vacuuming secrets to success

Gimme and "L"! There really is more to vacuuming than just plugging in the vacuum cleaner and giving your carpet the once over.

Regular vacuuming is hands down the best way to clean carpet fibers and to increase the time between deep carpet cleanings in high traffic areas.

To suck up all the dirt and dust hidden among the fibers requires a full 20 seconds or so of going back and forth over each area of the rug with the vacuum cleaner.

Issue those instructions to your kid, and you'll receive a resounding, "Boooooring!"

Instead, ask your son or daughter to vacuum until Mom or Dad can see the letter of his or her first name in the carpet in a neat little pattern. My daughter, Lyndsay, has learned to make a mean "L".

Here are the best ways to clean carpet fibers so you can get the dirty job done right  - and teach the kids to do the same.

Use the Right Vacuum for the Job

The best way to clean carpet is to use a vacuum cleaner with a rotating brush or beater bar at least twice a week, more frequently in high traffic areas. (Sorry!)  

Pull the vacuum cleaner back and forth to get embedded dirt out of your carpet.

Change the vacuum cleaner bag often and keep brushes clean.

Make Those Carpet Patterns Show!

Here's how to teach the kids to leave those carpet or rug patterns - like the letter of his or her first name - that announces to the world: "I've just been cleaned!"

Pretend you're mowing the lawn. (This is an excellent job for the kids by the way. They love this stuff.)

Divide the area into 3- or 4-foot visual strips, and tackle each piece with a back-and-forth motion.

Use the same technique for floors. (Although you won't, of course, get those pretty stripes that scream "I've just been cleaned!")

This last step is purely for appearance's sake, however. 

How to Keep Carpet Looking Good

Here's how to care for your carpet to keep it looking good between cleanings and vacuumings and help it last longer:

  • Keep drapes closed when you're not in the room to keep the carpet from fading.
  • Use coasters under furniture.
  • Don't roll or pull things directly across the carpet.
  • Be careful using strong chemicals near carpets.
  • Deep carpet cleaning is essential at least twice a year, more often if you have kids and pets or an allergy sufferer in residence.

If your carpet has stains, however, the machine won't do much. These tips for removing common carpet stains, however, can help.

Finally, if you're in the market for a new vacuum, be sure to read this guide on choosing a vacuum.

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