The Secrets to a Cleaner, Healthier Home

Some things at home are best left to a professional, and that includes certain deep cleaning, like carpet, upholstery and air ducts. Here’s what you might not know.

In the pursuit of a clean and healthy home, it’s easy to overlook the importance of regular maintenance. It’s not just about looking sharp. A clean home can also affect your indoor air quality and your overall health. It begins with deep-cleaning surfaces you don’t always think about – or maybe can’t clean yourself.

Chris Picot, vice president of Advantage Kwik-Dry, in Machesney Park, Ill., oversees a team with more than 30 years of expertise in cleaning residential and commercial surfaces. He believes clean carpeting, upholstery and air ducts are paramount to a clean and healthy home, yet they’re also something we all take for granted.

“All three of those cleaning services improve your indoor air quality,” he says. “It also helps protect warranties. Buying carpet is a big investment and most require yearly cleaning from a certified firm.”

Professional upkeep may seem superficial, but children, pets and heavy use bring a lot of messes, particularly in high-traffic areas. A certified carpet cleaning firm knows how to remove the extra dust, dirt and stains that often follow.

“Our technicians have certifications because we are more about cleaning,” says Picot. “We want to make sure we are cleaning correctly and appropriately so we’re not damaging the upholstery or the carpet.”

Advantage Kwik-Dry’s cleaning process – which applies to carpets and area rugs – starts with a pre-inspection. Then, a pre-conditioning agent is applied to help break down dirt and stains. Lingering smudges are treated with a pre-spot solution. Then, the carpet is thoroughly cleaned using a hot water extraction method, which cleans the carpet without leaving it damp.

Finally, a pH-balancing process ensures the carpet feels soft and fresh before a final spot-treating and inspection.

What many people don’t consider about carpet cleaning is that this is also a good time for a coat of Scotchgard, a protective coating that creates an invisible shield on textiles like carpet and upholstery. It works as a barrier against most stains.

“Most carpet has a Scotchgard, or a Scotchgard-like product built into it,” says Picot. “Over time, walking on the carpet, some of that is going to break down and wear off. When you clean your carpets, it’s a good idea to reapply the protection.”

Plenty of homeowners still question Scotchgard’s effectiveness, Picot adds, and they aren’t sure if it’s worth the investment. However, Picot believes a fresh spraying of Scotchgard – conducted by a professional – will not only protect carpet fibers but make everyday vacuuming more effective.

“If you spray Scotchgard, your carpet fibers are now nonstick and, as you vacuum, way more dirt is going to come out,” says Picot. “Carpet fibers are made of plastic materials, and dirt has sharp edges on it on a microscopic level. You can clean the carpet, but the carpet fibers have been scratched. With Scotchgard, you’ll remove more dirt and cause less damage. And, your carpet will last longer and look newer.”

The same wisdom applies to upholstery, like couches and chairs, which will endure less wear and tear when sprayed with Scotchgard. Such products should be cleaned and sprayed once or twice a year, particularly in homes with high traffic or pets and children, says Picot.

In general, regular upholstery cleaning is a good way to eliminate dirt, dust and stains as well as allergens, bacteria and odors trapped in the fabric. Advantage Kwik-Dry technicians start by assessing the fabric, vacuuming, applying specialized solutions and then using techniques like steam cleaning to remove embedded dirt and stains.

Cleaning your carpets and upholstery goes a long way toward reducing pollutants, but perhaps the biggest culprit of poor indoor air is a source we can’t even see: our air ducts. These steel tubes snake behind walls, under floors and overhead as they run from the home’s heating/cooling system to the air registers.

Over time, these pipes suck up and accumulate dirt, dust and debris from the passing air. If left unchecked, blockages occur inside, which causes a furnace or an air conditioning unit to work harder. These blockages might even harbor mold, bacteria and germs.

Air ducts should be cleaned every three to five years, says Picot, adding that a quick inspection will tell a lot. Simply unscrew the vent cover and shine a flashlight down the duct. If you see lots of dirt or accumulated debris, it’s time for a cleaning.

“That’s what you’re breathing in and out,” adds Jenny Bogie, general manager for Advantage Kwik-Dry. “It’s the lungs of your house, and if it never gets cleaned, you get less airflow. You take those blockages out of the duct work and your heating and cooling bills can be reduced because it’s not working as hard to get that airflow through the vent.”

The allure of solving these problems on your own is strong, but there are benefits to hiring a professional.

Advantage Kwik-Dry’s professional equipment includes a truck-mounted hot water extraction tool that helps to thoroughly clean fabrics and remove the moisture that’s involved with the cleaning process. Unlike the do-it-yourself products on the market, these tools have a higher level of cleaning, backed by a well-trained professional.

“What we see when clients do it themselves is they’ll get the carpet too wet or they’ll saturate an area because they’re trying to use a home system,” says Bogie. “When you get a professional cleaning, it’s going to be so much more powerful and thorough than you could do with your home cleaner by yourself.”

Picot believes there are also other, less tangible benefits, to hiring a professional. Like peace of mind.

“Pause and think about your time and what that means to you and what it’s worth,” says Picot. “Are you going to spend your whole Saturday cleaning your carpets, or would you rather have us roll in and roll out in 2 hours? It’s almost always worth hiring a professional. You’ll get a better cleaning. You’ll spend more money, but you’ll save more time and hassle.”