How to Clean a Carpet (Because All Those Holiday Parties Are *Just* Around the Corner)

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It’s that time of the year again—your house is about to start filling up with visitors, and while those apple juice, Crayola and sauce stains are not a problem for you, you want to avoid any smart remarks from your clean-freak cousin Molly. Below, find out how to clean a carpet just in time for the holidays, plus tips to keep it in tip-top shape all year long.

How to clean a carpet with a machine

So, you’ve invested in a nice Bissell or Hoover carpet cleaner because you don’t want to dole out megabucks to hire professionals. Here’s how you can give your carpet a good wash using a machine: 

What you need:

Step 1: Clear the room. Deep cleaning a carpet is a big job, and in order to do it effectively, you need to make sure nothing is in the way. Move any furniture or electric cords that may interfere.

Step 2: Prep the carpet. Before you bring out the big guns, you want to prep your carpet and get rid of any surface stains or dirt by either vacuuming or sweeping it with a broom.

Step 3: Spot clean. Again, anything you can easily take out—dried out jelly or spaghetti sauce stains for example—should be removed prior to the deep cleaning. It just makes the process simpler for you.

Step 4: Clean the carpet. This step will vary depending on the machine you’re using, so make sure you thoroughly read the instruction manual and get the appropriate products. The pros at Bissell do recommend that you start cleaning at the part of the carpet furthest from the exit, so you leave yourself an escape route and avoid having to walk across a wet carpet.

How to clean a carpet by hand

For those who just don’t trust machines to give your favorite rug the type of deep scrub you really want, you can opt to get on all fours and clean the carpet by hand. Keep in mind, though, that washing your carpet can be super labor-intensive, so make sure you’re up for it before embarking on a DIY clean. 

What you need:

Step 1: Sprinkle some baking soda. Sure, you clean up every time Fido has an accident, but sometimes those odors linger. Sprinkle baking soda over the whole carpet before you start washing. It’ll not only help with lifting loose debris, but it can remove odors too.

Step 2: Sweep or vacuum the carpet. Sweep or vacuum the carpet to remove the baking soda and lift any surface dirt or dried-out stains.

Step 3: Spray your carpet. Mix a carpet shampoo of your choice with warm water and spray it over the carpet—The Family Handman recommends two drops of carpet shampoo to 16 oz of warm water. Be mindful of not oversaturating the fibers.

Step 4: Scrub. Brush the carpet with your carpet brush, making sure to pay special attention to stubborn stains. Remember, each carpet is different, so while some rugs require tougher scrubbing and can withstand it, some do not and cannot. 

Step 5: Blot the carpet. Grab some dry towels and blot out as much moisture as possible.

Step 6: Rinse. Spray the carpet again with clean water to get the shampoo out.

Step 7: Blot again. Grab a separate set of dry towels and remove the remaining moisture. Let it air dry.

Step 8: Groom your carpet. Once your carpet is dry, use a carpet grooming brush (like this rubber carpet rake), finish by grooming the carpet’s fibers. Again, make sure you get the right brush for your type of rug.

5 Tips to Maintaining a Clean Carpet

Between children, pets and everyday traffic walking across your pristine rugs, stains are inevitable. However, occasional maintenance can mean less work for you in the long run. Here are some tips to keep yours looking brand new:

1. Get to those stains quicker. Sometimes the difference between a permanent and semi-permanent soup stain is the time you take to tend to it. Your best bet for maintaining that fresh look is to clean up each spill as soon as it happens.

2. Make sure you’re using the right stain remover. All that prudence won’t mean anything if you use the wrong stain remover for both the type of stain or the type of carpet. Make sure you use a remover that’ll lift the stain without ruining your carpet. Before settling on a formula, we suggest doing quite a bit of research to make sure you’re choosing the right one.

3. Vacuum regularly. Just like stains, you don’t want to give any dirt the opportunity to settle. It’ll become tougher to remove otherwise.

4. Avoid wearing shoes in the house. Besides the fact that shoes carry bacteria from the streets, they also carry a lot of gunk and debris that can easily stain your carpet. One little step and that gum from the sidewalk is now a permanent fixture in your plush saxony.

5. Do not pull snags. Our friends at Carpet One Manhattan recommend you snip the snags with some scissors instead.

The 7 Best Portable Carpet Cleaners for Restoring Your Rugs to (Almost) New

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Resident Hufflepuff, Beyonce historian, self-proclaimed tea sommelier

Steph is a native of Zimbabwe who is both enamored and genuinely baffled by the concept of silent letters. From 2020 to 2022, she served as Associate Editor at PureWow covering...