Need to know how to clean heavily soiled carpet? Let’s start with cleaning recent spills (because that’s why a lot of people need to know), then look at thoroughly removing old stains.
Quick Steps for Cleaning Dirty Carpeting
Sprinkle baking soda over the entire spill, gently getting it below the surface fibers, until it’s about half an inch thick. The baking soda should clump up. Wait ten minutes, then use a vacuum cleaner over the area. Repeat this process if necessary.
Before You Clean Your Heavily Soiled Carpets
If the damage to the carpet isn’t fresh, you can do an in-depth cleaning process on your carpets. The good news is that with the right supplies, you can clean almost any type of dirt or debris on your carpet. However, before we do that, we have to identify the type of soiling you have.
The reason for this is simple: What works on some stains and problems won’t always work on others. If you don’t use the right type of cleaner, your carpet may look dirty again within a few days.
Most soiling in home carpets comes from one of three sources: dirt, urine, or grease. Household cleaners work well on the first two, but grease stains often require a different cleaning solution. Other sources also cause soiling, so check those as well.
Always test a new cleaner on an inconspicuous area. Some cleaners will damage or disfigure your carpets, so it’s better to test on a small region people rarely look at before attacking old stains. It’s always better to do this sooner instead of later because heavily soiled carpets can be a health hazard.
What’s the Most Effective Cleaning Process?
To start a thorough cleaning process, you need a powerful wet/dry vacuum cleaner.
It’s always better to own one of these if possible, but you can also rent a higher-quality unit from many local stores. Some older household vacuums don’t have the suction for deep cleaning, so the newer and stronger your machine is, the better. Make sure it’s designed to suck up liquids as well as dry debris.
Start by vacuuming the entire carpet, slowly and thoroughly, several times over three or four days. When done with a powerful vacuum, this will help extract the maximum amount of loose material from the carpet and begin the cleaning process.
Pre-spray a small area of carpet with water, then use an alkaline cleaner on that area and agitate it with a brush to get the cleaner deep into the fibers. Be sure to follow the directions on the bottle for the cleaner, but in most cases, you may need to leave the cleaner on the carpet for several minutes. Rinse the carpet out with water, then use your vacuum to suck up all of the moisture.
In most cases, this treatment process results in a lot of mud and muck getting sucked out of the carpet, but you may need to repeat the process to clean the worst areas.
Fortunately, carpets are resilient, and it’s usually possible to extract almost everything that’s settled in them over the years. It can take several passes with your cleaning material, but totally irrecoverable carpets are rare.
Cleaning up heavy grease stains involves a similar process, but with an anti-grease cleaner rather than an alkaline solution. The main difference is that grease cleaners help to break up the grease and loosen its grip on carpet fibers, allowing you to suck it right out.
If the stains on your carpet resist your first cleaner, wait several days, then vacuum the carpet again and try a different cleanser. Many people find success with household cleaners like white vinegar, and since heavy soiling could be the result of several different substances and chemicals, you may need to try a few products before you find one that works.
The reason you should wait several days before trying different products is this: mixing cleaning chemicals is dangerous. Giving the carpet several days to dry, then vacuuming, will help remove any lingering cleaner and prevent potentially-dangerous chemical reactions.
Can I Try Something Else if Deep Cleaning Doesn’t Work?
Yes. In fact, you have several different options! First, you can try using a steam cleaner, a steam mop or a carpet cleaner. If you’ve already deep-cleaned your carpet, it should be free of loose dirt and other common materials. Steam mops add heat to the equation, which can loosen chemical bonds and extract material that didn’t respond to your previous cleaner.
The best way to deal with heavily soiled carpet is using a carpet cleaner machine. Look for the models that can deal with tough stains and stay away from the portable machines that are more for spot cleaning. We recently did a test to find the best carpet cleaner machine here.
Encapsulated cleaning is more expensive than most other processes, so consider this a last resort.
As an alternative, try hiring a professional cleaner. This is also expensive, but in most cases, professionals can salvage almost any carpet.
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Be sure to look for a quality of service guarantee, so you don’t end up losing a lot of money if they’re unable to clean your carpets to something that at least resembles a better state.
How Do I Know if the Stain is Permanent?
If you’ve tried several passes of deep cleaning, steam cleaning, and encapsulated cleaning with no results at all, then yes, the damage may be permanent.
Most carpets aren’t this bad, but lingering muck or certain materials could irreversibly damage carpets. For example, many acids can break down carpet fibers, and no amount of cleaning or scrubbing will fix those.
At this point, consider buying a rug or using new carpeting to cover up the soiling. Replacing your carpets can be expensive, but if you only need to hide a small area, getting a small square of carpet, sewing the edges to prevent fraying, and tossing that over the stain is both easy and affordable.