How to Clean Carpet [Step-by-Step Guide]

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Carpet, it’s insulating, comfortable, and durable.

But carpet fibres also trap dust and dirt particles that could irritate people with asthma and allergies, and dirty carpets don’t make for a good home. It is therefore crucial to keep your carpets clean and in good condition.

This article will cover:

  • How to clean and maintain your carpet
  • How to deep clean your carpet
  • Useful information for when you want to replace your carpet

In Short

  • Always start with your carpet manufacturer’s guide to learn about your carpet’s care requirements.
  • Vacuum weekly.
  • Clean up spills and stains as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the worse it will turn out.
  • Never scrub a stain! Only carefully blot it.
  • Hire professional cleaners to deep clean your carpets every 12-18 months.
  • If you decide to deep clean the carpet yourself, beware of overwetting your carpet.
  • Always ensure your carpets are completely dry before placing furniture or walking on them after cleaning.

How to Clean and Maintain Your Carpet

Regardless of your carpet’s price or style, it deserves to be taken care of. Prolong its life with regular maintenance.

The Cleaning Products and Tools You’ll Need:

Step 1: Check Your Carpet Manufacturer’s Guide

Factors such as your carpet’s fiber material, style, and specifications directly impact its maintenance.

Good quality carpet manufacturers usually provide detailed information regarding how you can make the most of your carpet.

Failure to consult the manufacturer’s guide could potentially result in the voiding of your carpet’s warranty. Certain carpet manufacturers might specify the following:

  • The correct water temperature to use when cleaning
  • Compatible cleaning products and practices
  • Recommendations for how often you should contract professional cleaners

It is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when cleaning your carpet so that they will continue to honor your warranty.

So your safest bet is always to put the manufacturer’s advice first before you follow the other recommendations in this guide.

NOTE: For more information regarding the true value of carpet warranties, how trustworthy they are, and how you can best preserve them, check out our “Carpet Warranties: Are They Worth it?” article.

Step 2: Vacuum Regularly

Once or twice a week is ideal for keeping your carpet in top condition.

One practice many people tend to overlook is vacuuming at the right height. If your vacuum head is too low, it will damage the fibers of your carpet. And if it is too high, it will not pick up as much dust or dirt.

Remember to also vacuum at the right speed.

Give your vacuum enough time to pick up as much dirt as possible.

Checking your manufacturer’s recommendations is important because certain brands recommend specific vacuum cleaners or attachments. This is because some vacuum attachments are notorious for damaging certain carpet types.

You can consult our Best Vacuums Guide for Every Use to find the best option

Under the “Vacuums for Specific Cases” section, you can find out the best vacuums for Berber carpet and the best vacuums for shag carpets in addition to general information and recommendations.

Next to your manufacturer’s recommendations, consult our best vacuum guide for all use cases.

In addition to red flags and price recommendations, it includes specific recommendations for the best vacuums for Berber carpet and the best vacuums for shag carpet.

Step 3: Clean up Spills and Stains Immediately

The longer a stain is allowed to remain on your carpet, the harder it will be to remove later on.

So act quickly with a cloth or sponge that has been dampened with warm water and a carpet spot stain remover.

NOTE: If you don’t have a proper stain remover, some carpets can handle a small amount of dish or laundry detergent diluted in warm water. However, using DIY solutions is always riskier than buying professional products.

Do not scrub the stain! Doing so will only push it deeper into your carpet’s fibers.

You will achieve better results by blotting with the damp cloth. To blot, simply place your wet cloth on top of the stain and then repeatedly press down on it with your hands.

Once the stain is no longer visible, remember to remove leftover residue by blotting with a separate cloth dampened with plain water. This is important because allowing stain remover or soap residue to remain could lead to a sticky texture that attracts more dirt.

To prevent mold or mildew from developing, avoid using too much water.

Instead of letting the spot air dry, cover the area with a dry, absorbent cloth and then place a heavy, non-staining object on top of the fabric to press out any leftover moisture.

Thicker absorbent cloths work best, but you can also stack several thin absorbent cloths on top of each other to achieve a similar effect.

This is the best drying technique for reducing the risk of mold development.

NOTE: If a stain has seeped past the first layer of your carpet, you will have to clean the padding underneath it.
Start by unfastening your carpet from its pad, and then clean the padding with the steps discussed above.

Again, remember to remove any soap or stain remover residue with a cloth and plain water.

Once you have wiped the padding dry, sprinkle baking soda on the area–which will prevent mold from growing—and wait for 15-20 minutes.

Vacuum the baking soda well and do the last check that the pad is completely dry before covering it again with your carpet.

For hair dye stains, I have created a comprehensive guide for getting hair dye out of carpet.

Additional Maintenance Tips:

  • Avoid using old-school home substitutes for cleaning products when possible – Some people may want to use these DIY cleaning solutions in order to save money. However, when the ingredients are acidic (like vinegar), they can do more harm than good.
  • Test out whether specific stain removers affect your carpet’s color on an inconspicuous area of the room first—such as a hidden corner or a spot behind furniture.
  • Consider adding an area rug to cover high-traffic areas so that your carpet can stay clean for longer.
  • Avoid dragging heavy furniture across the carpet. If anything is too heavy for you to move on your own, it is always better to ask other people to help you.
  • Avoid wearing shoes on the carpet to minimize dirt being brought in and prevent additional wear.

How to Deep Clean Your Carpet

In addition to the week-to-week maintenance, your carpet benefits significantly from a thorough deep clean. There are two routes you can take, hiring professional carpet cleaners or doing the deep cleaning yourself.

The Cleaning Products and Tools You’ll Need:

Route 1: Hiring Professional Carpet Cleaners

Going with trusted professional cleaners—when circumstances permit—is usually the best option since they bring specialized equipment and professional training.

Another advantage of this route is that some manufacturers require owners to have their carpets cleaned every 12-18 months to avoid invalidating the warranty. But deep cleaning your carpets at least once a year is an excellent advice regardless of whether it affects your warranty or not.

A professional cleaning company may charge you either per square foot or per room. Remember to always ask for in-home estimates to minimize the risk of extra charges or unpleasant surprises.

Depending on where you live, you can expect to pay anywhere between $0.20 and $0.40 per square foot of carpet.

Feel free to visit Our Carpet Calculator to get accurate cost and request local estimates depending on your zip code, carpet style, preferred cleaning method, number of carpeted rooms, etc.

NOTE: Most cleaning companies will charge you extra for moving furniture around. You can save a few bucks by asking a friend or relative to help you carefully move the furniture yourselves ahead of the scheduled cleaning.

Cleaning companies will also provide you with the option to choose between steam cleaning or dry cleaning your carpets.

Steam cleaning (a.k.a. “hot water extraction”)—contrary to its name—does not involve any steam at all. The process involves using a specialized carpet cleaner/steamer to push hot water into your carpet under high pressure.

The hot water dislodges dust and dirt particles so that when the cleaner switches the machine to “suction” mode, the dirt and dust get sucked up along with the water. It usually takes 6-12 hours or so for the carpet to completely dry.

NOTE: Do not put back any of your furniture or walk on the carpet until it is fully dried out.

Steam cleaning has been proven to be more effective than the dry cleaning (a.k.a. “dry extraction”) process due to the use of the water. However, dry extraction costs less and only requires around 1-2 hours of waiting time before you can start putting your furniture back.

Dry extraction involves the cleaner spraying your carpets with various cleaning chemicals before vacuuming them up again.

Go for the hot water extraction if you want to get a more thorough deep cleaning of your carpets. But if you’re in a hurry, then dry extraction is your best option.

Route 2: Doing the Deep Cleaning Yourself

This route is more risky and time-consuming. However, it is possible to get this done correctly.

Your first step would be to buy or rent a hot water extractor (a.k.a. “steam cleaner”) which is a specialized machine that somewhat resembles a vacuum cleaner. Since deep cleaning carpets is only essential once—maybe twice—a year, it may be more practical for you to rent rather than buy hot water extractors.

Always consult the machine’s instruction manual. Some devices require distilled water; others may not. Whatever it is, make sure that the water you use is already warm/hot and mixed with a professional-grade carpet cleaning solution that does not leave residue behind (For example, ZEP Carpet Cleaner).

Other hot water extractors come in different models, but the cleaning process will look like this:

  1. Move all of your furniture. Ensure your pets and small children are safe in other parts of the house.
  2. Vacuum the entire carpet to remove as much dirt as possible.
  3. Fill up your hot water extractor’s tank with hot water and specialized carpet cleaning solution (For example, ZEP Carpet Cleaner).
  4. Go over the carpet with the machine once, moving at roughly one foot per second.
  5. Empty both your clean, hot water tank and the dirty water collection tank.
  6. Refill your hot water tank with plain water and then go over your carpet again. This will “rinse” away any dirt or deposits of residue.
  7. Turn off the machine’s water hose, but keep the suction switched on. Go over your carpet again as if you were vacuuming it. Repeat it one or two more times!
  8. Wait 6-12 hours (possibly longer depending on the weather and the strength of your hot water extractor) for the carpet to dry before putting furniture back.
NOTE: The essential point to bear in mind is to avoid overwetting your carpet in order to prevent the growth of mold.

Useful Information for When You Want to Replace Your Carpet

If you have reached a point where deep cleaning is no longer enough to restore your carpets to their in good condition, then it’s most likely time to replace them.

Check out our complete and unbiased carpet buying guide for information on:

  • Choosing carpets that will last long and suit your situation (for example, living with pets or small children).
  • The various carpet styles available so that your floors are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
  • How to avoid getting duped by carpet salesmen, and so much more!

You can also do further reading of the most essential carpet specifications that impact its durability.

And as already discussed, your padding is also critical to preserving your carpet. So check out our unbiased Carpet Padding Buying Guide to ensure your investments are worthwhile.

Be sure to follow our guide on getting rid of black carpet beetles if they ever give you any trouble.

Or if the situation arises, you may also find our how to get wax out of carpets guide helpful.

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