If you're not the furniture-shifting and machine-renting type, make it easy on yourself. Hiring a professional to do the dirty work may be the safest, fastest and easiest option.
Tread carefully into the professional carpet-cleaning arena. All is not always as it seems, and choosing the wrong company may leave you with more than just winter-weary floor coverings.
"People don't always realize the value of a sound, knowledgeable carpet cleaning professional,'' said Kathryn O. Sellers, director of public relations for the Dalton, Georgia-based Carpet and Rug Institute. "It's very important to ask the right questions and do the research to save yourself from future headaches.''
Carpet cleaning companies have been springing up like weeds after a rain in the last few years. That's due, in part, to the proliferation of equipment that may be just one step above home rental cleaning machines.
For a small capital investment and a large advertising budget relying on misleading claims like “one room, $6.95,” "anyone can say he's a carpet cleaner,'' said Veny Pirochta of Coit Drapery, Carpet & Upholstery cleaners in Burlingame. These companies are often under-insured in the case of damage, or worse — not insured at all.
Be cautious of any company that appears on your doorstep uninvited or contacts you over the phone. Also, be wary of companies that advertise a cleaning price by the room. Rooms are different sizes and the charge should be based on the amount of carpet cleaned, according to Sellers. In addition, some companies advertise the use of brand name cleaning products or chemicals, although this does not necessarily mean the company is in any way affiliated with those products or companies. Perhaps the best way to find a good carpet-cleaning company is to ask family and friends for references. A strong endorsement can provide great piece of mind.
Or, you can call The Clean Trust, a respected trade organization for carpet cleaners, and receive up to three referrals for certified firms and carpet cleaners listed in or near your zip code.
Then, call the Better Business Bureau to check on the company's standing and find out if any complaints have been logged against the company. If so, try to find out the number and nature of the complaints.
Once you have identified two or three companies, have a representative come to your home and determine the type of cleaning method that is most suitable, as well as inspect your carpet or area rugs for problem spots or extremely soiled areas.
Before you sign on the dotted line, ask the right questions and make sure everything is covered before cleaning begins:
How long has the company been in business?
The answer will speak volumes about its reputation and experience.
What formal training is required for the company's management and cleaning technicians?
A reputable firm should require that employees receive training certification from recognized national companies or organizations and participate in continuing education programs.
What does a basic service include and how much are you charging per square foot?
Knowing a company's square foot price is key in determining which reputable company offers the best deal. (Note: Pre-spotting and furniture moving should be included in the square-foot price.)
What type of cleaning method will be used?
Discuss with the professional the best cleaning method for your carpet or area rug.
There are a variety of cleaning methods to suit different carpet and rug types and installation. Be sure to contact the carpet manufacturer before allowing additional treatments, such as reapplying stain-guard products or anti-static treatment, to prevent voiding your warranty.
Are you insured in case of loss or damage?
Request proof of insurance to protect your investments prior to allowing work to begin in your home or having area rugs taken off site.
Damage — such as color transfer — is much more common than many of us would believe. Coit, which cleans an average of 50 to 60 area rugs a day, experiences color transfer on area rugs twice weekly on average, according to Coit's Pirochta.
What if I'm not satisfied?
A reputable company will offer some sort of guarantee — usually money back if the company is unable to clean the carpet or area rug to your satisfaction.
Once you've settled on a carpet cleaning company, move your own delicate, breakable objects before the cleaners arrive. But expect the company to move your furniture — at no extra charge.
When it comes time to pay, make sure the bill agrees with your written estimate. And always pay by credit card so you can stop payment if the work is unsatisfactory or if you believe you have been overcharged.
Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification has a computerized national directory and can provide you with up to three certified firms in your zip code area; (800) 835-4624.
Carpet and Rug Institute consumer hotline answers questions on carpet maintenance; (800) 882-8846. Or, visit the national trade organization's Web site at www.carpet-rug.com.