How to deep clean your carpet

If you feel like your carpet needs a refresh, giving it a good deep cleaning can help make it feel brand new. This process will require a carpet cleaning machine, but they are easy to rent from your local hardware store and are much more effective (and so much faster) than attempting to clean by hand. Rent a steam cleaning machine once a year, or invest in purchasing one if you plan to deep clean your carpets more frequently. Most rentals are 24 hours, which is enough time to do two passes if your carpet needs it.

white dog that has very muddy paws standing on a white carpet with dirt all over the carpet

Table of contents

When to deep clean your carpetTest for colorfastnessTips for cleaning your carpetHow to clean carpet in 6 easy stepsHow to spot clean carpetWhen to hire a professional

When to deep clean your carpet

It’s easy to tell when light carpet needs cleaning, but you’ll be surprised how much brighter colored carpet can look after a steam cleaning. You only need to add cleaning your carpets to your deep cleaning routine about once per year for the average household. If you have pets, kids, roommates, or light colored carpet, you may want to clean twice per year. You can also opt to clean only high traffic areas like entryways and hallways 2-3 times per year and bedrooms and other lower traffic areas once per year.

Test for colorfastness

Colorfast textiles, like fabrics and carpets, are made in a way that prevents the colors from bleeding or changing when they are treated with cleaning products or detergents. Before you clean your carpet—even if you’re only spot cleaning—always test a small area of your carpet for colorfastness with the cleaning product you are going to use to deep clean before you tackle the entire room. Test an out-of-sight area, like carpet in a closet, or an area that you know will be under furniture just in case your cleaning method causes any noticeable damage.

How to test for colorfastness:

  1. Apply your cleaner to a clean cloth or paper towel and place over the carpet.

  2. Let sit for at least one hour.

  3. Remove the cloth and blot the area with a clean white cloth or paper towel. If the cloth does not pick up any color from the carpet, that means that your carpet is colorfast with the cleaning product you chose, and it is safe to move on to deep cleaning the entire carpet.

  4. If it does pick up color, test with a different cleaning product or method until you find one that works without damaging your carpet.

brown carpet with a black vacuum making a straight line of very clean, and much lighter carpet.

Tips for cleaning your carpet

  1. This task requires more time than most: you have to rent the steam cleaner, move furniture out of the way, clean the carpet, and let it dry for 24 hours—so consider saving this chore for a weekend. You’ll also want to tackle it when you can enlist your partner, friends, or roommates to help move heavy furniture around.

  2. Vacuuming helps remove dirt, debris, and pet hair so that the cleaning solution can fully penetrate into the carpet fibers and spot cleaning stains (like you would treat a stain on a t-shirt before putting in the laundry) will help the machine break through any tough stains. 

  3. Always start in the furthest corner and work your way out so that you are never standing on wet, clean carpet.

  4. If you prefer not to use the carpet cleaner chemicals, add a half cup of vinegar per gallon of water to the machine for extra cleaning power.

  5. If you need to move furniture back before the carpet is completely dry, wrap the legs with plastic wrap or foil to prevent the legs from staining the carpet, then remove once dry.

How to clean carpet in 6 easy steps

  1. Move furniture out of the room.

  2. Vacuum and spot clean.

  3. Vacuum again.

  4. Clean with the carpet cleaning machine following the manufacturer’s instructions—you’re looking for clean water here so do as many passes as it takes over an area of carpet that the water starts to run clear. 

  5. Allow carpet to dry completely, around 24 hours. Vacuum again.

  6. Empty the steam cleaner and repeat the process as needed.

Most machines will use the water extraction process which means that the machine will force hot water and cleaning solution into the carpet and then suck the water back up along with any dirt. Typically one switch will send water out and one will suck it back up—all you’ll need to do is turn the switch. 

light carpet with large red wine stain. Hands wearing yellow rubber gloves scrubbing with soap and sponge

How to spot clean carpet

Spot cleaning, especially right when a spill happens, makes it even easier to deep clean when the time comes. You don’t need specialty cleaners unless you need to disinfect. For general carpet stains, mix equal parts salt, borax, and white vinegar into a paste. Apply to the stain and let sit until it completely dries. Once dry, vacuum up the mixture and it should pull up the stain along with it.

If the general spot cleaning method doesn’t work, try these methods for tricky stains and other issues:

  • Red wine: Treat immediately with club soda or a vinegar and water solution. Blot up with paper towels or a clean cloth to lift the stain. Repeat as many times as needed to remove the stain.

  • Pet accidents or blood: Purchase an EPA approved disinfectant made specifically for carpets and apply according to the manufacturer's directions.

  • Greasy stains (like an olive oil spill): Add a small amount of dish soap so a spray bottle with warm water and spray the spill. Blot up with paper towels or a clean cloth to lift the stain. Repeat as many times as needed to remove the stain.

  • Pet hair: Run a rubber squeegee over carpet to dislodge stubborn pet hair. 

  • Odors: Cover the area with baking soda. Let sit for at least 30 minutes to allow the baking soda to absorb the odor, then vacuum up.

When to hire a professional

If you test for colorfastness and none of your methods pass the test, you may need to call a professional. They’ll be able to do further testing to determine the right process and cleaning solution for your carpet. Professional services also have the most powerful cleaning machines—great for especially light carpet, or carpet with stains that you are struggling to remove on your own.

Regular cleaning makes deep cleaning your carpet easier. With Bungalow, monthly cleaning is always on the books. 

Bungalow offers private rooms in shared homes that are more affordable than solo housing options in the same neighborhoods. Wifi, utilities, and monthly cleaning are set up before you move in, so that communal living is seamless. Find a Bungalow near you.

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