Carpet has many merits and advantages as a flooring material, but spills can leave stains and daily traffic takes its toll. Learn how to clean carpet with methods for vacuuming, deep cleaning, and stain removal that will help your carpets look better and last longer.

By BH&G Editors

Carpets warm a home by adding color, pattern, and texture. However, they require a different cleaning method than an area rug or wood floors, for example. Regular vacuuming provides the first line of defense against dirt and grit that damages carpet fibers. But carpets also need regular cleaning to keep them looking their best. Plan to thoroughly wash carpet every 12 to 18 months, more often in high-traffic areas. If you have light-color carpet or kids or pets, clean your carpets two or three times a year.

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Woman cleaning carpet

Always follow the carpet manufacturer's cleaning guidelines. To make sure you're carpet cleaning like a professional, keep reading our tips below. We'll show you how to clean carpet with various different methods such as water extraction, dry extraction, rental carpet cleaners, and more.

Testing for Colorfastness

Colorfast carpet will not bleed, fade, or change when you are cleaning it or removing stains. Whether or not it is colorfast may change the cleaning method, products, or carpet cleaning machines you choose. Here are some smart carpet tips for pretesting your carpet to find out if it is colorfast.

  1. First find a carpet scrap or an inconspicuous spot, such as carpet inside a closet. Vacuum the carpet.
  2. Dampen a cloth with the carpet cleaner or carpet stain remover you want to use.
  3. Lay the cloth on the carpet for an hour, and then blot the damp area with a dry white cloth.
  4. If the cloth is stained with carpet dyes, test other carpet cleaning products until you find one that does not make the carpet sample bleed.

How to Clean Carpet

Always protect your furniture, carpet padding, and subfloor when cleaning carpets. Grab a partner to help you remove furniture from the room where the carpet is being cleaned. Thoroughly vacuum the carpet. Use a rental carpet cleaning machine—if recommended by the carpet manufacturer—or have a professional carpet cleaning crew come help; they'll help you choose the best carpet cleaning solution for your home. If you choose a wet extraction method (see below), make sure the carpet dries completely within 24 hours to prevent mold or mildew growth in the carpet or padding and to stop moisture from damaging the floor underneath.

Owning a Carpet Cleaning System

If you have light-color carpets and/or a house full of kids or pets, you might want to buy your own professional-style carpet cleaning machine designed for home use. Home carpet cleaners can save you money over the long haul when compared with hiring professional carpet cleaners several times a year. Keep in mind, though, that the unit you buy may not have the carpet cleaning power that professional models do. However, they do give you that accomplished deep clean feeling.

Water Extraction Method

Most home carpet cleaning systems are water extraction units that are also known as steam cleaners. They work to wash carpet by injecting a solution into the carpet pile, then pulling the dirty solution back into the machine. To avoid the hassle of dragging a hose around the house, opt for a model that does not require a clean-water hookup. Also, choose the most powerful carpet cleaning machine you can afford to ease the burden of water extraction.

Caution: When using a steam cleaner, do not get the carpets overly wet. Overwetting can damage the carpet backing and underlayment, causing shrinkage, discoloration, and odor.

Dry Extraction Method

Other home carpet cleaning systems use a dry extraction method to wash carpet. First, you spread a dry absorbent compound over the carpet being cleaned, then you vacuum it with the carpet cleaning machine. Although they usually work better than steam cleaners, dry machines and chemicals are more expensive than steamers and wet extraction solutions.

Related: Cleaning Hacks to Add to Your Bag of Tricks

Renting a Carpet Cleaner

You may want to rent a professional-quality steam cleaner from a grocery store or rental center because of the additional power. With rental fees and the price of carpet cleaning solutions (shampoo, defoamer, spot removers, odor removers, and more), a rental machine can quickly strain your household budget. But it may be a better value if your carpets don't show dirt, your kids are grown, or you don't own four-legged pets.

Hire a Cleaning Professional

When you hire professionals, you'll get to choose between steam carpet cleaning and dry extraction carpet cleaning. Each method—if handled by a qualified carpet cleaning professional—will do wonders for dirty carpets. Not only do professionals have far more powerful carpet cleaning equipment than you're likely to buy or rent, but they also have far more experience in knowing how to remove carpet stains. Prices may vary widely for essentially the same service, so shop carefully.

Carpet Stain Removal: What Not to Do


Comments (2)

January 18, 2019
Very helpful video. Thanks
January 8, 2019
Great article!I'd love to know more about the beautiful carpet in the living room!