Carpet cleaning: understanding the basics

Carpet is mostly found in high pedestrian traffic areas of a home or office. In an office area, carpets are primarily used for soundproofing and for insurance purposes as they provide a non-slippery surface for office personnel to walk on and avoid injury.

In most homes, carpets are used in active areas such as living rooms and bedrooms for mainly the same reasons. Anyone who has lived in an apartment has experienced noisy neighbours, with footsteps or arguments reaching your ears through paper-thin floors and ceilings.  You probably wished the people upstairs would be considerate enough to at least put carpeting on their floors to lessen the noise. Or perhaps you have active young children running and playing everywhere. Carpeted rooms will help you soften the acoustics, reduce noise and echo, and spare neighbours from high-pitched screaming and other collateral damage, including toys falling on the floor. Carpets also have shock absorbing properties that protect people from injury in the event of a fall. Since carpet is used in high-traffic rooms, proper maintenance is crucial for it to last. Ensuring basic carpet maintenance is the only way to keep clean, safe, and beautiful carpeted floors for many years.

Carpets and clean air

It is a common misconception that carpets contribute to asthma and allergy symptoms. In reality, it is quite the opposite. Recent studies have shown that people living and working in carpeted rooms showed fewer asthma symptoms and fewer allergies than people who lived in homes or worked in an office with hard floors. Studies also showed that fine particle concentration was higher than the norm in rooms with bare floors compared to rooms with wall-to-wall carpeting. In fact, particles, such as pollen, dust and pet dander fall to the floor are trapped by carpet fibres, which prevent them from being redistributed into the air.  The key to cleaner air is to make sure carpets are properly maintained and vacuumed.

Maintenance and prevention

When it comes to maintenance, carpets are no different from any other part of your home or office. The best way to keep them clean is through prevention. Identify and eliminate the many sources of dirt that infiltrate the fibres. The first line of defence is placing floor mats in entryways and exits of your home or office. This helps protect from excessive dirt build-up. At home, ask visitors to take off their shoes before walking in, especially during winter. Most offices also require their employees to remove their shoes or boots, and wear shoes used only at the office.

Weekly maintenance

Most people hate vacuuming and commit a big mistake by completely neglecting it when cleaning. Another common error is the use of carpet sweepers. While quick and easy, carpet sweepers are ineffective in that they only remove surface dirt and ruin carpet when used often. It is common sense that a good and regular vacuuming helps keep your carpet clean, and prevents abrasion. It is best to vacuum low-traffic areas at least twice a week, and busier places every other day. Quality carpet should last at least ten years if well-maintained. Proper vacuuming also helps improve indoor air quality, while complying with carpet warranties. In short, the better you vacuum, the better you will breathe and the longer you will put off the purchase of a new carpet.

Annual maintenance

Keep in mind research shows that regular vacuuming has limits and should always be supplemented by a carpet cleaning service to eradicate accumulated dirt not visible to the naked eye. To refresh carpet texture and rejuvenate fibres, a thorough carpet cleaning should be conducted at least twice a year by a trained carpet care professional. Also, hot water extraction carpet cleaning is a requirement for the validity of most carpet warranties. Some carpet types demand different ways of cleaning. Check with your carpet retailer for the recommended cleaning method for your particular carpet.

Remember that carpets are a playground for dust and bacteria if not routinely cleaned, especially during the summer. Bacteria and mold flourish in warm temperatures. To rid of them, your best bet is a professional cleaning service. Such companies have the necessary tools and cleaning solutions to effectively eradicate dust mites, allergens, pet dander and dirt from all carpeting.

Your home decorations and furnishings are a reflection of you and your family. Don’t let neglected carpeting sully your reputation. Carpets add beauty, warmth and comfort to your home, and also offer safety and noise reduction. They should not be a haven for dirt, mould, stains or bad odours.

Removing stains from your carpet

Despite your best cleaning efforts, should you find stains on your carpet, there are lots of chemical-free cleaning solutions to help rid unwanted marks. It is important to take prompt action, as the longer a stain remains, the tougher it is to clean. Here are 3 different options for cleaning regular carpet stains. For tough stains or, major disasters, call a professional cleaning service.

Option 1:

  • Dilute stained area with clear cold water immediately. Use paper towels to absorb extra fluids. Mix one teaspoon of mild soap detergent with one teaspoon of distilled white vinegar in approximately one quart of clear, warm water
  • Apply to stain using spray bottle to saturate
  • Allow cleaning solution to work its magic for about fifteen minutes
  • Use a sponge or cloth and rub in circles gently
  • Rinse with warm water
  • Make sure carpet fibres are in proper position before drying
  • Pat dry with paper towel
  • Open windows and direct a fan on area to help dry
  • Always groom your carpet fibres in proper direction for quicker drying

Option 2:

  • Mix one teaspoon of clear household ammonia with one cup of clear, warm water
  • Apply to stain using spray bottle to saturate and to prevent carpet padding from getting wet
  • Allow the cleaning solution to work its magic for about fifteen minutes
  • Use a sponge or cloth and rub in circles gently
  • Rinse with warm water
  • Make sure fibres are in proper position
  • Pat dry with paper towel
  • Open windows and direct a fan on area to help dry
  • Always groom your carpet fibres in proper direction for quicker drying

Option 3:

You can also make a detergent solution with hand soap or dish soap. Mix one quarter teaspoon of detergent with one quart of clear, warm water. Make sure the soap does not contain bleach or lanolin.

  • Blot the stain with white paper towels to remove as much solution as possible
  • Mix one quarter teaspoon of detergent with half a cup of clear, warm water
  • Apply detergent solution (hand soap or dish soap) with a spray bottle
  • Allow the cleaning solution to work its magic for about fifteen minutes
  • Rub the area
  • Rinse with warm water
  • Make sure fibres are in proper position
  • Pat dry with paper towel
  • Open windows and direct a fan on area to help dry
  • Always groom your carpet fibres in proper direction for quicker drying

Note: If stain persists after several cleaning attempts, please contact a remediation specialist

What is mold?

Mold is a type of fungus that mostly grows in humid environments such as bathrooms and basements or in home appliances such as air conditioners and humidifiers. Mold can be found wherever there is moisture, oxygen, warmth and a source of food, such as fiber and plants (leaky roofs, pipes, walls, or flooded areas are the preferred breeding grounds for mold). Mold travels through air as tiny spores looking for wet areas on which to cling and breed. Molded areas should be dealt with immediately before the spores contaminate other areas.

Mold is both an allergen and an irritant. In addition to its unsightly appearance, mold is the source of physical reactions ranging from simple allergies to major health hazards. Basic symptoms include sneezing, watery and red eyes, difficulty breathing, headaches and skin rashes. Mold spores can also reach the lungs and cause asthma. Unlike pollen allergies and contrary to popular belief, mold allergies are not associated with a specific season. They can happen any time of year. As such, everyone should always keep an eye on the appearance of mold in the buildings they occupy.

Getting mold out of your carpet

Of all possible disasters that can be inflicted upon your carpet, mold and mildew are possibly the worst. Aside from looking ugly, mold and mildew are unhealthy, cause bad odors and are linked to numerous respiratory diseases. Mold and mildew thrive in places that are warm and humid. Mold spores are generally airborne and can easily spread to other areas of the house. They may also be inhaled into lungs and cause health problems. Generally, exposure to any mold may cause allergic symptoms, including sneezing, itching, watery eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion, difficulty breathing, wheezing, headaches, fatigue, and even asthma attacks. If your carpet has had water damage and wasn’t dried properly, mold has certainly developed or is in the process of developing. Hence the importance of quick action in properly drying wet carpet.

Oftentimes, the only effective solution for getting rid of carpet mold is buying a new one. But if your carpet mold infection is mild, try removing it yourself. You might be lucky, and solve the problem in a single try. If your mold problem persists, call a professional.

Getting started

Open windows and doors to allow fresh air to circulate. When mold spores are disturbed, they become airborne and easily travel into the lungs. Make sure you wear a mask, safety goggles and gloves, and avoid as much contact with the mold as possible. Keep pets and children out of the contaminated room. Some occupants of the house may be more susceptible to molds, particularly the elderly, people with low immune systems, and those with existing respiratory problems. If possible, keep them out of the house.

Getting rid of the mould

Mold is generally attached to its home and reluctant to go away. It sticks to carpet fibers and needs to be thoroughly scrubbed in order to leave. If the area of mold growth is small enough to take care yourself, here is what you can do: Mix one part Lysol, bleach or white vinegar to four parts fresh water. Spray the carpet with the solution and let it set for at least 15 minutes. Then scrub the area with a solution of warm, soapy water (you can use dishwashing soap) and a clean cloth. Use clean water and a clean cloth to rinse the area, then spray with the solution again and repeat the process. Vacuum dirt and mold away. Be sure to get all the water out of the carpet to prevent the mold from growing again. After you have vacuumed the water, open windows and use industrial fans around the contaminated area. Use a dehumidifier to rid the room of lingering moisture. As mentioned, if mold is severely stuck to your carpet, you may have no choice but to replace it. When finished, clean or change the vacuum filter to keep mold as far away from your home as possible.

Knowing when to contact a cleaning specialist

If the surface of mold is small, you can try the cleaning process yourself. However, if you are dealing with mold extending beyond a few square feet, contact a remediation specialist. Cleaning small areas of mold automatically releases spores in the air, which could create minor health issues for occupants of the building. Consequently, trying to clean substantial amounts of mold could create major health issues that may end up costing you much more than a professional cleaning service.

You should consider calling a specialist when:

  • Your mold problem extends beyond a few square feet
  • The occupants of your home or building suffer from allergies, asthma or other respiratory problems
  • Repeated cleaning has not solved your mold problem
  • You’re not sure of the extent of your mold problem
  • You notice smell of mildew coming from your carpet

Cleaning carpet after fire damage

If there has been a fire in your home, the last thing on your mind should be salvaging your carpets yourself. Consider hiring a professional fire damage restoration specialist with expertise to minimize your losses, and recover as much of your possessions as possible from damages caused by smoke and fire. If you are lucky, the fire has caused minimal damage. However, restoration from a fire requires hard work. Ask yourself if the effort is financially viable.


If dealing with a small amount of soot, start by removing loose bits resting on carpet fibres. Vacuuming helps rid of most loose soot. Before you start cleaning soot stain, scrape the stained area with a spoon to loosen remaining soot, and vacuum again. Spread baking soda, cornstarch, or other absorbent material on the stain. Let stand at least one hour, and vacuum once more. Apply a cleaning solvent on the stain, and let it sit according to directions on the spot remover. Blot the stained area with a clean white cloth or sponge. Once you’ve blotted as much as you can, rinse the stained area with cold water while being careful not to wet the carpet’s underpad. Dry the area by opening doors and windows and by placing a fan next to the affected area. If the stain is persists, repeat procedure. If the result is still the same after several attempts, replace your carpet, or call a remediation specialist.


Getting rid of smoke smell from carpet can be tricky. There is a high risk of staining the carpet with washing liquids you intend to use, so your best bet is to get it done professionally. Specialists have access to heavy-duty products for cleaning carpets and removing unwanted smells. If you want to solve the problem yourself, try cleaning the surface using vinegar, and rinse with clean water. The acid in the vinegar will contain the smoke smell. This is enough to rid of minor smoke odour.

You can also purchase a good brand of baking soda and simply dust it around the area with smoke smell. Let the baking soda sit for at least 24 hours to give it time to soak up the odour.  Then vacuum to clean up the area. If the smell persists, repeat the process several times. If the result is the same after several attempts, replace your carpet or call a remediation specialist.

Cleaning your carpet after water damage

Before you begin cleaning, determine what kind of water caused the damage. If the water comes from toilet or sewage, it means you have a ‘black water’ problem. If that is the case, there isn’t much you can do. Such water contains huge amounts of bacteria, which could create severe health problems for you and your family. If your carpet is contaminated with black water, throw it away, no questions asked. If the water is from a clean water pipe, you may salvage your carpet.

First remove as much water as possible from your carpet before it becomes a breeding ground for mold and mildew. You need to act within 24 to 48 hours. For this operation, you will need a wet/dry vacuum. You can rent these types of vacuum at any home hardware store. Do not use your regular vacuum. Remove all furniture and other household items from the area. Move these items to a dry area, out of the room. All areas of the carpet need to be exposed for proper cleaning. Begin vacuuming the water. Move slowly over the carpet allowing the machine to remove as much water as possible with each pass. Empty the machine’s reservoir often. Cover the entire carpet several times. Once you have removed as much water as possible, you may begin the cleaning process. Use a chlorine bleach and water solution (or standard household carpet cleaner) and a scrub brush.

Open doors and windows to allow fresh circulation and drying. Use fans to help drying. Industrial air movers are used to circulate mass amounts of air in a particular space. These are available for rent or purchase and are specifically designed to dry water damaged carpet. If not available, regular fans, available at retail outlets can be used. Face one or more of the fans into the room to circulate the air in one direction. Stay off the carpet for at least 24 hours. Walking on the carpet can compress water and increase drying time.

Carpet cleaning FAQ

Which carpet cleaning method is best?

There are different effective methods for cleaning carpets and all methods have their advantages. The question is figuring out which method you should use for your particular carpet. Professional cleaners can advise you on the best method for your home or business.  The most important thing you need to know is what type of material your carpet is made of. Then you need to figure out if anyone in your home has allergies. Here are the most commonly used methods:

Hot water extraction or steam cleaning

A high-pressure cleaning machine sprays a hot water cleaning solution directly on the carpet. Then, a portable or truck-mounted vacuum is used to suck up the solution that absorbed the water and dirt. Steam cleaning is the most common method used by professionals and works on most carpets.


A circular brush machine sprays a shampoo onto the carpet. The rotary action of the brush creates foam that traps soil, dirt and bacteria. Just like the hot water extraction method, a vacuum is used to suck up the foam containing the dirt.

Absorbent compound cleaning

An absorbent cleaning agent (powder) is sprinkled on the carpet. A cleaning machine is then used to spread the compound into the carpet fibres. The soil detaches itself from the fibres and gets absorbed into the compound. The carpet is then vacuumed to remove the compound and any dirt it has absorbed.

Bonnet Cleaning

A cleaning machine called ‘bonnet machine’ uses chemicals and heat to break down oily dirt and residue accumulated in the carpet fibre. Absorbent pads rotate at high speed to remove soil and dirt from the carpet. A good bonnet or dry clean will include a thorough pre-clean vacuum, spot and stain treatment, treatment of carpet with the appropriate solvent based cleaning solution and the dry cleaning process. A carpet dry cleaning service should also include the application of a neutralising or conditioning rinse, as well as sanitising and deodorising.

 Can all stains be removed?

Although it is possible to get rid of 90 % of all carpet stains, there are permanent stains that can never be removed, and should only be tackled by a carpet cleaning professional. Pet urine, blood and artificial coloring such as ink are nearly impossible to remove. One of the most effective tools for removing tough carpet stains is a wet/dry vacuum cleaner that quickly sucks up spills, and repeatedly flushes the area with water to absorb the mess. This is more efficient than blotting with a cloth, and less likely to cause damage to the carpet

How often should a carpet be cleaned?

The frequency of cleaning varies from one household to another, depending upon the number of occupants and the level of traffic in each room. Professionals recommend that you have your carpets cleaned at least twice a year. Keep in mind that the more often you vacuum, the better your carpet will look and the longer it will last. Vacuuming prevents the build up of soil, which wears your carpet far quicker than barefoot traffic. Soil on carpet is pressed into the fibres, destroying carpet texture and appeal. Removing dirt and soil as often as possible prevents this from happening, and maintains your carpet for years.

Why is carpet cleaning so important?

Carpet plays an important role. It filters the air you breathe by collecting and trapping pollutants.  Carpet traps volatile organic compounds, combustion products, dust mites, outdoor pollutants, pesticides, allergens, grease and oil deposits, sand, soil, food particles, and all types of airborne bacteria. Just like any filter, your carpet must be cleaned on a regular basis; otherwise it stops filtering and pushes contaminants back into the air. Therefore, vacuum your low-traffic areas at least twice a week and your high-traffic areas every other day. Proper vacuuming also helps you improve indoor air quality, while complying with carpet warranties. Remember that a thorough carpet cleaning should be done at least twice a year by a trained carpet care professional to refresh texture and rejuvenate fibres. 

What can I do to help maintain my carpet?

As mentioned above, prevention is the best weapon for keeping your carpet looking its best. Identify and eliminate the many sources of dirt that infiltrate fibres. Place floor mats at entryways and exits of your home or office to help protect them from excessive dirt build-up. In your home, you should ask all visitors to take off their shoes before entering, especially during winter. Vacuuming is also one of the best ways to keep your carpet clean and free of contaminants. A good rule of thumb is once weekly for light traffic areas, and twice weekly for heavy traffic areas. For optimum vacuuming, make sure your vacuum filter is not full or clogged. As bags and filters get covered with dust, the efficiency of the vacuum is reduced. Check your vacuum filter every time you vacuum.

What is a hot water extraction system?

The process involves spraying a soap solution and hot water under high pressure onto the carpet.  A powerful vacuum system extracts the residue, dirt, and allergens from your carpet to a storage tank within the portable cleaning machine. Most carpet manufacturers recommend the hot water extraction process because it prolongs the life of your carpet and improves air quality.

Does professional cleaning make my carpet wear faster?

Absolutely not! Dirt damages your carpet far more than industrial cleaning since it acts as an abrasive when foot traffic rubs it against carpet fibres, causing wear and tear. Regular professional cleaning protects your investment and keeps dirt from doing what it does best.

What is the difference between a spot and a stain?

A spot is a soluble substance that sticks to the outside of the carpet fibre and can be easily removed with a normal cleaning process. A stain is a substance that has penetrated the inside of the fibre and has altered the fabric. Most spots can be easily removed by regular cleaning with household products. A stain is tougher and may set in, requiring professional carpet cleaning service.

Are hardwood floors healthier than carpets?

It is common misconception that hardwood is healthier than carpet. In reality, it is quite the opposite. Carpets filter pollutants by trapping them deep inside the fibres, keeping them away from your lungs. Hardwood floors on the other hand, cannot trap dust or dirt so that walking over them disturbs particles. As a result, there is more dust in the breathing zone over hardwood floors than over carpeted areas. However, be sure your carpet remains clean at all times so that it maintains its filtering capacity. Have a professional clean your carpet every six months, and breathe easier. 

See how Steamatic Canada is changing lives

We are very happy with the repairs and with Avalon Steamatic. Your team is fantastic! From the initial survey and analysis of the damage by Dave, to Kevin’s team with their excellent carpentry and cabinet making skills, to the excellent work by the cleaning staff, and to your readily accessible self, keeping us in the loop on everything – we were in good hands, and we thank you. I’m pretty sure this was our second time around (second water damage) claim that your company looked after, and it was reassuring to have such a professional company restore our property. We would certainly recommend Avalon Steamatic for anyone going through a similar experience.

Mr Thorne - Steamatic Avalon