Carpet and rugs add warmth and comfort to the home and are a popular flooring choice in residential homes.
Regularly cleaning and maintaining carpet and rugs will keep them looking their best. There are also some things to avoid when it comes to caring for carpets. To help break down how to care for your carpeted flooring, we spoke to experts about how and how often to vacuum, how to spot treat stains as they happen and what to do when carpets and rugs are in need of a deep cleaning.
What you need to clean your carpet
“Proper care and maintenance of carpet is much simpler than most people expect,” says Julie Beth Fisher, the director of brand marketing for Shaw Floors. “Regardless of fiber type, regular vacuuming and spot cleaning are all you need to keep carpets looking beautiful.”
A vacuum is an essential tool for cleaning a carpet, and because accidents will happen, it’s also smart to stock a carpet cleaning product that can be used to spot treat stains as they happen. When a deeper cleaning is called for, use a carpet cleaning machine that forces a cleaning solution down into the fibers and extracts it back up using suction.
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Gina Perry, senior merchant of cleaning at The Home Depot, recommends the Shark Navigator because it’s a lightweight upright vacuum that features a detachable canister. The detachable canister allows you to use the vacuum for cleaning stairs and other hard-to-reach places with ease.
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When selecting a vacuum, Sam Holland-Burse, a technical coordinator at Mohawk Flooring Group, says to look for models with an adjustable height feature. He explains that adjusting the height to suit your carpet’s construction allows for the best possible clean without damaging the fibers. “If the vacuum is set too high above the carpet surface, it won’t lift embedded soil,” he says, “but if it is set too low, the beater bar or brushes can ‘fuzz’ the carpet’s surface, causing it to look worn and frayed.”
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Our pick for the best upright carpet cleaner of 2022, the Hoover SmartWash+ got huge points for its automatic spraying system.
How often should you clean your carpet?
The experts we spoke to agreed that at a minimum, carpets and rugs should be vacuumed once a week. Stains should be treated as they occur.
Deeper cleaning using a carpet cleaning machine should be done every 12 to 18 months. Busy households, including those with pets or small children, may need to deep clean carpets and rugs more frequently. Perry suggests deep cleaning heavily trafficked carpets and rugs every six months.
How to spot clean your carpet
Most stains on carpets and rugs can be addressed by using a spot cleaning method, which involves using a carpet cleaning solution and an absorbent white cloth to coax stains out of carpet. For more information about treating common stains, check out our guide to stain treatment techniques and products.
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If there’s a liquid spill, start by absorbing as much as possible using a cloth or paper towels prior to treating the stain. “When spot treating,” Perry says, “use a clean white cloth so colors do not run onto the treated area.”
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Perry recommends ZEP’s enzyme-formula carpet cleaner for treating stains and odors. “It’s a professional-grade formula that penetrates carpet fibers to restore color and texture,” she says. Before using any carpet cleaning product, test it on an inconspicuous area of carpet to ensure it doesn’t cause color loss in the carpet.
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Spot testing will help avoid irreversible damage caused by improper use of cleaning products. “For spot cleaning, bleach and other harsh chemicals found in common household cleaners can cause color fading and should not be used. Product warranties and floor care documents are a great resource and should detail recommended cleaners that are approved for use by the manufacturer,” Fisher says.
How to deep clean your carpet
When a deeper cleaning is called for, use a carpet cleaning machine that forces a cleaning solution down into the fibers and extracts it back up using suction. “If you live in a large household with children or pets, purchase a carpet cleaner you can use at any time,” Perry says. “For those in smaller households with less storage, renting home carpet cleaners may be a great option.”
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Holland-Burse says, “Even with regular vacuuming, soil particles and oily dirt will cling to carpet fibers; foot traffic drives these particles and dirt deep into the carpet.” Deep cleaning using a carpet and upholstery cleaning machine will eliminate tough stains and lingering odors trapped in the fibers.
This machine was our pick for the best carpet cleaner for pet hair.
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The experts we spoke to all recommend extraction cleaning every 12 to 18 months, although busy households may need to deep clean carpets and rugs more frequently. “For larger households or those with pets and children, it may be beneficial to clean carpets twice a year,” Perry says. She recommends the Hoover PowerScrub because it has a quick clean feature that speeds up drying time, which is ideal in homes that require more frequent deep carpet cleaning.
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Portable carpet and upholstery cleaners like Bissell’s classic Little Green are a good choice for households with limited storage, and for those looking for a smaller, lighter machine that is easier to use. Regardless of what style you choose, Perry says, “When using a carpet cleaner, be sure to allow the machine to pull up as much water as possible to avoid mold and mildew.”