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How To Clean A Carpet By Hand

19 July 2023

While carpets aren't as popular as they once were, with hard flooring taking over in many places, they still add a softness and warmth to millions of homes in the UK.

The trouble is that they need more care and attention than laminate flooring, but it's worth doing this properly to keep them in good condition.

For optimum results and to extend their lifespan, carpet manufacturers recommend that you have your carpets cleaned professionally on a fairly regular basis - say, once or twice a year or so. In the meantime, you can play your part by taking an active role in keeping your carpets in tip-top condition.

How Can I Manually Clean My Carpets At Home?

Millions of people Google things like how to deep clean carpet by hand or how to clean a carpet without a machine every day, so the Carpet Team is here to answer this question with a step-by-step guide.

When using a carpet cleaning machine is not an option for whatever reason, you'll need to be prepared to invest some time and effort in the job, but it's mostly straightforward and shouldn't be too much of a chore.

So, without any further fuss, let's get down to business!

How To Clean A Carpet By Hand

How To Clean Your Carpet By Hand Without A Machine

The first step, assuming you want to clean the entire carpet, is to remove as many obstacles as possible. This is to make things easier for you and to ensure that as much of the surface area is covered as possible, although it doesn't matter too much if there are heavy items that you can't be bothered to shift or are too heavy to move easily.

In all probability, the carpet will be in good condition here anyway, so just remove what you can.

Ideally, pick a dry day in spring when it's fairly warm and leave your windows open to allow the carpet to air dry. Try to set aside at least an hour for the actual cleaning process, although drying times will vary depending on the air temperature and time of year.

Hoover The Whole Carpet

Give the entire area a thorough going over with a vacuum cleaner to remove as much loose dirt as possible. This gets rid of dust, crumbs, pet hair, dander and dirt that are lurking in the carpet fibres.

Pretreat Stains

Any obvious stains need special attention before you begin, as this will improve the chances of shifting them. Either apply a branded stain remover or use one of the methods shown below.

Apply The Cleaning Solution

You can buy a cleaning solution or carpet shampoo or make your own (see the next heading for details), and it's easier to use this if they're in a spray bottle.

Use the bottle to evenly distribute the solution across the whole carpet and leave it to soak in for at least ten minutes - the longer you leave it, the more time it has to break down dirt and grease. Try to coat all of the fibres but don't saturate the carpet, or it will take days to dry out.

Scrub The Carpet Gently

Using an old toothbrush, soft scrub brush, carpet brush or sponge, gently scrub the surface of the carpet, making sure to go in one direction. This action will help to loosen ground-in dirt and make it easier to remove.

Blot Any Excess Water

Use a clean, dry towel or paper towels to blot the surface dry. This removes most of the cleaning solution and accumulated grime.

Apply Warm Water

Spray the area with warm water only and repeat the blotting process with a paper towel or dry cloth. Leave it to dry fully before you walk on the carpet or put the furniture back. You can use a fan or hair dryer to speed up the drying process.

Homemade Carpet Cleaning Solutions

If you Google homemade carpet cleaning solution, almost all of them will recommend that you use vinegar. While white vinegar is useful and can be used in some cases, it is not a cure-all and should be used sparingly and with caution. Avoid any recipes that say to use equal parts white vinegar and warm/cold water, as this could be too strong.

So, why are we going against the grain here? Well, for one thing, vinegar can discolour your carpets if you use too much. Secondly, it can leave a lingering odour, especially if you use too much.

Also, never use anything other than distilled white vinegar!

For a safe, non-toxic and natural cleaning solution, try the following:

  • 2 cups of warm water
  • Half a cup of white vinegar
  • A couple of teaspoons of table salt
  • 10 drops of essential oil of your choice (lavender or pine are perfect as they mask the vinegar odour and leave the carpet smelling fresh)

For something with a bit more oomph, try this one:

  • Baking soda
  • Hydrogen Peroxide 3% solution (this is important! any stronger and you'll risk bleaching your carpet)
  • A few drops of dish soap (washing-up liquid)
  • Warm water

It's important to note that the baking soda isn't mixed in with the liquids. Instead, sprinkle the powder liberally over the surface of the carpet, then use a spray bottle to apply the solution. Rub the surface gently with a carpet brush or microfibre cloth, then leave it for about 15 minutes before vacuuming.

This is great for dealing with stubborn stains or deep cleaning your carpet. However, don't use too much washing-up liquid, or this will stick to the fibres and become a dirt trap!

Alternatively, you could try this mix:

  • Half a cup of hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 cups of water
  • 10 drops of lemon essential oil

This is great for deep cleaning your carpet and freshening it up. The lemon aroma really adds a zing that will last for a while, and the hydrogen peroxide can usually handle tough stains, including red wine and blood. For more learnings, you can check out our post "How To Clean Red Wine From Carpet".

Finally, ammonia can be very useful around the home, including as a carpet cleaner. Ready-made ammonia-based cleaning liquids are available, although you can buy ammonia separately - just be careful when mixing it and make sure you dilute it well with warm water.

Pour the solution into a spray bottle and use it as per the directions above.

Safety tips:

  • Never mix ammonia with any product that contains chlorine bleach! This will produce highly toxic fumes that are hazardous to your health.
  • Never mix hydrogen peroxide and vinegar! This creates corrosive peracetic acid that irritates the eyes, throat, lungs and skin.
  • Never mix laundry soap (clothes washing powder or liquid) with ammonia, bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Again, this will produce toxic fumes.
  • Avoid using household bleach on your carpets. There's a very good chance that you'll ruin your carpet!

Treating Pet Stains

Only cat and dog owners know the joy of discovering a 'surprise' package on their carpet. And if it's not dealt with immediately, it can leave a nasty stain along with an unpleasant odour.

As usual, many advice websites suggest using vinegar, but this rarely does the trick. It's best to go with something more powerful, like hydrogen peroxide, which is excellent for removing stains.

To shift that horrible smell, cover the area with baking soda and leave it for 24 hours (you might need to place a covering over the top to prevent it from being disturbed). Use your vacuum cleaner to lift the baking soda, and the smell should be gone.

However, pet urine and faeces carry scent markers that are notoriously difficult to remove, and your beloved fur baby may target the same spot, despite your best efforts. In this case, you might need a branded enzyme spray that neutralises the scent markers.

For more information, check out our posts “How To Clean Cat Pee From Carpet" and "How To Clean Dog Pee From Carpet".

What's The Easiest Way To Clean Carpets?

Cleaning your carpets by hand takes a bit of elbow grease, but most fit and healthy individuals can cope with this. However, how easy it is depends on the state of your carpet and the method you use.

If you're looking for an easy path, then a steam cleaner might be the answer. The trouble here is that steam cleaners are tricky to use, and if you apply too much heat, you will damage your carpet irreparably.

You could hire or buy a carpet cleaning machine, but it's up to you to decide whether it's worth the expense and hassle. You'll need to learn how to use it and fill it correctly, and unless you hire/buy a lightweight model, they can be bulky and difficult to haul around. Not exactly easy!

And so we come to professional carpet cleaners, which is by far the easiest way! You don't need to do anything, just sit back and watch as someone else does the work.

You can also check out our post "How To Clean A Carpet" for additional insights.

Wall-To-Wall Carpet Vs Rugs

Just one note of warning: rugs and carpets aren't the same thing and should generally be treated differently! You shouldn't use the same cleaning process for rugs as you could ruin them. Most rugs are hand-wash only unless you have a machine-washable one.

Carpets are mass-produced by machines, mostly using synthetic materials. Although you can buy cheaper, mass-produced rugs, some are hand-made and can be expensive. These need to be treated with care, and ideally, you should consider using a professional carpet cleaner.

In some parts of the US (and other places around the world), the words carpet and rug are interchangeable, which can lead to confusion. In the UK, rugs are loose, removable floor coverings, mostly set in the centre of the room. They can be any size or shape but are easily rolled up and removed.

Carpets, on the other hand, are fixed in place against the skirting board of the room and have gripper rods in the doorways to keep them down.

The Carpet Team - When You Need A Helping Hand

Regular cleaning and dealing promptly with stains and stubborn dirt will keep your carpets in good condition and extend their lifespan.

But for optimum results, the Carpet Team recommends using a professional carpet cleaner a couple of times a year. So when you need an expert carpet cleaning service, or you need additional advice on the tips shown above, get in touch and we'll share our extensive knowledge with you to get your carpets super clean!

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