How to Hire the Best Carpet Cleaner for Your Home
When you were growing up, did you have that one piece of furniture that seemed like it was placed oddly in your living room?
This would have been years before we knew what feng shui was, so it was obvious that your mom was trying to cover something up.
She always hoped that no one would ever know…
That carefully placed piece of upholstery was actually covering a wine stain on the carpet. A memento from a too tipsy guest who had attended her famous New Year’s Eve party years prior.
Everyone has a spot here and there that needs to be cleaned.
Maybe it’s from the kids, or that rambunctious puppy you brought home one day….
Thankfully we live in a time when it is easy and convenient to get our carpets cleaned by a professional. As every mom knows, any time you mix kids (or tipsy party guest) and light colored carpets, you are setting yourself up for some trouble.
Whether it is a few specific stains you want to treat or major traffic areas that have become trouble spots, a carpet cleaning company will know how to treat these marks efficiently and quickly.
When it’s time to call a carpet cleaner, you might be hesitant to take that step without a little more information.
Which Carpet Cleaning Method Should You Choose?
Are you surprised to learn that there are several carpet cleaning methods?
There are advantages and disadvantages of each, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with each type in order to choose the best method for your situation.
Standard vs. Green Carpet Cleaning
One first factor to consider is whether you want a green cleaner or conventional cleaner. Conventional cleaners are by far the most common and may be cheaper, but what might you be compromising to do so?
Today’s green, sustainable, and eco-friendly cleaners create just as powerful a clean with a professional green carpet cleaning company.
They also are better for the health of your family and pets by using safe and biodegradable ingredients. You don’t have to worry about them rolling around on the carpet… or for that matter rolling around on the carpet yourself!
With the trend in natural and ecological living, there are a rising number of carpet cleaning professionals who use these green methods. Especially so in cities like Seattle with a lot of consciousness around natural living and health.
Steam Cleaning/Wet Carpet Cleaning
This is a hot water extraction method that most people are probably familiar with.
The carpet is pre-conditioned with a chemical that turns oil and oil-based substances that are found in the carpet fibers into liquid.
The carpet cleaner then heats water to almost boiling, pressurizes it, and injects it into the carpet. After fifteen minutes, the liquid gets vacuumed up.
Getting soil out from down deep in your carpet is one of the advantages of the wet carpet cleaning method.
- It facilitates chemical reactivity with agitation by an extraction wand
- It allows the use of high pressures, temperatures, and chemical concentrates
- And it allows for an extended time for the cleaning solvents to react
It is the most common method used.
But nothing is without disadvantages…
- It requires a pretty long drying time, though that can be lessened with the right equipment and knowledgeable technicians.
- Since an efficient and effective steam cleaning requires specialized equipment, the service can be one of the more expensive methods.
- It typically needs driveway access for the truck-mounted equipment, along with the long hoses to reach the carpet.
Absorbent Pad Cleaning
Also called bonnet cleaning, this method of carpet cleaning is usually considered for routine light maintenance, but it can also be used for normal carpet cleaning.
When the carpet is first vacuumed, a chemical solution is sprayed onto it with an electric sprayer or hand pump. This solution is permitted to soak into the carpet for a specific reaction time.
A rotary floor machine with an absorbent pad placed on its drive block is spun over the carpet at 100 to 300 rpm. The spinning then saturates the carpet fibers with the solution, which releases the dirt that gets picked up later.
This inexpensive method is also simple and quick, and can give you great results with carpets that are only lightly soiled.
But if you’re hiring a carpet cleaner, you probably want more of a deep clean.
The disadvantages include:
- Its inability to reach deep down in the carpet, since it can only clean the top one-third of the carpet fibers.
- It can leave chemicals and dirt to collect down at the bottom of the carpet fibers.
Encapsulation or Absorbent Compound Dry Cleaning
There are a few “dry” methods available to carpet cleaners.
Encapsulation is a more modern method first introduced in the 1990’s that uses low moisture methods, and is more effective than the previous dry powder methods as well.
With dry cleaning powder methods, special solvents and cleaning agents are mixed with a powder and spread over your carpet. The machine then works it into the carpet fibers and allows the powder to absorb the grime and dirt particles. They are then thoroughly vacuumed up along with the absorbed particles.
With Encapsulation, compounds are used that literally encapsulate the soil and other particles, enabling them to be picked up by the powerful brushes of the portable machine used in the process.
This is a fast drying method, using less water and less energy than other methods. And it’s very portable.
It can be a good method for hard to access locations and apartment/office buildings.
A good technician can do an extremely thorough job with Encapsulation
Its disadvantages include:
- It’s not as common to find and not often used for homes where a truck-mounted steam cleaner can be used.
- Using the powder methods (instead of Encapsulation methods) can lead to a buildup either under the pile or as dust in the home.
Reputation is Everything
If you are unfamiliar with carpet cleaning processes, you may fall prey to an unscrupulous carpet cleaning company.
And, in some cases, it can take weeks before you’re able to see that a bad carpet cleaning job was done.
So, how can you protect yourself?
How can you find a reputable carpet cleaning business?
Other directories will have reviews as well, such as Angie’s List.
There are no real industry standards or licenses like practicing law or practicing medicine, so reviews tend to be your best way to check a company out before meeting them for the first time.
7 Red Flags to Watch Out For
It is common for every carpet cleaning company to boast that its cleaning methods are the best and that it provides incredible service.
Don’t always trust what a company representative or website says.
Always make sure to do your own investigation work. To help you identify who might be not as great as they first appear, here are a few red flags of warning:
1. Misleading claims – Beware of anyone saying they have “exclusive” endorsements or equipment. One carpet cleaning company’s advertising claimed that it had the exclusive endorsement of Shaw Industries, and made it sound like it had special equipment from Shaw Industries. In reality, Shaw Industries indicates that the best possible cleaning comes from Truck Mounted Hot Water Extraction, as noted in its technical bulletins and carpet care guides. Since most professional carpet cleaners also utilize this carpet cleaning method, any company saying its equipment has a special endorsement is a misleading claim.
2. Disguising the cleaning process – A pro won’t have a problem being open about what carpet cleaning processes and equipment they use. When a cleaning company refers to its “unique” cleaning process and describes how different it is from other cleaning methods, but in actuality, it is the same process that many companies use, such as hot water extraction, you may want to think twice about hiring that company. This misleading claim tries to make you think the company is using a new and special way to clean, like touting a new revolutionary “Circular Dry Foam” process that has actually been around for 30 years.
3. Mystery Testimonials – When a carpet cleaning company includes glowing testimonials that omit names, can you be sure they are real? Plenty of satisfied customers will be happy to include a name with a review to be used as a reference, so it is possible that when you see generic testimonials they are actually fake.
4. Unmarked Vehicles and Attire – While there are many one person carpet cleaners doing their own thing, be wary of how professional they are and how much they’ll back their work if they don’t have basic business things like company trucks and shirts.
5. Dirty/Beat-Up Vehicles and Bad Personal Appearance – If they don’t take care of themselves, they won’t take care of your home. Unlike someone doing dirty work like plumbing, a carpet cleaner should be clean and be particular about looks from the beginning… or they won’t be clean and particular about the look of your home.
6. Do They Wear Booties Over Their Shoes? – A good sign of a pro is that they will put booties over their shoes to protect the carpet and make sure they don’t reintroduce grime to your carpet they just cleaned.
7. One Flat Price or Giving a Firm Quote without the Details – Quoting a home takes some knowledge of the size of the carpet to be cleaned, state of the carpets and any stains, maybe even what kind of carpet it is and if they can access it with truck mounted equipment or not. If they just have one flat price or aren’t interested in the details, be wary! They may either do shoddy, rushed work or may charge you more later.
When companies use misleading and deceptive advertising to get your business, you definitely need to doubt their service and quality. If they are lacking in integrity and honesty, that should be a huge red flag.
What it Costs to Get Your Carpets Professionally Cleaned
When having the carpets in your home or business cleaned, it’s not a one-size-fits-all job.
If fact, if they have one flat price and don’t want more information – be very wary!
For example, it often makes a difference to the carpet cleaning company which type of building it is and what kind of access they have.
It’s also critical to assess the building’s size and the type of stains you have.
Also if you have any other needs for the carpet cleaner to consider.
Generally, carpet cleaning can range anywhere from $75 to $350+ depending on the situation, as reported by HomeAdvisor.
In higher cost of living cities like Seattle, WA, it can be higher than in lower cost of living cities.
The cost of the cleaning is primarily determined by two different factors, per room or square foot and the cleaning method.
When a carpet cleaning company charges by the room, there will be a flat cleaning rate for the room with a size cap limit. If the room goes over the cap limit, the company will then charge you for cleaning two rooms.
Other companies will charge per square foot, which is commonly seen with commercial space and many residential companies.
For example, depending on where you live, you can see prices ranging from:
- $80 and $150 for a home carpet of 200 to 400 sq. ft.
- 1000 to 1500 sq. ft. might cost between $200 and $350.
- 2000 to 3000 sq. ft. might be estimated at $400 to $650.
For private homes, size determines the optimum fee rate. So owners of smaller homes may find a higher per square foot rate, because the cleaning company will need to compensate for the cost of travel and materials in setting up for a smaller job. Owners of larger homes will see a better rate as the costs are fixed for the materials and equipment setup.
And when it comes to stains and not just regular cleaning, the type of stain will factor in to the work involved to remove it… if it’s possible to completely remove at all.
Some stains are particularly difficult even for a professional. Others just take some work, so be sure to mention if you have stains that need to be removed in addition to general carpet cleaning overall.
Additional Carpet Cleaning Cost Factors
Type of Cleaning
Depending on the carpet cleaning method, the chemicals that are used, and the equipment required, your cost can fluctuate. The most popular kind of cleaning, hot water extraction, has hot water and chemicals inserted into your carpet with pressure to loosen up all the debris and dirt. The machine then suctions up all the dirty water from your carpet.
Dry cleaning your carpet allows you to use a small amount of water and chemical to clean your carpet quickly. It requires the use of a rotary machine with brushes and sprayers to get all the dust loose and then it immediately vacuums up all the debris and dirt.
Depending on the type of carpet you have, it may be more difficult to clean than others. Here are a few common carpet types and their difficulty level and cost to clean:
- Berber – It is the easiest to clean
- Cut and level loop – A little harder to clean
- Cotton and wool – This is the hardest to clean and most expensive
As you can see, the type of loops you have in your carpet determines the best method of cleaning it. The type of fibers in the carpet and how they are twisted – either tight, medium, or loose – determines the amount of debris and dirt they are covering up.
If you have a lot of stains, or your carpet is soiled in some pretty heavy traffic areas, this will add to your overall cost.
The stain’s size and type will increase your carpet cleaning cost. Pet stains tend to need more attention since they sink farther into the carpet’s pile and often take a lot longer to remove from the carpet, while food spills are easier to remove and will cost you less.
Stains can run anywhere between $40 to $300 to remove, here are a few common stains that will cost you more:
- Heavy traffic
Green Carpet Cleaning Methods
Special methods like using green cleaners instead of the standard more toxic chemicals may factor in the price of on carpet cleaner vs. another.
In many areas, green cleaners won’t be a major price factor at all, especially compared to the benefits of using them. But in some areas green carpet cleaners may charge a premium.
However, choosing to use an ecological and natural carpet cleaner will be more of a personal decision than cost decision for most people.
Should You Do It Yourself?
If you are budget minded, it may occur to you to do the carpet cleaning job yourself. It is easy to rent a machine from your local supermarket instead of paying a professional carpet cleaning company…
But, will there be a big difference in the end product?
In comparison to the equipment that professional carpet cleaners use, rental machines tend to be less effective and underpowered. And it’s very easy to over-wet the carpet or simply make a mistake in how to properly use the machine – resulting in sometimes disastrous results before they even realize their carpet is flooded and taking days to dry.
This can even cause your carpet to shrink or discolor.
It’s important to know that carpets staying wet for too long will develop must and mold, leading to potentially permanent damage and negative health effects from mold spores.
So if you go the route of renting a machine, be vigilant about following the instructions to a “T”.
These machines are also not as thorough and don’t clean as deep – often leaving and accumulating dirt in the lower two-thirds of your carpet.
Seems kind of obvious, right?
Professional equipment run by a professional technician is naturally going to be a more powerful clean.
Rental machine chemicals can be cheap but they simply don’t do the same job… and can do damage if used incorrectly. You also don’t get the professional expertise of the professionals when dealing with various situations, like that big stain next to the couch!
But they can be fine if used correctly for doing touch-ups once and a while when there isn’t a lot of traffic or stains.
Professional carpet cleaning companies have higher-quality equipment and a trained staff that know how to deal with specific stains. You should expect a high-quality cleaning experience for what you are paying including:
- A pre-inspection of your carpets to identify existing stains, the type of carpets, and how the carpets are constructed.
- On cleaning day, technicians move furniture, if necessary.
- Technicians surface clean your carpets with a strong industrial vacuum cleaner.
- A special pre-conditioning agent may be used in heavy traffic areas to help heavy soiling to break down. Any other stains are treated with an appropriate treatment to make sure that they are completely removed.
- Using a strong, top-spec carpet cleaning machine, your carpets are steam-cleaned to remove all the allergens, dirt, and stains. The machine also sucks out all the moisture in your carpet possible to prevent them from getting too wet.
- Afterward, a technician performs a thorough inspection to follow up on any stubborn stains in the event that they need to be treated again.
- Using a professional grooming tool, your technician will often groom your carpet to help it dry, as well as lift the carpet pile to make it look as good as new.
- A final inspection and, if requested, a stain protector treatment is applied, to make sure that you are happy with the results.
Spot Cleaning Carpets
A professional will know the best way to treat a stain without causing undue harm to your carpet or causing the stain to set.
But if you just have a spill or stain you need to spot clean right away, and want to try to clean it naturally, we have a great guide to natural carpet cleaning and stain fighting recipes and ingredients.
The quicker you react to a new spill or stain, the more likely you are to have success!
So it pays to have DIY recipes like these on hand for emergencies.
Getting a Quote from a Reputable Carpet Cleaner
One would think that with all that is possible on the internet right now, you would be able to get a carpet cleaning quote that is accurate and easy.
There are a lot of different variables that will go into your quote.
It is really important to meet or talk with the company beforehand to receive the most accurate quote possible. This is also a good time to check out the company, ask questions, and make sure it’s reputable.
Even though you can get a basic quote over the phone or the internet, you will have the most accurate quote from a physical inspection. Nothing is worse than expecting to pay one price that you were quoted over the phone, only to have it go up substantially when the technicians actually see your carpet.
But a phone or internet quote can be good for getting you a good ballpark.
A reputable company will be able to identify the correct cleaning agents to handle specific fibers to give you the best results.
The first thing you need to think about is access. Will they be able to access the carpet with truck mounted equipment?
Typically they just need to be able to park near a door through which they can route their hoses.
If it is less accessible like apartment buildings, office buildings, and some condos, then you’ll want to discuss it with them first.
The Quote Process
Also, keep in mind that one company may charge you per hour while another company may charge you a flat rate based on your answers to important questions over the phone or through a website form.
Most companies tend to base quotes on the square footage, as this can alter the price dramatically based on the duration of use of its machines and how long the job should take. Square footage can also help determine the amount of soap and chemical agents that will be needed to treat the surface area.
If you use an online quote form, it should ask for details about the job, especially square footage, location, and maybe some other details like location type and if they can access it with truck-mounted equipment.
Letting your carpet cleaner about the state of the carpet, any stains, and how heavily trafficked your home is (number of people, pets, etc.) will help them be prepared and give you a more accurate quote.
More people living in the home tends to correlate with more wear on the carpet fibers, so a stronger cleaning chemical may be necessary to treat the carpet. The technicians will then know to come prepared with special spot removers used when dealing with pet stains.
You may also be asked if your floor has been receiving any routine cleaning service. This is to make sure that the chemicals used won’t damage the carpet, as a floor that has already been receiving regular prior cleaning with chemical agents may now need a less powerful agent.
Things to do Before the Carpet Cleaners Arrive
Making your carpets look like new again can be a time-consuming task, even for the pro’s.
Before the carpet cleaners arrive, it helps immensely to make a few preparations which will help the technicians do their jobs quickly and efficiently:
Vacuum – It is very helpful to remove as much dirt and debris as possible from the carpet prior to having it cleaned to guarantee that your technicians can focus on the soil that is deep down in the carpet. There are some carpet cleaning companies that will vacuum prior to cleaning, but others depend on you to do it, so it is a good idea to find out the company’s expectations ahead of time.
Clean and dust your baseboards and HVAC registers – This won’t hinder the carpet cleaning process, but it helps to clean these areas prior to your carpet cleaning, so the debris and dirt from the registers and baseboards don’t make your newly cleaned carpet dirty again right after it is cleaned.
Remove valuable and fragile items – If you have lots of breakable knick-knacks such as porcelain and fine china, it is a good idea to put these items away so they aren’t broken. Collectibles and other potentially fragile items should all be removed to a safe area.
If You’re Wary, Hide Anything Small and Valuable – Hopefully, if you have chosen a reputable company, it has vetted its employees and screened out any unscrupulous job candidates. But, it help your peace of mind to make sure anything of value is put away safely from the rooms where the technicians will be cleaning. Just remember to bring them back out before you forget where you put them!
Ask if it Helps to Move furniture – Always good to ask before they arrive. Some carpet cleaning companies take care of it. Others may charge extra. It’s best to ask before hand so you are prepared.
Remove small items from the floor – Anything that is on the floor being cleaned, like floor lamps, toys, waste baskets, and clothes or shoes, need to be picked up and moved out of the way. Also lift up anything that may hang on the carpet, like drapes, bedspreads, or dust ruffles, to make sure they are all out of the way.
Make sure there is parking room for the company vehicle – Most carpet cleaners will come with a truck, so you want to make sure you have moved your vehicles out of the way to allow their truck enough room. You want to make sure the technicians can easily access their equipment and materials, so they can run their hoses from the truck to your home to do their job.
Point out areas of concern – If you have specific stains you want your carpet cleaner to focus on, make sure to point out these spots and high traffic areas so your technician is aware of the areas that you are most concerned with so they don’t miss anything during the cleaning process. It’s best to mention these before they arrived during the quote process.
Keeping Your Carpet in Warranty
Usually, you need to have your carpets cleaned at least once a year. If you have higher traffic areas, you may need more frequent cleanings.
Another thing to check is the carpet manufacturer’s carpet cleaning guidelines to make sure you are keeping the warranty in force. Most warranties will require a cleaning every 12 to 18 months, even if you don’t think your carpet is dirty. And keep all your carpet cleaning receipts as your carpet warranty requires.
As you read your carpet warranty, make note of all the carpet maintenance suggestions as this will help you make sure your carpets last as long as possible. Spot cleaning will help in between professional cleanings, but use only approved carpet cleaning products.
Make sure you have the correct warranty information for your carpet when you leave the store.
This information is normally found on the back of the carpet sample you looked at in the store when you were purchasing your carpet. The responsibility falls on you to make sure you have the right warranty and that you are following the guidelines correctly.
A standard new carpet warranty may require you to
- Retain your receipt of purchase either in a bill, invoice, or statement to show when you purchased the carpet and what you paid for it, minus the labor and pad.
- Make sure your carpet is installed according to the guidelines set forth in the Carpet and Rug Institutes’ Installation Standard CRI-105.
- Keep up your carpet maintenance according to the recommendations in your carpet’s manufacturer’s warranty.
- Keep all invoices, bills, and statements to prove that you did have the recommended frequency of carpet cleaning by a Certified Carpet Cleaning Company.
- Follor the required carpet cleaning schedule, depending on your carpet manufacturer’s warranty.
If you follow the guidelines of your carpet warranty, your carpet should enjoy a nice long life before it falls victim to the long-term effects of stains, abrasion, and dinginess.
Carpet cleaners are an integral part in the life cycle of your carpet, so remember to include an annual visit to keep your carpet clean and abrasion free.
Finding a reputable carpet cleaner can often be a challenge when you are faced with many unscrupulous companies in the market. Remember that in-home estimates will not only help you get the most accurate picture of what tasks the carpet cleaners will need to perform and what it will cost you.
This meeting will also help you determine the quality and reputation of the carpet cleaners, which should give you peace of mind while they are in your home.
Remember, carpet cleaners are your friends!
When you are ready to give your carpets new life and a clean bill of health, a carpet cleaning company will be there to ensure it is done quickly and effectively. And you will definitely need it when you are faced with a house full of guests come holiday time.