As an element of comfort, carpet checks a lot of boxes. It feels great underfoot and its acoustic properties insulate sound transmission across floors. It can also add a touch of luxury, look warm and homey or center a modern, industrial-style space. But as previously mentioned, carpet fibers are porous. The material is basically a sink, holding on to dust, dirt, pollen, stains and moisture. If left in place, those irritants will embed into the fibers and degrade indoor air quality.

That is why creating a carpet maintenance program and sticking to that schedule is vital. A robust program controls soil distribution, improves indoor air quality, and contributes to occupant health, comfort and productivity. It also extends product life and keeps carpet from becoming ugly.

Designing the program should take a couple of variables into account, but the biggest consideration is usage.

“A proper schedule is determined primarily by foot traffic,” says Paul Tucker, communications coordinator, Carpet and Rug Institute, Dalton, Georgia. “Light traffic and severe traffic are worlds apart in terms of how, and how frequently, carpet must be maintained.”

In general terms, carpet care comes down to vacuuming, cleaning with hot water extraction and encapsulation, and the smart placement of walk-off mats. These mats capture street dirt and debris that can be tracked in on the bottom of footwear.

“A good, beefy mat will trap a lot of dirt in the first three steps,” says Marrazzo, “but they have to be serviced just like the rest of the carpet.”

In Marrazzo’s opinion, that means vacuuming nightly and hot water extracting monthly.

For the rest of the carpet space vacuuming has always been key.

“These days, accomplishing [vacuuming] with a high degree of filtration is more important,” says Tole.

Experts agree that a vacuuming schedule should be nightly for high traffic areas. Less busy spots can be vacuumed weekly with spot touch-ups as needed.

In addition to structured vacuum schedules, interim cleaning such as encapsulation should be included in carpet care programs. Encapsulation should not be confused with extraction, say experts.

“Extraction is when you put down hot water and cleaning chemicals and then suck it up,” says Selkow. “Encapsulation uses a unique chemical that wraps around the dirt that is then vacuumed up.”

In Selkow’s opinion, the more labor intensive wet extraction is “better,” while dry encapsulation is “easier.” But both have a place in a maintenance schedule.

“For a high-traffic area, you might extract quarterly and encapsulate monthly,” he says. “Low-traffic spots might only need encapsulation.”

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