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How to easily clean carpets and rugs — and how often to do it

Learn how to remove dirt and stains from carpets and rugs using these expert tips and tricks.
Do you know the correct way to vacuum?
Do you know the correct way to vacuum?Vivian Le/ TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

Dirty carpets not only look bad, they’re also loaded with pollutants and grime. These dirt particles act like sandpaper, breaking down carpet fibers every time you walk on them. That’s why it’s important to clean carpets regularly.

We asked Dean Carter, owner of Carter’s Carpet Restoration, as well as Steve Leasure, vice president of operations at Rainbow Restoration, and Marla Mock, president of Molly Maid, to share some of their carpet-cleaning savvy with us.

How often to clean your carpet | What should you use to clean carpets? | How to clean carpets with baking soda | Best practice to spot clean carpets | How to clean carpets by hand | How to deep clean carpets | Professional cleaning for your carpet or rug | DIY steam cleaners | The best products for cleaning your carpet or rugs

How often should you clean your carpet?

Carpet manufacturers typically recommend deep cleaning carpets every 12 to 18 months, says Mock. "Hot water extraction is the most common method used. You can hire a professional, or you can purchase or rent a cleaner from your local home improvement store to DIY."

She also advises vacuuming your carpets and rugs at least twice a week, using slow, repetitive strokes. "On average, it takes about 15 minutes to clean 300 square feet of carpet," she adds.

What should you use to clean carpets?

Mock explains that hot water extraction is the most effective method used. Steam cleaning penetrates deep into the carpet fibers to lift dirt and other pollutants. "If after you vacuum, or even before, you see spots on the carpet, spot treat with the appropriate product."

How to clean your carpets with baking soda

Dampen the spot or area you are cleaning with lukewarm water. Then, blot up the spot or area with a paper towel. Sprinkle baking soda on the area you want to clean and let sit until dry. Next, vacuum up the baking soda.

Best practice to spot clean carpets

Leasure says to use the baking soda method outlined above, as this will safely and effectively remove and sanitize the stain. He also suggests treating the surface with a reputable carpet cleaning solution, if needed.

How to clean a carpet by hand

Once again, Mock suggests using baking soda to clean your carpet or rug. "It's an excellent cleaning agent because its abrasive nature helps remove dirt and stains," she says. "Hydrogen peroxide is also effective, as it helps kill bacteria and mold. White vinegar is also great for eliminating odors and loosening food stains, and club soda after a spill also works well to lift stains from the carpet."

Mock suggests making a baking soda and hydrogen peroxide solution by mixing one part baking soda with two parts hydrogen peroxide. Apply the solution to your carpet and blot it with a clean white towel (use one with no print or writing). Let the solution sit for 30 minutes before rinsing it with water.

How to best deep clean carpets

"Over time, even if you vacuum regularly, carpets become home to dander, dust mites, bacteria, pollen and other allergens," explains Leasure. He says that the best way to thoroughly clean carpets is to have them professionally cleaned. (Professional carpet cleaning removes collective debris and helps sanitize the carpet.)

"The best way to deep clean and sanitize carpets is to use an industrial-grade agitating vacuum equipped with high-quality filters designed to remove allergens and particulates," he says. Preconditioning the carpet is important, along with agitation of the preconditioning solution. "Professional carpet cleaning usually involves a hot water extraction using truck-mounted equipment. Carpet grooming is used to restore the pile and overall appearance of the carpeting, followed by thorough drying."

Professional cleaning your carpet or rug

Just like Leasure advised, if you want to extend the life of your carpets, it is important to have the carpets cleaned by a professional at least once a year. According to Carter, most carpet manufacturers recommend the steam-cleaning method. This penetrates deep into the fibers and lifts out the dirt and the many pollutants we track in on our shoes. Also, it removes most of the moisture, so carpets dry fast. (Always check with your carpet manufacturer before cleaning.)

DIY steam cleaners

Sure as the sun rises, there will be times when your carpet needs an emergency cleaning. For larger messes, a DIY steam cleaner works, but do not use the cleaning solution that comes with the steam cleaner to shampoo carpets, cautions Carter. This leaves behind a soapy residue that will attract dirt.

Instead, use water and, if you need a boost, a drop of dish detergent or even a bit of white vinegar when you steam clean. Carter also advises that you take care not to apply too much water when using a DIY steam cleaner. Water left in the carpet can cause mildew and odor.

If one of those “emergency” cleanings is due to muddy footprints, Carter offers a time-saving tip for your carpet steam clean. Allow mud to dry first, scrape dried mud off the carpet, then vacuum. Clean remaining stain with steam cleaner or with the water/drop of Dawn solution and a cloth. Blot dry.

The best products for cleaning your carpet and rugs

Here are the best products to use when you don't have time to bring your carpet or rug into a pro but still want to get it looking fresh and clean.

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda

We would be remiss in not having baking soda on this list — its cleaning properties extend far beyond spot-cleaning your carpet, so make sure you stock up to always have it on hand.

Bissell Woolite Carpet Cleaning Solution

This upholstery and carpet cleaner has a convenient (and carpet-safe) brush to help scrub and lift away especially stubborn stains. Did your pet have an accident inside? No problem! This solution is also tough on odors.

Carbona Pro Outdoor Cleaner

Don't forget about your outdoor rugs! They need cleaning from time to time, as well. Keep this cleaner on hand to treat your indoor/outdoor rug as soon as a stain happens.

Swan Hydrogen Peroxide

A medicine cabinet multitasker, peroxide will work wonders on spot-cleaning your carpet when mixd with baking soda.

Bissell Little Green Portable Carpet Cleaner

If you have pets or kids, you're most likely having to clean your rugs or carpet more than just a couple of times a week. Luckily, this handy (and TikTok-famous) carpet cleaner from Bissell rids your rugs (or upholstery!) of muddy paw prints and sticky juice spills in a snap.