Whatever cleaning outfit you choose, the quality of service you receive will depend in part on you. Here are a few tips.


  • Remove or raise hanging objects that might be bumped by cleaning personnel, who generally walk backwards.
  • Remove prized valuables. Workers will generally move them, but not necessarily with the care you desire.
  • Lift draperies that touch or nearly touch the floor. Throw the bottoms of the drapes over hangers suspended from curtain rods.
  • Some companies require customers to vacuum first; others do it themselves for free. It can’t hurt to do it yourself.


  • If you want a particular kind of service—such as truck-mounted hot-water-extraction cleaning—inform the company before the day of your scheduled appointment.
  • When company personnel arrive, ask them to explain what they will do and what choices you have to make.
  • Specify which add-on features you want, and which you don’t want—carpet protector, deodorizer, etc.
  • Describe past cleanings. If shampoo was used, your serviceperson may have to alter the cleaning solution for the current job to compensate for residues. If an absorbent powder was used, the serviceperson may have to do a more thorough vacuuming or use extra liquid.
  • Point out stains and explain what caused them and when they got there. Reach an agreement with the serviceperson on each stain: Will it be removed in the normal process of cleaning, removed at additional cost, or not removed at all?
  • Alert the serviceperson to furniture with weak legs, seams in the carpet, and any other potential problem areas.
  • Get the total cost of the job in writing before service begins.

Understand the Limits

Although manufacturers have made progress in reducing the need for cleaning, there’s no such thing as magic wall-to-wall carpets or rugs; sometimes they still need professional cleaning. Even the most capable carpet-cleaning professionals will find certain problems difficult or impossible to solve:

  • Urine. Pee stains can’t be removed unless they are treated before they dry. Urine odor can sometimes be controlled or masked by a deodorizer, but generally it cannot be completely eradicated.
  • Shading, or “pile reversal.” The apparent shadows that result when carpet yarns are distorted under heavy traffic or improper shampooing can never be eliminated.
  • Dyes. Dyes can’t always be removed. This includes stains left by some soft drinks, coffee, tea, and mustard.
  • Mildew. Can’t always be eradicated.
  • Wood stains. Can rarely be removed.
  • Latent stains. Some chemicals, plant foods, and cosmetics cause stains that appear only under certain conditions of heat or humidity, or after prolonged exposure to sunlight.
  • Bleach spots and areas where sunlight has caused fading.


Don’t pay until you have inspected the carpet. If you are not satisfied, explain that you won’t pay until it’s done properly.

Make sure shields have been placed beneath the legs of all furniture. Leave them in place until you are sure the carpet is dry. Mahogany, teak, redwood, and freshly stained wood pieces will bleed color into carpet.

Before the serviceperson leaves, ask them to estimate carpet-drying time and to provide any special instructions.

Open windows to speed drying.

Don’t put anything on top of the carpet to walk on; this will slow drying. If you must walk on the carpet, wear socks.

Vacuum immediately after carpet is dry.

If you cannot resolve a dispute, complain to government consumer protection authorities or the Better Business Bureau. There are independent inspectors who will, for a fee, come to your home and offer a third-party judgment. They will also help arbitrate complaints. Get referrals for inspectors from the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).

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