How to Clean Your Carpet

Ah, carpet. So soft and fluffy under our toes, but what lies hidden beneath the surface? A lot. Ask anyone who has deep cleaned a rug (yikes!). How do you deal with this beast that covers the floors of your home? You can’t exactly fit it in your tub!


Regular Maintenance
  • Carpet should ideally be thoroughly vacuumed twice a week, using multiple passes in cross-hatch patterns in areas that are more exposed to soil (aim for two passes over high traffic areas and four passes in entry ways, which receive the most soil).
    • Tip: Using rugs and door mats inside and outside of entry doors greatly reduces the amount of soil that is deposited on carpet.


General, Large Scale Cleaning
  • This method would work best for someone looking to thoroughly clean a large area of carpet to remove dirt, allergens, and general grime that builds up day by day.
  • To achieve the best, most thorough clean, a hot water extraction carpet cleaning machine is the solution you’ve been looking for. Whether that entails renting a Rug Doctor, calling the professionals, or walking down the hall to get your own machine from the closet depends on your situation and is entirely up to you. They may all work a little different, but the strategy is the same: apply cleaning liquid or foam to the carpet and then immediately remove as much of that liquid as possible. It is this process that makes a carpet cleaning machine so effective.


5 Steps to Clean Carpet with a Machine
  1. Vacuum.
    • Vacuuming must be done before to remove as much soil as possible.
  2. Pretreat (optional, but very effective).
    • Pretreating usually involves spraying the carpet with a special pretreatment cleaner. This allows the cleaner to have more time to dissolve and bind with soil, as opposed to using a cleaning machine alone. Pretreating increases the effectiveness of the machine and is especially beneficial when used in entryways, high traffic areas, and heavily soiled areas. Some products may call for agitation and/or a waiting period before using the cleaning machine.
  3. Use a carpet cleaning machine.
    • Follow the instructions for your specific machine. You may have to complete multiple passes over each area to fully clean it. Hot water increases the effectiveness of the cleaners and machine, so when allowed by the manufacturer, use the hottest water possible (be careful!). Make sure to run extra passes with the machine to extract as much of the water and cleaning solution as the machine can get, which will reduce your drying time.
  4. Allow time for the carpet to dry.
    • It may take a day or two to dry, depending on how much moisture is left behind and the temperature in the house. If it is warm enough, open the windows to help lower the humidity in the house, which will help the carpet dry faster. Fans can be used to help it dry, and are especially useful in more enclosed areas, such as closets and some hallways. That fan on the HVAC unit can also be run to help circulate the air.
    • Avoid walking on damp carpet, which is more prone to soil getting redeposited. Do not place furniture on the carpet until it is completely dry, as it could cause mildew/mold growth.
  5. Vacuum.
    • Vacuum after cleaning to remove residual detergent/soil and to groom the carpet so it is soft and fluffy again.


  • It is important to note that you should never put anything in a machine besides what the manufacturer recommends. Doing so could void your warranty or even break your machine! And don’t think you’re off the hook if you’re renting a machine; you are liable for that machine and you could wind up having to pay the full cost of the machine ($500+) if it breaks. Not only is using non-recommended products a huge risk; there is little benefit. Using laundry detergent or oxiclean may seem like a good idea (it works so well on clothes, right?) and you may even see good results at first, but those results are likely temporary. Products meant for laundry or dishes are meant to be thoroughly rinsed to completely remove the product from the item being cleaned. A carpet cleaning machine does rinse, but not nearly as well as a washing machine or dishwasher does. The remaining product left on your carpet may actually attract and hold onto soil, leaving the carpet dirtier a week later than it was before you cleaned. So do yourself a favor and choose one of the many cleaners made specifically for your machine. Chances are there will be one to suit your specific needs, whether that be pet odors or high traffic areas, etc.
  • A carpet cleaning machine will make your carpet feel soft and fluffy again, but may not remove all the stains. If you find yourself with clean carpet that still has stains, continue reading.


Stain Removal
  • To tackle stains, a machine is not necessary. Look for a product specifically marketed for carpet, not for laundry. It’s also a good idea to look for a product that does not require rinsing, as that can be difficult to do. When using the product, blot the stain gently and work from the outside in. Do not scrub; it can harm the carpet fibers. A product that many of our admins and members have had great results with is Folex. You spray it on the stain, agitate with your fingers, and blot with a white rag. Repeat as needed.


Help! Fresh Spill!
  • First, soak up as much of the liquid as possible with a white or colorfast towel. Do this immediately. Place the towel on the spill and press gently but firmly with your hand. Once the towel is wet, find a dry spot of the towel and repeat until no more liquid comes up. A shop vac may come in handy if there is a large amount of liquid, but should still be followed by blotting with towels.
  • Next, it’s best to use a carpet cleaning machine of some sort, whether that be a full size machine or a small, hand-held carpet and upholstery cleaner. The smaller machines, like the Little Green, Spot Bot, etc. really come in handy for these situations. If you don’t have a carpet cleaner, move on to the next step.
  • The final step is to treat the remaining stain, if necessary. See the above section, “Stain Removal.”




By Heather DeVoll