A guide to steam cleaning your carpets

David Buckland of SteamCleanCarpetService.co.uk provides a home-seller’s guide to steam cleaning your carpets for extra saleability…

When it comes to selling your property as we all know first impressions are vital. But as soon as you step into a home on a viewing and you like what you see you should quickly switch to serious mode and actually start analysing what you are buying.

You are not buying the giant flat screen TV over the fireplace or that ultra-chic glass dining table, but the chances are you are buying the carpets as part of the fixtures and fittings of the house.

As a seller then you need to present this asset in the best possible light – tired, grubby looking carpets (even worse are carpets that smell of dogs) can put potential buyers off your whole house – I know its illogical but it happens!

When asked people say they are going to change the carpets as soon as they move in but in fact they know in the back of their minds they will probably still be living with the same floor coverings six months or a year later – and in many case much longer than that. When you’ve just moved in and got all the furniture arranged to your heart’s desire it’s a tough call to suddenly uproot everything again so you can refit the carpets.

In the great old US of A, people who have carpets and ‘area’ rugs get them steam cleaned by truck-mounted units just like the ones we operate in the UK on an annual basis. They also get their furniture and tiled floors cleaned at the same time as well. In the UK there seems to be a reluctance to treat fitted carpets in the same way as we do our other household fabrics. The truth is that carpets collect a lot of residue from everyday life including large concentrations of dead skin, dust mites, pet dander and of course walked in soil, much of which cannot simply be vacuumed away.

For the best results in a domestic situation your best bet is to engage the services of a local companywho usea powerful truck-mounted steam system which is driven by a large petrol or diesel powered engine. This system is known as HWE or Hot Water Extraction and is the system recommended by most carpet manufacturers themselves.

In brief the trained operator will first vacuum your carpets with an industrial twin-motor machine and then pre-spray with a soapy substance that will help to emulsify the stubborn soilattached to the pile of the carpet – after the pre-spray is agitated and left to ‘dwell’ on the carpet the truck mounted system is then employed to spray at relatively high pressure a detergent in a very hot mixture onto the face fibre of the carpet and then extract the mixture (along with the soil and other nasties) using the super-strength vacuum almost as soon as it is forced into the carpet – real steam – and NOT water vapour –will be seen jetting from the end of the metal wand floor tool used by the operator.

The fresh water for the steam mixture and the soiled waste that is recovered is serviced by large tanks on board the truck-mounted unit. This vehicle will want to pull up fairly adjacent to your side or front door so that they can trail their large bore vacuum recovery hose and high pressure steam hose into the house. Don’t be put off if you have poor access to your property as the systems used can operate at some distance away from your home. These machines are extremely efficient and effective and once they are set up they can clean very large areas of carpet very quickly.

All this of course comes at a cost but it will not be excessive if you have a reasonable number of rooms to clean. The old adage about ‘buy cheap – buy twice’ certainly applies to carpet cleaning and it is definitely worth asking if the operator uses a ‘truck-mounted system’. There are numerous other operators about who are known in the trade as 'splash and dash' merchants who use using glorified hire machines which are under-powered electric sytems that are woefully short on either true heated cleaning ability or drying (vacuum) power and leave you carpets no better than when they started.

Reputable operators are fully insured for unlikely events such as treatment risk and will give you their full company address details – it may be tempting but please do not get your carpets cleaned bythe company who just pushed a card through your door with a mobile number and an offer of 'whole house' carpet cleans for very low prices.

When you engage the services of a professional carpet cleaner you should try to establish during the (free) survey or quotation if all the marks and stains in your carpets will be removed – sadly if you have very long-standing stains caused by (say) ink, blood or shoe polish they may be permanent and no system or stain remover can remove permanent stains in wool mix carpets - sunlight and your own remedies or shop-bought treatments that have not been properly rinsed outmay have made the problem worse. You may also have wear marks in high traffic areas and these parts may not clean as well as other less worn areas because of abrasion to the fibres.

If you just have rugs on hard floors then the best remedy for a quick freshen up is to lift and air and beat those rugs and vacuum them (on the back/reverse) outside you house and then vacuum them again on the back and finally the front again when you get them back in the house. Alternatively of course you could get a professional in to do that for you and to steam clean the rugs as well.

If you are serious about getting your carpets into tip-top condition and making that house sale, then do have them deep steam cleaned - they will be dry in 2-3 hours – and remember if you want something doing properly then call in a professional who uses a truck-mounted steam system.

We run a truck-mount steam carpet cleaning company in Hampshire and Dorset and rarely travel outside these counties but I am happy to put you in touch with a reputable operator in your area if you cannot find a suitable local company. Contact me at [email protected] or if you live in Hampshire or Dorset see our website at: www.SteamCleanCarpetService.co.uk