When the kids were small and still crawling, we cleaned our carpets as often as we could afford because everything on the floor seemed to make its way into their mouths. Those days are long gone. Today, carpets are where we do our morning stretches, where the dog sleeps and where a grandchild occasionally comes to play.
While the urgency of keeping our carpets clean is less, so many good reasons still exist for having them cleaned regularly. First, cleaning helps our carpets last much longer and puts off the need to replace them. Then, if you have any respiratory challenges, a carpet is a real magnet for every dust mite, mold spore and pet dander particle. But, the best reason is that clean carpets make your whole house look and smell so clean.
The carpet in your home can be one of its best assets if kept attractive. Depending on the traffic in your home, that calls for cleanings at least once a year.
Once you decide it is time to clean the carpets, you have two choices: you can do the cleaning yourself with rented equipment from the ‘big box’ home improvement store, or you can call in a professional to do it for you.
The first option entails considerable physical effort as you move all the furniture, push a piece of heavy equipment all over your house, wait for your carpets to dry, then put all the furniture back in place. Worse than the prospect of doing it yourself is the fact that those rental machines do not always clean your carpets that well.
The second option is for you to hire a professional and let them do all the work. However, that leads to a series of decisions you will have to make: do you prefer the wet (or steam) cleaning method or dry treatment? Do you want to minimize the number of strong cleaning chemicals used or does it not matter? Which of the multiple add-on services do you want to be included in the work?
You can find candidates to do your carpet cleaning by asking friends and family, or even someone in your condo or homeowners association if you have one. Online research and your local seniors' association are two other sources.
However, before you call anyone, knowing more details about carpet cleaning will keep you from paying too much or not getting the result you expected when you took on this project.
Whether we manage to keep on top of our house cleaning chores ourselves or hire a house cleaning service regularly, just vacuuming and spot cleaning will eventually not be enough to keep our carpets in shape. Some house cleaning services also offer carpet cleaning, and that possibility should be explored because the company is already familiar to you. However, you will want to get quotes from a few professional services as well, to be sure you are paying the right price.
Using a carpet cleaning service means:
- Protecting what was initially a significant investment in our home;
- Keeping bacteria, allergens, dust, pollen and mold levels down to protect our health;
- Removing the vast amounts of dirt and debris that collect in our carpets (regardless how often we vacuum) and that shorten the life of our carpets;
- Reducing the clutter in our homes as we prepare for the service to be performed; and
- Raising our spirits once the carpets are all clean: there is nothing more depressing than living with a dirty carpet.
You may decide to explore different national carpet cleaning companies that are virtual household names, some with jingles we have trouble getting out of our heads. You may also want to look at smaller, local firms if supporting small business is a priority for you.
In either case, when comparing the carpet cleaning services available to you, the first information to gather is the cost of the service. You will want to check on the warranty each company offers, its quoting and ordering process, its cancellation policy and how available the company’s customer service will be.
You will also want to know more about the company itself: what services it provides, how long it has been in business and if it offers emergency service in case of a disaster. Convenience factors are also important: how large is the time window for its appointments, can you get an online quote, are quotes free and are eco-friendly products used.
While carpet cleaning is considered a one-time event, cleaning should be done every year to maintain your carpets. (Once you find a top-notch carpet cleaning service, you can just call them back at whatever interval you wish.) Whether one-time or long-time, finding a carpet cleaning service requires some decisions and preparations.
Information gathering: First you want to build a list of 5-6 candidate companies. Friends, family, connections and online research can be the source of names.Next, you want to pare down that list by making two decisions.
Your first decision is whether you want your carpets cleaned with steam or with the ‘dry’ process. (A business may do one or the other, or possibly both.) The next decision is how eco-friendly you want the cleaning products to be: your options include strong cleaning chemicals, the power of steam or environmentally friendly cleaning products. Those two decisions may filter out several companies that do not offer what you want, whatever it is. You want to have at least three remaining.
Carpet cleaning services will quote either by the number of rooms to be cleaned or by square footage. To be prepared, make a note of which rooms will be cleaned, and measure the size of each room. (The length in feet, times the width in feet gives you square feet). Identify what kind of carpet is in each room (level loop, multi-level loop or cut pile). You will need this information to get a price quote, whether online or on the phone.
Next, review a list of all the possible add-ons a company might charge. (Possible add-ons are discussed below, in the ‘Fees’ section.)Decide which ones pertain to you. When you are speaking to different candidate companies on the phone, you will want to know if those specific services are included in their base price or if they cost extra. If they do cost extra, you will want to know how much.
Getting a quote: Now you are ready to get a quote for your carpet cleaning job. You might be able to get a preliminary quote online,but you want to confirm it with a company representative to avoid any surprises. Some companies will send someone out to view the job; others will do it based on your description.
The key is that you want at least three viable quotes for an identical job, so you can compare prices. You may not necessarily want the lowest price, especially if it seems toolow. You may find yourself arguing about surprise upcharges when you get the final bill.
Vetting the company: With the prices in hand, you now want to do some research on your first choice. If the company is a franchise, visit review sites and see what issues are reported at the parent company level. Be sure to look for reviews of the local franchisee as well. You might find something under the Better Business Bureau by searching for the ‘company name plus your city.’
Do not hesitate to ask the company for names of local references you can contact. Ask if the company screens its employees and conducts drug and criminal background checks. Employees should be insured and bonded. Remember, you are letting strangers into your home,and you have the right to know who they are. Whatever you do, do not allow anyone into your home who knocks at your door offering carpet cleaning services.
Once you have checked out the company and have accepted its price quote, which you should have in writing, contact the company to set up an appointment. Then, once the work is done, enjoy the brand clean, sweet-smelling carpets in your home.
Two areas differentiate what seniors prioritize when purchasing services, compared with younger buyers:age friendliness and health-related value.
Age friendliness:Your interaction with the service provider will be the same regardless of your age. You will have to declutter the areas to be cleaned, or have someone help you do so, so the company can perform the service. You will likely want to pay them to move the furniture, as they have teams to do that. The rest of the work is done by the company; all you need to do is stay out of the workers’ way and, if you choose the steam method, wait the 24 hours until the carpet is dry enough to walk on (and put the furniture back).
As this is a one-time transaction, the need to go online will be limited to researching companies and possibly running online quotes. Besides that, the entire operation can easily be handled over the telephone, should that be your preference.
Health-related value: Health plays a far more significant role in the needs of senior customers than of younger customers. To a senior in poor health, the disruption caused by something as ‘invasive’ as carpet cleaning can be upsetting. In the case of a respiratory condition such as asthma or COPD, having the company use environmentally friendly cleaning products can avoid unnecessary aggravation and lower the irritant level for a long time.Best of all, having a clean home is a morale booster, no matter how ill one may be.
While you might be able to get a preliminary quote on a carpet cleaning company’s website, there are too many subtleties and add-ons to trust that what you get will be the final price. A follow-up conversation with a company representative to get clarification is critical. An in-home visit may be needed for a formal quote.
The base price will depend on the area to be cleaned and the cleaning method.A job may be quoted as a flat rate per room or by the actual square footage being cleaned. Square footage is preferred as it reflects the actual work being done, and what defines a room is less precise. If the space is very small, the square foot rate may go up to cover the fixed costs for travel, for example.
As for cleaning methods, steam cleaning (also called ‘hot water extraction’) is the most popular means of cleaning carpets; dry cleaning (or ‘low moisture’ or ‘encapsulation’) uses chemicals and less water and dries much faster.
Additional cost factors include the type of carpet, any stain removal, extra cleaning requirements and furniture moving or removal.
Because some carpets are easier to clean than others, carpet type will affect the price quoted. In order of increasing difficulty, non-wool level loop Berbers are the easiest to clean, then come other level or multi-level loop, and then anything in cotton or wool.
Carpet type can also affect the cost of stain removal, again because of difficulty. That cost will almost always be an add-on to the base price and will likely require someone coming to see the stains before a price can be locked in. The cost for removing each carpet stain will depend on what caused the stain, how large it is and how long it has been there.
‘Extra cleaning services’ that require added materials, time and labor can result in additional fees. An example would be the cost of color repair or carpet dyeing where color has been lost from stain removal, accidents, exposure to sunlight or heavy foot traffic. Adding a Scotchgard-type stain-resisting product at the end of the job would also add to the price.
Stairs may be considered an extra service; be sure to ask. Also, moving your furniture may or may not be included in the base price, and may depend on the size and weight of the pieces to be moved. Again, only a visit to your home can confirm the cost.
Some professional carpet cleaning companies may suggest ways to lower the relative cost of having your carpets cleaned. Having extra rooms cleaned could lower the per-square-foot cost. Upholstery-or curtain-cleaning could be offered at a discount. Agreeing to regularly scheduled cleanings could lead to a price break.
Lastly, especially if the company is part of a national chain, you may find online deals, seasonal discounts, advertised and unadvertised specials, coupons and other forms of discounts available to you.
According to Angie’s List, the average rates for carpet cleaning should run between $0.30 and $0.50 per square foot, including all labor and cleaning products. Remember, that is your base price and you need to negotiate to stay as close to that as possible, except for agreed-upon add-ons.
Cost is the first element you look at when researching who should be hired to clean the carpets in your home. Then you want information on the warranty, the ease of setting up and possibly canceling the service, and the accessibility of the company’s customer service.
Cost: While cost is a significant factor, it is not the only one. A quote that is much lower than the others should raise a red flag, and you may discover unexpected add-on costs on your final bill. You would be better off paying a bit more, but working with a serious company that stands behind its quote to you.
Warranty: Most companies will offer a satisfaction guarantee, and will return to re-clean any areas that are not cleaned to your liking.Others may offer a refund. Any items damaged during cleaning will usually be repaired, replaced or credited per customary industry standards.
Ease: Going through the pricing discussion with carpet cleaning companies is likely to be the most challenging part of the process. However, once all details are defined and agreed upon, the rest of the work is in their hands (unless you insist on moving your own furniture).
Cancellation: Check any document you receive from the carpet cleaning service to see if there is a penalty for canceling a carpet-cleaning appointment within a specific timeframe before the scheduled service.
Customer service: We all want to be treated correctly. We want to know we can reach a company representative easily during regular business hours and that they will resolve whatever the issue is, efficiently and politely. Having several ways to contact a company’s customer support is a plus.
Before hiring a carpet cleaning service, you will want to know more about the company: what services it provides, how long it has been in business and if it offers emergency restoration service in case of a disaster, for example. Convenience factors are essential, too: what is the time window for scheduled appointments, can you can get an online quote, are quotes free and are eco-friendly products used.
Carpet cleaning companies offer many other services than just cleaning carpets these days. For example, one business also cleans air ducts, area rugs, upholstery, draperies and blinds, natural stone, tile and grout, wood floors and concrete floors.
It may not be easy to see what differentiates one large, national carpet cleaning company from another. Most have established networks of local franchises throughout the country.The corporate website might offer testimonials, but what really counts is what people say about the local franchisee you will be dealing with. Read local reviews. Ask local seniors associations for referrals. Check the Better Business Bureau for the local operation; franchisees tend to participate with the BBB more than the national headquarters do, as they work proactively to build their reputation.
One more resource exists to help you select a reputable carpet cleaning company: an industry-recognized certification program. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification, or IICRC, has over 50,000 certified technicians and firms. Several of the large carpet cleaning companies work with the IICRC and employ professionals who have passed IICRC coursework. That may be one of your best guarantees of finding the perfect carpet cleaning service for you.