually use a liquid solution - heated to about 200 degrees - to clean the carpet in conjunction with a high-powered vacuum, Beckwith said.


"If you're cleaning with true steam, you'd be melting the carpet fiber," he said.


Jennifer Critz, owner of The Clean Team Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning in Kingston, Mass., said most carpet manufacturers recommend hot-water extraction, and that the system doesn't leave residue.


Other techniques may also only clean the top third of a carpet, Beckwith said, while hot-water extraction reaches its base. But because the process requires a direct hose connection to a truck parked outside, he cautioned that apartment dwellers may have to rely on less-powerful portable models for clean carpets.


New carpets typically come with warranties that specify how often they should be cleaned, Critz said. Most manufacturers recommend a yearly cleaning for carpets subjected to normal foot traffic, Beckwith said.


Cleaning services typically charge by the square footage of the carpet being cleaned, or the number of rooms tackled during each session, Critz said. Her company falls in the former category, and charges about $100 for a 168-square-foot area.


Services that charge by the room typically cost $39 to $59 per room, Beckwith said, though the cost may be higher if the cleaners move furniture or apply a special stain-resistant solution to the carpet afterward.


Alex Spanko may be reached at aspanko@ledger.com.


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BETWEEN CLEANINGS


Even if you call a professional to clean your carpet once a year, that still leaves plenty of time for spills and stains in the interim.


Vacuum your carpet at least once or twice a week, especially in high-traffic areas such as living rooms and hallways. Set-in dirt can scratch the fibers over time, permanently wearing down the carpet.


If you use a store-bought stain remover, make sure you rinse it out thoroughly, or you may end up making the stain bigger. Store-bought stain removers can also make stains more difficult for professionals to remove if used improperly, and can leave behind residues that attract further soiling.


Dishwasher detergent can be used to treat greasy or oily spots on carpets, while a vinegar and water solution can clean coffee or fruit juice stains.


Sources: David Beckwith, Beckwith Carpet in Quincy; Jennifer Critz, The Clean Team in Kingston.