Carpets should be cleaned regularly in addition to periodic vacuuming. Vacuuming gets the dry dust and debris, but shoes track in all manner of dirt that sticks to the carpet and a way that deep cleaning becomes necessary.
Waiting too long and allowing the carpet to become overly dirty can make it more difficult to get it truly clean. Though there is a wive’s tale that says that that carpets become soiled quicker if they are shampooed before they absolutely need it, this is not true. Most carpeting in an average home should be shampooed every year or year and a half. Of course if you have a very busy household with more than the usual foot traffic, your carpet might need cleaning more frequently.
You can have the carpet shampooed less frequently if you vacuum regularly with a top quality vacuum. I poor unit can leave dirt that builds up over time.
It can be tempting to use a consumer model carpet shampooer to clean the carpets, but the truth is using a carpet cleaning pro will just about always yield better results. Not only are consumer carpet cleaning units less effective than the industrial machines used by companies, the technicians generally know quite a bit more than you and I about getting carpets clean. They use chemicals that clean better and dry faster. And they just know more about how to do the job right than most consumers.
Of course, some people insist on doing the job themselves. And it is true that heavy duty carpet cleaning machines are available for rent. However, note that not all rented machines are created equally. Don’t just rent the first unit you see. If you use the wrong type of machine, at best you’ll have carpets that do not come as clean as they should. At worst, you will actually cause damage to your carpet. Follow these guidelines:
1) You want to use the same type of machinery that the carpet cleaning companies use. These professional units have enough suction so the carpet should actually dry in less than a day. As tempting as it may be, do not rent a machine from the supermarket. These machines almost never have enough suction to pull enough of the liquid out of the carpet. As a result, the carpet stays wet too long and is often damaged.
2) Getting the carpet to soaked should be avoided. The longer the carpet stays wet or even damp, the more chance it has for mildew and other nasties to grow on the carpet. Staying wet for a prolonged period can also cause the carpet backing to stop adhering and become separated. A shampooed carpet must be dry within no more than a 24 hour day.
3) If your carpet has Scotchgard or another coating that protects it from staining, chances are you need a special cleaning agent to clean it. Using standard cleaners will not only be less effective but may also void your warranty. A side note — never use any cleaning solution that has bleach in it. Obviously, this can ruin the color in the carpet. Nor should you use anything with silicone as it tends to cling to the carpet fibers.
4) Even when you use professional equipment, carpet does take time to dry. You can speed it up by using oscillating fans placed around the carpeted area.
Of the professional methods, hot water extraction (or steam cleaning) is perhaps the best. A good professional company will usually have a system on the back of a truck with long hoses that reach into your home. Steam cleaning works great even with very dirty carpets. It usually even works well on bad stains caused by dogs and cats that have set.