Coach Cleaning: Carpet Cleaning and Maintenance Steps

By Shelly Floyd

What do tufting, power looms, manmade fibers and the Smithsonian Institute have in common? According to a national trade organization called the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), they all play a role in the history of carpet.

Carpeting is loosely defined as floor covering made from heavy fabric. A three-dimensional picture of the carpeting inside your RV would detail separate layers — a solid floor surface, comfortable padding and pile yarn on a base weave. This floor covering is designed to withstand the trials and tribulations of foot traffic, and with regular upkeep, will provide years of style and comfort.

While sewing a bedspread to present as a wedding gift around the turn of the century, a young woman named Catherine Evans Whitener designed a pattern of threading yarn loops through a heavy backing material. This process, known as ‘tufting,’ is now used in the manufacture of 90 percent of U.S. carpets. Proper care and cleaning of the tufted pile yarn is an important key to long-lasting RV carpet.

Remove Your Shoes

Outdoor soil, including grease and oil commonly found around fuel islands, can be easily tracked inside. This dirt has nowhere to go but into the carpet fibers. Make it a habit to take off shoes at the entry door. Change into a pair of clean-soled slippers designated for indoor use.

Voracious Vacuuming

Regular vacuuming is the best line of carpeting defense. Light reflection or carpeting color can mask the build-up of dust and dirt. Don’t let the visual absence of soil deflect you from giving the carpet a thorough going over. Equip your RV with a quality vacuum cleaner that includes attachments capable of reaching all the carpeted areas.

Replace vacuum bags when they reach half full. If you travel with pets, you can best eliminate flea larva in the RV — as well as the bay compartment where you store the vacuum cleaner — by disposing of the bag outdoors each time you vacuum the carpet.

Vacuum main traffic areas of the RV carpet no less than two times per week. Push the vacuum in the pile direction of the carpet and then reverse direction. Use a slow and controlled motion to pick up deep-down soil. In addition to high traffic areas, don’t forget to vacuum ‘hidden’ areas such as under the pilot and co-pilot seats, the bedroom around the bed frame and inside the wardrobe. Remove items from cupboards to thoroughly clean carpeted surfaces at least two times per year.

Find the Filter

Information published by the CRI explains that the dark graying lines that occasionally appear in the carpet are usually due to soil build-up. To avoid filtration soil on motorhome carpet, regularly clean and maintain the air conditioning filter system. This promotes good airflow, eliminating condensation — but avoid overspray of cleaning chemicals. Take the time while vacuuming to run a soft brush attachment along with wall areas where filtration soil is most likely to appear.

Go Deep

Have the carpet deep cleaned at least once a year, and more often in cases of heavy soiling. For best results, call a professional carpet cleaning service that has compounds for specific types of carpet fibers. Employ a reputable business based on recommendations. Request an in-person estimate in writing so that there will be no question about the cost. A professional service can also help you with future applications of stain protectant to promote easier cleanup. Remember to contact the carpet manufacturer prior to applying any of these treatments to ensure that you don’t void the warranty.

If you prefer to clean the carpet yourself, consider using a machine rated by the Carpet and Rug Institute. The CRI ratings approval system is based on how much dirt is removed, the amount of water left behind and the overall condition of the carpet following cleaning. Consult your carpet manufacturer’s brochure for recommended types of carpet shampoo. It is important to note that excess soap residue becomes a soil magnet and can actually hasten the need for future cleanings. A good rule of thumb for DIY carpet cleaning is to use a hot water extraction unit with only half the recommended amount of detergent. Follow with a clear water rinse and allow the area to completely dry.

Stains and Patches

Stains should be immediately treated to prevent permanent damage to carpet fibers. Most liquid stains can be removed by blotting the wet area with a white paper towel. For stubborn soil, apply a solution of ½ teaspoon mild liquid dishwashing detergent and one quart of warm water. Blot the stain to remove, thoroughly rinse with clear water and allow the area to dry. To eliminate more difficult stains, such as rust, paint or ink, consult a carpet professional.

To patch or repair a section of carpeting, first determine whether the surrounding area shows noticeable wear that would cause the replacement piece to stand out. Contact Safari National Parts to acquire replacement carpeting. Water leaks inside the RV may require replacement of the carpet and underlying padding to prevent mold and mildew growth.

Exterior bay compartments in select model RVs are covered with indoor/outdoor carpet material. Regular vacuuming of bay compartment carpeting will help to maintain its condition. If outside bay areas become wet, empty the cargo area and leave the door open to dry the carpet. To remove stains, spot washes the area with mild soap, rinse with clear water and allow the area to dry.

Pet Precautions

There are added precautions you should take with pets to reduce wear and tear on the RV carpet. Store old towels near the entry door to wipe off the pet’s feet when it comes in from the outdoors. Animal stains contain urine salts and intestinal acids that can bleach out carpet dyes and leave behind undesirable odors. Quickly remove excess residue and then blot the wet spot with a white paper towel. Gently wash the area with mild soap and warm water solution using a soft bristle brush or blot with a clean cloth. Be patient and give the soap solution time to work without over saturating the carpet. Once the stain is removed, blot with clear water and allow the area to dry. To speed up the process you can use a handheld dryer. Animal stains that have dried onto the carpet may require treatment using a deep cleaning machine to reach into the carpet fibers.

Carpet manufacturing really took off in the 1950s when the industry saw an explosion of new fibers, inventive machinery, and improved color capability. The power loom created by Erastus Bigelow in the mid-1800s to boost carpet production is now a part of the Smithsonian collection. Dalton, Georgia, the hometown of Catherine Evans Whitener, is considered the “Carpet Capital of the World.” A lot of time and attention went into the creation of the carpet that helps to make your RV home, so take off those shoes and enjoy.