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Cleaning your carpet—vacuuming, deep cleaning, professional carpet cleaning and tips for removing stains

In this guide, we explain:

  • the different ways to clean a carpet
  • when these methods are most suitable
  • how to remove specific stains from your carpet

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Your options for cleaning your carpet

How you clean your carpet will depend on its condition and the kind of dirt you need to remove. These are your options:

Method Condition of carpet

Vacuuming

Normal amount of dirt—dust, pet hairs etc.

Do-it-yourself steam cleaning/deep cleaning

Quite dirty or hasn’t been deep cleaned in a while

Professional carpet cleaning

Very dirty and/or stained

General cleaning with household products

Soiled with particular stains (e.g. red wine, blood, dog mess etc.)

Vacuuming

Best for general, regular cleaning and removing a normal amount of dirt and dust

How often should I vacuum?

You should aim to vacuum any carpet at least once a week.

In rooms with heavy footfall (e.g. entrances, hallways), you’ll probably need to vacuum every day, especially if you have pets.

With a newly laid carpet, vacuum every day for at least the first few weeks. New carpets often have fibres that loosen as the carpet is walked on, which can look unsightly.

What’s the best way to do it?

Try to cover every bit of space, including the edges and corners of the room, where dust can gather quite easily. The attachments on your vacuum cleaner are designed to get into these awkward spots.

And always start with an empty cylinder or bag—this will give your vacuum cleaner more suction.

What type of vacuum cleaner should I use?

It pays to use a good‑quality (and more expensive) vacuum cleaner, as the cheaper ones might not remove any dust and dirt that has become ingrained in the fibres.

Certain vacuum cleaners work better on particular types of carpet, as the table below shows. Some models are designed specifically for taking up pet hair.

Type of carpet Recommended vacuum cleaner

Deep pile (Saxony) carpet

An upright vacuum cleaner with:

  • a beater bar (also known as a brush bar, bristle bar or brushroll)
  • adjustable height settings

The beater bar is the rotating brush on the bottom. It loosens all the dry bits of dust and dirt caught beneath the surface of the carpet.

Twist pile carpet

Either:

  • an upright vacuum cleaner with adjustable height settings but no beater bar (you must disengage this, to avoid snagging the carpet’s threads)
  • a canister vacuum cleaner—the lightweight head dislodges dirt without damaging the fibres

Berber loop carpets

A vacuum cleaner with:

  • powerful suction—to get deep into the tight weave
  • a turbo brush attachment—to stop the carpet becoming ‘fuzzy’ after vacuuming

As with twist pile carpets, always disengage the beater bar to avoid snagging the threads of the carpet.

Do-it-yourself steam cleaning/deep cleaning

Best for carpets that are fairly soiled but not enough to need professional cleaning

What is steam cleaning? What is deep cleaning?

There is some confusion between the two, and lots of people talk about steam cleaning when what they actually mean is deep cleaning. So what’s the difference?

Steam cleaning Deep cleaning

A steam cleaning machine:

  • heats a mixture of hot water and special detergent to generate steam
  • uses that steam to dislodge and remove dirt

A deep cleaning machine:

  • heats a mixture of hot water and special detergent
  • forces the heated liquid deep into the carpet, to dislodge all the dirt
  • sucks the dirty liquid back up into its tank

Be aware that not all steam cleaners are designed to clean carpets—many are intended for hard floors and other hard surfaces (e.g. bathroom tiles).

Also know that not all carpets are suitable for steam cleaning—carpets made of more delicate materials (such as wool) may suffer damage if exposed to too much steam.

Deep cleaning machines don’t generate any steam and are designed purposely to clean carpets.

To read more about what type of cleaning detergent to use, click here.

How often should I steam clean or deep clean?

It depends on how heavily you use the carpet, but as a guideline it’s recommended you steam clean or deep clean twice a year.

If you have children and/or pets in the house, you should deep clean at least every three months.

What’s the best way to do it?

  1. First, empty the room of everything, including furniture. (If you have items which are too heavy to move, protect them by placing small pieces of tin foil under their feet.)
  2. Wipe away dust from skirting boards and very thoroughly vacuum the carpet.
  3. Set up the machine and start in a far corner. Work backwards towards the door, so you’re not stepping on damp carpet.
  4. Let the carpet dry completely before you put your furniture back—this can take anywhere between 8 and 24 hours.
    Tip: Either clean in the evening, when you can leave the room to dry overnight, or during warm weather, when you can open all the windows. If you can’t open windows, use fans.

Are steam cleaning and deep cleaning good for carpets?

Yes. When done properly, they can be excellent—and safe—ways to clean a carpet.

Many people choose these methods because they’re:

  • easy—you don’t need to scrub anything
  • hygienic—they don’t produce allergens (such as fungi, mould, mildew and dust mites) or release dust into the air
  • affordable—once you’ve bought (or hired) the machine, you only need tap water and a little detergent

While there are professional companies who can do it for you, steam cleaning and deep cleaning are really simple and don’t require any hugely expensive specialist equipment.

Professional carpet cleaning

Best for extremely stained and soiled carpets

How does it work?

A professional carpet cleaner uses a special steam cleaning or deep cleaning machine, similar to one you would use if you did the cleaning yourself.

The process is not much different either—forcing a mixture of hot water and cleaning formula into the fibres of the carpet to take up all the deep-lying dirt.

Why hire a professional if I can do it myself?

While it’s generally cheaper to do the job yourself, there are a number of benefits to hiring a professional carpet cleaner.

  1. Their equipment is more sophisticated than the DIY cleaners you would use at home
  2. They can match the correct cleaning formula with the type of carpet—meaning the best results without any damage
  3. They know how to remove stains
  4. They work quickly—meaning you won’t have to wait as long for the carpet to dry

How much does professional carpet cleaning cost?

Prices vary between companies, and most professional cleaners will quote based on factors such as the size of your home and how many carpets/rooms you need cleaning.

The table below gives a rough estimate of prices based on number of rooms.

Size of property Price (approx.)

1 bedroom

£50–£75

2 bedroom

£60–£85

3 bedroom

£70–£95

4 bedroom

£80–£110

5 bedroom

£90–£120

Many companies will clean single rooms and staircases if necessary, and for that you can expect to pay anywhere between £15 and £70.

How often should I have my carpets professionally cleaned?

It’s recommended you have a professional cleaner treat your carpets every six to 18 months. This will help prolong the life of the carpets and keep them looking their best.

General cleaning with household products

Best for treating particular stains quickly and effectively

What is dry cleaning?

Dry carpet cleaning is a type of deep cleaning that doesn’t use water. You sprinkle a special powder (see below) on to the carpet and brush it deeply into the pile. After a short time, you vacuum the carpet and the dirt or stain should be gone.

What are the best household products for cleaning carpets?

The following carpet cleaning products are among the best reviewed of 2018. You can buy them online or from any shop that sells cleaning appliances or household cleaning items.

Carpet powders

These work quickly on light stains or more general everyday dirt. All you need to do is sprinkle on the powder, leave it for a while, then vacuum it up.

dyson

Dyson Zorb Powder

  • No water needed
  • Works well on wool carpets or carpets treated with stain protection
  • Good for removing stains
vanish

Vanish Carpet Cleaner & Upholstery Powerpowder

  • No water needed
  • Contains added conditioning ingredients to leave carpets soft
  • Great on stains

Shampoos/detergents

These liquid products are intended to treat heavier soiling or more severe stains. Some are detergents for using with steam cleaners or deep cleaners, while others are made to be applied to the carpet directly.

rug doctor

Rug Doctor Carpet Detergent

  • Very subtle fragrance
  • Quick-drying
  • Works well on stubborn stains
  • Can be used with most steam cleaners and deep cleaners
dr beckmann

Dr Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover

  • Comes with its own brush head applicator
  • Works well in households with pets
  • Removes stains quickly
  • Pleasant fragrance

Sprays

These are generally made to treat stains and spillages quickly and effectively. You spray the product directly onto the stain, rub it in a little, then wait for it to dry. Once dry, the residue can be vacuumed up.

oxy active

Oxy Active Stain Remover Spray

  • Simple to apply
  • Powerful at removing stains and spillages such as red wine and coffee
  • Fast-acting oxygen formula
hg extra strong

HG Extra Strong Stain Spray

  • Simple to apply
  • Powerful at removing stains and spillages such as red wine and coffee
  • Fast-acting oxygen formula

Can you use bicarbonate of soda to clean a carpet?

Yes. Using bicarbonate of soda (or baking soda) is known as a cheap and easy way to clean a carpet. It’s also safe as it doesn’t involve any chemicals.

To clean a carpet using bicarbonate of soda, follow these simple steps:

  1. First, vacuum the carpet to pick up the worst of the dirt.
  2. Sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda over the area you want to clean. Don’t be shy—you need to completely cover the carpet with the powder. And don’t worry—it won’t damage the carpet or cause you or anyone else any harm.
    It’s best to use a new batch of bicarbonate of soda rather than the stuff you’ve had in the cupboard for months.
  3. Use a dry brush or sponge to scrub the powder deep into the carpet.
  4. Leave it for several hours without walking on it—24 hours if possible. The longer it sits undisturbed, the better it will work. It will also absorb any bad smells.
  5. Vacuum up the bicarbonate of soda. You’ll need to run the vacuum over the carpet a few times to get all the powder up.

How to remove stains from a carpet

The key is to act quickly—the more promptly you treat the stain, the easier it’ll be to remove.

Follow these 10 simple steps:

  1. Use an absorbent white cloth or kitchen towel to blot up any liquid (strong coloured cloths may transfer dye onto the carpet).
  2. Carefully lift any solid substances with a spoon.
  3. Lukewarm water (around 40°C) is often enough to lift most stains. However, if this doesn’t work, use a cleaning product that’s specifically designed to be used on your specific type of carpet.
  4. Apply the cleaning product to the cloth—not directly to the carpet.
  5. Test the product in an inconspicuous area first.
  6. Dab at the stain (don’t rub!) to avoid damaging the carpet further.
  7. Work your way in towards the centre of the stain to stop it spreading outwards.
  8. Blot the area dry with an absorbent cloth.
  9. Cover the wet area with a pile of weighted-down paper towels to remove as much liquid as possible.
  10. Once dry, use your fingers to gently brush up the carpet pile and restore the texture.

Scroll down to read more about treating specific stains.

How to remove coffee from a carpet

  • Using an absorbent white cloth or kitchen towel, blot up as much coffee as you can.
  • As you go, dilute the stain by pouring a little cold water onto it. Be careful not to make the carpet too damp!
  • Continue to blot up the liquid.
  • To finish off, use a stain remover product according to its instructions.

How to remove blood from a carpet

Dry blood

  • Use a steel brush to loosen the stain.
  • Mix one teaspoon of washing-up liquid with 450 ml of cold water.
  • Using a clean white cloth, blot the blood stain until it’s gone.

Wet blood

  • Mix 120 ml of warm water with one tablespoon of an ammonia cleaning product.
  • Using a cloth or sponge, apply the ammonia solution directly to the blood stain.
  • Blot the stain until the liquid is fully absorbed.
  • Dip a sponge in cold water and blot the stain again until it’s dry.

How to remove red wine from a carpet

  • With a white cloth, blot up as much of the wine as you can.
  • Dilute the stain by pouring a little cold water on it. Blot the stain again until no more of the wine will come out.
  • Make a cleaning formula with either:
    • baking soda—mix three parts water with one part baking soda
    • white vinegar—mix one tablespoon of vinegar and one tablespoon of washing-up liquid with 450 ml of warm water
  • With a sponge, apply the formula to the stain.
  • If using baking soda, leave it to dry then vacuum up the residue. If using vinegar, the stain should lift as you blot.

How to remove ink from a carpet

  • Soften the stain by spraying it with hairspray.
  • Blot the stain with a white cloth—don’t scrub!
  • Once the stained bit of carpet is dry, use a brush to loosen the dried bits.

How to remove vomit from a carpet

  • Pick up any vomit lying on top of the carpet.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on the stain, leave for 15 minutes, then vacuum.
  • Mix one tablespoon of washing-up liquid and one tablespoon of white vinegar with 450 ml of warm water. Using a sponge, blot the stain with this solution until the liquid is absorbed.
  • Dip a sponge in cold water and blot the stain dry.

How to remove urine from a carpet

  • Blot the stain with a clean towel or paper towels.
  • Mix ¼ teaspoon of washing-up liquid with one cup of warm water.
  • Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray the stained area of carpet.
  • Rinse the area with a little warm water, then repeat these steps until the stain has faded.

How to remove pet mess from a carpet

  • Check that it’s safe to use disinfectant on your carpet by dabbing a small hidden area and letting it sit for a few minutes before blotting it dry.
  • Leave it for 24 hours. If the carpet hasn’t suffered any damage, you’re OK to clean with disinfectant.
  • Make a solution of bicarbonate of soda, water and a few drops of disinfectant.
  • Dip a paper towel in the solution and use it to blot the stain.
  • Blot dry. If necessary, apply a pet stain remover to the stain to get rid of the smell.

How to remove mud from a carpet

  • First, leave muddy stains to completely dry.
  • Do not apply water—it’s likely to make the stain spread.
  • Once the stain is dry, you should be able to vacuum up most of the mud.
  • If necessary, you can treat any residue with a carpet detergent specifically suited to your type of carpet.

How to remove wax from a carpet

  • Apply cold water to the area around the wax to stop it soaking further into the carpet.
  • Warm the wax with a hairdryer to melt it. Warning: Never try to melt the wax with an iron, as this can singe the carpet and leave permanent burn marks.
  • Dab up the liquid wax with a towel.
  • Another approach is to freeze the wax with an ice cube until it solidifies. You should then be able to break it into small pieces and vacuum it up. This is also an effective technique for removing chewing gum.

Carpet cleaning according to material

Cleaning wool carpets

Wool carpets have a reputation for being high-maintenance but this simply isn’t true. In fact, many people choose wool carpets because they’re so easy to clean.

Despite the myths, wool can be cleaned with water. However, it’s a porous material and can be highly absorbent so apply the water sparingly.

Avoid using products containing bleach on a wool or wool mix carpet—not only can it affect the colour but it can also dissolve the wool.

Cleaning synthetic carpets

Regular vacuuming keeps a synthetic carpet looking clean and new, but there are other chemical cleaning treatments available.

Polypropylene

This is considered the ‘easy-clean’ carpet due to its stain-proof properties. Because polypropylene doesn’t absorb water, it’s almost impossible to stain with water-based materials. That said, it’s not always resistant to greasy or oily stains.

Carpets made completely of polypropylene can be cleaned with most carpet-cleaning chemicals, including diluted household bleach (one part bleach, 10 parts tap water). But before you use bleach, make sure your carpet is 100% polypropylene and not a blend of synthetic materials.

Also avoid any oily cleaning solvents, as the oleophilic fibres in polypropylene carpets retain oil rather than repel it.

Polyamide

Polyamide carpets can be easily cleaned with a wide variety of products, except those that contain bleach or chlorine.

Nylon

Nylon carpets tend to stain more easily than other synthetic materials unless specifically treated with a stain guard. This is because dye sites exist on the nylon fibres and need to be filled for the carpet to have any resistance towards stains.

When cleaning a nylon carpet, avoid treatments that contain bleach as it may discolour the fibres. Nylon responds particularly well to steam cleaning.

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