How to clean a carpet – treat stains at home, with or without carpet cleaner
It is important to know how to properly clean a carpet to keep your home looking good. From everyday grime to unpleasant grass, coffee or wine stains (you know the drill), carpets are definitely hammering and therefore a little easier to care for. That’s not to say you can’t clean a rug yourself at home. Because you can and must, if at all, just to see the wonderful effects that baking soda, vinegar and of course a good old-fashioned carpet cleaner can have on that soft layer under your feet.
How often should you clean a carpet?
Cleaning your carpet is a great way to limit dust and other allergens. In the season, even hay fever symptoms can be reduced. In a perfect world, you would break the vacuum every day – although this is more important for large households with pets and children in tow.
Even Martha Stewart puts it this way: “Frequent vacuuming is the only way to prevent dirt from building up, and a vacuum that is easy to use is critical. Spend most of cleaning time where dirt accumulates: a dozen passes of vacuum within four feet of exterior doors, eight passes in high traffic areas, and four passes elsewhere. If carpets haven’t been cleaned regularly and thoroughly, double passports for three months. ‘
Trust us, you will extend the life of your carpet by years. And cleaning counts as an exercise, right? For thorough cleaning, wash your carpets with a household shampoo machine every three to four months. If you have children and pets who roll around a lot, it might be a good idea to wash your carpet more often than every three months.
How to clean a carpet at home
For successful carpet cleaning at home, it is important to consider what your carpet is made of: synthetic materials, wool, or vegetable fibers, to make sure you choose the right products and use the right techniques to get the job done right.
Below we’ve covered everything from cleaning carpet stains to shampooing carpets and more to get your carpets looking clean again.
Vacuum your carpet wall to wall
It is important that you choose the right pile height for your carpet. If yours is synthetic or made from plant-based fibers, you can move in different directions and keep the whipping brush on to remove more sand. If your rug is wool-based or deep-pile, avoid the beater brush and move more carefully in the direction of the fibers if possible.
Obviously, before you start cleaning your carpet, you’ll want to clear the area as much as possible. Stack chairs upside down on the table, remove carpets and small items that are lying around. It is important to ensure that small objects do not get sucked in and damage the vacuum cleaner.
Choose the right carpet cleaning products and methods
To thoroughly clean a carpet, you need a decent carpet cleaning product. You’ll also want a machine to clean as it allows you to do a thorough cleaning without soaking or damaging the carpet. Rent a carpet cleaning machine if you don’t want to hand clean yours and if you don’t want to buy your own, you can rent a machine like B&Q’s Rug Doctor if you are based in the UK.
Then, when choosing your carpet shampoo, consider again what your carpet is made of. If you can, buy a shampoo with a carpet protector – Scotchgard, for example – as this will protect your carpet from future stains. For wool carpets. Choose a cleaning solution that is wool-safe. This way you know that it has been specially tested and approved specifically for carpet care (all Vax cleaners are wool-safe).
If it’s for refreshment, or if you’d like to hand clean your carpet, try the vinegar and baking soda methods below.
Today’s best carpet cleaner deals
Treat stains and marks on site
You want to start with stains. Whether you’re dealing with mud (thanks kids), blood, a coffee stain, or red wine (oops), if it’s wet, gently blot it with a paper towel to remove as much of it as you can, but overdo it it doesn’t so this can actually cause it to spread further. Then use your preferred stain removal method to lift the mark when fresh. Act quickly.
When your carpet stain is dry, use a blunt scraper or stiff brush to remove the residue, vacuum, treat and shampoo your carpet as described above.
Then try to remove dents and impressions from heavy furniture on the carpet by rubbing an ice cube over the area.
Other of our favorite carpet stain removal methods include:
- Iron: Iron out stains in the carpet by soaking a cloth or flannel in water, placing it on the stain and running a hot iron over it. The heat will start to break up the stains, making the rug easier to clean. This is also a great way to clean up any spilled wax.
- Go organic: If the stain in question is of organic origin, and particularly the result of a pet-related accident, consider using an organic stain remover such as Ecos stain and odor remover. We’ve used it on all kinds of stains from food stains to pet urine and it really works. As with other stain removal products, ideally apply sooner rather than later.
- Pre-treatment if set low: Before you start cleaning your carpet thoroughly, remove any stubborn stains and stains you can see with pretreatment. Treatment like Bissell Pre-Cleaner would be ideal. This will loosen the stain and make it easier for your carpet cleaner to wash it off completely.
Top tip: Try stain remover on an inconspicuous section of carpet immediately after purchase. This saves you from panicking the potential of destroying your carpet if a stain occurs. And patience is important. So let your stain treatment of your choice work for about 15 minutes. Make sure not to wet the carpet too much, otherwise dye from the underlay can penetrate.
How to clean a carpet with baking soda
To hand-clean your rug with baking soda, apply it generously to the rug, then spray it off with a fine layer of water. Then let it stand for a few hours. Vacuum seal once dry.
Baking soda, or even bicarbonate of soda, is a great natural deodorizer and great for freshening up a smelly carpet, even if you don’t want a thorough cleaning. Just sprinkle it on yours for at least 15 minutes (but preferably an hour) before vacuuming and that smell will go away.
How to clean a carpet with vinegar
You can use vinegar to disinfect a carpet and remove lingering stains and odors. Always do a patch test first to see if your carpet can handle it. Then make a solution of one part white vinegar and three parts water. Spray it on the carpet with a plant mister and let it sit for a few minutes so it can do its job. Dab with a clean microfiber cloth, following the basic rule that you should never scrub a stain. Vacuum thoroughly.
(Image credit: Getty)
Using a carpet cleaner
- Prepare the carpet cleaning machine: If this is your first time using a carpet washer, read the instructions carefully and make sure everything looks in good condition. Rinse the tanks and check that the filter and brush strip are clear. If there are any obvious problems, consult the device manual.
- Fill the carpet cleaning tank: First, simply fill the water tank of your carpet washing system with warm water and the cleaning solution you have chosen. Do this with the device unplugged, then plug it back in with an outlet as close to the door as possible, as this will be your endpoint.
- Clean the carpet: For a successful carpet shampooing, start in the back corner of the room and work your way back to the door. This prevents accidentally damp socks! Move back and forth and slowly hold the trigger to spray the cleaning solution. Release the trigger and pull the washer back across the carpet. Keep moving back and forth, repeating this up to four times for each area.
- Let the carpet dry: To dry your carpet, open the windows and ventilate the room with fresh air. If it’s too cold for that, turn on the central heating and let it sit for a few hours to speed up the drying process.
Test carpet cleaner
We tested four approaches to cleaning carpets to see which are best for combating red wine and pasta sauce stains. These included:
- Vax Platinum Power Max carpet cleaner
- Disappearing carpet mousse
- An environmentally friendly one Baking soda solution
- White wine (well it’s an old women’s story of removing red wine)
Check out our short video (above) to see which works best and for some useful tips on cleaning carpet stains.
Cleaning carpets: what not to do
Now we have given you many tips on how to clean a carpet. Here are some things to avoid:
- Never use clean vinegar on carpet stains: Never pour clean white vinegar directly onto a stain as it will only soak, spread the stain and damage the fibers.
- Don’t use hairspray to treat ink stains: There are tons of so-called cleaning hacks out there that claim a squirt of hairspray will remove pen or ink stains, but it really won’t. In fact, it can damage the carpet fibers and attract dirt.
- Do not use bleach on natural carpets: Never use bleach on a wool rug or it will cause pale stains. If you’re not sure what your carpet is made of, make up a bleach solution and do a tiny patch test in a corner with an old toothbrush.
- Don’t use white wine to treat a red wine stain: Yes, that’s a myth.
- Do not use hot or cold water on carpet stains: Grabbing a wet towel seems like an obvious choice, but it can do more harm than good. Hot water in particular can cause the stain to spread and penetrate deeper into the pile of carpets.
- Don’t rub too much: Rubbing too hard can actually chop the fibers, so don’t go overboard.
Please take off your shoes from now on! 👞