How To Clean A Carpet Beyond Just Vacuuming (And Why It’s Critical)

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carpet in living room

A clean carpet is a key feature in your home. Here are some tips on how to clean a carpet beyond weekly vacumming, including professional carpet cleaning. 


Whether you’ve got wall-to-wall or just area rugs in your home, carpet cleaning is a must-do for every homeowner.

It’s easy to think “Oh, I vacuum, so that’s sufficient,” but it’s not. A lot gets neglected by a vacuum. From food to trafficked-in substances under your shoes, all kinds of stuff can get down into your carpets and lead to wear-and-tear that would be completely avoidable with a professional job.

Professional carpet cleaning for any carpets or rugs of any value is strongly encouraged because there are spot treatments and shampoos that are not universally successful or even recommended in the carpeting world. So, when answering the question of how to clean a carpet, a good direction to take starts with: get professional help.

Carpet damage over time

From acrylic to wool, carpeting is made of all kinds of fibers. There’re also different kinds of backings, adhesives, and knotting involved too. If your backing begins to separate from your rug or carpet, that’s a slippery slope to total degradation and can have dire effect on your rugs and their value.

carpet fiber close up

Dreya brand carpet tile from BuildDirect ; easy to clean, difficult to stain.

Worse yet, sand and dirt, well, that’s serious stuff if not being sucked up by your vacuum, which is why a quality, high-power vacuum is critical for day-to-day care. What’s the big problem? Well, sand is silicon, which becomes glass. The longer sand sits at the root of your carpet, the more fibers are slowly getting “cut” off and wear becomes inevitable.

Cleaning carpets is an investment

Recently, I sold two 35-year-old Sears wool rugs for $1,200, more than my parents originally paid for them, because they’d been professionally cleaned every few years and still were in fantastic condition.

“Fantastic condition” means no moth infestations, no areas of patchy wear, no fading. Between frequent rotation or movement throughout the house to avoid sun fading and professional carpet cleaning, it’s easy to stay on top of their care. Step one is vacuuming, but the next big step is pro cleaning.

When to clean

Some people tell you to shampoo every fall and spring but that can be excessive, and if doing it yourself, it can be downright damaging. The wrong shampoo can affect dyes or fiber hardiness, and more.

If your rugs need care, but you need to cheap out and do it yourself on a semi-annual basis, then it’s better to wait and pay a professional and do it less frequently. They know how to treat stains based on stain type. They often can do their job with non-toxic cleaners, and they frequently have better machines that make rugs drier at the end of the process, leading to a quicker curing time and thereby giving you a more secure clean.

Professional carpet cleaning will have a huge impact on the smell and dust level in your home. It will prolong the life of your carpet. But you want to do it well, so if you have quality floor coverings, wait it out a bit. If it’s just entry level carpet, do your research on shampoo possibilities and proceed as recommended.

Why pros rock

An important thing pros know is the direction and process to work in so as to limit how many fibers may get inadvertently sucked up, or how to prevent discoloration between from one patch to the next. It really does take skill to ensure you’re not cleaning one area too quickly versus another and it can have a longterm impact on the look of the rug if your timing is off. Call it the Zen of rug-cleaning.

recyled paper shag area rug

Recycled paper shag area rug that is a sustainable floor covering that is ready for professional carpet cleaning when necessary.

My own experience

I was going to rent a shampooer myself for budget reasons, but then decided to go pro and used a highly recommended independent guy who promised to use non-toxic cleaners. I couldn’t believe the number of questions he had when he came over to clean my home. Did I remember how X, Y, and Z stains happened? How did I treat them? What’s the carpet made of? And so on.

Once the questions were answered, I got out of his way and he pre-treated every stain with different concoctions, and then went ahead and cleaned. Well, every single spot came out. I was shocked, because I had $500 damage deposit riding on those carpets, and I was sure I’d be losing $100 or more to the nefarious spots.

In the end, even the landlord wanted his business card. The rugs were like new.

Like any investment, rugs need care

Just like any other job you might get done by a professional versus yourself, there will likely be telltale signs that it was a job done by you, the well-meaning amateur. Sure, it’s better than neglecting it and not doing it, but you won’t rent a shampooer from a store that has the same oomph behind it that a professional may own. You may not have access to the same quality of shampoos. You won’t have the basic understanding of how to treat each stain, let alone the varying products required for doing so.

If your rugs are in great shape and you’re just trying to mitigate odours, you can probably go right ahead and clean them yourself. Just go steady, grasshopper. But if there are stains, or any areas that seem like discoloration or unusual wear is occurring, it’s best to call in the pros, since they might tell you what mysterious things are going on below the surface, and they may even stop it where it’s starting.

Your carpet cleaning adventures

When answering the question of how to clean a carpet, what direction have you taken? Did you do it yourself? Or did you hire a professional? What were the results?

Tell us all about it in the comments section of this post and share your wisdom with other readers!

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.