At last, it's almost springtime. Yet, with the advent of spring, comes spring-cleaning. After the windows sparkle and the fixtures shine, it's time to look down . . . to the carpet, that is. A thorough spring-cleaning wraps up with fresh, clean carpets. But, it's a big job for do-it-yourselfers. With elbow grease and these five tips, homeowners can save some green and get their carpets clean as well.

Clean it before you steam it
After removing or moving the furnishings, John Nelson, owner of Cascade Carpet Cleaning in Medford says one of the biggest mistakes made is not pre-vacuuming. This often-skipped step is very important. "It makes a huge difference. Seventy percent of all soil can be removed by vacuuming. It's much easier to get dry soil out than when it's wet," he says. It makes sense. Imagine pouring a cup of dirt on the carpet. The soil is much easier to remove from the rug when it's dry than when it's wet and muddy.

Be professional
Skip the grocery store-rented carpet cleaner. Nelson doesn't recommend them as they don't have the lift or the heat to do the job properly. Instead, head to the equipment rental business. Their heavy-duty steam cleaners are more efficient at sucking the dirty water from the newly cleaned rug. If you leave too much water in the carpets, they take days to dry, creating a foul scent and mildew.

As for the water, use the hottest water available. Professional cleaners use very hot water, about 180 degrees, to deep clean most carpets. But, reminds Nelson, "To clean wool carpets, you can't use high heat. If you're not sure, always call a professional." Also, some home carpet cleaning machines may not be able to take that hot of water.

Use top-notch products
Ranging from all-natural organic cleaners to synthetic products, use professional grade cleaners, rinsers, and pre-conditioners.

Sam Garnett, party rental manager at Medford's All-In-One Rental Sales & Service, says there are a number of chemicals available. Extraction cleaners pull the stains up while deodorants remove odors. It's important to prep the carpet by pre-treating stains and high-traffic areas, emulsifying the soils. Apply them for a minimum of five minutes and a maximum of 15... you don't want them to dry. If you've got pet stains, Garnett suggests Pee-B-Gone. Also, pick up some defoamer to cut down on the amount of soap bubbles getting into the carpet.

Blowing in the wind
Garnett says the best way to dry carpets is by fanning them with natural air. Professionals use high-velocity floor fans or carpet blowers to accelerate the drying process. They, too, can be rented. Of course, leave the furnace on to keep the house warm, but don't place space heaters on the carpet excess heat can create a foul aroma, she warns.

Check it before you wreck it
All carpets are different... some are nylon, others olefin, wool, cotton, silk or blends of these materials. Test a small, obscure area of carpet prior to cleaning to make sure it doesn't discolor, warp or change the texture. As for wool, silk, antique, or oriental rugs, Nelson suggests consulting a professional carpet cleaner.

Another problem is that loose seams can arise if the carpets are older, or were not professionally installed. Nelson advises checking the seams, and if they're damaged or coming apart, repair them before cleaning the carpet. Bad seams can be pulled and then the carpet is permanently damaged. "Otherwise, good seams aren't a problem," he says, "You can go over them in any direction."

Replace furnishings only when the carpets are completely dry. Properly done, carpets cleaned in the morning should be dry by the afternoon. If this task seems daunting, Nelson recommends consulting a professional carpet cleaner. Armed with these tips, professional products and moxie, your home can look and smell as fresh inside as the spring days that are coming.