How to Clean Carpets – A Comprehensive Guide To Cleaning Your Carpets

There is a trick to everything, including how to clean carpets. However, probably the most important trick to getting rid of anything is not having that thing in the first place.

How to clean carpet
Photo Credits: kang_hojun, Pixabay.com

So, the principal key in cleaning your carpet is to get the kind of carpet that is easy to clean.

In addition to helping you with tips on how to clean various kinds of carpets, we’ll be pointing out what kind of carpet is easier to clean in this article.

Reasons Why You Probably Have Carpets In Your Home

There are a plethora of carpets with different designs and colors which are usually beautiful. So, carpets help make your otherwise boring floors pop. And you can pick carpets that match with other décor in your room, adding to the overall aesthetics of the room.

Furthermore, carpets are usually noise muffling making them a good idea if you have wooden floors or live in an old house. Carpets could also be a good thing if you live on a top floor. It could reduce the amount of disturbance you’ll create for your neighbor below.

If you’ve ever tried different floor coverings, you’ll agree with us that carpets are some of the most affordable interior fittings. There is also the fact that most carpets have insulating properties and so could be a good idea for your feet when the weather is cold (source).

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Types Of Home Carpets

There are two basic carpet classifications we’ll discuss in this article. Let’s get right to the first:

Classification According To Carpet Material

1. Polyester Carpet

Polyester is generally known for its luxuriousness. What a feeling to have that kind of luxury under your feet. However, you do not want to cover an entire room floor with polyester because it is not the easiest type of carpet to clean.

If you love the luxuriousness of polyester and must have it, consider putting it in small areas around your home. Especially those places where people do not walk on very often.

In our opinion, polyester carpets are more aesthetic than functional. That doesn’t mean they aren’t functional, though.

However, one very important advantage of polyester is that it is eco-friendly which is not very common seeing as synthetic fibers are usually not eco-friendly. And in addition to being made through an eco-friendly process, polyester is recyclable (source).

How long will polyester carpet last?

Polyester carpets last for about 5 to 10 years averagely. They are not so durable compared with other types of carpets that can last for about 10 to 15 years.

This is because polyester carpet gets ruined easily from factors related to wear and tear or by dragging objects on it. This leaves marks or other forms of indentation quickly.

The life span of polyester carpets can be less than 5 to 10 years if it receives lots of foot traffic. Also, it gets discolored easily and hence, loses its luxurious style.

Polyester carpets are best for people who love to change styles or carpets every 5 years. This is favored by the fact that polyester carpets come in different colors and styles.

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2. Wool Carpet

Wool is usually favored for carpets because it is beautiful and soft. This kind of carpet is really sturdy and generally has a long life expectancy.

However, one downside to wool is that it is not stain resistant. And the reason for this is how absorbent it is. It soaks up a lot of dirt but doesn’t let go of them very easily. So, it is advisable you clean up spills quickly from wool carpet.

The natural fiber nature of wool carpet makes it good with soiling (basically oil-based stains).

Another advantage of wool carpet is that it is flame resistant. Basically, wool does not burn but it will blacken. This makes it a good idea if you have smokers in the house or if you need to put a carpet near the fireplace.

Wool carpets require high maintenance. It is the most expensive kind of carpet. Also, you’ll have to put in a lot of effort into taking care of it. Finally, wool carpets shed. However, the shedding will definitely reduce over time (source).

Is wool carpet hard to clean?

Wool carpet is not hard to clean like other types of carpets. This is because it repels stains naturally. To clean a spill on wool carpet, simply mix water and little quantity of dish soap in a container. Then wipe the stains with a cloth towel dipped in the soapy solution.

In doing this, make sure you do not use excess water. This is because wool carpets do not have good water-resistant properties like other types of carpets.

Wool carpet is a good choice of carpet for people who want a carpet that requires minimal maintenance and stays luxurious all through its lifespan.

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3. Olefin Carpet

Olefin carpets look like wool. In fact, some may consider it the synthetic version of wool. However, there are slight differences.

Olefin carpets have high moisture and stain resistance properties. This means that if wine or juice comes spills on this type of carpet, it will be fine. This is because olefin carpet can’t absorb liquid.

However, olefin is still not the best idea for areas in your home that gets a lot of foot traffic. Why? It wears down quickly.

We must point out here that olefin carpet is not soil-resistant. So, it doesn’t do well with oils and generally anything that allows dirt cling to it.

So, if you are considering an olefin carpet because of its moisture and stain resistance, you might not need to cover your entire floor with it (source).

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4. Nylon Carpet

While they might not be the most aesthetically pleasing, nylon carpets are the most durable carpets. And if they have stain protection (nylon carpets can be treated to make them stain resistant), they could last forever.

If there are a lot of kids, pets, or humans in your home generally, consider getting a nylon carpet. You can cover your entire floors with nylon carpets because they are built to handle much stress.

However, if you are considering using any of the other carpet types, consider using nylon in those places where feet tread a lot.

One of the reasons nylon carpets are so durable is that they are composed of hydrogen molecules. So, even if the carpet looks down and trodden due to being frequently stepped on, it easily bounces back when it is cleaned, especially if steaming is involved.

This explains why nylon carpets are pretty common (source).

With technological advancement, there might be carpets made of other materials. However, these four materials are the most common materials that carpets are made of.

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Classification According To Texture

There are basically three kinds of textures for carpet: cut pile, loop pile, and cut-loop.

Cut Pile

The yarns of this type of carpet are cut at the edges. This gives such carpets a comfortable feel making them ideal for those rooms where comfort is important such as bedroom and living room.

There are different types of cut pile and the basic difference is in how twisted the yarns are. Basically, the more the twists, the longer the carpet will last.

Loop Pile

With loop pile carpets, the yarns are uncut and, as the name implies, looped. As a result, they are pretty luxurious and durable. Also, loop pile carpets usually have soil hiding capability.

A combination of all these makes the loop pile a great choice if there a lot of people in a small space. There are different kinds of loop pile carpets and they vary according to how many loops were used; basically multi-loop and level-loop.

Cut-Loop

The cut-loop is basically a combination of the above-mentioned textures. While cut-loop carpets could have the soil hiding capability of loop carpets, the combination of cut yarns (which are higher up) and loop yarns (which are lower down) could make them a bit less durable.

Having said all these, you’ve probably already begun to classify your carpet into any of the above classifications and have realized what type of carpet needs a bit more attention than the other.

However, whatever type of carpet your floors are spotting, there are certain rules of thumb that apply to every kind of carpet. This pertains to how to clean and how often to clean. And this is what we’ll be getting into in this next section (source).

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How Often Should Carpets Be Cleaned?

Immediately

Irrespective of what type of carpet your floors are covered with (including the ones that are stain and moisture resistant), it is very important that you clean up stains immediately they occur.

It is always better to clean up the spills instead of finding ways to get the stains out. That said, there are a few things to note when you are cleaning up a mess:

If there is any solid in the mess, be careful to pick up as much of the solid stuff as possible. Do not scrub into the carpet until you’ve gotten everything (or at least almost everything) out.

Next, if you’re doing the cleanup immediately, dab and not press into the carpet especially if you are dealing with wool carpets.

Be sure that you are using a clean rag so that you are not creating another problem by trying to take care of one. A dirty rag will transfer the dirt it contains to the carpet.

If the stain is really intense, you might want to consider using some stain removing chemicals. However, be careful with them so that they do not damage your carpet.

When you’re done blotting out the stain, rinse it out with a clean rag soaked in water. You want to rinse it out to be sure that you’ve gotten out all that spilled.

Finally, put a paper towel over the wet spot. Then place something on the paper towel to hold it down and leave it there for some time (preferably overnight).

The idea is to have the paper towel soak up all the moisture from the carpet.

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Routinely

It makes a lot of sense to clean your floors every day. However, how frequently you clean your floors could be determined by the number of people living in your home.

If there are a lot of people (mostly kids) and pets in your home, you might want to clean your floors every day. If not, you could probably get away with doing it a couple of times a week.

That said, using a vacuum cleaner to clean carpets is certainly not the same as cleaning hardwood floors.

How do you clean hardwood floors?

Follow these steps to clean hardwood floors:

1. Get the right vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner should have different cleaning tools. This is important to ensure that every crevices around your staircase and floors are thoroughly cleaned.

2. Remove all dirt or debris from the vacuum.

3. Vacuum slowly so that the cleaner the opportunity to properly dislodge dirt. Also, taking just one pass over your carpet is not a very effective way of cleaning it, irrespective of how good the cleaner is. So, take as many passes as necessary before you move to a different room.

For small floor spaces or those places where you just have small fractions of carpet coverings, using a wide cleaner head could be a bad idea.

Consider getting a vacuum cleaner with a bendy wand or at least a really flexible wand especially if you have a lot of furniture. This will go a long way in helping you reach certain difficult to reach places.

Of course, if you or anybody in your home have any kind of allergic reaction or a weakened immune system, a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filtration will do you good.

If yours is a wired vacuum cleaner, be careful to put the wire behind the cleaner as you move. This way, the wire doesn’t constitute a nuisance.

With wool carpets, you do not want to use your regular brush roll as that could prove too much for the material. Consider using one of the crevice tools instead.

Finally, do not just move your cleaner forward. When you take a forward pass, take a corresponding backward pass. This back and forth method will better dislodge the dirt and stuff in your carpet.

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Periodically

Periodic cleaning involves intense cleaning or what could be termed washing. Moisture and certain cleaning products are involved. So, we recommend that you invite a professional for your periodic cleaning.

If you do the intense cleaning by yourself and do not remove all the residue, your carpets might be clean in the short run. But in the long run, your carpet could be worse than when you first cleaned it.

The reason is the cleaning agent residue becomes a sort of magnet for dust and dirt which makes the carpet worse off for the wear.

Professionals have the expertise and equipment to get all the residue.

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Cleaning Methods

What are the cleaning methods professionals use in cleaning carpets?

The following are cleaning methods that a professional use in cleaning carpets:

1. Steaming also referred to as hot water cleaning.

2. Shampooing.

3. Encapsulation.

4. Bonnet cleaning.

5. Dry cleaning.

Steaming

How do you steam clean a carpet?

To steam clean a carpet, you will use hot water at high pressure to shake up the carpet fibers and dislodge the ground in dirt. Professionals usually have a special kind of vacuum cleaner that has high powered brush rolls and can secrete water at a high pressure.

Apply some of the cleaning agent to the carpets and leave it to set. It is actually the cleaning agent that sets the stuck-on dirt loose. Then, they’ll use the high powered vacuum cleaner to sort of rinse out the cleaning agent in the carpet which has the dirt stuck to it.

Be careful to clean up all the dirt and debris. This is because leaving any dirt in the carpet will create an even worse problem than you are trying to get rid of.

This cleaning method usually takes a bit of time because after the actual cleaning is done, the carpet will have to be left to dry. And this implies that traffic will be restricted in that area.

This is why a good number of cleaning agencies would prefer to do this kind of cleaning in the evening so that the carpet can dry all night.

We must point out that some people actually do this cleaning themselves and just rent the equipment from a hardware store. However, we advise that you leave it to the professionals because of all the intricacies involved (source).

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Shampooing

Apparently, this is the method of deep cleaning that was used by many before the introduction of the steaming method. People still use this method.

Shampooing is like steaming in that a cleaning agent is applied to dislodge dirt. The difference between shampooing and steaming is that the carpet is not rinsed out with clean water. Instead, the vacuum cleaner is run over the carpet to suck up the carpet cleaning agent with the loose dirt that should have stuck to it.

The problem with this method is that there is a huge possibility that soap suds will be left behind in the carpets. It’s science; imagine washing your cloth and wringing it out properly without rinsing it.

Irrespective of how much you wring your cloth, it is going to be stiff with soap and be a magnet for dirt. This is what could become of a carpet that is only shampooed.

However, some people have modified this method and now rinse with cold water, instead of using hot water like the steaming method. Cold water is not as effective as hot water in getting rid of the soap suds but it is definitely better than not rinsing at all.

Encapsulation

This method of cleaning a carpet does not use as much water as the aforementioned cleaning styles. As a result, it doesn’t take so much time for you to have your floor space back. This is why some people prefer this method.

The encapsulation method involves applying a synthetic detergent on the carpet. This synthetic detergent will then crystalize to form a powder. The crystallized powder binds the loosened dirt in the carpet to itself which is then vacuumed off or brushed away.

In addition to not using so much water, people like this carpet cleaning method because there is no much chemical residue. This can still be traced back to the fact that not much water is used.

So, because little water is used, it is actually easier to get all the crystalized soap off the carpet by vacuuming.

However, the only problem with this method is that it is not exactly deep cleaning. This method does not reach deep enough into the carpet to dislodge all the ground-in dirt (source).

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Bonnet Cleaning

This is another cleaning method that is not water-intensive. The bonnet carpet cleaning rests heavily on the kind of vacuum cleaner used.

In this kind of cleaning, a vacuum cleaner that is heavy duty and has a spinning pad is used. Typically, the spinning pad is dipped in a cleaning solution and then passed through the carpet surface.

The downside of this cleaning method is that the vacuum cleaner is not designed to dip into the carpet fibers. So, it doesn’t exactly dip clean or wash.

However, with the way the cleaner pad spins, it could push in the cleaning solution into the carpet with no way to get it out. And we already know that leaving soap suds in the carpet makes the carpet a magnet for dust and dirt (source).

Dry Cleaning

Apparently, this is the most recent cleaning method of the five already discussed. It is the only method that doesn’t make use of water.

With the dry cleaning method, a special kind of machine with a rotating brush is used to push in the special kind of cleaning agent deep into the carpet. Different manufacturers come up with their own tools and cleaning agents.

The idea is for the cleaning agent to soak up all the dirt that is deep inside the carpet and then clean it up. Because water is not employed, you could go about your daily activities as the cleaning is done. However, try not to get in the way of your professional cleaner’s way (source).

That said, if you intend to keep your carpet for a long time, it is recommended that you get your carpets professionally deep cleaned. At least once every year or two years.

Apart from the fact that professionally deep cleaning your carpets gives you a really clean carpet, having clean carpets is a step in the right direction of having clean air.

If you didn’t already know, carpets could be a breeding ground for mold, especially if they are wet and/or damp. This is why you should clean up spills immediately and ensure that you get a professional to deep clean for you so that they can remove all the moisture.

Finally, do not forget to pick up large debris and vacuum your carpets before the professional cleaner comes (source).

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Cleaning Area Rugs

Area rugs are cleaned almost the same way you clean your entire floor carpet. So, you’ll have to clean up spills immediately, routinely vacuum and periodically invite a professional to deep clean.

However, because area rugs are small pieces of fabric and so can be easily moved around, you could exchange the routine vacuuming for good old shaking and intense beating.

These work very well. However, consider this method only if nobody in your home has an allergy or a compromised respiratory system.

Also, you can clean the area rug by yourself because it is a smaller surface area and you could easily just place it under the sun to dry. That notwithstanding, you can get a professional to do the cleaning for you.

Cleaning Car Carpets

You can leave the cleaning of your car carpets to your detailer for professional cleaning. However, there are a number of things you could do yourself.

Some vacuum cleaner manufacturers have some special tools for cleaning cars. These tools usually come in the form of a suction instrument with a streamlined mouth that allows the vacuum cleaner to reach into small spaces. So, you could get yourself one of those.

Removing the floor mats and any other removable thing that could pose a hindrance allows you enough reach to thoroughly clean the carpet.

Conclusion

In cleaning your carpets, we recommend different cleaning methods. One such method is routine vacuuming. However, when we start using water and cleaning chemicals, we advise they are left to people with expertise in that area.

Nonetheless, if you are a DIYer and want to try out different things in order to get out that stain or generally get your carpet clean, be careful to try things out on an area of carpet that nobody really sees.

This way, you are warned if the cleaning solution you are using is a dangerous one. Also, consider protecting your nose and mouth and maybe even your hands. This is because some of these chemicals and cleaning processes are harmful to your health.

How to Clean Carpet – Related FAQs

How Do You Clean Your Carpet Yourself?

Here’s how to clean your carpet yourself:

  1. Mix ⅛ teaspoon soap and water in a spray bottle.
  2. Sprinkle table salt and baking soda over the stained area of the carpet.
  3. Spray the soap solution over the same stained area and allow it to sit for some minutes.
  4. Scrub the carpet with a brush in only one direction. This will pick up accumulated debris and hair.
  5. Change direction to about 90 degrees if there is still hair or dirt.
  6. Dab the stained spots with towels to suck up liquids.
  7. Allow the carpet to dry a little. 
  8. Fill a spray bottle with clean water and spray your carpet lightly.
  9. Press the carpet with cloth towels to suck up water and allow it to dry.

What Is The Best Homemade Carpet Cleaning Solution?

The best homemade carpet cleaning solutions are:

  1. Detergent solution.
  2. Vinegar solution.
  3. Solvent solution.
  4. Ammonia solution.

These homemade carpet cleaning solutions are best for cleaning different carpets. Detergent, vinegar, and solvent solutions are best for cleaning synthetic carpets. However, all four solutions can be used to clean natural-fiber carpets.

Note that they are prepared in different proportions depending on the type of carpet and degree of stain. Do not pour these cleaning solutions on the carpets directly. Rather, wet a cloth or towel with the cleaning solution and clean the stained spot.

How Do You Deep Clean Your Carpet During Winter?

Follow these steps to deep clean your carpet during winter:

  1. Take your carpet outside.
  2. Shake it vigorously to release dirt as much as possible.
  3. Leave it to sit for 30 minutes so that it adapts to a lower temperature.
  4. Pile about 3-5 inches of snow on the carpet and use a broom to distribute the snow evenly.
  5. Beat the carpet with the broom.
  6. Allow the snow to rest on the carpet for about 15-20 minutes. 
  7. Turn the carpet to the other side and repeat steps 2 to 6.
  8. Remove excess snow from the carpet and hang it for about 20-30 minutes. The snow will evaporate eventually without wetting the carpet.

This method of cleaning works best for wool carpet.

How Do You Remove Vinegar Stain From Carpet?

To remove vinegar stain from carpet, do the following:

  1. Wet a white paper towel with cold water and wipe the stained spot.
  2. Using a dry paper towel, absorb moisture from the carpet.
  3. Leave the carpet to air-dry if there’s a trace of stain left.
  4. Mix 1 teaspoon of dish soap with 1 cup of cool water. 
  5. Wet a soft-bristled brush or sponge in the cleaning solution and scrub the vinegar stain.
  6. Rinse the stained area to remove the soapy leftover.
  7. Allow the carpet to air-dry and vacuum the carpet to remove the carpet fibers.

Which Is Better: Steam Cleaning Or Shampooing Carpet?

Steam cleaning is the best method of cleaning carpets than shampooing. It is also the most effective method. This is because this method cleans the carpet deeper than shampooing your carpet.

The steam cleaning method can remove stubborn stains from your carpet. It also addresses allergy-triggers better than shampooing method or any other method. 

Steaming your carpet extracts all allergy-causing dirt or stain under high pressure. It also extracts about 95% moisture with the dirt. This helps the carpet to dry faster than the shampoo method. 

Note that only a professional can steam clean your carpet because it requires the use of special products and equipment to completely remove all dirt from your carpet.

How Do You Get Dried Dog Urine Out Of Carpet?

To get dried dog urine out of carpet, do the following:

  1. Mix 1 part vinegar and 1 part water in a container.
  2. Pour vinegar solution over the urine affected area.
  3. Scrub the area lightly and allow it to completely dry.
  4. Apply baking soda to the stained area and leave it to deodorize the spot for about 24 hours. This will get rid of the dog urine smell on the carpet.
  5. Mix 1 part hydrogen peroxide, 1 part water, and little dish soap in a container. 
  6. Pour the hydrogen peroxide solution over the baking soda. Then gently scrub the urine stain.
  7. Vacuum the stained area of the carpet to remove all leftover substances.

If the urine smell persists, buy another carpet. 

Can You Make Your Own Carpet Shampoo?

To make your own carpet shampoo, do the following: 

  1. Add Oxiclean dish liquid, hydrogen peroxide, and fabric softener to a big gallon jug with a funnel.
  2. Fill up the remainder of the jug to the brim with water and mix the solution well.
  3. Fill your carpet cleaner container with warm water.
  4. Add 2 ounces of your homemade carpet cleaning solution.
  5. Clean the carpet following the carpet cleaners’ instruction.

Store your homemade carpet cleaning solution properly for future use.

How Do You Fluff Matted Carpet?

You can fluff matted carpet following these steps: 

  1. Use a carpet rake to brush the carpet and entire floor covering or focus on the matted areas before vacuuming the carpet. 
  2. Vacuum the carpet thoroughly to remove any loose dirt and fluff the carpet a little bit with a carpet rake.
  3. Put ice cubes on dented areas.
  4. Run a stiff brush over the area as the ice cubes melt to straighten the carpet fibers.
  5. Rake the carpet again after vacuuming to fluff up the matted carpet.

Why Do Carpets Get Dirty Faster After Cleaning?

The following are reasons why your carpet gets dirty faster after cleaning:

  1. When you do not vacuum your carpet before steam cleaning.
  2. Using a cleaning solution while steam cleaning your carpet or using the wrong detergent for your cleaning.
  3. Steam cleaning before spraying detergent on your carpet.
  4. Not rinsing the carpet enough after cleaning.
  5. Using too much quantity of water on the lighter carpet leading to a characteristic brown coloration which is difficult to remove.

Most of these carpet cleaning errors occur when you do not clean the carpet correctly.  Or when you employ the services of a professional who cuts corners just to do the cleaning quickly.

How Do You Kill Bacteria In Carpet?

To kill bacteria in carpet, do the following:

  1. Vacuum your carpet with a HEPA filter, frequently. This will help to remove dust.
  2. Steam-clean your carpet with hot water and a little quantity of detergent.
  3. Add ¼ -½ cup of vinegar to the cleaning solution to kill bacteria.
  4. Get a dehumidifier and install vents in your home to remove excess moisture.
  5. Spritz a disinfectant on your carpet that is safe for fabrics. 

If there is a particular bacteria you want to kill, get a good disinfectant for that purpose.

Does Shampooing Ruin Carpets?

Shampooing does not ruin carpets unless used in excess. Shampooing a carpet helps to remove all dirt, stains, and dust thoroughly. 

Excess shampooing of carpets occurs when you use too much shampoo or you did not thoroughly rinse the carpet after the cleaning. The accumulation of soap residues can be difficult to remove if cleaning was not done properly, thereby, ruining the carpet.

Use a mild shampoo cleanser to clean your carpet after shampooing. Carpets have soft fibers that can get damaged if you use harsh chemicals for the cleaning. Better still, use the services of a professional to clean your carpets.

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