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Carpet and Flooring First Aid

Keeping an extra clean house is the key to a timely sell. Buyers are looking for a home that is clean and well maintained. They will certainly notice the condition of your floors and carpeting. Read our tips for cleaning floors and carpeting during the bustle of open houses and your own move.

Cleaning Floors

Hardwood Floors. You can remove surface dirt from any hardwood floor by either sweeping with a broom or vacuuming with a soft brush attachment. Be sure to go around baseboards, paying particular attention to corners.

Depending on the finish, hardwood floors may require different care and cleaning. Floors with a high sheen most likely have a polyurethane topcoat. These sealed floors can be cleaned with a minimally damp mop. Unsealed wood floors can be cleaned with mineral spirits and then waxed for a rich glow.

Repairing Water Damage. Sand the damaged area. Start with medium sand paper, and finish with fine sand paper. Vacuum the dust, and wipe the area with a dampened cloth; use mineral spirits with oil-based stains and water with latex stains.

Stain the sanded area to match the rest of the floor. Mix a few different stains to get the best color match for your floor. Be sure to only mix oil-based with oil-based and latex with latex stains. Test the colors on a piece of sanded, unstained wood that is the same type as your floor. Check while the stain is still wet - as it best replicates the polyurethane.

When the stain is dry, coat the floor with polyurethane according to manufacturer's instructions.

Cleaning Ceramic and Stone Tile. Clean tiles with a vacuum, or sweep. Tile can be mopped easily with a mild detergent mixed with water. Avoid abrasive cleaners that scratch the tile or acidic solutions that can degrade grouting. Use only enough water to remove dirt and grime, particularly if there are cracked tiles. Too much water could seep and damage the subflooring.

Cleaning Vinyl or Linoleum Flooring. This type of flooring is the easiest to clean. Vacuum or sweep, and mop with a mild detergent mixed with water. Rinse with water since detergent residue can dull the shine. As with tile, if seams are separating, water can seep to the subflooring. Remove stubborn scuffmarks with a dry eraser (like a pencil eraser) or textured mop attachment.

Cleaning Carpets

Vacuum the entire house to remove as much dry debris as possible. This will also give you a chance to survey the carpeting as you go along and identify any problem areas.

Use a vacuum with a beater bar and brush, and set it to the correct height for your carpet pile. Start with a new bag, and change direction often to remove as much soil as possible. Using a brush attachment, vacuum around baseboards, window jambs/sills, and ceiling edges to get at stray dust and cobwebs.

Spot Clean as Needed. Next, you'll want to spot clean specific stains and high-traffic areas. Use a store-bought or rented carpet cleaner, or try one of the following remedies:

Water-based spills can be cleaned with club soda. Dribble it on stain, let it set for a moment, and then blot to remove the stain.

For blood or latex paint stains, mix half a teaspoon of liquid dish detergent with a pint of water and press with fingers into stained area. Soak stain with clear, lukewarm water, and blot.

If you have dark liquid stains on off-white or white carpeting, soak stain with clear, lukewarm water and blot. Apply hydrogen peroxide and blot. If stains persist, repeat process, followed immediately by household ammonia.

Apply alcohol or dry-cleaning solvent to chocolate, coffee, grease or ink stains. Blot dry immediately.

If pet stains plague your carpet, see our guide to removing pet stains and odors.

After all treatments, brush carpet pile and let dry. For more carpet cleaning tips, read "Caring for Your Carpet."

Deep Clean the Entire Carpet. After you've vacuumed and spot cleaned, deep clean the entire carpet. Either hire a professional service or opt for DIY steam or dry cleaning.

If you choose professional cleaning, ask for referrals. Get several estimates, and ask if the estimate includes fees for moving furniture.

If you choose to do the job yourself, be sure to follow the instructions provided with the steamer or dry cleaner. Don't saturate the carpet, as excess water could seep into the subflooring. Wait 24 hours before walking on the carpet.

Maintain Your Carpeting. You'll want to keep your carpets looking their best for future showings. Use entry mats to keep dirt and grime from entering your home. Vacuum regularly, and clean up spills as they happen.

Or Get New Carpeting. If your carpet shows badly worn areas or eternal stains, you may need to install new carpeting.

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