Sometimes, our carpets need a little TLC beyond their regular vacuuming. Gone are the days where you had to pay a professional a few hundred dollars to steam-clean your carpet. Now, shampooers line the shelves and internet shopping carts. However, these machines can be a little daunting at first.
What Does a Shampooer Do?
Let’s get one thing out of the way – a shampooer is not a vacuum cleaner. It will not replace your vacuum cleaner. It is not meant to do the jobs that a vacuum does.
A shampooer is a deep-cleaner. As the name implies, a shampooer dispenses carpet shampoo (soap, essentially) onto the carpet. Many shampooers also have a spinning brush that will help scrub the shampoo into the carpeting. Some machines will then pick up the water and soap, pulling stains and stubborn dirt with it. Although uncommon, there are also machines that will dispense and leave shampoo on the carpet – with machines like these, you have to wait for the soap to dry, and then use a regular vacuum to pick up the dried solution.
What Kind of Shampooer is Best for Me?
We get this question quite frequently. Most machines on the market are called extractor shampooers, which means they pick the solution up after dispensing it. These are generally easier to use and less time-consuming. Since these are most of what you will encounter, that is all we will be talking about.
Within extractor shampooers, there are a few different body styles. There are small spot-cleaning machines that can be carried in one hand, and even very large (usually marketed for commercial use) machines that are meant to shampoo a large area in a short period of time.
We tend to steer away from the spot-cleaners, as they’re not as strong as a larger machine and have very limited use. They have a less powerful motor, so they tend to get clogged easily, and can only really be used for small patches of carpet or upholstery.
A full-size shampooer with an attachment kit is normally the best option, as you can clean carpeted rooms as well as upholstery. These also generally have a fairly generous water reservoir, so you don’t have to constantly refill it. Residential-style shampooers like this are normally slightly larger than your typical upright vacuum, so they don’t require a lot of storage space.
A commercial-style shampooer is great if you have a lot of carpeting to do – say, in an office. These machines are meant to hold up to rough use and are less likely to clog. The water capacity is much larger than on a traditional household machine – but that also means they’re heavier and larger. When empty, they can be anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds, so keep that in mind if weight is a factor.
How Do I Use a Shampooer?
Always consult your machine’s manual for operating instructions, but there are a few things that will help you get the most effective clean, and keep your machine running longer.
If possible, move furniture to the side or out of the room. The most effective way to use a shampooer is to shampoo the entire carpet. Although spot cleaning is sometimes necessary, cleaning the whole room at once will keep both wear and dirt buildup even – preventing odd carpet marks and stains. If you can move all of the furniture out of the room, that is ideal. The next best thing would be to move items to one side of the room, and then move them to the opposite side to finish the rest.
Thoroughly vacuum the carpet before starting. As I mentioned before, a shampooer is not a vacuum. You want to get as much debris and dirt off of the carpet before you move on. This means vacuuming thoroughly – if you rub your hands against the carpet, no dirt should come up.
Start with a plan. Your carpets are going to get wet – and nobody likes soggy socks! Make sure you know where you’re going to refill and dump your water reservoirs (don’t dump your dirty water outside, it’s harmful to the environment). If there is only one entry way to the room you’ll be cleaning, you may want to start on the opposite side to work your way out of the room.
Don’t wait until the last minute. Shampooers dispense soapy water on your carpet. Although extractors will pick most of it back up, your carpeting will be damp afterwards. If you have company coming over tomorrow, it’s not a good time to pull out the shampooer! You should give the room at least 24 hours to dry after shampooing. This means not walking around in the room or putting any furniture down. Having good ventilation, like an open window, fan, or dehumidifier, will help shorten this time and prevent any musty smells.
Rinse your shampooer when you’re done. When you’ve finished shampooing any area, you want to make sure you rinse the machine. You should run the machine with clean water – without soap – until there is no more soap coming out of the machines. This will help avoid clogs in the machine, as the soap can crystalize in the lines.
Only use extractor shampoo! Never use soap that isn’t labelled for extractor shampooers. Dish soap, hand soap, laundry detergent, and all other different forms of soap will harm your shampooer, and can even harm your carpets! Rotary shampooers (the ones that do not pick up water after dispensing soap) use a type of shampoo that should never be used in an extractor shampooer.
Avoid frequent shampooing. Carpets don’t like being wet – it weakens the fibers. Although it is sometimes the most effective way to clean a carpet, try not to overdo it. We recommend fully shampooing carpets only once or twice a year. If you’re spot cleaning a small area, using an attachment for your shampooer that does not agitate the carpeting will help reduce the wear. Be gentle on any carpeting or upholstery until it has dried completely.
Did I miss something? Let me know!