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How to Clean Carpet

Clean spills right away to avoid stains
Read Time: 7 minutes
Jul 25, 2022

There are three major parts of cleaning a carpet: regular cleaning, spot cleaning, and deep cleaning. Regular cleaning is the normal vacuuming that you would do to maintain the carpet. Spot cleaning is the cleaning up of spills that can occur. Deep cleaning is a much more thorough cleaning that should occur once or twice a year.

Follow these tips for each stage of cleaning to keep your carpet looking fresh for as long as possible.

How to Regularly Clean a Carpet

A woman vacuuming a carpet in her home

A carpet should be cleaned at least once a week. This regular cleaning typically involves vacuuming and is important whether you have an area rug or wall-to-wall carpeting.

Step 1

Choose the Right Vacuum Cleaner for Your Carpet

Not every vacuum cleaner is ideal for every type of carpet. If you don’t have the right vacuum for your floor, you may not be cleaning it as well as you think. For example, a vacuum with a beater bar is great for high-pile carpets but could damage looped carpet styles like a Berber rug.

There are vacuum cleaners with adjustable heights that can work for a variety of different carpet types.

It’s also a good idea to look for a vacuum that has earned the Seal of Approval or Green Label from the CRI (Carpet and Rug Institute). Any vacuum cleaner that has one of these labels has been tested and met the CRI’s standards based on the following criteria:

  • Carpet appearance retention
  • Dust containment
  • Soil removal

Step 2

Clear the Floor

Before you begin vacuuming, you should clear away any furniture so that you’ll be able to vacuum the entire room. Additionally, you should examine the carpet for any objects that are too large for the vacuum cleaner to pick up, such as paper clips, coins, small toys, etc. Trying to vacuum up objects like this could damage your vacuum cleaner and prevent it from cleaning as effectively as it should.

Step 3

Vacuum Using the Correct Technique

When you vacuum, it’s important to take your time. If you rush, the vacuum won’t have the time it needs to pick up everything. The correct technique is to push the vacuum forward slowly. Then, pull it back towards you. Repeat with the next section, but make sure to overlap with the previous section slightly so you’re sure you didn’t miss any spots.

Step 4

Repeat in Reverse

Once you’ve finished the entire carpet, it’s a good idea to turn around and vacuum the entire thing again but perpendicular. If you vacuumed the first time east to west, then turn 90 degrees and vacuum from north to south. This isn’t necessary to do every time that you vacuum, but it can provide a deeper clean than just vacuuming in one direction.

Step 5

Vacuum Difficult Areas

Not all parts of your carpet are easy to clean. Most vacuum cleaners come with attachments to make it easier to clean not just difficult-to-reach parts of your carpet but also other things with fabric, such as upholstered furniture.

To use one of the attachments, first pull out the hose from where it attaches to the vacuum cleaner. All suction has to go through the hose, whether it’s attached to the vacuum or not. You can then slide an attachment onto the free end of the hose.

How to Vacuum Carpeted Stairs

Unless you have a particularly small vacuum cleaner or particularly wide stair treads, the main part of your vacuum may not fit on the stairs. The best option is usually to use the hose by itself or to use one of the hose attachments to vacuum each step.

How to Vacuum Upholstery

Your vacuum cleaner isn’t just for cleaning your carpet. It can also be used to clean upholstery, like that on chairs or your sofa. Many vacuum cleaners have an upholstery attachment. Usually, this is one of the attachments that has no bristles, which might harm the upholstery. You can also use an upholstery attachment on curtains or an area rug that’s particularly delicate.

How to Vacuum Baseboards

Whether you have carpet or not, you can use an angled attachment with your vacuum cleaner to clean your baseboards.

Step 6

Clean up Crumbs and Pet Hair

IF the vacuum cleaner didn’t catch all of the crumbs or pet hair, you can use a lint roller and a rubber-edged squeegee.

How to Spot-Clean a Carpet

a glass of red wine spilled on a white carpet

If a spill occurs on a carpet, it’s important to clean it up as quickly as possible to avoid stains. Spot-cleaning accidents are not something that can wait until your next regular carpet cleaning.

Step 1

Gather Supplies

There are several different ways to clean a spill on your carpet. There are some carpet cleaners that come in a spray bottle with a brush that you can buy. These are convenient because you don’t need any other supplies. You can make your own carpet cleaner with vinegar if you’d prefer not to buy a dedicated carpet cleaner.

Step 2

Blot Away a Spill

No matter what has spilled, be careful to blot, rather than rub at it. Rubbing it could cause the stain to set further into the carpet. Use an old towel or cloth or a paper towel to blot the spill.

Step 3

Lift Away Solid Messes

Similarly, you shouldn’t rub at any solid messes, either, because this could cause the food or dirt or other mess to be ground further into the carpet. Instead, you should use something hard and flat, such as a knife or a credit card, to lift away the material.

Step 4

Clean the Spot of the Spill

Once you’ve removed the potentially staining liquid or solid, it’s time to clean the spot the spill occurred. If you have a dedicated carpet cleaner solution, you can use that here. Alternatively, you can use a solution of white vinegar and water (one part vinegar, three parts water) and spray it onto the spot.

How to Deep Clean a Carpet

a carpet steam cleaner being used to deep clean a carpet

Deep cleaning usually isn’t required more often than twice a year unless your carpet gets extremely dirty. A deep clean is a much more thorough cleaning than what you would normally do weekly. Before you get started, make sure to clear away as much furniture as you can.

Step 1

Spot-Clean Stains

Even if you clean up spills as they occur, it’s still possible for your carpet to get stained. The first step in any deep clean is to look at your carpet for stains and to treat those as well as you can with either a carpet cleaner or a solution of white vinegar and water.

Step 2

Vacuum the Carpet

Next, vacuum your carpet to remove dust and dirt.

Step 3

Use a Carpet Cleaner

If you don’t own your own carpet cleaner, you can rent one from a home improvement store. Some carpet cleaners use steam to treat the carpet while others use a chemical cleaner. Whatever kind you decide to use, make sure to follow its instructions carefully. Make sure to move the carpet cleaner slowly so that it can thoroughly clean each section of your carpet.

Step 4

Get Rid of the Waste Water

After you’ve finished using the carpet cleaner, you’ll need to dispose of the wastewater properly. This dirty water will be collected in a tank within the cleaner. It’s safe to pour this water down a drain so long as you filter it first to remove any fibers from your carpet.

Step 5

Let Your Carpet Dry

The carpet will be damp from the cleaning. It’s important to let the carpet dry before either walking on it or moving your furniture back. Pointing oscillating fans at your carpet can help to speed up the drying process. If the weather allows, you can also open the windows. Most carpets usually dry within 10 hours but, depending on your carpet and the humidity in your home, it could take up to 24 hours.

Hire a Professional

If you don’t want to do the deep cleaning yourself or if your carpet needs a deeper clean than you can give it, consider hiring a professional to clean your carpet. A professional carpet cleaner can get out stains that homeowners might not be able to on their own.

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