How to Clean Carpet

Hardwood and carpet are two of the most popular choices for homeowners considering a new type of flooring. While there are millions of people that have never owned or lived in a home with hardwood floors, almost everyone has had experience with carpet.

Whether it’s in your current home or was in your first apartment, if you’ve dealt with carpet, you know it can be challenging to keep clean. If you’re wondering how to clean carpet efficiently, you’ve come to the right place as we’ve put together a quick guide with tips that will make life easier when it’s time to break out the vacuum.

Carpet Cleaning: Everything You Need to Know

Any vacuum cleaner will remove a measure of dirt from your carpet, even if it just gives it a quick surface clean. If you want to clean your carpet correctly, it’s important to know a little more about what your carpet is made from, and that starts with the fibers.

Dozens of variables can make carpet harder or easier to clean. The type of fiber is one of the most significant factors, as polypropylene carpet is more stain-resistant compared to nylon, wool, or treixta. It’s not as durable, however, which can be an issue in high-traffic areas of your home. Nylon is one of the more popular choices with homeowners in the United States, but how stain resistant it is can depend on the treatment used.  

You should also consider pile height and density along with the color. Darker hues are great at hiding dirt, which may lead you to believe your carpet is cleaner than it actually is. Whether you have carpet in a few rooms or your entire home, consider the fiber and height before deciding how to tackle tough stains or setting a cleaning routine.

The activity level in your home will have an impact on your cleaning schedule as well. A single couple with no children or pets may only need to tidy up rooms weekly, while a family of four may have to clean their carpets daily. Pets and children are two of the biggest reasons for carpet stains, although clumsy adults are not far behind.

How to Clean Carpet

When you need to clean the carpet, the primary tool in your arsenal is a vacuum cleaner. It may be the first tool most consumers turn to, but it’s far from the only option as there are lots of ways to treat dirty carpeting.

Spot Cleaning

Carpet Spot Clean

Do you have dinner in the recliner or at the kitchen table? While any carpeted area in your home can experience a stain, the living room and bedrooms tend to get the worst of it. They are two prime areas for spot cleaning as well, the quickest way to clean a small area of carpet in your home that’s stained.

The first thing to remember is to act quickly with any stain. You should “blot” the spill, not wipe or rub it up. The key is to absorb the spill, and paper towels or white rags are the best way to do that. If it’s a substantial spill involving food, scoop it off the carpet before attempting to blot any excess liquids. Once you have the situation under control, it’s time to break out the carpet cleaner.

If you need to clean a spot on your carpet, one of the better consumer-friendly solutions is Shaw’s RX2 carpet stain remover. While several treatments may be required for some stains, it can handle anything from pet urine to oil-based stains. It’s a great all-purpose carpet cleaner, although far from the only option available.

As with hardwood flooring cleaner, you’ll find that many carpet manufacturers like Shaw recommend their own branded cleaning solution. Companies like Spot Shot and Bissell make excellent spot cleaning solutions as well, including aerosol-based cleaners like the Oxy Power Shot. You won’t have to worry about leaky nozzles with these cleaners, and some are incredibly effective hard to remove stains like red wine or coffee.

Carpet Cleaners

Carpet Cleaners

When you’re carpet is seriously soiled, not stained with a random spot, cleaner, and a scrub brush isn’t going to cut it. You have two options when your carpet needs a deep cleaning. You can bring in a professional or pick up a carpet cleaner and handle things yourself. Before you start imagining a massive machine, it’s important to realize that carpet cleaners come in many shapes and sizes.

For smaller homes that just need to clean a few rooms, an upright carpet cleaner is ideal. Built like a traditional vacuum cleaner, they can be a bit heavy but will freshen up your carpet without breaking the bank. Pet owners are well-represented in this niche with machines like the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro, one of the best carpet cleaners for homeowners.

For larger homes, something a wider cleaning path and a higher capacity is required. The Rug Doctor and Bissell have several systems that are suitable for consumer use, but they carry a hefty price tag. Alternatively, you can rent a similar style carpet cleaner locally for around $30 to $40 per day if you only plan to use one once a year. Our guide can help you learn a bit more about carpet cleaners for residential use if you’re unsure of your needs.

Vacuum Cleaner

Vacuum Cleaner

While you may only need to use a spot treatment or a carpet cleaner a few times a year, vacuum cleaners are the best way to clean your carpet quickly. The best vacuum cleaner for carpet can be an absolute nightmare to find, however, if you’re not sure what you need.

Do you want something that’s easy to use? It doesn’t get much simpler than a corded stick vacuum. They are lightweight, affordable, and typically don’t come with any complicated attachments. They can also be a good fit from a durability standpoint if they have less moving parts to deal with. Robot vacuum cleaners are also incredibly easy to use, but considerably more expensive than a stick vacuum.

Many robot vacuum cleaners are marketed for whole-house use, which includes carpet. Unfortunately, it’s one area where most systems fall flat unless you have low to medium pile carpet in your home. These robots can clean with little assistance, but don’t work well on thick carpet or high-pile aside from a few expensive premium models.

Cordless vacuums can also be an excellent fit for carpet, depending on your needs. These vacuums are typically in the upright or stick vacuum class, and many are convertible. Battery life and power are drawbacks as they don’t have as much suction as an upright. There are a few excellent corded convertibles as well, however.

While you won’t find any cordless canister vacuums that are capable enough to handle an entire home, a canister vacuum is an interesting alternative to more traditional systems. You pull them behind you, instead of pushing them, and they have a cleaning with a hose and detachable head. If you suffer from allergies, they should be high on your list as there are more bagged models in this class than you’ll find with other styles.

Do you have new soft carpet or cushy plush carpeting? Well, the wrong kind of vacuum can damage your carpet or make your vacuum impossible to move. That’s an issue with brands like SoftStrand and other types of carpet that’s dense or has a high pile. It may be comfortable underfoot, but thick carpet can be harder to clean. If you have those types of fibers in your home, check out our list of the best vacuum cleaners for soft carpet.

Every vacuum cleaner, aside from robot vacuums, will work in a similar fashion, whether it’s pushed or pulled. The type of system that works best on your carpet can be any of the styles we mentioned, although you won’t get far with a cordless system on soft carpet. The brush roll is also an essential part of the equation, but if you have hardwood and carpet, you’ll want a vacuum that allows you to turn it off.

Tips from the Pros

You don’t have to have a degree to use a vacuum cleaner, even if some of the newer models can be quite advanced. It is a good idea to get some tips from professionals, however, as manufacturers know how to clean every type of fiber available on the market today.

While some companies may recommend different cleaning products, all agree you need to vacuum your carpet on a regular basis. You should also choose a system to match your carpet. Otherwise, you could end up with something underwhelming or could potentially damage your carpet. Consider other areas of your home as well – there are plenty of vacuums for hardwood and carpet.

Hot water extraction is a form of deep cleaning that’s generally handled by professionals, and often referred to as steam cleaning. It’s something you may need done every few years, although plenty of homeowners can go 5-year before needing to call in the pros. It’s also something that may be required by companies like Shaw if you want to keep your warranty intact.

If you’re not sure who makes your carpet and are overwhelmed by the choices of carpet cleaner available, professionals recommend using the Carpet & Rug Institute’s database as a starting point. While they list all types of cleaning equipment for both commercial and residential use, they also cover carpet cleaning solutions.

With plush or soft carpet, you need a special system, but it also helps if it has a large set of wheels. Vacuums with adjustable height controls are also highly recommended by professionals and manufacturers alike. This allows you to adjust the height of the brush roll to suit the type of carpet in your home.

Do you have an all-in-one vacuum with a half-dozen attachments so that you can clean high and low in your home? Those are handy, and there are some excellent options available that can pull cobwebs from high ceilings and clean your couch or recliner. According to the pros, unless you’re using the top-down method, you’re cleaning wrong, and it’s a common mistake.

Dust collects overhead just as easily as it does on baseboards, and it’s easy to knock it into the air or onto the floor. If you clean the floor first, you could be doing it again after you handle the high spots. Vacuuming isn’t exactly a fun activity, and it can be tempting to speed through a room at full speed. Well, that would be a big mistake.

Slow and steady is the proper way to vacuum, as tempting as it may be to get it over with quickly. Take your time, but also maintain a schedule according to your needs or the manufacturer’s directions. It could be something as simple as changing a filter or a little more time consuming like hair wrapped around a brush roll.

Another overlooked thing that can seriously bog you down is capacity. With vacuum cleaners, it measures how much dirt and dust a vacuum can hold before you need to change bags or dump the bin. Bins are often clear and clearly marked with a fill line that lets you know when it’s time to head to the can. Well, it’s easy to get carried away and go past that line, which can affect the suction quickly.

The carpet you passed over and think you cleaned may not actually be as clean you believe if you overfill the bin. Bags are trickier as you can’t see how full they are, although some vacuums have lights in place that will give you a heads up. That’s generally not an issue with carpet cleaners, which have two tanks or a split-system to separate clean and dirty water.

Carpet Care FAQ

Q: How often should I deep clean my carpet or hire a carpet cleaner?

A: The Carpet & Rug Institue recommends deep cleaning your carpeting every 12 to 18 months.

Q: What’s the best way to remove solids from my carpet before spot cleaning?

A: A spoon or butter knife usually does the trick.

Q: How often should I vacuum my carpet?

A: That will vary depending on how much foot traffic you have in your home, but once a week is the average for most homeowners.

Q: What’s the easiest method to prevent my carpets from becoming dirty?

A: Invest in a mat outside and inside the entrance of your home and keep the mats clean. Removing your shoes will also help.

Q: Can I vacuum or spot clean rugs?

A: It all depends on the rug, so proceed with caution. Some carpets are dry clean only, while others can be tossed in a washer. Refer to the label or the manufacturer’s directions with rug cleaning.

Q: What are the best vacuum tools and attachments?

A: The most common can also be the most useful, which is the aptly named crevice tool. We’re also fans of motorized heads for upholstery and pet hair tools.

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