Vacuuming Does NOT Count As Carpet Cleaning... Seriously.

Vacuuming Does NOT Count As Carpet Cleaning

We like to think we can keep our carpets clean on our own, thank you very much. We just need to vacuum every month or so and blot when there's a stain... right?

Wrong. What you're likely forgetting (or, if you're like us, what you never knew) is that almost all carpet companies require you to professionally steam clean your carpet every 12 to 24 months, to keep your warranty valid.

In other words, vacuuming is not enough. Neither is steaming carpets yourself. Professional steaming is, like it or not, legally the only way to protect your carpet in most cases. And it's also a way to protect your health.

"Indoor air quality can be eight to ten times worse than outdoor air quality, if you don't clean your flooring, clean your drapes and let air inside regularly," says interior designer Robin Wilson, who specializes in allergy-free housekeeping. When millions of Americans suffer from indoor allergies, air quality is a huge issue.

Wilson -- and the other experts we spoke with -- says that to keep the air in your home clean, it's important to follow a few carpet-cleaning rules. Namely:

Call professionals to steam your carpet, more often than you think you should.

Many carpet companies won't honor your warranty unless you hire professional cleaners every 12 to 18 months, says Carolyn Forte, a director at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. In some cases the requirement may be 24 months -- check your carpet's warranty for specifics.

Wilson, meanwhile, recommends even more frequent steamings in the interest of a dust-free home: she says to call in professional steamers every six months, and every four to six WEEKS if you have a pet. (Keep in mind this applies to carpets, not area rugs).

Regardless of how often you choose to use them, our experts agree that professional steam cleaners are hands-down necessary -- you shouldn't attempt to steam carpets yourself. Only steam can effectively lift dust from deep within your carpet, Wilson says -- if left there, it will wear down and rip the carpet's fibers. But only professional machines can truly zap all the steam's moisture from the carpet when you're done cleaning. The results of trying to do it yourself can be sickening.

"I've been on job sites where you pull up the carpet and see a mold patch," Wilson says. When you steam clean yourself, "you turn your house into an incubator for mold growth," Wilson adds.

Between steams, vacuum at least weekly (or much more often with pets).

Of course, vacuuming remains the easiest way to keep carpets and area rugs clean between steams -- our experts recommend vacuuming once per week, to keep those abrasive dust particles out of carpet fibers. Ramp up the frequency in high-traffic areas or if you have pets -- these spots might need daily vacuuming depending on how much debris you notice, according to Merry Maids Training Manager Debra Johnson.

And take area rugs out for spring and fall cleaning sessions.

Area rugs vary in their care instructions, so check yours for its ideal cleaning schedule. Generally, Wilson says, you should vacuum rugs with the same frequency as carpets, then deep-clean them every six months with a good old-fashioned broom-beating. Take rugs outside, shake them out, beat them with an actual broom (ideally while wearing a mask to protect your face), and let them air outside for a day.

Many area rugs can also be steam cleaned -- if yours allows, you might steam it once per year, Wilson advises.

Another secret? Vacuum slowly.

"One of the most common errors people make when vacuuming is that they do it too fast," Johnson says. "Vacuuming slowly allows a vacuum cleaner to do its best work by vibrating carpet fibers and containing dust in the vacuum."

Blot carpet spills immediately -- do NOT wait.

Rubbing a stain will spread goo around and can distort the carpet's pile, or fluffy shape. And waiting to clean a stain lets moisture seep deeper -- Forte recommends cleaning spills the instant they happen.

Spray carpet cleaner on a cloth and dab the stain, working from the outside to its center. Rinse with a clean cloth the same way, and then blot dry. To absorb leftover moisture, pile on a stack of paper towels and place a heavy pot or vase on top. Leaving it there overnight will ensure all wetness is fully zapped.

Pick a carpet that's not a dust magnet in the first place.

To prevent dust buildup in the first place, choose a low pile, Wilson says. This means picking a carpet or area rug with short fibers -- high layers of fluff or shag will trap more dust (not to mention mite carcasses... ew). Wilson recommends natural, durable materials like wool instead of synthetic ones like nylon. Carpet tiles are a stellar alternative to wall-to-wall carpets, she says -- when there's a spill, you can pull up the tile and clean it on its own, and you can remove them completely when you're ready for a scene change back to hardwood floors.

...and if you keep it clean, you can keep it forever! (Well, almost.)

"You can keep a rug for a lifetime, if you keep it clean," Wilson says. Carpet lifespans, however, range with quality -- some well-made varieties are made to last up to 15 years if kept dust-free, she adds.

...It's just a little more motivation to summon the steam machine.

Before You Go

They Go Beyond The Tear Sheets
Gregory Zabilski/Courtesy of Michelle Workman
When you pin images and tear out magazine photos of rooms you love, says interior designer Michelle Workman, you need to ask yourself a few questions before trying to replicate the look: "What do you think of when you see this photo? How does it make you feel?" Then focus on the colors and the shape of the furniture separately. It may sound woo-woo at first, but this two-step process helps you separate the mood of the room from its design elements. People who don't do this, Workman says, often wind up with that "can't put my finger on it, but something's not right" feeling. For example, you may see a few glamorous gray rooms and think gray = glamorous, so you decide to paint the walls gray, when what you really wanted was an Old Hollywood look (which you could've gotten with a mirrored side table, Art Deco-inspired club chairs and a few velvet throw pillows).
They Follow A New Rule Of Threes
Zillow Digs
When you walk into your living room, you'll want to have something textured, something wooden and something unexpected., a home and real-estate marketplace, analyzed its most popular living rooms, and found that 47 percent were contemporary, and just about all of them featured that mix. The textured item was often a cashmere throw or plush rug; the wood element a credenza, coffee table or exposed ceiling; and the "unexpected," an item from a completely different design style, like an ornately carved, traditional side table or llama-shaped throw pillows.
They Give Art And TV Equal Treatment
Courtesy of Vern Yip
You may have heard that you should hang things at eye level, but that usually prompts a follow-up debate among everyone in the house: Whose eye level are we talking about? Interior designer and HGTV Design Star judge Vern Yip has one number to cut through the confusion: "Sixty inches from the floor to the center of the piece -- or TV -- keeps everything looking consistent and uniform." Sticking to the same height subtly unifies everything on the walls, so the design of the room looks polished and deliberate.
They Play Up One Pattern
Jeffrey Ong/Courtesy of Michelle Workman
A mix of prints can be intriguing, but they can also lead to crazytown fast. Workman's rule of thumb is to choose one stripe, one small pattern and one large one, designating one to be the dominant print. If you'd like to play up the stripe, for example, choose a thicker stripe in darker or bolder colors, and stick to more muted tones for the two other patterns.
They Don't Look Shabby In Two Years
When you pick up swatches to see how they'll look with your paint colors and furniture, take the opportunity to see how the fabrics live up to your lifestyle, suggests Anne Reagan, editor-in-chief of home renovation site Rub it -- see if it stains or pills -- or spill your favorite drinks on it and find out how easy it is to clean. If you love the fabric but find it's not very durable, consider using it on the back of a chair (and upholstering the part you sit on with a stronger fabric, like canvas, hemp or any cotton-blend).
They Feature The Trend Within The Trend
Gregory Zabilski/Courtesy of Michelle Workman
When Workman designed Jennifer Lopez's California home, she used a lot of soft, muted grays and blues. In the years since, gray has emerged as the top neutral paint color, but as people become more comfortable with it, the accent colors they use have become richer (like a magenta instead of a pale, petal pink), and tend to be warmer (think reds and oranges). Gray is timeless -- making it an ideal choice for most living rooms, and since it's easy to experiment with trendier tones.
They Let One Wall Do The Talking
Brian D. Patterson via Zillow Digs
Accent walls are making a comeback -- particularly in modern rooms, which tend to feature minimalist furniture in neutral tones. The lack of color can go office-cubicle bland fast, and an accent wall is a fuss-free way to warm things up. Red, deep burgundy and wood-paneled walls tend to be the most popular, according to data.
They Turn Books On Their Sides
Courtesy of Vern Yip
It's tempting to maximize every free space, bookshelves included -- that's what they're for, isn't it? But if you look at most professionally designed living rooms, the shelves are at least 20 percent bare. One way to keep yourself from overstuffing the shelves is to try piling all your books horizontally. "Stack them from largest to smallest, and not more than five to six books high, otherwise you'll never bother pulling them out and using them," Yip says. Suddenly, your bookshelf is its own design statement.

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