by Marcus Pickett
Many homeowners who know their carpets need to be deep cleaned each year struggle with the decision between hiring a professional and trying to clean their own carpets. The convenience of hiring a professional is obvious and should not be underestimated, but the simple fact is that professionals also offer more thorough and longer-lasting cleanliness. Here's what you need to know before you assume that persistence is sufficient to get you through your carpet cleaning needs.
There are quite a few carpet cleaning methods, including shampooing and a number of dry cleaning powders and foams. Yet by far the most common, recommended, and industry-tested method is hot water extraction, more commonly known as steam cleaning. Hot water extraction removes a significantly greater portion of contaminants than other cleaning methods. In fact, the other methods are often seen as a "bridge" between professional hot water extraction services.
This doesn't mean you can't undertake your own steam cleaning, but this solution has its own complications. You can rent steam-cleaning machines, but these machines can't compete with professional-grade portable units or the truck-mounted units that deliver the most effective cleaning result. Worse, some of the rental machines available at local hardware stores are poorly maintained. Some manufacturer warranties even require high-pressure steam cleaning services that rental machines simply can't deliver. If you do plan to complete your own steam cleaning, it's critical you do so before the carpet gets too dirty. The dirtier the carpet, the more hot cleaning solution you'll need. (Steam cleaning doesn't actually use pure steam). But using too much cleaning solution, as inexperienced homeowners do, can also damage your carpet and do more harm than good.
Some people may wonder whether they need to have their carpets cleaned at all. After all, they don't own pets, they demand that visitors remove their shoes, and they vacuum every week without fail. Well, you may not like hearing it, but you do. Vacuuming and light use isn't enough to stop the small particles of dirt and grime from slowly shredding your carpet fibers. Of course, that doesn't mean the rest of your carpet maintenance is worthless or irrelevant. These steps will undoubtedly lengthen the life expectancy of your carpet, but they're not a replacement for deep carpet cleaning.
A bargain basement carpet is generally expected to last four to seven years, while premium carpets should last 15 to 20 years, and many carpets fall somewhere in between. However, a high-grade carpet that is pampered can very possibly make it beyond 20 years. Though very few carpets in very few homes are this well-cared for, and it's impossible to know just how long it might last. Imagine buying a new car and pampering it with diligent maintenance, inspections, and oil changes. It might last 150,000 miles. It might last 300,000 miles. Thus, regular hot water extraction cleaning should extend the life of your carpet three to five years or possibly much longer.
No matter how solid the reasons to hire a professional carpet cleaner, you still need to know how much it's going to cost and how long it's going to take before you're sold on paying out your hard-earned money. According to data collected by ServiceMagic from homeowners who actually hired professional cleaners, the average carpet cleaning costs $200 and takes between three to four hours to complete.
Of course, these are just averages. If you want a carpet cleaning company to give you a rough estimate over the phone, you should be poised with the following information, but keep in mind many companies may be reluctant to talk numbers without seeing the carpet:
-- Marcus Pickett is a senior home improvement writer with ServiceMagic.com. He has written more than 1200 articles on managing your home and home improvement trends.