There are a lot of events that can lead to a carpet that needs cleaning. A flooded basement, an unsupervised pet without potty training or even an overflowing toilet can all lead to your carpet being saturated below the upper levels. A typical spill does not always require deep cleaning. To understand when your carpet needs more heavy-duty cleaning, it is helpful to first know how the layers come into play.
The Anatomy of a Carpet
Not all carpets are the same, and some of the higher-end varieties are made with extra protective layers that make them easier to clean. Most people, however, are working with the carpets that were in their homes when they moved in. Your average carpet is composed of two layers: the carpet itself and the underlying carpet pad. Carpets are made of a fibrous material, which in older ones is usually wool, while more modern carpets are often woven from synthetic polypropylene fibers. A wool carpet may soak up more water than a synthetic one, but most woven fibers tend to be hydrophilic, meaning that they readily absorb and retain water.
A typical spill will soak into the carpet itself and can be soaked up with a towel. This is thanks to the underlying carpet pad’s polyurethane foam composition. There are a few different methods used to make foam, and while it is not completely waterproof, it is significantly more hydrophobic (water-resistant) than the surface layer. When there is a big enough spill that it seeps under the corners or a puddle sits on the floor for a while, the moisture can penetrate beneath the padding. When this happens, it becomes extremely difficult to soak up all of the liquid, and you may find that even after surface-level cleaning for a mess like this, a mildew smell starts to develop.
Steam Cleaning to Kill Mold and Mildew
If even a small amount of dampness remains underneath the padding, mold and mildew can propagate very quickly. When this happens, there are fortunately some things you can try at home before you call in a professional cleaner. If you happen to have access to a steam cleaner, the heat can kill off any fungi that have taken hold. You will want to make sure to be patient and thorough, as at least 12 seconds of exposure is recommended over each area for this to be effective. You will need to immediately dry it off, as any leftover dampness from the steam can put you right back to square one.
The Baking Soda and Vinegar Method
The baking soda and vinegar method is tried-and-true and is one of the most cost-effective ways to clean a contaminated carpet. All you will need besides the two main ingredients are a vacuum, a scrub brush, a spray bottle and a blow dryer.
- Generously sprinkle baking soda over the corrupted areas of the carpet, and follow up by filling the spray bottle with vinegar and spraying it over all of the baking soda.
- As the mixture reacts, it will begin fizzing, which indicates that it is doing its job of killing mold and mildew.
- Once you have allowed it some time to do its work, you can then follow up with a brush, scrubbing vigorously in circles. This loosens up the mold particles, and you can then dry up any leftover vinegar using a fan or blow dryer.
- The last step is to suck up remaining debris with the vacuum cleaner, which should leave your carpet looking and smelling as good as new.
You can clean small to moderate areas of a moldy carpet using this method in a pretty short amount of time. If this doesn’t do the job, you may need to move on to a more powerful mixture.
“Natural” Cleaning With a Machine
If you have tried scrubbing by hand to no avail, or if the affected area is just too big to make that approach worthwhile, you may need to upgrade your cleaning mixture. While not all of the ingredients in this mixture are exactly “natural,” (namely hydrogen peroxide) they are things that most people have around the home, and it still allows you to avoid using the industrial chemicals that professional carpet cleaners use. Be prepared to shell out a bit more at this point, as you will need a carpet-cleaning machine. If you don’t want to invest in owning a cleaning machine, there are a lot of options in your area for rentals.
To use this method, you will need three tablespoons of dish soap, four tablespoons of white vinegar, half a cup of hydrogen peroxide and three quarts of hot water. If you want to add a pleasant smell, you can choose a favorite essential oil and add a quarter teaspoon to this mixture. All you need to do is get the water hot but not boiling, remove it from the heat, and add the other ingredients, stirring gently until mixed. Following the normal instructions included with the unit, this mostly natural mixture can be used in any carpet cleaning machine.
When Is It Time to Call a Professional?
While there is a lot you can do with these at-home natural cleaning remedies, some messes are just too big to clean up on your own. If the mildew smell starts to come back even after you have tried the above methods, there are likely a few resilient spores tucked into hard-to-reach places. At this point, trying more potent cleaning methods by yourself runs the risk of damaging your carpet or the padding. Cleaning professionals have the knowledge and supplies to completely eliminate mold while keeping your carpet intact.
If you are worried about the cleaning chemicals that a professional crew may employ, you can always ask them what they use and check to make sure you or your pets are not allergic. Just keep in mind that the health risks associated with mold and mildew buildup can be much greater. Rest assured that a proper crew will make sure to clean up any remnants of their cleaning project just as thoroughly as they kill any traces of mold spores. Safe-Dry Carpet Cleaning has a professional and responsible team with years of experience. See our services to learn more about how we can help.
Submitted by Safe-Dry® Carpet Cleaning of Buford