Angie's List | Carpet Cleaning: Don't have your wallet cleaned too

Carpets and rugs take a lot of wear and tear over time. Whether its children, pets or visitors – your carpet captures all the dirt tracked into the house day after day, year after year. And that doesn't even take into account those accidents – spilled wine, un-house broken pets and other spills and stains that come along.

Even if you vacuum your carpet regularly there is still dirt that can get trapped in the carpet; dust, mites, and even pet dander, so it's important to consider having your carpets cleaned once a year.

Professional Carpet Cleaner Chris Stone says, "The biggest misconception that I have run across is that homeowners say that they should wait as long as possible to get your carpets cleaned the first time. The reason that kind of myth came into play is unfortunately there are a lot of bad carpet cleaners that leave the carpets really wet and it leaves actually soap residue in the carpets. When you leave soap residue in carpets, it will get dirtier faster".

Chris continues saying,"If you wait a long time to get them cleaned, basically the soil acts like sand paper on the fibers and as you walk on it you are literally wearing down the fibers. So you want to get your carpets cleaned between every 12-18 months, basically once a year and that will keep your carpets looking new for a long time."

Angie Hicks acknowledges, "One common complaint we've heard over the years when it comes to carpet cleaning companies is suggesting a price that just seems too low to be true. What happens is they get there and the consumer ends up paying more than they expected."

When hiring a carpet cleaner, you are going to want to know what exactly you are paying for. You'll see a lot of deals out there that you could potentially take advantage of, but you want to know what you are getting for that price. Does it include hallways? Does it include stairways? What size of a room? I think that is one mistake that consumers make. It may say three rooms of carpet, but it doesn't say how big of a room of carpet, so make sure you are reading the fine print.

A professional cleaning will help rid your home of hidden dust and allergens that regular vacuuming can miss. Just as important, it will help preserve carpet fibers and keep colors brighter. But getting this work done sometimes comes at too high a price because of disreputable companies who dangle get-in-the-door prices that don't generally hold up once you let the company inside your home. The two most common tactics:

  • Bait and Switch – This is the offer to get your carpets cleaned for 5 to 10 dollars a room. Usually, the homeowner is told their carpet is in really bad shape and the offer didn't include pre-spray, deep cleaning and sometimes even using hot water – all essential to a proper carpet cleaning.
  • High-pressure sales – This tactic preys on the homeowner's desire to get the job done right. Homeowners are told there are some spots that need additional cleaning because of how dirty they are, and that without the extra attention, those areas of the floor will stand out and make the floor look bad.

We spoke with Wendie, a homeowner who shared her experience with us. She hired a company from a coupon and thought she was getting a deep clean. However, when the company got there they tried to upsell her for getting a deep clean and pre-spray. He explained none of that was included in the low price on the coupon.

Wendie says, "He wasn't professionally dressed or as professionally dressed as I would expect. No logo on his shirt, you know, he wasn't wearing like a uniform-type thing. The van, when it pulled in, I noticed was a white cargo van. No windows. No writing on the side. No name of the company. Nothing."

"It was awful. You know, he had told me that because my carpets were so dirty that they would need to do a deep cleaning, and that would be extra.  And I said, well, I questioned whether that was included in the cleaning. I said normally I thought a cleaning was a deep cleaning. He said no they'd have to do that and that would be extra.  I just said well, just go ahead and do a regular cleaning," recalled Wendie.

Wendie continues, "He proceeded to clean the carpets – it was done rather quickly, but sometimes they are done quickly. And then when he was done, he called me and I went upstairs, and when I looked at the carpets, the first thing I said to him was, "These don't look any different.  They don't… They look like they're just wet. They don't even look like they've been cleaned."  He said, "Oh that's just because it's so dirty." And I said, "Well there should be a little bit of a difference." But he said because I didn't get the deep cleaning that I couldn't expect a better result."

Angie's List tips to avoid getting scammed:

  • Insist on a written estimate that details all charges – and read the fine print.
  • Don't guess if you don't understand anything on the estimate. Do they charge by the hour or square feet of the room? Are they going to charge you for the square feet where your master bed is that you just want cleaned around? Do you need to move your furniture or will they charge you to do that? Are all pre-sprays, and other tasks included or add-ons?
  • Your carpet cleaner should be certified by the IICRC (Institution of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification.) You can check at
  • Is there a guarantee? A good company will return to clean spots that reappear within a short period of time.
  • Watch out for those companies who come in and out in a hurry. It takes time to go through the process from start to finish.
  • Does the company use hot water from its truck? Or will they be using your water?
  • Do they have liability and insurance? If they break something in your home will they pay to fix it or leave you with the cost?
  • Ask how much experience they have with cleaning carpets.
  • Make sure they use the right type of solution on your carpet.

Once you find your carpet cleaner, it's important to share details about your lifestyle with them. Do you have pets, do you have kids, do you have special areas that need treatments because you've had spills? The more information you give them, the more prepared they can come to do the actual project in case you need special cleaners for some difficult spots.

Chris Stone, Professional Carpet Cleaner offers this advice,"The first thing is when they come you need to ask some questions; one is "Will you come over and give me a free estimate or will you require that you clean my carpets while you are here or will you give me a free estimate and leave?" If they are willing to come give you a free estimate, give you all the options upfront then you can make an educated decision on what you want to purchase. And then the key questions you need to ask them is are these all the options that I have upfront or will there be any more costs that you will try to sell me while you are here cleaning my carpets. As long as they give you all the options up front that's a very good sign."

When you are ready to get your carpets cleaned Chris says,"You want to try to move as much as possible in the areas that you want clean; if there are any couches or sofas or magazines. Everything you can do to help it move faster when they come to clean your carpets. The time that we save from you moving those things, we actually pass those savings on to you."

  Types of Cleaning Methods:

  • "Steam cleaning" is probably the most well-known type of carpet cleaning. To the pros, it's better known as hot water extraction cleaning, because it involves a pre-treatment and then a blast of water (up to 250-degrees!) going on and off of the carpet simultaneously. This is usually the only type of cleaning covered by a carpet warranty.
  • Carbonated cleaning allows cleaning agents to get to the carpet fibers with very little wetting. The solution doesn't contain the oil or detergents that typically leave a dirt-attracting residue, and dissolved dirt is removed with a machine that rubs cotton pads over the carpet.
  • The HOST system is the only all-dry, all-natural cleaning system that is currently Green Seal certified. It uses an absorbent to pre-treat and clean the carpet by trapping grease and dirt, which is then extracted. It leaves the carpet ready for immediate use, with no downtime. It's completely non-toxic, with no threat of moisture of harsh chemicals.
  • "Bonnet" cleaning uses spray foam that is removed by a rolling/buffing machine that has a bonnet-like attachment. This is mainly for commercial carpet, and is similar to what buffing a hard floor surface is like.

We spoke with some highly-rated carpet cleaners on Angie's List about keeping your carpet looking great:

  • The number one way to keep your carpet looking fresh between professional cleanings is to vacuum regularly – about three times a week. This keeps dirt from settling in.
  • Don't walk around with bare feet – you'll transfer body oils and contribute a considerable amount of grime to the carpet fibers.
  • Don't leave your furniture in the same place forever. Change traffic patterns if you can. Leaving furniture in one position for the life of the carpeting creates worn, dirty paths throughout the home and leaves pristine carpet in areas you never see. Carpet that wears evenly will last and stay cleaner longer.

Make sure you do your research even if you find a great deal from a flyer you received or if you see something online. Check out the company to make sure that they are a good, reputable company with a local address, and get all the details in writing to ensure you have a good experience.

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