How to Clean Your Carpet: Carpet Care 101

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Dear Home-Ec 101,
What is your recommendation for having carpet professionally steam cleaned (whether to do so, and, if so, how frequently)? In other words, can you tell me how to clean my carpet?
Dingy in Dillonhow to care for your carpet
Heather says:

The basics of carpet cleaning are pretty standard. However, it is important to adhere to your manufacturer’s recommendations or you run the risk of voiding the warranty, and who wants to do that?

Dirt, even dirt that doesn’t stain, damages your carpet by weakening the fibers through friction. Walking on your carpeting causes crush damage – this is part of the reason why quality carpet padding is so important, it cushions the fibers so they can handle more foot traffic.

How do you keep your carpet looking great for years?

You keep your carpet clean.

How to Clean Your Carpet

Start with vacuuming.

Vacuuming sounds easy enough, but we all know some people need vacuuming instructions spelled out clearly.

Adjust the height of the head of your vacuum so that the beater bar agitates the carpet fibers a couple of inches away from the head, but not so low that it becomes hard to push. The beater bar loosens the dirt and the suction and brushes whisk the dirt into the canister or bag. When vacuuming a room follow the whole top to bottom left to right mantra we discuss so often around here. Why? It gives you a place to start. If you don’t want to do it this way, just make sure that you vacuum the entire room with short, overlapping strokes.

Pay attention to high traffic areas, when you are vacuuming carpeting that has the potential to receive a lot of crush damage, vacuum against the general traffic flow. Use the vacuum to basically fluff up the fibers.

I didn’t write this rule, talk to the carpet manufacturers if it bothers you.

How To Keep Your Carpet Clean

Carpeting should be, at minimum, vacuumed thoroughly on a weekly basis. Busy households with kids and pets should add one quick vacuuming of high traffic areas to their weekly vacuuming for each household member, including large dogs. A household with two adults and two kids -who are home most of the time- would probably need to vacuum four times a week.

Now go ahead take into account if you aren’t ever home. If you have six people but pretty much live out of your mini-van know that you don’t have to vacuum six days a week.

Sorry. Having kids and pets means more responsibilities. As soon as you can teach your children to vacuum and make them take over at least the quick vacuuming.

Now to your actual question, what about professional steam carpet cleaning?

How often should I have my carpet steam cleaned?

Carpet steam cleaning should be done no more than twice a year, unless your warranty states otherwise. You can rent a carpet cleaning machine from local hardware and grocery stores, but – and this is especially important for those of us who live in humid climates- professional carpet cleaners have the ability to extract more water from the carpet and pad. Your carpet and padding will dry faster and probably be left cleaner than when steam cleaned by a poorly maintained rental unit.

If you have builder’s grade carpet, nothing is going to save it. Go ahead and use the rental machine and know that builder’s grade carpeting has a very short lifespan no matter how carefully you care for it.

If you have invested in quality carpeting and good padding, protect your investment by using a professional carpet cleaner.

guide to clean floors
Click the picture for more tips!

Between carpet steam cleanings, spot clean carpeting and always, always, always make sure that the carpet and padding are dried thoroughly. Do not close the room, keep the windows open or run a box fan and allow the air to circulate. Mold and mildew in the carpeting are far worse than a little staining.

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12 thoughts on “How to Clean Your Carpet: Carpet Care 101”

  1. provides complete cleaning service for commercial facilities in Perth and across Western Australia, no matter you is looking for a short-term or long-term hire, this commercial cleaning agency has number of price and packages including contract options for you, which just not help you get the right commercial cleaners in Perth but their commercial cleaning service also suits your budget.

    • As I told Sydney, enzymatic cleaners are your best bet -I can see from your link that you are affiliated with professional steam cleaners and that this is probably just a loaded question.

      If the urine has gotten into the padding and professional cleaning has not resolved the issues, it may be time to replace the carpet and padding. With that many animals, I would also carefully examine the subflooring once the padding and carpet have been pulled up.

  2. I’ve been thinking about carpet cleaning for a few months now. I have a cat who likes to pee near the closets. I was debating whether or not I should invest in hiring professionals or doing it myself. Since I live in an apartment, I’m going to assume that I have builder’s grade carpeting. Also, thanks to the other poster for mentioning the vinegar solution. I’m always on the lookout for saving a few bucks!

  3. Timely post! I was just considering having our carpets cleaned before my little one starts crawling. We unfortunatly have the builders grade carpet, that is already showing wear 2 and its only 2 years old. I think based on that we can rent a cheep machine and save the difference to replace this crappy carpet when the crawling days are over.

    • That’s a perfect time to get the carpet cleaned. Just be sure to get it done before the holiday rush and the bad winter weather sets in. Spring is another good time, but then you want to wait until after the muddiest portion of the season has passed.

      Expect it to be an all day, pain in the rear project. Be sure to have a couple of box fans going until the carpet is completely dry.

  4. As the owner of three dachshunds, two of which are semi-incontinent senior dogs {for those who don’t know, dachshunds are peeing MACHINES}, I have begrudgingly become a carpet cleaning expert!

    Great article, I did not know all of that stuff about vacuuming! To your tips on carpet cleaning, I’d like to add that you don’t have to use the cleaning solution sold to be used in conjunction with the cleaner. A DIY mix of white vinegar and water or ammonia and water works great, doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and I’ve found that once I stopped using store bought carpet cleaner solutions, my carpets were CLEANER! A professional cleaner once confessed to me that the solutions leave a sticky residue on carpet fibers which actually attract and trap MORE dirt than if you’d just used plain ol’ water and vinegar. Just Google “diy carpet cleaning solutions” and you’ll find a ton of recipes!

    • Yes, too much detergent absolutely can leave a sticky residue.

      I highly recommend cleaners like Kids ‘N Pets that are enzymatic, as a lot of the funk down in your carpet is organic in nature.


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