The Best Way to Clean Carpet

Experts share the best methods to care for your carpet, including smart vacuuming tactics, removing carpet stains, and choosing an affordable vacuum.


Vacuum Often -- Where It Counts

Carpet functions like a giant air filter, collecting our home's dirt and dust. Those two Ds act like fine sandpaper, wearing down carpet fibers over time, says Derek Christian, owner of My Maid Service and an IICRC-certified carpet-cleaning technician. Christian gives the go-ahead for skipping a weekly whole-home vacuum in favor of vacuuming high-traffic areas once a week or more. "By just quickly vacuuming the high-soil areas in the entries and toward the front of your home, you can add years to the life of your carpet," he says.

Go Slow

While vacuuming, take your time and use overlapping strokes. "We train our people to count slowly to three during each forward and backward stroke, to make sure they give the vacuum time to do its work," Christian says.

Treat Stains Immediately

Take care of stains as soon as they happen, if possible. Most carpets today are made to resist liquid penetration for a time, so if you simply blot (don't rub!) it dry with a clean cloth right away, the stain may not have a chance to set. If blotting alone doesn't do the trick, move on to treating with natural options, such as soda water or borax, or store-bought cleaners. Always follow label directions.

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Match Your Vacuum to Your Needs

"Price and beauty are not good indicators of performance when it comes to vacuums. Pick based on functions rather than price tag," says Moxie Girl Household Assistants founder and Domestic CEO podcast host Amanda Thomas. Have shedding pets, for example? Choose a vacuum with a hose and multiple attachments. Stairs? Go light, or find one with a removable stair-cleaning attachment. "I bought my home vacuum five years ago for less than $40. It does what we need it to, so there was no need to pay hundreds," Thomas says.

More tips on carpet cleaning tools

Maintain Your Vacuum

Thomas says she often see vacuums that have stopped working due to lack of care. Empty the canister or bag frequently, check hoses for clogs, and change the filter when it starts to turn gray. "A decent vacuum should last you at least five to 10 years, as long as you maintain it correctly," she says. "Protect your investment, no matter how small!"

Go Pro

Consider having your carpet professionally cleaned once or twice a year. Rental machines that require special solutions can leave dirt-attracting residue. Use a reputable professional service instead. Keep in mind, too, that neglecting to have your carpets regularly cleaned by a certified pro may void any warranty.

Learn how to clean carpet, step by step.

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Carpet Stains: What Not To Do
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