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How to clean your carpet the right way

From vacuum maintenance to spot treatments

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There’s no feeling quite like sinking into a plush new carpet. The pile is soft and luxurious, not to mention gorgeous to look at—until the inevitable happens. Just like a new car or new furniture, that new feel doesn’t last forever. Whether it’s regular wear-and-tear, pet stains from your fur babies, or a tragic strike of a stain like red wine, your carpet is likely to see some bad days.

However, this doesn’t mean you need to rope off your carpeted rooms like museum exhibits. If you know how to clean carpet the right way, it will be much easier to keep your carpets looking brand new.

Here’s how to maintain your carpet, treat common carpet stains, deep clean carpets, and more.

Have the right tools on hand to clean your carpet

Upright vacuum in use on hardwood floors next to carpet
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

If you have an ultra-plush (shag) carpet, you may need a vacuum made specifically for dealing with this dense carpet material. Standard vacuums can easily get caught in ultra-plush carpet, making the experience less than ideal.

A clean carpet is only as good as the tools used to get it clean. That’s why we recommend having some key cleaning products at hand to keep your fresh carpet intact.

You’ll need a solid vacuum that you can rely on for daily cleaning of your carpets. We’ve tested tons of vacuum cleaners here at Reviewed and can confidently recommend the Miele Dynamic U1 Cat & Dog for a powerful suction that’ll clear up dirt and debris burrowed in your carpets.

For a more affordable option, we like the Hoover WindTunnel UH70120 as well.

For some seriously effortless cleaning, investing in a robot vacuum can change the game, particularly on a day to day basis. This type of vacuum navigates through your house, cleaning as it goes and picking up dirt and debris.

We love the tried-and-true iRobot Roomba i7+ for its smart features and powerful cleaning performance on a variety of floor types.

For spot cleaning stubborn stains, having a good carpet stain remover to begin with is key.

The professionals at Mohawk Flooring and Shaw Floors recommend using carpet cleaning products with a seal of approval from the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI)—meaning these products have been tested by the CRI for attributes like cleaning efficacy and pH level.

One rule of thumb about using carpet cleaners—DIY or not—is to always test them on a tiny piece of carpet to ensure it won’t interact poorly with your carpet material. The last thing you want is another carpet stain while trying to clean one.

Keep up with cleaning regularly

Robot vacuum charging over carpet
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Robot vacuums can make weekly cleaning so much more convenient, especially for those who are short on free time or aren't able to physically clean.

The key to an ultra-clean carpet surface is regular cleaning and maintenance. This specifically means vacuuming for dirt, crumbs, and bacteria that are likely to build up from everyday use.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer as to how often you should be vacuuming your home. “How often you should vacuum depends on your lifestyle and the number of people living in the household,” says Lauren Bowen, Director of Franchise Operations at Two Maids & A Mop.

That being said, Bowen recommends vacuuming your carpet at least once a week. This will ensure that debris and bacteria you can’t physically see can be removed regularly. If you have pets or children, for example, you may need to up the cleaning frequency considering there will be more dirt and debris buildup.

Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world—homeowners may not have the time to clean more than once a week, and that’s okay. “If thinking of vacuuming your carpet twice a week seems daunting, focus on the high-traffic areas such as the living room and entryway first,” says Bowen.

If your budget and your schedule calls for it, you can also invest in a robot vacuum, which are great for maintaining floors and carpeting between big cleans.

“You get the most out of a robot vacuum if you think of it as a floor maintainer,” says Jonathan Chan, Senior Lab Technician at Reviewed. “In between manual cleanings, when you're out for a walk or at work, an automated floor cleaner can help keep your carpets looking presentable all the time. And if you have a smart one, you can start it from anywhere."

Move your furniture for the best clean

Large living room with couches and coffee table on a white carpet surface
Credit: Getty Images / hikesterson

There are many hidden spots under couches, TV stands, and armoire that can collect dirt and dust over time, so don't forget to clean underneath every once in a while.

When you deep clean your carpet area, it is important to get every part of your carpet for the best clean possible. If you ever decide to buy new furniture or sell your home, you may notice a stark difference in the coloration and overall cleanliness of your carpet under your couches or coffee tables after years of avoiding those spots.

Because of this, you should try your best to get all of the carpet while you clean. No, this doesn’t mean you have to push and shove your heavy furniture every week.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t physically pick up your heavy couch or armoire—try pushing one side to create an angle, exposing carpet that never typically gets cleaned. Do this with each side until you’ve fully cleaned the unexposed area.

Make it a goal to move around your furniture every time you deep clean—Bissell recommends deep cleaning your home twice a year if possible, so it doesn’t have to be a frequent chore.

This is another great scenario where robot vacuums can be helpful. Models by many brands, like Ecovacs and Neato, can navigate around furniture legs and beneath tables and couches, without you having to move a thing. While a robot vacuum doesn’t offer a deep clean, it can keep these hidden areas cleaner from the get-go.

Know how to clean carpet stains

Person with pink gloves blotting a large red stain with a blue washcloth
Credit: Getty Images / pinstock

When treating stains, always remember to blot—don't rub. Rubbing may end up ruining your carpet's fibers.

Life isn’t perfect and stains will happen—but don’t think your carpet will never recover from a tough stain.

As mentioned, there are plenty of great carpet cleaners on the market that have been recommended by the Carpet and Rug Institute. Products that have earned this approval include the Spot Shot Professional Stain Remover and Tech Stain Remover.

But, if you prefer to use a simpler stain-remover (or one you may already have in your home), hydrogen peroxide may be your secret weapon.

According to Real Simple, you should first use salt to soak up spilled liquid. Once the salt has had time to sit, saturate the spot with hydrogen peroxide and allow it to work its magic. Then, continuously blot with a cloth and repeat until the stain is cleared. Just be careful on darker carpet fabrics, as it may actually bleach the carpet in the process.

But, for the toughest of tough stains, like red wine and blood, here’s how to clean the most common carpet stains you may encounter in your own home.

Red wine

Whether you’re an avid wine subscriber or just like to enjoy a glass now and then, red wine spills can easily happen in the blink of an eye.

If you do have a red wine stain, Bowen recommends mixing a tablespoon of dishwashing liquid, two cups of warm water, and a tablespoon of white vinegar. Add the solution, blot with a cloth, and continue until the wine stain has lifted.

Pet stains

We love our pets—but the mess they bring in and create not so much. Especially when they find their way onto our clean carpets. Luckily, cleaning pet stains from carpet is totally possible.

To treat spots and stains immediately, try using a pet carpet cleaner formulated for those pet stains. This pet stain remover treats carpet stains by using natural dormant bacteria to fight stains and odors.

If you don’t have pet stain cleaner on hand, Bowen recommends pouring a small amount of white vinegar on the stain to cover it without completely saturating the area. Then, sprinkle a thick layer of baking soda on top. Let the mixture dry for about a day then go ahead and rinse the spot if needed then vacuum the excess. You can also keep this mixture on hand in a spray bottle to combat stains right after they happen.

Blood

A wound—no matter how small—is bad enough without the added stress of staining your carpet in the process. Talk about adding insult to injury.

To remove dried-up bloodstains, Bowen says to use the following DIY solution: Mix together one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid and two cups of cold water. Add a small amount of the solution and begin to blot until the stain has lifted.

Grease

If you eat anywhere near the carpet, there’s a chance some spillage can happen, creating a not-so-pretty grease stain. Here’s how to combat a tough grease stain on your carpet.

Mix together a generous amount of dishwashing liquid with hot water and begin blotting the area with this solution. For a heavier stain, try leaving the soapy water on the stain for a few minutes and then begin to blot.

When your carpet is in need of a deep clean

Carpet cleaner on a rug next to cleaning accessories
Credit: Reviewed / Jonathan Chan

Deep cleaning is essential for getting the toughest grime out of your carpet, but it doesn't have to super time-consuming. The Hoover SmartWash makes deep cleaning as easy as vacuuming.

Even with proper carpet maintenance and spot cleaning, your carpet will most likely start to lose its shine over the years. Think about all the dirt, mud, bacteria, and materials from the outside world that you’ve tracked into your home, along with the indoor contaminants like hair and dust that have nestled deep into your carpet.

To revive your carpet’s appearance, try to deep clean your home at least once or twice a year. This involves more than just weekly vacuuming and stain treating, but rather using more powerful tools in every corner of your home’s carpets for a new fresh feeling.

You may be thinking about hiring an expert for professional steam cleaning or carpet shampooing—but we’re here to tell you that’s most likely not necessary for deep cleaning your carpet.

As for renting a carpet cleaner, while this comes at a fraction of the cost of an expert cleaning team, many rentals are built for sturdiness rather than performance, making it a less ideal choice if you actually want the cleanest carpets you can get.

If you really want to deep clean your carpets with regularity, buying and owning your own carpet cleaner is the most sensible option. This way, you’ll most likely save money over the years from not having to hire a service or rent a machine.

Based on our research and testing, we like the Hoover Smartwash Automatic Cleaner and think this model is more fool-proof than its competitors.

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