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blogLike all service businesses, providing useful, honest advice is as important as the quality of the services we provide.  That not only means meeting or exceeding the customer’s expectations, but doing things so that the customer feels confident that they were charged a fair price, received great value, and made decisions that truly reflected their needs.  That should always be a given.  We created a Consumer Advice BLOG to provide useful advice on how to deal with cleaning issue or cleaning emergencies.  The articles provide helpful hints that can be used for routine issues such as common stains, pet issues and things that generally affect carpets, upholstery and area rugs, and how to respond to emergency situations to avoid unnecessary mistakes.

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Nothing is worse then suddenly spilling something on a beautiful sofa or other upholstery or finding a new stain that wasn’t there before.  The immediate reaction is to take quick action.  Extreme caution is paramount since many upholstery fabrics are delicate and can react to the wrong cleaning agent or aggressive stain removal.  The main thing is to avoid making matters worse.  For a significant spill, gently blotting the spill inward is a good start to prevent it from spreading. For small stains, it becomes a matter of what’s best to remove the stain.  Generally, you should contact an professional upholstery cleaner because many materials are sensitive to certain types of cleaning agents which can cause more damage.  Upholstery cleaning typically requires skill, professional equipment and the right cleaning agents.

Typically a cleaning tag is placed on the upholstery frame below the cushion.  These tags list codes that provide cleaning information.  Some examples are:

W    use water based cleaning agents

S     use solvent based cleaning agents

X     don’t clean with either water or solvent-based agents.  Vacuum or brush

This is an over-simplification of how to approach upholstery cleaning and is merely a guide relating to the type of fabric.  It applies more to the consumer than to a professional cleaning company.  Water based cleaning products are the most commonly used,  but some are far too strong and can remove color.  These are often used for small stains and should be used minimally to avoid creating water stains or additional damage.  Large stains or spills should be handled professionally.

Solvent based agents tend to leave an oily residue and a professional cleaner who uses them will also extract them with the proper equipment afterwards.

Some materials such as velvet will display an S code meaning solvents are recommended because the material easily distorts.  However, a professional will typically use water based cleaning agents and carefully brush and groom afterwards.

Red wine stains and other difficult stains should not be attempted by a consumer as they need to be carefully neutralized and the cleaning process is often tedious.  Sensitive materials require the process to be precise and repetitive to completely remove the stains.  We use a combination of cleaning agents and specialty products to accomplish this.

Of critical importance, rubbing the material repeatedly is not advisable as it often results in permanent texture damage. 

In terms of what types of fabrics clean easily, microfiber materials such as ultrasuede are great for households with children and pets as they repel stains better than most.  Often a small amount of water, which is neutral, can be gently applied to a minor stain and is highly effective.  Also, as a general rule, textured materials are easier to clean than thin, flat material.  Flat materials tend to become over-wet more easily and develop water stains.  Hence cleaning by a consumer is not risk free.  Many companies will claim that water rings are permanent, but we’ve had great success at treating and removing them.

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There seems to be an endless selection of rugs available.  You attempt to do some research to determine what’s best for you or your family and there is also an endless stream of conflicting information.  The biggest problem is many articles focus on aesthetics with very little consideration toward maintenance.  Some rugs look nice but are poorly designed and will develop waves quickly or wear poorly and others are manufactured with materials that yellow when cleaned, warp or their fibers prematurely get matted or crushed.  So without focusing on technical specs which often beg more questions than they answer, let’s look at some simple concepts.

Wool Rugs

Wool offers lifespan and durability and can last a lifetime if properly maintained.  It also offers resilience so that it bounces back from traffic or crushing due to the weight of furniture and represents a good long term investment.  However, wool is expensive and pets and children have to be considered.  Wool absorbs stains more easily and can get permanently damaged.  So wool is probably reserved for those where serenity abounds.

Other Natural Fiber Rugs

Rugs made of sisal and seagrass have a beautiful aesthetic appeal and they seem to really make a room look great.  However, the downside is moisture and humidity can be very hard on these rugs making cleaning difficult as shrinkage or discoloration can occur if done improperly.  Similarly, stains can easily become permanent because they’re absorbed and can’t be aggressively cleaned.  Lastly, sisal is not a very comfortable fiber to walk on.  Maintenance can be a nightmare in the wrong setting.

Synthetic Rugs

If your household is populated by kids and pets, synthetic rugs will serve you best.  Unlike wool which is a natural fiber where the wrong spill can seep past the wool’s inherent oils and become permanent, stains don’t penetrate synthetics in the same manner.  Synthetics tend to repel stains better so that they can be removed easier, or stronger stain removers can be applied with less risk of damage.

Nylon

The gold standard for synthetics is nylon which holds color well, hides dirt, doesn’t crush as much as other synthetic types and is more kid-proof so it will generally last longer than some of the other types of synthetics.  Since synthetics have a lower price point, nylon is your best option and is fairly easy to maintain

Other Types of Synthetics

Other types of synthetics are polypropylene (olefin), polyester and acrylic.  Olefin is inexpensive and stain-resistant but has many drawbacks.  Olefin attracts oil which is easily tracked from driveway and road surfaces which can yellow the fibers.  The yellowing can become permanent.  It also crushes easily and tends to look matted more quickly.  Polyester rugs don’t have the resilience of nylon and don’t bounce back from crushing and oily spills can more easily resurface.  Acrylic rugs, traditionally used for bath mats due to water resistant properties are not that durable and high traffic will take a toll on them.

Other Things to Look For

Some rugs sold at chain outlets are poorly constructed which causes wear issues and maintenance problems.  The result is they can become warped more easily and require sending them out for cleaning which can be expensive relative to their cost.  Generally, area rugs that are machine made should have a decent amount of pile and will be easy to maintain.  Fiber density is important in that it provides overall support.  Very thin rugs, especially machine made or with differences between the sub backing and primary backing can be prone to warping.

There is a wide variety of rugs with similar characteristics that wear or clean differently.  It’s important to ask questions when purchasing any rug.  The cost of the rug, and ongoing cost of maintenance are things to be considered.  Some can be maintained onsite which is economical and some require special processing which tends to be far more expensive.  These factors should be carefully weighed.

 

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Money Down the Drain

Many businesses advertise different cleaning packages such as Silver, Gold, and Platinum which might also be classified as economy vs. full service.  Although some are fairly priced, many are gimmicks.  There should be a standard quality of work performed at each level of service so that the differences in cost reflect real value added services.

The worst marketing gimmick involves bait and switch pricing where the customer is offered a cleaning price that sounds too good to be true.  Most of the time it’s because it is too good to be true.  Usually these involve advertising cleaning several rooms at a low price without regard to room size.  Ultimately the customer is told their rooms are larger than normal and might be considered two rooms or a small hall is considered a separate room, or there are problems requiring a higher price that are in reality typical to carpet cleaning.  And in many instances unsuspecting consumers are hard sold on services they didn’t intend to buy.  The point is all business have minimum operating costs and have to charge a rate that provides a reasonable profit.  Hence if an advertised price sound unrealistic, it’s important to find out why.

An economy plan or low cost package might involve cleaning carpets and not moving furniture.  Unless it’s impossible or not practical to move furniture, reputable businesses would view this as sub-standard and unacceptable.  Some of the consequences of this type of low quality work are incomplete and improper cleaning, areas under beds which collect dust and debris being neglected, lines forming over time around upholstery because nothing is moved, and so forth.  This results in the carpets not being cleaned properly, allergens not being removed and problems down the road when a complete cleaning is performed.

The next level of cleaning package might include moving furniture or hand cleaning lines around walls.  What should have been considered standard will often entail rates that are above market value resulting unnecessary high pricing.

At a typical high level type of package, customers will be sold services that they don’t usually need.  Examples involve disinfecting and deodorizing.  These are both legitimate services when needed.  Since cleaning agents disinfect and in many cases contain mild deodorizers, paying a higher rate for something that is adequately done during normal cleaning doesn’t represent a value added service.  Paying a reasonable rate for deodorizing where there are there are strong odors is a different story.

In summary, it’s important to understand what you’re paying to have your carpets cleaned.  Differences in rates applied and the final costs add up quickly.  Asking questions will help avoid hidden cost pricing, not paying an unfair price for typical standard services, and avoiding sticker price shock at the last minute after you put time aside to plan for your cleaning needs.  This helps avoid an unpleasant situation.

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Odors 2We are often asked about these services and we do provide them. As a general rule, high quality cleaning agents not only clean carpets, but also disinfect in the process. Similarly, subtle odors are also removed by quality products. However, there are situations where they are necessary and provide a real benefit.

If you sustain a flood, the carpets often develop an odor caused by bacteria. This is where a specialized disinfectant is highly desirable as it is designed to neutralize the unpleasant smells. These products include antimicrobials, mildicides, fungicides which address these problems. There are other products designed for more severe situations that are more contaminating.

If your household has pets, you might have have urine-related issues and other types of animal odors. There are products designed to help break down and neutralize the naturally released toxins.  In other situations some animals leave other scents which these products also address.

So, the next time you have your carpets or area rugs cleaned, regular cleaning products will probably do the job and you’ll save money.  However, if a specific problem exists, then let us help you make the best decision.

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water-faucetWe get many questions regarding which cleaning agents are safest to use on carpets and upholstery. Many contain oxidizing agents which cause a color loss. In fact some of these products are the most heavily marketed with household name recognition. Many are too strong.. For many stains, warm water does the job:

Water is the safest since as it is neutral and removes many stains

Water is the least expensive cleaning agent and usually readily available for quick spot removal

However, water has its limitationsSome tough stains require cleaning agents. They make cleaning easier and disinfect in the process. Often a mild detergent will accomplish the same thing.  If you need to buy a cleaning agent, it’s a good idea to go to a local hardware store where the service is generally more personalized and ask for a safe, general spotter cleaning agent.  It’s a good idea to test a cleaning agent in an inconspicuous area as a safety precaution.

Most cleaning agents are either water based for typical food stains, dirt, etc.  For oil based stains, sometimes solvents are necessary.  However, these tend to leave oily residues which need to be removed.  Professional cleaning is a good idea in these situations since they need to be extracted.

For most carpets and area rugs, a small amount of water can be applied to the stain and most will be gone. Rub gently to avoid making the texture fuzzy, and for spills, blot inward to contain the spot so that it doesn’t spread to an unaffected area.

Many area rugs such as Oriental rugs contain vivid color patterns.  Unlike most carpets, some area rug dyes are sensitive and less colorfast.  Using a small amount of water is usually safest.

For upholstery, be very careful.  Many fabrics are sensitive to many cleaning agents and also to water. Water rings or marks can easily develop. It’s very important to use the least amount of water using a gentle touch. Professional cleaners avoid these types of issues since they often clean a large area or the entire piece of furniture. By doing so, the cleaning solution can’t spread to a dry area which is how these water marks or rings typically develop. Also keep in mind that a commercial machine is often being used so that cleaning is done in a uniform manner. The skill and experience of the technician is also very important. So for upholstery, it’s often advisable to speak with a professional before taking the plunge. Damage caused by excess moisture is difficult to remove and excess rubbing will cause permanent texture change.

So, focusing on water, how should someone approach a sudden spill or stain? Always use a soft white cloth on all spills and stains whether carpets, upholstery or area rugs. White wash cloths can be used but be very gentle.

Bottom Line:  Water is a low risk solution to routine stain removal. Many times a great cleaning agent makes life easier but some are too strong.  Products that claim to remove most spots should be tested first and used with caution.  Information like that is usually listed in fine print on the product container.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to call us.

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Buckled CarpetAlthough we clean carpets, we aren’t involved with carpet installation. However, when providing a cleaning estimate, new customers often ask questions about buckles and ripples in their carpets. There are a variety of reasons but a common one is improper installation. There are other ongoing reasons such as age, traffic and furniture movement.
For carpet being newly installed:
The installer should power stretch the carpet. However, sometimes a knee kicker is used secondarily. The proper tension will limit carpet movement and premature ripples
The selection of padding is critical to minimize premature stretching and the resulting buckles. A high quality dense padding is a great investment as it supports the carpet and extends its life if carpet longevity is an important concern. Inexpensive padding compresses easily and causes the carpet to flex more easily and ultimately stretch. The appropriate density and thickness is required by the carpet manufacturer to maintain your warranty. This is an important issue to discuss when purchasing.

Common post-installation issues:

Dragging heavy furniture stresses the carpet and can affect the tension if the carpet starts to move from the underlying wooden strips around the wall perimeter that hold the carpet in place.
Heavy furniture such as large armoires or four poster beds exert tremendous pressure on carpets. Over time, a buckle can appear around the furniture or it’s legs and the pressure will radiate outward resulting in further buckles. This also happens with bound carpeting that is not wall to wall.
Carpet Age is a factor as constant traffic and wear slowly weaken the carpet and as part of its life cycle will result in the construction of the carpet ultimately deteriorating and weakening.
Repairing carpet buckles can be done through re-stretching the carpet and trimming the excess material by a professional carpet installer. However, if the carpet has deteriorated where it can’t be repaired or it’s realistically reached its useful life, replacement might be a better option.

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flooded-basement-carpetWe encounter customers that experience carpet flooding which typically occurs in their basement. They call around to get quotes and are astonished at the wide price range and sheer expense. Floods also evoke fears of mold which can indeed mushroom into a costly proposition should that occur. However, not every flood will materialize that way. In fact, many minor floods don’t necessarily require lifting the carpet and removing the affected padding if the flooring is concrete, the water is low risk category 1, the relative moisture, the general environment and other factors don’t present a risk.  However, a flood restoration specialist should evaluate the damage to make that determination.  One thing to note is that each flood is different and there is a wide range of opinion as to what should be done.

There are other things to consider which can reduce flood-related expenses or make a more informed decision.

The first question that needs to be answered is “what is the cost of reinstalling the carpet if much of it was flooded versus replacing the carpet“? For example, if the restoration costs are high in relation to replacement, and particularly if the carpet has aged, shows wear and is starting to get shabby, replacement is usually a better option.  But the costs of removing the damaged carpet will probably be higher than a routine rip-up of a carpet for replacement, so that has to be considered.

Another consideration for a carpet requiring complete flood restoration and re-installation is whether padding is really necessary.  Consider having it glued down to the concrete flooring that is typical in basements. Any future flood will entail far less restoration work, no carpet lift or padding, and the cost will be a fraction of what it otherwise would be.

The types of expenses that add up when doing a complete flood restoration are myriad. The water has to be extracted from the carpet, the carpet has to be lifted, the padding has to be extracted and removed, dehumidifiers and blowers are often used to expedite drying time, new padding is re-installed if preferred, the carpet has to be carefully re-installed since a flooded carpet is more difficult to install than a new one due depending upon the amount of seams that were created when initially installed, the carpet has to be cleaned and sometimes re-cleaned and adequately disinfected. As you can see, this is an involved process. If there’s no padding, the carpet is extracted, dried, cleaned and disinfected.

For small floods such as a small area being wet in relation to the carpeted area, if there is padding, a carpet can sometimes be extracted only.  For example, if you spilled a small amount of water on a basement carpet, lifting the carpet would generally be extreme.  If the spill occurred in your dining room where there would likely be wood flooring, that’s more critical as the flooring could be damaged.

Depending on how new the carpet is or when it was last cleaned helps determine if only a partial area needs to be re-cleaned.

Generally it’s better to let the carpet dry before cleaning since many carpets brown during drying due to wicking.  This is common, and cleaning a dry carpet minimizes that in many cases.

Commercial grade dehumidifiers, which are expensive to rent per day, might not be necessary. That’s something to discuss with the contractor doing the work, as another option is using a blower which costs far less.  In some instances the trade-off is drying time.

Some final points: padding is often a personal preference. It provides comfort and extra insulation and is often important to cushion falls that happen with young children. Basement layout is important since seams have to be made to accommodate support beams, irregular shaped rooms and for large basements since carpeting comes in standard sizes. Also, if the house is susceptible to flooding, gluing down the carpet is a very important thing to consider, or resolving the problems that causes the interior flooding. If the flood was due to anything involving risk related to waste, rip up and disposal of the carpet is generally an important consideration especially if the damage is large in scope.

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spill on carpetWe get many questions regarding which cleaning agents are safe to remove sudden spills or newly found stains.  With so many products available promising miracle results, most consumers purchase cleaning agents based on how well they are marketed.  My response to that is buyer beware.  Many products can be lethal and create permanent damage such as causing carpet dyes to be bleached in appearance.  This happens with some of the most heavily advertised products on the market that have household name recognition.  Although they’re effective at times, they often cause color loss which appears as a bleached or lightened spot.  They’re actually too strong for the textile being cleaned.  For upholstery, the problem is magnified since the dyes are more sensitive and over-wetting can easily cause water rings that can be very difficult to remove for some professionals.  The safest cleaning agent is warm water.  Water is neutral, doesn’t leave any residues which can be harmful or attract dust and dirt like a magnet so that stains appear more quickly, and, is the most cost-effective and most readily available cleaning agent.

A few things should be mentioned to better explain things:

1)  Carpets:  Always blot spills carefully with white cloths and move inward to prevent spreading a spill.  Do not scrub the stain as it will cause permanent texture damage. Many stains are water soluble so water is effective.  Also, it’s important not to saturate carpets with water so a damp cloth is often very effective.  Spills involving distinct colors should be blotted, and if they don’t seem to clean with water, let a professional handle the stain since the wrong cleaning agent can easily set the stain.  Much of this also depends on the sensitivity of the carpet material.

2) Area Rugs: Many area rugs such as Orientals have intricate patterns with different colored dyes.  Generally using a white cloth to blot a spill to prevent it from spreading is a great first step to halt the extent of the damage.  Because many area rugs are sensitive to cleaning agents, a professional should handle things beyond that.  For stains, using an absolute minimal amount of mildly warm water and very gently rubbing the stain will either remove the stain or it won’t respond.  Again, a professional should intervene.  The same applies especially to colored stains.

3) A safe approach for sudden spills or stains: Gently blot with a white cloth and let a professional do the rest.  Upholstery is far more sensitive than carpets and rugs and water stains develop very easily from over-wetting.  Some materials are consumer friendly such as ultra suede or micro fibers.  They’re also a good choice of material for families with children and pets as they are more responsive to cleaning.  But as a general statement, upholstery cleaning should be left to a professional cleaner.

As a final point, obviously cleaning agents are important as stains are removed more easily.  A minute amount of a clear cleaning agent such as ivory liquid can be beneficial.  Stains that are oil based must be cleaned with solvents which leave residues.  Solvents should be used with more caution as they are different from water-based cleaning agents.  Whatever cleaning products you purchase, read the label and directions carefully, test the textile in an inconspicuous area to see if there is any dye transfer or other negative effect.  Certain carpets such as commercial carpets found in basements can withstand cleaning agents far better than fine carpets such as those made of wool.  Much of this requires professional judgment.  We’re happy to provide advice on the phone should you call.

 

 

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floor_brush_vacuum_tool_12Anyone who has cats and dogs understands that they feel a sense of entitlement as family members and relax wherever they choose.  As such, they leave the chore of cleaning up their fur to us.  This is particularly frustrating when the fur piles up.  If they choose a carpet or rug as their destination, vacuuming usually does the trick.  However, removing fur from upholstery is frustrating as it clings and doesn’t want to let go.  Even using a vacuum cleaner upholstery attachment with very flexible bristles can be a time consuming ordeal.

Well, there’s an easy way to do the job using a standard vacuum cleaner floor attachment such as the one shown. Because the bristles are short and stiff, this does the trick quickly on upholstery cushions, flat sheets on beds and most areas..  A few quick swipes and the fur is gone.  This eliminates the repetitious motion of typical upholstery attachment.  You can also buy smaller versions of the same tool with stiff bristles.

Please keep in mind that many fabrics are very delicate and require standard vacuuming attachments and tremendous care.  This is more practical for furniture that is designed with pets and children in mind.

 

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steam-cleaning1-559x420There are a variety of acceptable methods for professionally cleaning wall to wall carpets. You will often hear terms such as dry cleaning, encapsulation, bonnet cleaning, shampooing and steam cleaning (also referred to as hot water extraction). Major carpet manufacturers typically endorse hot water extraction since it cleans more deeply and comprehensively. That is the process we use.

The drawbacks with shampooing and dry methods as stand alone methods are that they are more limited in scope.  Dry cleaning and shampooing carpets typically involve the use of a rotary machine.  With dry cleaning, a bonnet is attached to a rotary machine and is basically buffing the surface with repeated rinses of the bonnet as it soils.  It’s more superficial and doesn’t clean deep enough.  With shampooing, a circular nylon brush attachment is used on a rotary machine to scrub the carpet and it is vacuumed with a wet/dry vacuum.  It requires a different detergent concentration and also involves a wet/dry vacuum to vacuum out the solution.  With steam cleaning, unlike the other methods using a rotary machine approach and separate vacuuming, there is a variety equipment of designed to both spray a detergent solution into the carpet and simultaneously vacuum (extract) on contact.  The use of water pressure is generally better for carpets than the more abrasive approach involving brushes and bonnets.  The detergents are far more sophisticated and the vacuums more powerful.  Hence, you’re getting far less soap concentration and a cleaner process with immediate water extraction.  Hotter water is far more effective at dislodging dirt, grit, and oil based soiling.

Our system is thorough and the procedures we follow are not only important, but recommended. In evaluating an area of wall to wall carpeting, we take into consideration items that realistically shouldn’t be moved and make an allowance for them. We only charge for what we do. We move or get under almost all furniture so that the carpet is consistently cleaned. We pay careful attention to areas with high traffic, discoloration due to gradual wear, the perimeters of the carpet and anything else that requires special attention. Our objective is very simple: we want your carpets to look their best and last as look as possible.

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