How to clean a carpet

How to clean a carpet
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing how to clean a carpet as well and efficiently as possible is the best way to keep your carpet looking good as new for many years. Carpet is a warmer and more comfortable option than wooden or laminate flooring, but it does require more care to keep it looking fresh. From everyday wear–and–tear to pet accidents and coffee stains, a carpet can go through a variety of stresses that takes a toll on how your home looks. 

Thankfully, there are many methods to maintaining a clean environment, as well as quick solutions for when stains occur. To make life easier when splashes and spills inevitably happen, we've rounded up tips and tricks for how to clean a carpet. 

Alongside ways to spot-clean pesky spillages, we have consulted the experts on how often you should be keeping up with regular vacuuming. By eliminating everyday dust and grime, it will mean that dirt isn’t embedded into a floor, improving the lifespan of a carpet. Once you have figured out a chore routine that works for you, explore some of the best vacuum cleaners and best handheld vacuums that will help take the stress out of housework.

When it comes to tackling deep cleans, however, you may need an extra helping hand in the form of a professional machine. These will purify surfaces so that your space is left clean to the core. Don’t miss our guide to the best carpet cleaners for advice on the top brands and features to look out for when deciding on a thorough scrub. 

How often you should clean a carpet

This will vary from household to household, however, for those with pets or children in tow, more regular cleaning will be needed. While smaller families or couples may find they can cut down on intensive vacuuming, making sure floors are swept free of grime is a great way to make a room feel larger and more inviting. 

Not only is frequent maintenance great for making a home appear more attractive, but it’s also beneficial for your health. Cleaning a carpet is great for dust allergies and hayfever sufferers, as it helps to sterilize a space. In terms of a professional deep cleanse, once every six months will suffice, or more frequently in high-use areas that see more footfall. 

Different types of carpet

What the expert says...

Mallory Micetich, Home Care Expert at Angi, says "Steam cleaning is a great way to clean most types of carpet, but there are some exceptions. For example, sisal carpet shouldn’t be cleaned using steam or water because excess moisture can destroy the fabric. Instead, simply vacuum your sisal carpet on a regular basis to keep it clean. Most carpet fabrics can tolerate any stain remover, but if you have a wool carpet, stay away from any products that contain bleach because it can damage the material."

Lady with dark brown hair wearing a purple jumper with crossed arms, smiling at camera.
Mallory Micetich

Mallory Micetich is a home care expert at Angi, with particular expertise in small home living and consumer protection. While currently renting in Denver, CO, she has been a homeowner, investor, landlord and renter over the last decade. She is committed to minimizing her environmental footprint and to small home living, having lived in only properties of 1,000 square feet or less. 

The type of carpet you have will have a huge impact on which products you can use to clean it, alongside how much elbow grease it requires. You will most commonly decide between either a synthetic or natural material for your carpet, depending on your budget and lifestyle needs. 

Generally, when cleaning natural carpets such as wool you should apply as little water as possible and ensure it’s cold. It’s also wise to spot-treat stains as quickly as possible to avoid having to heavily wash large areas of the carpet, which could cause long-lasting damage. 

Synthetic carpets tend to be known as more ‘heavy-duty’ however many won’t withstand the use of intense chemicals such as bleach. We recommend airing on the side of caution by using simple cleaning methods such as white vinegar and baking soda and always testing on small patches to avoid unintentionally bleaching your precious investment. 

• Nylon: More resistant to stains, abrasion, mold, and mildew. Nylon tends to be a more affordable synthetic material that lasts around 10-15 years, making it a worthwhile investment. 

• Polypropylene: This is one of the most stain-resistant fabrics, and is a synthetic alternative to wool - offering a similar look and feel. It’s even bleach-cleanable, making it a great choice for those with pets and children prone to frequent accidents. However, the construction of the fibers makes oil-based stains difficult to remove, leaving you to resort to professional cleaning. 

• Polyester: This man-made fiber is popular thanks to its ability to withstand fading. It does, however, flatten under the weight of heavy furniture and, like other materials, can make it tricky to remove oil and grease-based stains. 

• Wool: The natural make-up of wool makes it a popular, yet more expensive choice. It’s resistant to fading and long-lasting, however stains can become troublesome if they aren’t cleaned thoroughly and immediately. Wool is also prone to shedding, so bear this in mind when considering everyday maintenance. 

• Acrylic: This choice holds up well against stains, mold, and fading and mirrors the appearance of wool. While the risk of damaging it with everyday use is relatively low, it can be ruined by alkaline products that will dye the fibers brown so make sure you double check which cleaning methods you use.

How to clean a carpet at home  

Regular upkeep is just as important as managing significant stains on a carpet. Making sure to vacuum and keep surrounding areas dust-free will result in a space that feels, and smells, brand new. 

How to clean a carpet

A good vacuum cleaner can help keep your rugs and carpets looking good-as-new.  (Image credit: Getty Images)

Ideally, it is best to vacuum several times a week or everyday, to limit dust particles and keep on top of common dirt. However, we know that life can get busy so a few times a week should manage the build-up of grime. It is also essential to move furniture around so that when it comes to rearranging a design or moving house, no patches are left discolored or damaged. Vacuuming from wall to wall is a useful rule to go by, so no corner is left unturned. 

Before you begin, you should also check what your carpet is made from, to decide on the best method. If yours is synthetic, it's best to move the device in different directions. Meanwhile, a wool construction will require more care to move the machine in the direction of fibers. Check out this guide on preparing a carpet for a professional clean for plenty of tips and useful steps to follow. 

Step 1: 

To start vacuuming off on the right foot, make sure to tidy up anything on the floor and move any furniture you want to clean underneath, like a coffee table. It’s always tempting to vacuum around any mess, but you’ll thank yourself later when your floors are thoroughly cleaned. 

Step 2: 

Check you’re using the right machine for the flooring type. Upright, canister models will be best for carpet but you may need to adjust the height of the brush depending on the pile. These adjustments will help you to get the most out of your cleaning regime and ensure you’re picking up trodden-in dirt on the first try. 

Step 3: 

When you’ve adjusted the height of the machine, you’re ready to get started. Begin vacuuming in the corners of the room, working the machine back and forth until you have covered the surface area. 

Pablo Montero, CEO of Lupe Technology, recommends to "always go both forwards and backwards on carpets to get a thorough clean. The slower you go, the better the clean. This is also true for how many times you go over the same spot."

So although it may add a few minutes onto your chores, it’s always worth doing a job properly to prevent how regularly you need to vacuum around the house. 

Step 4: 

Make sure you’re using the correct attachments such as a hose nozzle to reach the corners of the room. Ignoring tricky areas will result in dust building up, becoming hard to remove and making your home look and feel dirty.  

How to clean a carpet stain 

What the expert says…

George Mazruku, Founder of G’s Cleaning NYC, says, "A stain itself has its own makeup. Is it acidic? Oil based? Water based? When adding a cleaning solution to it, you’ve now created an opportunity for a chemical reaction to take place. Add a second or third cleaning product and forget about it, you may have caused irreparable damage. This is why I suggest cleaning with cleaners that have minimal chemicals, to reduce the chance of a chemical burn occurring."

George Mazreku
George Mazreku

After spending the first few years in the industry working for other cleaning companies, George Mazreku decided it was time to start his own company; G's Cleaning was founded in 2016. Originating with one man conducting upholstery cleaning services, G’s Cleaning has now expanded to include 2 upholstery cleaning teams, G’s Housekeeping, G’s Cleaning Products, G’s Power Washing Services and G’s Water Damage Restoration Services.

As frustrating as accidents are, they are also inevitable when living in, and enjoying, your home. Whether it is coffee, wine, pet accidents, or even crayons that have gone astray, there are many ways to target a mark to ensure you have the best possible chance of getting your carpet back to full health. 

If it’s wet, first blot it with a towel to remove any residue. Alternatively, if the stain is already drying, try using a hard brush to scrape any excess debris off the carpet. Then opt for your favorite removal method to lift the mark while it is fresh. 

Likewise, with a vacuuming method, it is also worth considering what a carpet is made out of before attempting to clean it. According to George Mazruku, "not all materials release stains the same, not all cleaners react the same to every material and not all stains react the same to every cleaner."

Step 1: 

Remove excess liquid using a spoon to prevent it from pooling on the surface. Then, begin to blot away at the stain using a clean microfiber cloth. It’s important to blot and not rub, as this will cause the stain to spread further into the fibers. 

Step 2:

Apply your choice of stain removal solution, whether this is baking soda or vinegar as detailed below, or an off-the-shelf product. No matter which method you choose, always test it in the corner of the carpet in case there’s an adverse reaction. Allow the cleaning product to absorb either overnight or for a few hours, depending on instructions. 

Step 3: 

Once again, blot at the stain using another clean cloth. This should lift the stain (so make sure it’s not a cloth you’re precious about!) so simply repeat until the carpet is clean. 

How to clean a carpet with baking soda

If you’re on the hunt for a natural and affordable stain remover, discovering how to clean a carpet with baking soda will transform your chores. It doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals, offering peace of mind if you’re cleaning carpets around pets and children. It also acts as a deodorizer, so it’s a clever way to target bad-smelling stains caused by food or pet urine. This method is more area-specific and will take more time to cover the whole of a carpet, so will be best suited to targeting marks. 

Step 1: 

Using a dry paper towel or microfiber cloth, blot the stain. Always avoid rubbing or swiping motions that could further embed the dirt. 

Step 2: 

Sprinkle dry baking soda over the affected area and leave it to sit overnight. If the stain is grease or oil-based and trickier to remove, leave the baking soda to sit for longer to give it the best chance of absorption. 

Step 3:

The next morning, vacuum the baking soda up. 

Step 4: 

Repeat as many times as necessary until the stain has disappeared.  

How to clean a carpet with vinegar  

Cleaning products can get expensive when replaced frequently, so a great way to keep costs down is by learning how to clean a carpet with vinegar. It’s an incredibly versatile product that you’ll find yourself using in many different applications, one of which is alongside baking soda to target stains on your carpet. Using it is simple, however, the following steps will help you clean with ease.  

Step 1: 

Saturate the stain with white vinegar using a spray bottle. 

Step 2: 

Sprinkle dry baking soda over the area with white vinegar, making sure to cover the whole patch. You should start to hear a fizzing sound which means the chemical reaction is working! 

Step 3: 

Wait for a few hours, or overnight, until the vinegar has dried. 

Step 4: 

Vacuum up the baking soda and the stain should be gone! Repeat as many times as required until the carpet looks new. 

How to use a carpet cleaner  

Sometimes spot-treating stains isn’t enough to get your carpet back in top condition. Steam cleaners are a good option for undertaking a deep clean at home, without turning to professional services. There are many machines out there from reputable brands that are compact enough to store in your cupboard, but with a powerful suction that will transform the look of your carpet. We spoke to Lynsey Crombie, a cleaning expert known as Queen of Clean on Instagram, who gave us her step-by-step tutorial of how to use a carpet cleaner. 

Step 1: 

“Before you start you will need to move out as much of the furniture as you can, this will then allow you to clean as much of the carpet as possible.”

Step 2: 

“Give the carpet a really good vacuum and use the nozzle attachment to go against the skirting boards, as the vacuum doesn’t always go in tight against the wall and a dark line of dust can be left.”

Step 3: 

“Check for stains and furniture indents. If there are any, pop ice cubes in these spaces and then leave them to naturally melt in. Once melted, rub your hand over the area and the carpet will bounce back to life and the dents will be gone.”

Step 5: 

“If you spot stains you need to pre-treat these first, using a specialized carpet cleaning shampoo/solution. If you are using a carpet cleaning machine the solution for the machine will also act as a great spot cleaner. You should also always use cold water to avoid shrinkage. 

Apply the solution directly onto the stain, leave to sit for a few hours and then blot dry using a white cloth so you can see if the stain is lifting.”

Step 6: 

“Before you start using the carpet cleaning machine, ensure you read and fully understand the instructions before you start.”

Step 7: 

“Then begin the carpet clean, start in one corner of the room and then move across in straight lines. For stains, go back and over again for a more thorough clean.”

Step 8: 

“An alternative to using a carpet cleaner is steam cleaning your carpets. Many of these come with a carpet slide that makes it simple to clean floors and there is no need for an additional cleaning solution. 

Gently steam over the surface. The steam will break odors, lift out stains and refresh the carpet pile.”

Step 9: 

“Once complete, open the window to allow the carpet to air dry, and close the room off for a few hours to save anyone from entering.”

Headshot of Lynsey Crombie Queen of Clean smiling at camera wearing a blue dress.
Lynsey Crombie

Lynsey Crombie, the Queen of Clean, is a bestselling author, influencer, businesswoman and TV personality. First appearing as part of the team on Channel 4’s hit Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners, on her regular slot on ITV’s This Morning she teaches the UK her ingenious cleaning hacks and secrets. She boasts 269k followers on Instagram where she shares her expert cleaning advice.

Tips to keep a carpet clean for longer

While there are many great ways to remove grime and marks, finding ways to increase the longevity of a floor will mean that there is less pressure on your regular chores. The good news is there are many additional ways to cut back on maintenance that can be implemented easily in a household. Even keeping cleanliness in mind when navigating a home will mean that spills become less commonplace. 

Remove shoes at the front door to avoid bringing debris in
Place mats at every exterior entrance
Vacuum multiple times a week
Regularly change the vacuum bag to avoid any unpleasant smells
• Treat stains immediately 

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Holly Cockburn
Former Features Editor

Holly is the former Features Editor at Top Ten Reviews where she focused on creating informative, how-to advice. She has a degree in English Literature and previously worked as a copywriter at Howdens, specializing in kitchens and trend-led interiors. When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her exploring the best London bars and brunch spots, or planning the next budget-friendly city break. 

With contributions from