Best Ways to Clean Carpet Flooring

Best Ways to Clean Carpet Flooring

Whether you’ve had carpet for years or just had it installed, you might be wondering if there are some tips and tricks you’re missing on how to clean carpet flooring.

Carpet has many advantages and disadvantages as a floor covering. Some might argue that the difficulty and time it takes to keep it clean is one of those disadvantages.

However, with the right tools, products, and know-how, you can have your cozy-soft carpet smelling fresh, looking new, and lasting virtually stain-free for years.

So, let’s look at some of the best products to clean your carpet as well as the right and the wrong way to do it.

Tools & Supplies Needed

First and foremost, you will need a carpeted floor. Before you can clean your carpet, it’s important to know what kind of carpet you have.

As you may have learned while shopping for new carpet, not all carpet fibers are created equal. While there are general guidelines when it comes to carpet cleaning, the specific type of carpet fiber and backing you have may require special considerations. You will want to check with the manufacturer if you aren’t sure.

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Floor Protection

Protecting your carpet is often overlooked when you first consider care and maintenance. In fact, this is the least expensive proactive measure you can take to keep your carpet looking new and fresh.

Invest in a few high-quality doormats and place them at every entrance to your home. Whether you choose the exterior or interior type, this is an easy way to leave dirt at the door. Remember to clean these periodically as well, so you aren’t walking through dirt depositories.

If you have an active family, consider adopting a “no-shoe policy.” Trade your work or outdoor shoes for a pair of cozy slippers. This will not only keep your carpet cleaner, but also offers a pleasant end-of-day ritual to look forward to.

Another way you can protect your carpet is by installing curtains or blinds in large, sunny windows. Over time, UV exposure can fade or discolor your carpet. If you’d rather not obstruct the view from your picture window, consider a UV-blocking film, sheer curtains, or getting your windows professionally tinted.

Product Features Availability Price
Walk-off mats interior and exterior, generic
  • Inexpensive and easy way to keep your floor clean
  • Widely available at most department stores
  • Can be thrown away and replaced if worn
  • Can double as decor
In-store or online anywhere home products are sold. $
Gila Gray Tinted UV-Blocking Film
  • Available in several different tints
  • Easy DIY for a smaller amount of windows
  • Blocks UV but does not obstruct view
  • Removable
In-store or online at Home Depot $$
Professionally applied residential window tinting, 3M or other
  • Lasts exponentially longer than window film
  • Does not obstruct view while blocking UV
  • Warrantied when applied by authorized dealer
  • Blocks some heat and glare
Locate a dealer in your area online at $$$-$$$$

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When a large portion of your home is carpeted, a high-quality vacuum is a must. While you may swear by the durability of your grandmother’s decades-old hundred-pound Kirby, there are new models on the market that offer all the cleaning power with a fraction of the arm workout.

If the thought of lugging a heavy vacuum around isn’t enough to make you think about a replacement, there is something else you should consider. Heavy vacuums can severely damage the carpet fiber. This is especially true of the newer, softer carpets that are so popular today.

Look for a lightweight vacuum with an adjustable beater bar and adequate suction. Models that also feature a dirt cup and washable HEPA filter save you money and are better for the environment than disposable bag and filter models.

If you’ve recently purchased and installed new carpet, keep in mind that many manufacturers have a list of approved carpet vacuums and sweepers for use on their products to maintain the warranty. So, if you aren’t sure, check with the manufacturer first.

Product Features Availability Price
Shark APEX DuoClean with Zero-M Powered Lift-Away Vacuum
  • Bagless canister
  • Washable HEPA Filter
  • Crevice tool kit
  • LED Lighting
  • Retractable Cord
In-store and online, Walmart, Amazon, Home Depot, $$$
Bissell Cleanview Swivel Rewind Pet Upright Bagless Vacuum Cleaner
  • Easy swivel head
  • Retractable cord
  • Designed for pet hair
  • Bagless with washable HEPA filter
  • Affordable option
In-store and online,, Home Depot, Walmart, Amazon $$
Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute Lightweight Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner In-store and online, Home Depot, Walmart, Amazon $$$$

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Spot Cleaning and Stain Treatments

If you have an active home with kids or pets, you may find yourself spot cleaning and reaching for carpet stain treatments more often. With the right products and cleaning frequency, no one will be able to tell the amount of grape juice and mud that has been dragged across your floor.

Figure out what type of carpet fiber you have and make sure the cleaner is designed for your type of floor. For example, something that works well on polyester might be too harsh and damage a wool carpet.

While there are hundreds of spot cleaners and stain treatments on the market, a few of these are tried and true favorites that have been around for years. It’s always a bonus when the product is effective and eco-friendly.

In addition to the cleaning solution, you should also have empty spray bottles, clean cotton rags, and a bucket on hand for spot cleaning.

Product Features Availability Price
Folex Carpet Spot Remover
  • Bio-enzymatic carpet cleaner
  • Safe for most carpets and upholstery
  • Biodegradable and eco-friendly
In-store and online at Home Depot and other hardware stores $
Bissell Destroyer Pet Plus Oxy Stain Pretreat
  • Can be used alone as a spot cleaner or as a pre-treatment for carpet washing
  • Designed to remove pet stains plus other hard-to-remove stains
Available in-store and online on Amazon, Walmart, $

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Deep Cleaning Carpet

When it comes to deep cleaning your carpet, you may have considered buying a carpet shampooer and doing it yourself to save money. While these DIY machines’ manufacturers make lofty claims about being equivalent to a professional machine, most that are available to consumers to either buy or rent don’t quite come close.

A good quality carpet washer will feature a two-tank washing system with a heating element and enough suction to remove the moisture that could otherwise become trapped in your carpet and cause problems.

Keep in mind that these machines are best for spot cleaning and refreshing your carpet between professional cleanings. However, these are not meant to take the place of a yearly professional hot water extraction.

Product Features Availability Price
Bissell SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner - Corded
  • High-powered portable spot cleaner
  • Good for small messes or small spaces
  • Easy to use on stairs
  • Works on furniture
  • Dual tank
  • Crevice and upholstery tool kit
Available online at Amazon and $$
Bissell Big Green Carpet Cleaner Machine
  • Large brush head
  • Dual water tank system
  • 5-year warranty
  • Best for large messes
Available online at Amazon and $$$
Professional Hot Water Extraction Service
  • Should be completed once a year
  • Best to keep your carpet looking new and smelling fresh
  • Can remove spots and stains other machines can’t
  • Required to maintain carpet warranty
Contact a professional in your area $$-$$$

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What to Do

1. Protect or remove the furniture from the area to be cleaned.

It’s easy to let your vacuum get away from you and accidentally ram your heirloom grandfather clock. You can use blankets, furniture coasters, or spare cardboard to create buffers on priceless or easily-damaged furniture.

If you want to deep clean, this is where it helps to plan ahead. If you live in a smaller space, you can enlist the help of a friend to shuffle all the furniture from one side of the room, clean it, then repeat the process on the other side.

2. Inspect the vacuum.

It’s always a good idea to inspect your vacuum before each use. For safety reasons, this should be done before you plug it in.

Check the bag or dirt cup first and empty the cup or change the bag.  This is also an excellent time to check and clean the filter or replace it if it is damaged.

Next, set the vacuum on its side and inspect the beater bar. Carpet fibers and hair love to get tightly wound around the beater bar. You can either remove the beater bar to clean it or carefully use scissors to cut away the stringy mess.

Additionally, you can check for dirt blockages in the hose. This also occurs where the bag or canister attaches to the head.

As you unravel the vacuum cord to plug it in, it’s a good idea to check it for fraying, exposed wires, or cracks in the plastic. If you find that the cord is no longer in safe working condition, it may be time to consider a replacement or a trip to the vacuum repair shop.

3. Set your beater bar.

If you’ve used your vacuum elsewhere recently, like on a hardwood floor, you should reset the beater bar. An easy way to do this is to set the bar on the highest setting then slowly lower it as you make a few passes. Stop when you feel the vacuum start to tug forward on its own.

If you have ultra-thick, high-pile, or shag carpet, you may want to remove your beater bar completely or opt for a vacuum without one.

4. Vacuum the carpet.

While some folks really enjoy vacuuming, it’s not everyone’s favorite pastime. It’s very tempting to rush through your vacuum job when you’d rather be watching football passes than making vacuum passes.

Like all good things in life, take it slow. Work in sections where you are easily able to make slow, steady passes with the vacuum. Ideally, your passes should slightly overlap so you can capture dirt that may have been pushed aside by the wheels.

A slow vacuum will have more time to suck out dirt and ultimately get your carpet cleaner. However, if you are short on time, you can maximize your effort by making two passes over high traffic areas and one pass everywhere else.

Utilize your crevice tools to clean around the baseboards and corners where the vacuum head may not reach. This is a favorite hiding place of dust bunnies and allergens.

Lastly, utilize your stair or crevice tool to make a few passes over each step. This is typically a high-traffic area and needs some extra attention. Make sure to get into the corners of the stair stringers and where the tread meets the riser.

5. Spot clean the carpet.

Performing regular spot cleaning is the easiest way to keep your carpet looking new and fresh. Spot cleaning and stain treatment methods are very similar, but the products you use may differ.

Ideally, spot cleaning is done after vacuuming. This ensures that dirt and grime doesn’t become further embedded in the carpet.

As always, make sure to test any new cleaner on your carpet in an inconspicuous place like a corner or closet. Let the cleaner sit for a minute or two then dab up with a cloth as you would normally. Then, inspect the area for discoloration, delamination, or fraying or melted carpet fibers.

Once you have determined the cleaner is safe to use, spritz a small amount on the soiled area. Use just enough that the carpet will dry quickly.

Then, use paper towels or an absorbent cotton cloth such as a clean shop rag or old T-shirt to dab at the spot. The idea is to absorb as much moisture and dirt into the towel as possible.

Once the area is completely dry, give it another vacuum. The surfactants from the spot cleaner often bring dirt to the surface where you can lift it away with the vacuum.

If you find that your carpet is still stained after conventional methods, consult your carpet manufacturer for additional information, methods, or products.

6. Deep clean the carpet.

With weekly vacuuming and spot cleaning, you should only need to deep clean your carpet every 12 to 18 months. However, if you have an active family with kids or pets, your carpet may get soiled to the point that you just can’t wait that long.

As we discussed earlier, hiring a pro will get you the best results possible when it comes to deep steam cleaning your carpet. However, you can still use your carpet shampooer or rental machine for a mini refresh between professional hot water extraction treatments.

However, not done correctly, you could be doing more harm than good. It’s best practice to follow your carpet washing machine manufacturer’s instructions completely.

Yet, when it comes to detergent in these machines, less is more. Use less solution in the clean tank to keep your carpet fibers free of residue.

Some machines or detergent call for a neutralizing solution to be applied afterwards. You can also make your own by diluting a tablespoon of vinegar into a gallon of water.

Like the vacuuming process, slow is the way to go when it comes to washing your carpet. This will allow the machine to suck up as much moisture as possible.

If you accidentally saturate your carpet, you can make a couple more passes with the water off. Then, provide air circulation to the area via fans, a dehumidifier, or run your air conditioner on low.

Lastly, wait six to eight hours before walking on the carpet and up to twelve or fifteen before moving furniture back into the area.

Even an expensive DIY machine or hardware store rental lacks the heat and power to deep clean your carpet like a professional machine. You should have your carpet professionally cleaned with a hot water extraction once a year to keep it looking like new.

If you recently had new carpet installed, many carpet manufacturers require this to maintain the carpet warranty. So, make sure to save your receipts in the event you must file a warranty claim.

7. Finally, stand back and admire your freshly cleaned carpet. Grab a cold drink and turn on the game, you’ve earned it.

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What Not to Do

Now that you know how to properly clean a carpeted floor, let’s talk about what not to do.

First and foremost, you shouldn’t go to town on your carpet with your vacuum’s beater bar on the lowest or hard floor setting. This may seem like it would get your carpet cleaner, but it can cause your carpet to look worn beyond its years. Over time, the fibers can fray, mat down, and fall apart.

Furthermore, avoid using any product on your carpet that isn’t designed for it. Even products that claim to be designed for all carpet may wreak havoc on your specific carpet.

In the worst case scenario, an inappropriate cleaner can cause delamination of the carpet backing, discoloration, or even melting of the carpet fibers. Therefore, the spot test is very important.

As a rule, a few things to keep away from your carpet are any products containing bleach, ammonia, acetone, certain oil-based solvents, oil soaps, furniture polish, waxes, and colorants, among other things.

Finally, the most common mistake made when cleaning carpet is oversaturating it with water. Whether you are spot cleaning or deep cleaning, this is one thing you should always avoid. Oversaturation can cause moisture to become trapped in the carpet and pad leading to mold, mildew, and even rot.

Over time, excessive moisture can also cause your carpet to pucker and ripple which requires professional re-stretching. Sometimes, the carpet becomes moisture-damaged beyond repair and must be replaced.

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As you can see, keeping your carpet looking like new, free of odors, stains, and pet messes doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming.

With a high-quality vacuum, spot cleaning method, and an annual professional deep cleaning, you can spend less time chasing behind your family members with paper towels and spend more time with them making paper airplanes.

Now that you know how to clean carpet flooring, tell us in the comments about your carpet cleaning triumphs and tribulations. What has or hasn’t worked for you?

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Sarah Williamson

About Sarah Williamson

Sarah is a self-described “flooring nerd” with over a decade of building industry experience including installation, estimation, and sales. She thrives on finding unique solutions to interior design challenges and sharing her love of creating inspired spaces through writing.

10 thoughts on “Best Ways to Clean Carpet Flooring”

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    Thank you for this article! Many people are hesitant to get their carpet professionally cleaned because they don’t know if it’s worth it. But it’s nice to be able to see the different comparisons that work for each person. Having a clean carpet is important for you and your family’s health!

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    More home owners need to be aware of spot cleaning as many people get used to having a carpet that is filled with allergens. Whenever my house is feeling stuffy, I like to vacuum my carpet and it almost always clears things up. Thanks for the post Sarah!

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    I just recently started my own carpet cleaning business and always tell my customers the importance of maintaining your carpets year around. Professional carpet cleaning can only do so much but the client has to also put in some work to get the best-looking carpet possible. Great article and I think it really states that point perfectly. Thanks for taking the time to write this!

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    It never would have occurred to me that spot cleaning should be performed after floors have been vacuumed. I would imagine that it would be important to use the right kind of chemicals when cleaning up a stain so that you don’t damage your floors. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, you can hire a professional cleaning service.

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    Very well written in-depth article on proper carpet care. As important as getting your carpets done professionally is, it is equally as important to be able to DIY and keep up with regular carpet maintenance.

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    Some excellent advise here Sarah for someone going for a DIY solution. Especially regular vacuuming and spot treatments, that alone keeps a carpet looking fresh for so much longer.

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    Wow….very encompassing article here! Many feel they can “get-by” without a professional cleaning at least once a year. Although you may feel that you are a thorough cleaner at home….nothing beats a deep cleaning from a professional carpet company. Do your homework though, a lot of “fly-by-nighters” out there. Buyer beware!

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    Thank you for such a comprehensive article on proper carpet cleaning. If you take the time to read this in it’s entirety you will learn quite a bit! Please keep this good content coming!

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    Elizabeth Sheahin

    Thank you for this great post on flooring care. We are firm believers in the HWE (Hot Water Extraction) method. I would like to add that this method is highly advised by almost all carpet manufacturers. It is also the most required method of cleaning to keep the manufacturers warranty valid! Thanks again!

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    Builders clean Perth

    Before you clean a carpet, make sure you know what kind of cleaning agents you are using. Harsh chemicals can damage the carpet and make their color fade. Vacuuming is the best way to clean the carpet, or there are many cleaning tools available which makes it easier for the person. Also, there are methods which explain how to clean carpet step by step.

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