How To Clean Your Carpets

Table of Contents

picture of slippers on grey geometrical carpet

Carpets can be a great addition to our homes. They add color, texture and personality. They can also be a very practical floor covering solution adding comfort to bedrooms, home offices, childrens’ rooms and basements.

The thing is, how long can a carpet last? An inexpensive one may last about five years, while a medium grade carpet may last up to 15 years, and higher quality carpets can last as long as 25 years when they are well cared for and maintained.

Invest in the best carpet vacuum for your home to maintain proper care of your carpet and prolong its life. After all, your carpet will naturally get worn and exposed to dirt as people and pets walk across it daily. 

If you have allergy sufferers in the house, you may be concerned about the build up of dust mites in your carpets which can trigger allergy symptoms [1]. Pet hair and pet dander are a culprit for that too and can also be rectified by choosing the right vacuum cleaner for allergies and asthma.

Despite your best efforts to prevent damage to the carpet, you’ll at some point be trying to clean coffee spills, wine stains or crayon marks from the carpet — or worse, trying to repair rips or cigarette burns. This is where carpet vacuums and other cleaning tools and habits come into play.

You can read our ultimate home spring cleaning guide for tips and tricks on how to clean the carpets and other important areas of your home. 

Thankfully there are several ways to clean your carpets at home. From everyday cleaning to spring deep cleaning, here’s how to clean and deodorize carpets as part of a fresh clean home.

picture of grey shaggy carpet showing how to clean carpet

Types of Carpets

Different types of carpets have a different look and feel to them [2]. For instance, loop pile carpets are not as soft compared to cut piles carpets. But they not only look and feel different. They attract and resist dirt differently too.

Carpet types that are durable and stain resistant:

  • Low pile loop styles carpet like Berber
  • Cut pile styles like textured
  • Made of polyester, acrylic and wool

The best carpets for kids’ rooms:

  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Stain-resistant
  • Easy-to-clean

If you’re considering a shag carpet for a children’s room, be warned. Getting sticky messes out of this type of carpet’s cut ends can be a chore. Triexta on the other hand, is a strong synthetic material that’s great for homes with pets and kids, though it is more expensive.

 

The best carpet materials for the outdoors:

  • Olefin
  • Polyester

Both of these materials resist moisture making them great choices for balconies, patios, decks, and basements.

No matter what type of carpet you have and where it is placed in the home, it will inevitably need some cleaning and care. Let’s look at different approaches to home carpet cleaning.

picture of vaccum being used to clean carpet

How to Clean & Care for Carpets

Just as there are different types of carpets, there are also different methods to clean them. Carpets can be cleaned effectively by hand, using a carpet cleaning machine, or even professionally.

There are also different methods, tools and cleaning agents used for routine cleaning versus stain removal or seasonal deep cleaning. And when it comes to getting rid of nasty carpet odors, you have options for that too.

Everyday carpet cleaning:

Removing dirt, dust and spills from your carpet should be part of your regular weekly cleaning schedule. The better care you take of your carpets on an ongoing basis, the better they will look, the longer they will last. To combat dust in your home, consider the best dusters that can help you ke

Cleaning carpets by hand:

If you do not own or have access to a carpet cleaning machine, or if you just prefer to do without one, you can clean your carpets by hand. This method will be significantly more work than using a machine, but it’s doable.


How to clean carpets by hand:

  1. Mix ¼ cup of vinegar with warm water

     

  2. Wet a carpet brush with the DIY cleaning solution and scrub carpet to agitate dirt.
  3. After that, rub a clean wet cloth over the area to rinse and leave to dry.

     

  4. Once dry, you can also do one pass with a vacuum to suck up and dirt that’s been loosened but not cleaned away.

Vacuuming carpets:

For regular routine cleaning, using a vacuum machine is faster and easier than cleaning by hand. Household vacuums have a combination of brushes and suction power that agitate, lift and get rid of dust, dirt, pet hair, crumbs and other messes that may settle into your carpet. You’d be surprised by all the areas a vacuum cleaner can clean!

Though vacuuming is simple, there are still a couple things to keep in mind to make your cleaning most effective. When choosing and setting up your canister, upright or stick vacuum, make sure your vacuum is set to the right height, and that you begin with a clean bag or filter in the vacuum.

Setting the vacuum to the right height is important to make sure it is effectively sucking up dirt without damaging carpet fibers. Starting with a clean bag or filter is important for the same reason. The suction power is not optimal when the bag or filter is full of old dirt and debris that has not been emptied.

You may want to get your vacuuming done as quickly as possible but don’t rush the process. Move the vacuum slowly forward and back in different directions, and make sure to make multiple passes over high traffic areas. This will ensure the vacuum can actually clean the debris and small pollutants hiding in your carpet’s fibers and backing, without missing them.

Speaking of carpet backs, when vacuuming area rugs, be sure to clean not just the top of the rug but the bottom as well. Cleaning both sides will loosen dirt from all areas of the rug.

If allergies are a big concern in your household, you’ll want to look for a vacuum that uses HEPA filters. The right HEPA filter will help trap dust mites, pet dander and other allergy triggers.

You can also use deodorizing agents to help remove odors from the carpet when you vacuum. To do this, sprinkle baking soda or the deodorizer of your choice over your carpet and leave for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight before vacuuming.


Shampooing carpets:

Your third option for regular carpet cleaning is to shampoo your carpets. Pour your store-bought carpet shampoo over the carpet, being careful not to make the carpet excessively wet. Scrub the carpet with a brush and follow up by vacuuming once dry.


Everyday spills and messes:

When that cup of coffee or glass of wine topples and spills out onto the carpet, you should take immediate action. Spot clean solid and liquid messes quickly before stains have a chance to set in.


Removing stains from carpets

Juice, coffee, wine, jellies, chocolate crumbs, gum, Playdoh – they can all make a mess of our beautiful bedroom and basement carpets.

To prevent stains, address any spills immediately. Wet a cloth with plain water and blot, do not rub, the spilled liquid. Do your best to collect solid messes into the cloth without grinding them further into the carpet. If the spill is also a smelly one, use water and vinegar on the cloth to help absorb the odor.

As an alternative to vinegar, club soda can also be used to remove stains, as well as diatomaceous earth which tackles stains and odors.

For sticky spills like gum or Playdoh, which are common with children in the household, use an ice cube to harden the substance then you can pull or scrape it away.

If you choose to try a store-bought stain remover or any other cleaning agent, be sure to pretest for colorfastness. You will potentially ruin your carpet if the cleaner causes colors to run.

 

picture of bull dog on carpet showing how to remove pet hair from carpet

Removing pet hairs from carpets

If you have cats, dogs or other pets in your home, chances are you’re always tackling the hairs that the cute cuddly creatures leave behind on clothes, furniture and carpets. And pet hairs have a way of attaching to carpet fibers such that vacuums won’t always remove them.

To get stubborn pet hairs out of carpets, try using a rubber glove or rubber broom to generate static electricity. The hair will then stick to and be lifted out of the hair. Alternatively you can use something sticky like duct tape or a lint roller to remove hairs. If that doesn’t work, try adding a bit of moisture in the form of water or fabric softener. The liquids will cause hair to clump making it easier to pick up.

Once you’ve successfully cleaned your carpet of cat and dog hairs, you can prevent them from building up in future by sprinkling a bit of baking soda into the carpet. The baking soda will help prevent newly shedded pet hairs from sticking to carpet fibers.


Deep cleaning carpets

No matter how well you keep up with daily or weekly vacuuming, your carpet will eventually be in need of a  more thorough cleaning. We often refer to this as “steam cleaning” but that’s a bit of a misnomer. 

The carpet cleaning machines used by professional cleaners, rented from grocery stores, and available to purchase for your home don’t actually use steam. They do however, use hot water and high pressure with a cleaning solution, to cut through build up dirt and allergens stuck in carpets. Cleaning solution is injected into the carpet and dirt is sucked out with the water leaving your carpet fresh and clean.

Whether you rent one or own one, you should be using a carpet cleaner to deep clean your carpet once every 12-18 months as part of your spring cleaning. 

Start by moving furniture and vacuuming the carpet. If your carpet cleaner uses a wet extraction cleaning method, make sure the carpet completely dries within 24 hours to avoid mildew. Using a floor fan can help speed up the drying process. If using a dry extraction method, you’ll sprinkle a cleaning agent on the carpet and dirt will be drawn out with it.

Though carpet steam cleaners are easy to rent, it can be worth owning your own. Household carpet cleaners can be small, portable and easy to store. They can also come with great features and drawbacks so be sure to do your research before purchasing.


Deodorizing carpets

Along with having your carpet look better, you may also want it to smell better. Or it’s possible that odors have set in for so long that you no longer notice them. Either way, a fresh-smelling home is the objective.

Sprinkling baking soda will help deodorize your carpet. You can also use diatomaceous earth which absorbs odors (as well as stains). Leave it on your carpet for 24 hours then brush and vacuum to remove unpleasant smells from pets, food, dirt, etc. You can purchase diatomaceous earth in the grocery or health food supplements aisles, farm stores or online. It is safe for pets as long as it doesn’t get into eyes or breathed directly in. And in fact, you can even use it to deodorize inside your vacuum! [3]



picture of purple polka dotted slipped on carpet

Beyond Carpet Cleaning


Thankfully we have tons of solutions to help care for our carpets. But despite our best efforts, age and wear may damage our carpets in ways that cleaning won’t fix. Something the carpet care that is needed goes beyond cleaning and involves repair or disposal.


Patching carpets

If there is a damaged spot in your carpet – perhaps due to a spill, burn or in a high traffic area – it doesn’t mean your whole carpet is ruined. It is possible to repair the damaged area by patching. For more information, start by contacting the company that did your carpet installation.

Recycling carpets

Unfortunately the time may come when your carpet is beyond cleaning and repair. When it’s time to get rid of your carpet, look into local options for recycling your carpet versus disposing of it. [4] And keep all of this information you’ve learned about carpets in mind as you think about your next purchase and the best carpet to buy.

Carpets still make great additions to any home. They add warmth, style and comfort for the whole family. And a beautiful high quality carpet really is an investment. Knowing the characteristics of your carpet and how to care for them will help prolong the life of your carpet so you can enjoy it for years to come.

 

 

References

[1] Allergy-proof your home (Mayo Clinic)

[2] Selecting the right carpet (The Carpet Institute)

[3] Deodorizing your vacuum (Diatomaceous Earth)

[4] How to recycle carpets (Earth911)

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