What To Know About Carpet Cleaning

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You owe your carpet some TLC. Keep it looking good and smelling fresh with these smart carpet cleaning strategies and tips.

Carpet has many advantages: It’s soft underfoot, comfy to sit on and helps absorb sound, to name a few. But the fibers are dirt magnets, and spills and splatters can definitely leave a permanent mark. Consequently, proper carpet cleaning helps prolong the life of your carpet (ground-in dirt can wear down the fibers) by keeping it looking, smelling and feeling its freshest.

Cleaning your carpet plays a big role in the appearance and smell of your home and is essential to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and fungi,” says Lauren Bowen, director of franchise operations for Two Maids & A Mop.

“A dirty carpet can hold on to odors and create an unpleasant stench throughout the entire room. Carpet fibers can host termites, other small bugs and allergens, so failing to keep them clean can cause a health hazard for the residents of your home.”

Homeowners have several options for carpet cleaning. A little bit of knowledge can help you get the job done right.

How Often Does Carpet Need to Be Cleaned?

In most cases, carpet cleaning should be done annually. How do you know it’s time for a cleaning? A dingy, matted appearance, odors, or a texture that feels a little icky are all signs your carpet is due for cleaning.

“Most carpets should be professionally cleaned at least once a year, and if you have pets or small children, the frequency usually increases due to the higher risk of messes and wear and tear,” Bowen says.

Moving into a new home or putting your home on the market are also good times to clean carpets. But tackle any stains and spills as they happen.

“The longer you wait, the more the stain has a chance to set,” Bowen says. “Letting the stain dry may be your first thought, but it will actually allow the stain to set and permanently damage your carpet.”

What Are My Carpet Cleaning Options?

Budget and time will influence which option you choose.

Hire a professional

Some professional carpet cleaning companies use hot water extraction for a thorough, deep clean. Their equipment is more powerful than any available to consumers. While relying on pros certainly frees up your time, it is the most expensive option; companies typically charge around $50 per room. This price will vary based on your local market, and space considerations like stairs and square footage.

Professionals also offer premium services that help tune up your carpet. “A professional carpet cleaner can also re-apply soil and stain protectants to help avoid future carpet stains,”  says Empire Today Senior Vice President of Marketing Gina Cielocha. “This makes maintenance easier, as well as providing you with additional peace of mind about your carpet’s longevity.”

Rent a machine

Your other option is to rent a carpet cleaning machine, available at many grocery and hardware stores and big box home improvement retailers. Renting a machine is more affordable than hiring a pro. A one-day rental typically costs around $30, plus the cost of any cleaning solutions, which run around $15 to $25.

The typical rental machine will not offer the powerful hot-water extraction of professional equipment. But it remains a good option if your carpets are not deeply soiled or if you just need to clean a few spots.

Carpet CleanerFotoDuets/Getty Images

Buy a machine

You can also purchase a carpet cleaning machine. Some are upright machines, similar to a vacuum cleaner; others are more compact and handheld. Consider purchasing a carpet cleaning machine if you like to frequently refresh your carpets between deep cleans, or have pets and kids prone to messes. You will save money in the long run.

Do it by hand

It’s also possible to clean your carpet without a machine. Scrubbing and cleaning carpet by hand is time-intensive. But it’s a good option if you can’t get a rental or schedule a professional cleaning and don’t want to buy a machine.

How To Build Time Between Cleans

Help that freshly cleaned carpet last with a few tricks that keep it clean longer:

  • Remove shoes at the door. No exceptions. “Beyond tracking dirt in, your shoes can cause wear and tear to your carpet’s material, so a no-shoe rule will keep your carpet clean and will extend its life,” Bowen says.
  • Keep up with vacuuming. “Vacuum twice a week to get rid of surface dirt before it has a chance to become embedded,” says Rodney Lynch, associate instructor with Rainbow International, a Neighborly company. “A vacuum cleaner with strong suction and a HEPA filter removes the most dirt and prevents blowing it back into the room.”
  • Change your HVAC filter. Yet another reason to keep up with this simple maintenance task. “By regularly changing out your HVAC filter, you ensure that these particles are caught through the filter and don’t end up settling on your carpet,” says Bowen.
  • Treat stains when they happen. Lynch recommends looking for the Carpet and Rug Institute Certified Seal of Approval carpet-cleaning products, which have been lab tested by the Institute’s experts. Before treating a stain, read all the product’s instructions and spot-test it in an inconspicuous area. Then apply a small amount (more is not better, says Lynch) to a white cloth and work in the treatment gently. Blot the stain, don’t scrub and work from the edge to the center. You may need to repeat the process to remove the stain. Once the spot is gone, Lynch recommends blotting the area one more time with clean water to wash away any lingering cleaner.

Alicia Chilton
Alicia Chilton is an experienced writer and editor, based in Des Moines, Iowa. After spending several years as a digital editor for Better Homes and Gardens, covering all manner of topics related to home, Alicia took her writing and editorial skills into the marketing and communications world, where she has tapped into the power of storytelling to connect audiences to brands in the gardening and nonprofit spheres.