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Carpet care 101: How to refresh after a brutal winter

Thousands of threads make up carpet fibers, and the particular fibers will affect the proper cleaning method to choose. Thinkstock / Special to The Forum

Winter can wreak havoc on the carpet in a home or apartment, thanks to the combination of salt, rocks, ice and snow being tracked in by its occupants. The carpet then traps those outside pollutants, which can remain even after every nook and cranny is dusted and vacuumed.

"During the winter, over-salted roads and sidewalks can bring more debris in the home from the outside," says Brandon Schimke, director of construction at Renovation Systems. "Carpet cleaning increases in the common areas like entryways and hallways."

High-traffic carpet areas contain dirt, dust, pollen, mold spores, pesticides and other materials, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. These pollutants can cause frequent headaches, persistent cough, sore throat, fatigue or irritation in the eyes, nose and throat.

Frequent vacuuming — at least once or twice weekly — can remove most outside pollutants. The Carpet and Rug Institute recommends a slow and steady pace while using vacuum attachments in stairways and corners. The institute also recommends dusting blinds, windowsills and furniture surfaces before vacuuming.

Most manufacturers recommend having carpets professionally cleaned at least one year. Comprehensive flooring companies, like Renovation Systems or specialized cleaners like B and B Carpet Cleaners, have the expertise and equipment necessary to remove stubborn stains and unseen grim sunk into a carpet's fibers.

"We're trying to give people the longevity of their carpet. In apartments or a multi-family homes, carpets can last 2 to 3 years," Schimke says. "Stain resistant carpet can last closer to five."

Renovation Systems provides expert carpet cleaning and replacement services to its customers and large property management companies.

"Spot cleaning sessions to remove stubborn dirt and winter debris increase during November through February," Schimke says. "Carpet replacement or repair services increase during April through September."

The length between professional carpet cleaning varies for each home or apartment. A person should evaluate the strength of the vacuum cleaner, the level of traffic in the home, the number and type of family pets as well as the carpet's fiber type with a carpet cleaning professional.

A carpet cleaning professional will be able to discuss the most effective treatment for a person's particular needs. Carpet is made of thousand of threads, usually referred to as fibers, to create the appearance and texture of the particular carpet.

"The carpet's particular fibers will affect the cleaning method. Once we know the carpet's specific fiber, we can create the correct deep-cleaning solution," Schimke says.

Most carpet in the early U.S. was woven wool. In 1960, tufting machines made it possible to make carpets from synthetic fibers such as nylon. Today, the majority of carpets are either wool, nylon, polypropylene or polyester.

Even with attentive care, carpets will erode. A few common aspects of overuse can be corrected with periodic treatments from professional carpet cleaners.

1. Carpets are matted or crushed.

Carpets in living rooms and hallways can become flattened due heavy traffic and other environmental causes.

"During the winter, salt agitates the carpet's fibers and makes them raised and harder " Schimke says. "Matting can usually be corrected with a dry extraction."

A dry extraction uses a specialized powder compound with an industrial grade vacuum to remove soil and dry particles imbedded in a carpet's fibers, making the entire carpet look refreshed.

2. Carpets are stained or contain pet odors.

Like the Humane Society says, "Accidents will happen." While pets can be the source of many carpet stains, proper treatment of these stains can erase the evidence.

"People request professional carpet cleaning services most often when they have pets," Berg says.

Pet stains in carpets with synthetic fibers can be removed with steam cleaning. Steam cleaning uses a compound and a high-grade steamer to reach temperatures of 212 degrees Fahrenheit to remove the stain.

"Most of the time stains on carpets can be removed unless it has been bleached," Schimke says.

3. Carpets are rippling or tearing.

Also referred to as "bubbling," this issue can be caused by improper installation, low-quality padding, humidity, over-wetting during steam cleaning or delamination, when carpet separates from it's backing or padding underneath.

Some speciality flooring companies can restretch carpets so the air pockets will be removed between the carpet and its padding underneath.

Because replacing carpets can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $1,400, it can be more economical to consult a professional carpet cleaner first. Treatments usually cost between $110 to $150, though the cost will vary on the home's size and the number and types of treatment needed.

April Knutson

April Knutson is lifestyle-focused journalist producing stories for the Forum News Service about people, health, community issues, and services. She earned her degree in both English Literature and Mass Communications. After working as a digital marketing specialist and web design consultant for a few years, she joined Forum Communications in 2015. She grew up on a farm near Volga, S.D. Follow her on Twitter @april_knutson.