Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sweeping Beauty: Your Carpet's Best Friend Is Your Vacuum

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"The beauty and life of your carpet depends on the care it receives. Quality carpet that is well-maintained should last 10-15 years. Proper cleaning will keep it looking great for its full lifetime, help improve your indoor air quality and help you adhere to your carpet warranties."

So says the Carpet and Rug Institute about maintaining your carpet. And it sounds like the CRI means business. Simply by keeping your carpet clean, you can protect your investment and the environment at the same time: a well-maintained carpet means that it lasts longer and stays out of landfills.

A major component of maintaining your carpet includes vacuuming, which we've discussed briefly here at Carpetology. In "Keeping Carpet Clean," Christine reminds us that vacuuming is your carpet's best friend. And in "Dog Day Afternoon," I reiterate that vacuuming is the easiest and most effective way to keep carpets clean, especially for pet owners. Now, I realize that very few people actually enjoy vacuuming (my friend Carrie is an exception to the rule; she vacuums daily. Sometimes twice daily. She loves to vacuum). But if you think really hard about the long-term benefits, vacuuming more frequently doesn't seem so bad.

You can read tips and tricks on how to vacuum from CRI and eHow and follow along with a video at But even if you vacuum daily, like Carrie, none of this matters unless you use a quality vacuum appropriate for the type of flooring you have. Let's face it - there are many vacuums out there so it's difficult to know which is best for you and your home.

Let's start with the basics: canisters v. uprights.

Canister vacuums generally work best on hardwood floors. These Vacuums Suck calls them versatile, with numerous attachments (wands, tools, a hose) for cleaning crevices, curtains, stairs and below furniture. Canisters can be easily maneuvered around the home, often much more so than uprights. Since Carpetology is all about carpet, I should mention here that although canisters haven't been known for their effectiveness on carpets in the past, Consumer Reports says that the best canisters can clean carpet just as well as upright vacuums.

Miele vacuum ad, compliments of
Regardless, uprights still rule the market, especially when it comes to carpet. Generally they're cheaper, more compact, easy to store, and equipped with a variety of features, says, including dirt sensors, wide cleaning paths, unique tools, self-propelled motors, on/off brush rolls, height adjustments and several filter types. For adjustments between carpet pile heights or between carpet and hardwood, the height adjustment feature is especially handy. Plus, you have a choice in an upright vacuum's filter: bag or bagless? Now things really get exciting...

"The current trend in upright vacuums is 'bagless,'" writes How Stuff Works. "This means the vacuum forgoes the traditional disposable bag in favor of a reusable, often filtered canister to collect debris. Bagless vacuums use centrifugal force to separate particles from air flowing through this cylindrical collection vessel."

It sounds fancy, doesn't it? How Stuff Works warns, though, that unless a vacuum is built correctly, bagless vacuums can sometimes clog, causing the vacuum to lose suction.

Vacuums with bags, on the other hand, lose suction as the bag fills with dirt and debris. But their bags allow easy disposal of all those particles that you've extracted from your carpet while cleaning. Ultimately, the bag versus bagless debate depends on your own personal preference. It seems that some of the newer bagless vacuums are more effective overall, but they're also available in a higher price range.

Learn all about the physics of vacuums here on and vacuum-cleaners. Interesting and helpful!

A word of caution: As a carpet owner, you should understand that brush rolls and beater bars, those busy little spinners on the bottom of upright vacuums, need to be used with care. If they're used on carpets with twisted piles or casual textures (friezes or shags, for example), they might tangle or damage the carpet. As beneficial as beater bars can be, use them wisely. You may also want to refrain from using them on expensive rugs.

Happy vacuuming!

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