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How To Clean A Carpet

19 July 2023

How are your carpets looking? As you've landed on a blog about carpet cleaning, it's a fair bet that you're dealing with a mishap of some kind that's got you wondering how to fix those pesky carpet stains or you've noticed that there's deeply-ingrained dirt that you're finding difficult to shift!

Maybe you moved home recently and inherited carpets that have seen better days. The previous occupants may have been dog owners and/or smokers, leaving the carpets smelling bad.

Replacing them is an option, although getting a new carpet will be expensive, so you're now wondering how to clean a carpet effectively.

What you need is a list of handy hints and tips written by people with knowledge and experience in this area, and that's exactly what you've got right here with the Carpet Team's in-depth carpet cleaning guide.

Can I Clean A Carpet Myself?

Yes! It's not unreasonable to suggest that most people are fully capable of cleaning their own carpets - under normal circumstances. All it takes is a bit of elbow grease and a bit of creative thinking.

Even so, there are times when it is wise to consider professional carpet cleaning, but we'll come to that later.

In the meantime, let's get stuck in and see what can be done to get your carpets looking their best.

How To Clean A Carpet

How To Deep Clean A Carpet

Vacuum Thoroughly

This is the most important step in deep cleaning your carpet. Use a good quality vacuum cleaner with a beater bar* to remove as much loose dirt, dust, and debris as possible. Pay special attention to the high-traffic areas in your home, such as the hall (especially inside the front door), living room, and kitchen. *It's not essential to have a beater bar, but it can be useful in picking up hair.

Mix Your Cleaning Solution

There are many different recipes for carpet cleaning solutions, but a simple one that works well is a mixture of one part white vinegar and three parts water. You can also add a few drops of essential oil for a fresh scent. Alternatively, buy a good brand of carpet shampoo and follow the instructions.

Apply The Solution To The Carpet

Use a spray bottle to apply the cleaning solution to the carpet in a crisscross pattern. Be sure to cover the fibres well, but don't soak the carpet. Try to work methodically across the carpet and make your way to a door, or you'll need to walk over a wet carpet.

Let The Cleaning Solution Sit For At Least Ten Minutes

This will give it time to work its way into the carpet fibres and loosen the dirt.

Blot The Solution

Use a clean, damp cloth to blot the solution. Be sure to work from the outside of the area you're cleaning towards the centre to prevent the dirt from spreading.

Vacuum Again

Once you've blotted up all of the solution, vacuum the carpet again to remove all the dirt or debris removed by the cleaning process. Allow the area to air dry completely before walking on the carpet. Cleaning on a warm day with the windows open will help the drying process.

If your carpet is heavily soiled, you may need to repeat the deep cleaning process two or three times. You should also deep clean your carpet at least twice a year or more often if you have pets or children or you're a smoker.

Additional Advice:

  • If you have a steam cleaner, you can use it instead of a spray bottle and cloth. Just be sure to use the steam setting on the lowest setting to avoid damaging your carpet. If you have any doubts, avoid steam cleaning altogether
  • Pretreat stains before you deep clean the carpet. There are many different carpet stain removers available on the market, or you can make your own by mixing one part white vinegar with two parts water. Alternatively, you could use a small amount of dish soap and water.
  • If you have pets, you may want to use a pet-friendly carpet cleaner. These cleaners are designed to remove pet hair, dander, and urine stains. The best brands have
  • Be sure to test your cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area of your carpet before using it on the entire carpet. This will help you make sure that the solution won't damage your carpet.

Dealing With Tough Stains

Most common carpet stains are manageable, and you can usually shift these with a good carpet shampoo or carpet cleaner.

However, stubborn stains take a bit more effort. Despite the enthusiastic advice, a vinegar solution is unlikely to shift heavy stains. For these, you're better off investing in a branded stain remover or a small amount of hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol diluted with cold water.

Hydrogen peroxide is good for blood stains while rubbing alcohol is great for nail polish, ink and paint spills. You could also try WD-40, which basically works on almost every kind of stain! Make sure to blot the area and rinse it with cold water afterwards.

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

Should I Use A Carpet Cleaning Machine?

There are really several questions that need answering here:

  • Is it safe to use these on your carpets?
  • Are they easy to use?
  • Do they work?
  • And is it worth buying your own machine?

Let's dive in and cover all of these points!

In the past, many people would hire carpet cleaners, and these were often heavy and awkward to manoeuvre. While you can still hire them, it makes little sense if you use one regularly, as it probably turns out cheaper to buy in the long run.

Modern models are much easier to use as they are lightweight, and they usually work pretty well. Even so, few people have wall-to-wall carpeting in their homes (or businesses) these days, so it's not always worth investing in one of these machines.

While the better models perform well, few will achieve the same levels of deep cleaning as industrial models used by professionals.

On top of this, there are several other points to consider:

  • You need to set aside time to use the machine
  • You need to learn how to use it safely
  • You need to buy and mix the cleaning chemicals or carpet shampoo correctly
  • You need to use the right volume of water
  • You must make sure that all of the detergent is rinsed out completely, or this will leave a residue that actually attracts more dirt!

You'll also need to find a place to store the machine when not in use (which will be the majority of its life!).

On balance, using a professional company makes more sense than hiring or buying a carpet cleaning machine (we return to this subject below).

Top Carpet Cleaning Tips

There are thousands of 'experts' out there in Internet Land offering advice about carpet cleaning, and not all of them should be taken seriously. In fact, some should be avoided and ignored completely!

If you want some safe tips for a clean carpet, here are some tried and tested examples from the Carpet Team:

The Limits Of Vinegar Solution

Vinegar is widely held as a miracle liquid! It's recommended for virtually every type of household cleaning process imaginable, but it does not live up to the hype - at least for carpet stains! Although we suggested using it earlier, it's important to dilute it as per the instructions as it can discolour rugs and carpets.

Also, only use distilled white vinegar as this is purer and doesn't have an overpowering odour, and always rinse it out thoroughly.

Finally, while some tip websites advocate mixing vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, this is not a good idea and risks damaging your carpets!

Using Baking Soda

This is handy for absorbing bad smells in your carpets. Simply sprinkle it over the affected area and leave it for a couple of hours (or overnight if necessary), then run the vacuum cleaner over the spot. While hundreds of 'helpful' websites advise mixing baking soda with vinegar, this makes a messy paste that can be difficult to get rid of.

Dealing With Old Carpets

Spot-cleaning stains on old carpets can leave you with a lighter patch. It would be better to clean the whole carpet rather than tackle only one spot.

Hydrogen Peroxide

This is a handy liquid for many different types of spills and stains but must be used sparingly as it can discolour the carpet.

Regular Vacuuming

Vacuuming once or twice a week as part of your routine cleaning regime will go a long way to keeping your carpet clean. However, you shouldn't overdo it! Experts have suggested that hoovering too regularly (say, everyday or every other day) can damage the fibres, especially on deep-pile carpets.

Tackle Stains Straight Away!

Blot liquid spills with a paper towel as soon as possible, as fresh stains are easier to remove than old ones. Paper towels are ideal for mopping up excess paint or red wine, after which you should use one of the cleaning methods above to get rid of the stain. For more learnings, you can check out our post "How To Clean Red Wine From Carpet".

Invest In A Lint Roller

These are great for deep-pile carpets, as you can pick up small pieces that can be missed when vacuuming. Also, a rubber squeegee is perfect for grabbing pet hair that gets missed.

Pet Stains

These can be troublesome! While baking soda will get rid of the smell as far as humans are concerned, your dog will still be able to detect the 'scent markers' still and may target the area again. If necessary, invest in an enzyme spray to remove pet stains, as this eliminates the odours completely. Our post "How To Clean Cat Pee From Carpet" maybe interest you. You can check it out.

Chewing Gum

When gum gets tracked in on your carpet, press an ice cube on it for about 30 seconds until it sets hard, then gently scrape it away with a flat blade. The remaining residue can be removed using rubbing alcohol, WD-40 or an alternative.

Wool Carpets

Invest in a branded carpet shampoo specially formulated for wool. Never use household detergents, dish soap, bleach, or ammonia on wool carpets! For more information, check out our post “How To Clean Wool Carpet".

Should I Hire A Professional Carpet Cleaner?

Although you can generally keep your carpets clean by following the advice here, it's wise to call in the professionals from time to time. This not only makes your life easier, as you won't need to work so hard to make them look great, but it also extends the life of your carpets.

Also, no matter how often you use the vacuum cleaner, dust mites, dust, pollen, and assorted dirt will accumulate over time. This can be even worse if you have pets, as dander and hair will become embedded in the carpet fibres.

So, yes, it's best to hire a professional carpet cleaner at least once or twice a year, and maybe four times a year if you keep pets and/or are a smoker (you'd be astonished at the damage cigarette smoke does and how much tar and nicotine gets into those fibres!).

But there is one condition: always use a company you can trust, like the Carpet Team. You might find a local handyman (or woman) who offers to clean carpets at a cheaper rate, but they rarely have the tools, experience or knowledge to do the job justice. At best, your carpets will look okay but not as clean as you'd have hoped. At worst, they'll be ruined by the misuse of steam cleaners or carpet-cleaning machines.

It might be possible to claim your money back, although few of these individuals will have public liability insurance. Our advice is to only use competent, professional carpet cleaners!

If you have any queries about our service or need advice on any aspect mentioned here, do get in touch and we'll pass on the benefit of our experience. While laminate or wooden flooring has largely taken the place of carpets, they offer warmth and texture that we still treasure today, and they deserve to be looked after.



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