Carpet Cleaning and Traffic Wear: 6 Steps to Maintaining Your Carpet
Everyone loves the feeling they get right after a professional carpet cleaning. It looks clean and almost new again, it smells good and it feels good. After a carpet cleaning I often hear my clients say, “now I just have to try to keep it this way,” which is always the biggest challenge in keeping a clean home. The most frequently mentioned concern I hear from my carpet cleaning clients is how to prevent ugly traffic wear patterns from returning after the carpet has been cleaned. The solution to the traffic wear problem is both extremely simple and extremely complicated, but we’ll get into that later.
To find a solution we need to examine what causes ugly traffic patterns. The simple answer is dirt, but there is more to it than that. Synthetic fibers make up over 90% of the carpet in our homes today. Nylon takes the lion’s share of that 90% with polypropylene (olefin) and polyester filling out most of the rest. All three of these materials have different pros and cons when it comes to their use in carpet but the one thing they all have in common is that they are all plastic.
Plastic and dirt don’t mix.
Dirt, dust and soil when examined under a microscope look like shards of broken glass. Plastic surfaces such as a Plexiglas window are very smooth and easily scratched. When you combine broken glass with smooth plastic and a catalyst such as friction you get gouged, scratched, unsightly plastic.
Anyone with kids has seen the difference between a new plastic sand toy, and an old one that has been thoroughly enjoyed at the beach and in the sand box. The harsh grains of sand scratch and abrade the plastic making it appear dull and faded.
The very same thing is happening to synthetic carpet the world over. Between the dust that settles on the carpet from the air and the soil we track in on the bottoms of our shoes, the cards are definitely stacked against our carpet. All of that soil on the carpet gets moved across the surface of the carpet fiber whenever we walk on the carpet and abrades the fiber just like the aforementioned sand toys and Plexiglas. This abrasion causes the carpet fiber to become dull in comparison to the less traveled on areas near the walls and – voila! -the traffic wear pattern is born.
Unfortunately just like the used sand toys, no amount of carpet cleaning will restore the damaged carpet fibers to their like new condition. The good news, however, is that a professional carpet cleaning will improve the appearance of the carpet and further damage can be prevented. This is where the dichotomy of the solution to this problem comes in. As I said before the solution is both extremely simple and extremely complicated. On the one hand all you need to do to prevent the wear on new carpet and further wear on older carpet is to simply keep the dust, dirt and soil off the carpet. Therein lies the complication; how to do that. The answer requires a bit of a commitment by you and the other members of your household.
- The first thing people usually do to combat the traffic wear problem is to buy a mat or a runner to put down at the entry point to the carpet. This is a good idea but it is not enough by far. It takes approximately 27 steps to walk off all of the soil from your shoes. To do this effectively you would need a runner about 100 feet long. Not practical. A mat or small runner will help to keep soil off of the carpet but it is only part of the solution.
- The next step is to remove your shoes before coming in the house. It can be a little inconvenient but it will become like second nature after you get used to it. The key here is to put your shoes on when you go back outside. It does no good to take your shoes off when you come in and then go outside in your socks or bare feet and only to come back in the house with dirty socks or feet.
- The worst traffic patterns occur at transition areas between carpet and a hard surface like tile or wood because while carpet has the ability to hold on to soil, hard surfaces do not. The soil sticks to the bottom of your shoes or feet and is then transferred to the carpet. Keeping the hard surface clean is a very important part of the process. So important in fact, that I would tie it with step 4.
- The most important step is regular vacuuming. Frequent vacuuming is the single best way to remove soil from your carpet and prevent ugly traffic wear patterns. More than half of all the soil in your carpet can be removed through vacuuming alone. When you consider the cost of your carpet compared to the cost of a vacuum it’s a no brainer. Spending a little extra time every week to vacuum your carpet will extend the life of your carpet and improve the overall air quality inside your home which will make for a generally healthier environment for your family.
- The rest can be removed through carpet cleaning. Regular carpet cleaning will be more effective when all of these other steps are implemented and adhered to. If you choose to perform your own carpet cleaning it will be easier to clean and take less of your valuable time. If you hire a professional carpet cleaning company they will be able to use a less invasive interim carpet cleaning process and it will save you money if they don’t have to use a restorative carpet cleaning process every time they clean your carpet.
- After the carpet cleaning, carpet protector should be applied. A good carpet protector, properly applied, will prevent food spills from staining as well as protecting the carpet fiber from dry soil abrasion. It will coat the carpet fiber and prevent soil and spills from ever touching the fiber thereby preventing dry soil abrasion and staining.
In addition to saving you money, keeping your home looking beautiful and making your indoor environment healthier, following these 6 steps will also benefit the environment.
By keeping the hard surfaces and carpet in your home clean you will extend their life by many years. If they continue to look aesthetically pleasing you will continue to enjoy them and not be tempted to replace them as often. This will keep the used carpet, padding, wood, tile, vinyl, linoleum, etc. out of the landfills.
Maintaining your flooring instead of replacing it will also save you thousands of dollars over the life of your home. In this economy and even in a better economy I’m sure we can all find better things to do with our money than spend it on floor coverings.
When your carpet is properly maintained it will not require extensive restorative carpet cleaning. This means that fewer chemicals will be needed. Fewer chemicals, no matter how green and environmentally friendly they are, are always a good thing. It’s better for you, your family your pets and the environment.
A good maintenance plan applied to anything will cut costs, reduce waste, and save time in the long run. In these hard times that is more important than ever before and now is the perfect time to start from the floor up to make your plan for cleaner carpet and cleaner living.