How to: Best Carpet Cleaning At Home
The most basic method for cleaning a carpet is, of course, vacuuming. In order to clean low-, medium- and high-pile carpets and rugs, a good carpet vacuum cleaner must have an adjustable cleaner head height, rotating brush, good suction, and in the end, good air filtration.
Vacuuming with a vacuum cleaner will keep the carpets clean, but there are many instances where vacuuming alone is not enough.
Updated: September 14, 2021.
Tough stains, pet messes, and similar types of dirt cannot be cleaned with just a spinning brushroll and strong air flow - such type of dirt often requires a cleaning detergent mixed with warm water to be rubbed into the dirt and then to be removed by a strong suction of dedicated carpet washer.
For smaller stains and in emergencies, cleaning solutions in the spray bottles can be of great help, etc.
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Intro - Carpet Cleaning
Carpets are made from various materials (artificial fibers, wool, etc.) and all those materials don't react the same way when cleaned with different methods. In order to avoid damaging your carpet, whenever trying a new cleaning method, read the instructions thoroughly, check labels on the carpet, and try the new method on a small carpet area.
For example, some oriental carpets have sensitive colors and fibers and they should be cleaned using a vacuum cleaner with a gently rotating brush and when required, mild carpet detergent/solution, designed for sensitive oriental carpets.
Also, fur carpets can't be cleaned the same way as low-pile carpets and thin area rugs.
When cleaning with various cleaning solutions, especially sticky messes, pet urine, and similar tough dirt, because of the chemicals that are present in such cleaning aids, such cleaning solutions must be used as instructed by the manufacturer - it is important that the carpet is clean after the cleaning, but it also must be safe for use by kids, adults, pets, etc.
All these little details determine which cleaning method is the most suitable for a certain specific situation - and since most homes have different types of carpets and area rugs, it is not uncommon for a single household to have, for example, a high-end multi-floor vacuum cleaner (for regular vacuuming of both floors and elevated surfaces) combined with a carpet spot cleaner/washer (for cleaning tough stains and messed from carpets and area rugs) and a lightweight convertible 2-in-1 cordless vacuum cleaner (for quick cleanups and vacuuming in emergencies).
In the end, we are all different, so be sure to choose according to your personal needs and requirements.
Best Carpet Cleaning Machines
The most common carpet cleaning machines are carpet vacuums, carpet washers/cleaners/shampooers, carpet spot cleaners, and steam cleaners. They all have their pros and cons but can be very useful in keeping the carpets clean and even sanitized.
Carpet Vacuum Cleaners
Vacuuming is the most basic method of carpet cleaning. Vacuum cleaners optimized for carpet cleaning feature a rotating brush that agitates even the deeply embedded dirt in the carpet, while strong suction removes the dirt and debris into the vacuum cleaner dirt cup or vacuum bag.
For people with pets and long hair in general, cleaning heads optimized for such dirt are highly recommended. Cleaning head height must be adjustable, in order to provide enough air flow that will remove the dirt, but also keep the suction within fibers high.
For example, if the cleaning head is too high, plenty of air enters the vacuum, but the suction within the carpet is low; if the cleaning head is too low, an insufficient amount of air enters the vacuum, and the carpet suction within the fibers is again – low. But, when the cleaning head is too low on the carpet, because of the suction, the cleaning head is very difficult to move, requiring large force by the user to push-pull the vacuum cleaner.
Homes with people and pets with long hair should consider the vacuum cleaners with brushrolls that feature a self-cleaning system of some kind - as the hair, lint, fibers, and similar dirt get tangled around the brushroll, it can significantly help if the vacuum removes such dirt from the brushroll automatically.
Self-cleaning brushrolls tend to increase the price of the vacuum cleaner, but in many cases, they are well worth it.
Air filtration must be good, or dirt, dust, pollen, and other small particles will be returned into the cleaned area, which is not good even if you don’t have issues with asthma and allergies.
Air filtration level is a very important feature - most vacuum cleaner manufacturers claim that their units are HEPA vacuums, but they don't always clearly state actual HEPA standard.
The following chart lists various classifications of EPA/HEPA/ULPA filters according to the EN 1822 standard:
|Filter Group||Filter Class||Filtration Efficiency||Penetration|
|Efficiency Particulate Air (EPA) Filters||E10||85 %||15 %|
|E11||95 %||5 %|
|E12||99.5 %||0.5 %|
|High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filters||H13||99.95 %||0.05 %|
|H14||99.995 %||0.005 %|
|Ultra-Low Penetration Air (ULPA) Filters||U15||99.9995 %||0.0005 %|
|U16||99.99995 %||0.00005 %|
|U17||99.999995 %||0.000005 %|
Note: In the European Union air filtration is defined by standard EN 1822, which defines several classes of EPA/HEPA/ULPA air filters according to their ability to retain(!) the Most Penetrating Particle Size (MPPS) particles that are in the 0.1 and 0.3 micrometers range.
However, commonly in the US 'true HEPA' air filtration means the ability of the air filter to retain at least 99.97% of 0.3 microns or larger particles. Thus, 'true HEPA' is between H13 and H14 filter classes.
With all the tiny particles of dust, pollen, pet dander, etc. that lie within the carpet fibers, it is highly recommended to have at least H13 HEPA (99.95%) or 'true HEPA' (99.97%) level of air filtration.
But, vacuum cleaners with 99.9% air filtration are relatively cheaper and easier to maintain - again, choose according to your own needs and personal preferences.
Bagged vacuums (with no charcoal filtration layer) can use crushed scent discs in order to provide pleasant fragrance after cleaning, while bagless vacuums must have a special compartment for scented powders or they can use scented air filters, if available.
Although such fragrance may increase the feeling of freshness and cleanliness, it can also just mask or hide deeper and more important issues...
Thanks to modern technology, good carpet vacuums may be both corded and cordless units - corded units have a longer operating time (as long as the mains power is present), while the autonomy of the cordless units is limited only by the amount of energy being stored in the onboard battery.
Carpet cleaners/washers/shampooers combine cold or warm water with a cleaning agent/detergent to thoroughly wash the carpet by applying the cleaning solution onto the cleaned surface, rubbing it in the carpet with a rotating brush(es), and then drying the carpet with strong suction which removes the liquid from the carpet.
In order to decrease the drying time, some models even include a warm air blower to additionally dry the carpet.
When the carpets are cleaned using carpet washers, in most situations, carpets require some time to get thoroughly dry, most often several hours. However, the carpets are clean almost as new.
Most carpet cleaners feature a so-called dual-tank design, with one tank used for clean water (or clean water&detergent mix) and another one for dirty liquids.
In most cases, the cleaning detergent is added to the water and kept in the 'clean water tank' prior to cleaning, but there are also models that store the cleaning detergent in either the original bottle or in a small, third tank.
Such units allow the user to rinse the carpet after the carpet was washed with the water and detergent - very helpful for people having issues with sinuses, allergies, and smells/fumes in general.
Note: if you have carpets on the wooden floors, don’t use carpet washers to clean the carpets, since moisture can penetrate the wood and make it buckle and even rot over time.
Carpet washers can be both corded and cordless units. While cordless units don't feature water heaters (but may use warm water), some corded units feature water heaters, allowing them to keep the water at the desired temperature over long periods of time, improving the cleaning effect when rather large areas are being cleaned.
Carpet Spot Cleaners/Washers
Carpet spot cleaners are the type of carpet cleaners/washers optimized for cleaning spots and stains which are really hard to clean, like stains from beef gravy, food grease, coffee, cola, grape, and other juices, makeup, red wine, etc.
Carpet spot cleaners combine several methods for cleaning stains, like cold/warm/hot water with or without carpet cleaning agent, mechanical brush, and strong suction - they are very similar to carpet cleaners/washers, they are just smaller, lighter, cheaper, and designed for smaller areas - carpet spots, carpeted stairs and similar.
It is very important to use them as soon as possible since dry messes are often much harder to clean. Again, be sure that your carpet allows this form of cleaning. Also, the cleaned spot is usually visible even after drying, requiring the whole carpet to be thoroughly cleaned, which shouldn’t be a problem, right? :)
Just like larger carpet cleaners/washers, carpet spot cleaners also feature mostly dual-tank design, one for clean water and another for dirty liquids. But, due to the different requirements, carpet spot cleaners often feature flexible cleaning hoses with manual or sometimes motorized brushes in order to clean dirty spots.
Such design prevents the cleaning of large carpeted or upholstered areas, but these units are not even designed for that - they can be deployed in no time and quickly clean dirty spots or small areas.
Steam vacuums/mops can be used to clean the carpets, too. Steam vacuums remove the dirt using suction, and clean and sanitize the carpet using hot steam. Also, hot steam help remove the dirt, too.
Sensitive carpets should not be cleaned using steam vacuums/mop, since such cleaning can damage them. Also, steam mops don’t remove the dirt from the carpets, they ‘just’ sanitize and freshen the carpets.
Since moisture from the steam penetrates deeply into the carpet, if the carpet is placed on the wooden floor, don't steam clean such carpet - moisture can enter the wood and make it buckle and rot if there are cracks in the wood's finish.
Robot Vacuum Cleaners
Robot vacuums can be very helpful in keeping the home clean and more pleasant to live in, even if the floors are carpeted - robot vacuums can deal with such surfaces if the carpets are not too thick and soft.
Thick and soft carpets prevent the robot vacuums from moving around due to the very small height of such units - most robot vacuums feature a so-called 'climbing height' of just 12-18 mm.
But, if the floors feature low- and medium-pile carpets, robot vacuums can clean them on regular basis, for example, once a day.
Robot vacuums designed for multi-floor cleaning feature one or two side brushes, main brushroll, and relatively strong suction. Due to their compact dimensions, dirt cups are relatively small and usually, in the 0.5 - 0.8 liters range - dirt cups should be regularly emptied manually unless the unit features an automatic dirt disposal system.
Features like voice control, WiFi connectivity, support for Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assistant, Recharge and Resume, etc. all increase the price of the unit, but they can come in very handy.
Note: Amazon link opens in the new window, feel free to check it for the most up-to-date offers and prices.
Best Carpet Cleaning Solutions
Carpet cleaning solutions are various chemicals that help clean the carpets and area rugs - they help in 'detaching' the dirt particles from the carpet fibers and removing them from the carpet by either air or liquids via strong suction.
Carpet Cleaning Detergents/Solutions
Carpet cleaning detergents are usually added into the clean water tanks of carpet cleaners/washers or carpet spot cleaners - they chemically help remove the dirt from the carpets and, when used according to the instructions, they are safe for kids, pets, and the environment in general.
Each brand manufactures its own carpet cleaner solutions, optimized for their carpet cleaners, carpet types, types of dirt and similar.
Also, most manufacturers offer multi-floor cleaning solutions which are recommended for homes that have different floor types.
However, in order to achieve the best cleaning results, it is recommended to use cleaning solutions/detergents intended specifically for carpets.
Carpet Dry Cleaning
Dry cleaning is a combination of chemical and mechanical carpet cleaning. Dry cleaning powders are sprinkled above the carpeted surface, then gently rubbed into the carpet and left there for 10-30 minutes - read the instructions first and check if your carpet can be cleaned this way.
After the required time, simply vacuum the carpet.
Carpet dry cleaning powders are actually slightly moist and when applied, they stick to the dirt particles and dislodge them from carpet fibers – when vacuumed, both the dirt and cleaning powder are removed from the carpet, leaving carpets thoroughly cleaned.
Carpet dry cleaning powders often have a soft and pleasant scent, increasing the feeling of freshness and cleanness even further.
One of the interesting features of a good carpet dry cleaner is that the carpet is left protected (up to the point, of course) against the sticky dirt and dust, making future vacuuming faster and easier.
Carpet Foam Cleaners
Carpet foam cleaners are the form of chemical carpet cleaner, often used to remove spots and stains, which are hard to remove with other means. It is very similar to ‘dry carpet cleaners’, except they are sold in the form of foam spray bottles.
Use is very simple, often requiring just spraying the foam onto the carpet surface. Rubbing the foam into the carpet with a dry or moist cloth or a brush and then vacuuming after some time, often leads to even better results.
Nonetheless, read the instructions and since these are chemical cleaners, check if your carpet is designed for such cleaning.
Carpet Spot Pretreat Solutions
Carpet spot pretreat solutions are applied to the carpet spots before actual cleaning beings. Carpet spot pretreat solutions can be very useful when trying to clean dried stains and extra sticky and stubborn dirt and messes.
After applying the carpet spot pretreat solution, it is required to wait for some time (please read the instructions of the pretreat solution and check if your carpet is allowed to be cleaned that way), after which it can be cleaned using carpet cleaners/washers, carpet sport cleaners, or even with carpet vacuums.
Carpet Cleaning With Home Remedies
Vinegar can be used to return the original color to a faded Oriental rug or carpet. First, clean the carpet with a vacuum cleaner. Then, mix vinegar and water in a suitable pot, and using cotton or microfiber cloth (or even a gentle brush), rub the liquid into the carpet.
Not only that the acetic acid dissolves the dirt, but it also helps faded colors to shine again.
There are other home remedies that can be used to clean the carpets, like:
- Carpet beater – excellent thing for removing the dust and making a dust cloud in the backyard. Also, requires a horizontal pole to hang the carpet. IMHO, use a good vacuum cleaner with a motorized beater bar or rotating brush.
- Wet salt – used similarly as carpet dry cleaning powder, can help remove the dirt from the carpet. Be careful, salt crystals can damage the carpet fibers.
- Lemon juice – used similarly as vinegar, leaving a pleasant fragrance of citrus fruits after cleaning.
- Baking soda – used like wet salt and other powdered, but slightly moist, carpet cleaners.
When cleaning carpets with various cleaners like lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar, wet salt, foam, and powdered cleaners, etc., always read the carpet label and check the instructions on the carpet label.
Just a Few Final Words
Carpets are area rugs, carpeted stairs, car carpets, and other similar surfaces that can be easily cleaned when proper cleaning tools are used.
Various cleaning detergents/solutions may also be used to improve the cleaning and even to protect the carpet from future stains and dirt.
However, always be sure that the carpet is suitable for such cleaning and always read the instructions on the cleaning solutions - they are safe for humans if and when used according to the instructions.
Or, if you are unsure, or don't have time, You can always contact your nearest carpet cleaning service and let them clean the carpet for you.