When it comes to cleaning your home, autumn is the new spring, and is now the time many people do their deep clean.
It makes sense. After a summer of hot weather, when everyone is traipsing in and out with dirty feet, carpets can become a haven for germs. And as the weather gets colder and we migrate indoors, those spillage stains, food crumbs, pet accidents and ground-in dirt are all the more apparent. Add in central heating and closed windows, which reduce ventilation, and you're creating the perfect conditions for dust mites, mould and bacteria – some of it very unpleasant indeed - to breed.
Your ordinary vacuum cleaner isn't adequate for the task. You need a cleaner that can get deep down and remove all the nasties lurking deep in the pile.
The most effective way is to invest in a dedicated carpet cleaner. Whether that means calling in an expert to do the hard work, hiring a machine or investing in a dedicated product and doing the work yourself is up to you.
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Getting in the experts
Professional carpet cleaners can give old, dirty carpets an amazing new lease of life.
Expect to pay around £20 a room or £200 for an average-sized three-bedroomed house, although costs vary and there's often a minimum call-out charge of around £50.
Hard-to-shift stains like red wine or curry may need more work and therefore cost more. You may also have to clear the room of furniture – a particular problem in a flat or small cottage as there's nowhere to put it – so check they'll move furniture or clean around it.
Carpets will be vacuumed first, then industrial machines spray shampoo and hot water into the pile before working into the fibres to loosen the dirt, and sucking up both the grime and liquid. They will usually clean the carpets again, without shampoo, to draw out any remaining muck and soap residue.
Hire a machine
If you only have a small area, or you're keen to save money and happy to do the work yourself, then hire a carpet cleaning machine from places like HSS (www.hss.com). Their lightweight, portable machines cost around £28 for the first 24 hours/£3.60 for the weekend (although prices vary). Shop around for carpet shampoo – you can find it for under £10 for 5 litres.
Do it yourself
If you have lots of carpet, children and/or pets, it may make economic sense to invest in your own dedicated carpet cleaning machine. New to the market is the Vax Platinum (£299, www.vax.co.uk). Just fill one tank with water and the other with 'Platinum' cleaning solution and it automatically mixes the two. Carpets are dry in less than an hour with the Quick Clean mode, or opt for a Deep Clean if they're really dirty.
Using carpet shampoo
There are many different brands of carpet shampoo, so read the instructions on the label.
Make up the solution as directed – it usually needs to be diluted with water.
Using sparingly, cover the area with shampoo without making it too wet.
If you find stubborn stains, scrub them with a hard-bristled carpet scrubbing brush.
Let the carpet dry – this can take anything up to a day.
When dry, give it a final vacuum.
Simple carpet cleaning
Powdered carpet cleaners quicker and less messy than a shampoo, which can take a long time to dry.
Sprinkle powdered carpet cleaner or baking soda (which is a deodoriser) generously over the carpet.
Leave overnight for best results (or at least an hour if not) to give the clean time to work on stains and smells.
Vacuum up the powder.
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