How best to clean the carpet nearest my baseboards?
September 1, 2013 7:40 PM   Subscribe

I have off-white carpeting throughout most of my condo. I vacuum and steam-clean the carpet as necessary but a back problem has made on-going vacuum attachment attention problematic. I now have a dark margin along my baseboards that I am unhappy about.

I am willing to consider hiring someone to deal with this or slowly dealing with it myself if given a good plan. I am very much open to throwing chemical solutions at this problem. What do you suggest?
posted by Morrigan to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "... What do you suggest?"
posted by Morrigan to home & garden

To a great extent, the right thing to do here depends on the kind of carpet (and perhaps underpad) that you have, including the fiber type, color (you say "off-white" but that could be anything from cream to tan to light grey), weave, and loop type of the pile. If you have standard loop type nylon carpet over foam pad in neutral cream color range, you'd be pretty safe using any of a number of spot carpet cleaner solutions like Resolve, or even a light solution of OxyClean in warm water, with a little brush agitation. Optionally, dry with clean white rag stock, to remove what dirt will lift by capillary action into the rags. You only do a small area at time, and overlap your areas while still damp, to avoid rings . This is pretty low tech, and easy to do in stages (one wall at a time, say), but it is basically a down-on-your- hands-and-knees situation, although Resolve does make a "kit" with a handled brush that holds their spray can cleaner solution, for standing use on heavy traffic carpet areas. I've tried that on carpet edges where my dog like to lie up against a wall, getting it greasy-dirty, and it didn't do much. OxyClean solution in warm water, and clean rags, with some elbow grease, did the trick.

If you didn't have physical problems, I'd really recommend renting or buying a Rug Doctor unit. Their vacuum motor is stronger than almost all other home cleaning systems, giving superior results for self-cleaning situations. And their machine design lets you clean right up against baseboards. But if you buy a unit, be careful not to store it where temperatures can go below freezing, as this will inevitably ruin the pump, which is surprisingly hard to drain completely, and difficult and expensive to replace. However, pulling a Rug Doctor does take some physical strength, particularly lower back, so may not be suitable for your situation.

Obviously, if you can afford the cost and disruption, hiring a professional is a good option. I've had pretty good luck with both local Stanley Steemer and ServPro franchises. They're generally bonded and insured for damage to your carpet and furnishings, and they'll move and replace furniture to clean as necessary. Point out your edge problems before they start, for special attention or pre-treatment. Also, look around for coupons and deals, as many of these services regularly still run Groupon and other "3 room specials."
posted by paulsc at 9:03 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The first thing I would try is putting hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle, choose an area of rug that isn't very visible, and see what giving the stain a few good spritzes does. Peroxide is pretty good at lifting any sort of organic stains from carpet and other textiles. It does tend to bleach things a bit, which is why you want to test it in an unobtrusive spot.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:28 PM on September 1, 2013

Best answer: Friends had their carpets professionally cleaned, and the first thing the pros did was go around the baseboards with a stiff-bristled angled broom (example), flicking up dirt trapped there. It made a huge difference.
posted by mgar at 4:07 AM on September 2, 2013

Best answer: You also need to understand what's going on's not just a matter of being able to clean near the baseboards. Your carpet is acting as a furnace filter.

What happens is this: when air is forced into a room by your HVAC system, it has to go somewhere. The cold air returns are supposed to handle this, but frequently they're isolated from bedrooms or other rooms by closed doors, hallways, etc. The air then finds another escape route, and it frequently uses the open joint where your walls meet the floors, which, of course, means that it has to pass through the edges of your carpet. The carpet filters out all the dust, pollen, and other particulates, and eventually darkens as a result.

The solution is simple (and should have been done by the builders): next time you buy new carpet, have the installers caulk the joint where the walls meet the floors. Also, make sure the duct work in your unit is well-taped against leakage. Keep your cold air returns fully open, and make sure closed doors aren't restricting air flow from getting to them. Finally, change those filters!
posted by dinger at 4:37 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

The air then finds another escape route, and it frequently uses the open joint where your walls meet the floors, which, of course, means that it has to pass through the edges of your carpet.

As one who's done some construction this seems very unlikely to me, especially in any house built since WWII. There just isn't any easy path to the basement that goes through that gap.
posted by jon1270 at 8:19 AM on September 2, 2013

It doesn't go to the basement. It goes into the stud walls. The leaking cold air return duct work creates slightly lower pressure inside the walls.
posted by dinger at 2:39 PM on September 2, 2013

The walls are a bunch of discrete cavities between studs. A leaky cold air return duct is not going to have such an effect at any distance from the duct, and can't account for an even line of dinginess all the way around a room.
posted by jon1270 at 3:07 PM on September 2, 2013

Sorry, Jon, but this is a well-known phenomenon, called "filtration soiling". For more information, Google is your friend.
posted by dinger at 3:27 PM on September 2, 2013

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