Carpet Cleaning Guide: DIY or Hiring a Pro

By Sarah Sheppard

Carpeted floors, unlike hardwood floors or linoleum floors, require more frequent (and deliberate) maintenance, especially when you have pets, kids, heavy foot traffic, or accidental spills. Below, we offer up the best methods for DIY and professional carpet cleaning services.

Cleaning service concept. Steam vapor cleaner removing dirt from carpet in flat, closeup

Carpet cleaning methods

You may not see the dirt, dust, or crumbs embedded into the spaces between carpet fibers or in the cracks in your upholstery, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Many people don’t realize that the air quality in your home is impacted by your carpet, so if you don’t maintain clean carpets, you could end up with allergies or frequent colds.

There are dozens of different carpet types, from Berber and frieze to wool and nylon. Some are easier to clean than others, but all require a good carpet cleaning routine, especially if you want your carpet to reach its life expectancy of five, 10, or even 20+ years.

Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, these are the two types of cleaning methods:

  • Dry cleaning: Also known as chemical cleaning, this method uses a chemical solution to clean carpet. The dry solution is a powdered detergent that works with the chemicals in the fibers to pull up dirt and particles. Vacuum the carpet after dry cleaning.
  • Steam cleaning: This method uses an electrically powered machine that sprays a detergent solution onto the carpet. The carpet cleaner machine converts hot water into steam to exact dirt, which is then immediately vacuumed up. Following treatment, the carpet needs up to 24 hours to dry.

If you’d prefer an organic option, you have a few choices. Some natural carpet cleaners are chemical and residue-free, making them good eco-friendly options. If your carpet needs a deep cleaning after a flood or extreme damage, you’ll likely need a steam cleaning solution.

You can invest in a high-powered carpet cleaner (or carpet extractor), which looks like a vacuum, but is used for a wall-to-wall deep clean. Steam cleaning machines can be heavy, difficult to manage, time consuming, and pricey, but they are designed to remove deeply embedded particles, just as a professional company would. It’s up to you whether it’s worth the time and investment or whether you’d prefer to hire a professional.

Read More: House Method’s top recommended carpet cleaners and solutions

Dry cleaning carpet
Using dry steam cleaner to sanitize floor carpet. Steam cleaning carpet

Carpet cleaner products

For carpets and upholstery cleaning, buy or create your own carpet cleaner products and have them on hand. You can use an all-purpose liquid cleaner or try a homemade solution. Here are a few simple options:

  • Best for synthetic carpet: Half a gallon of water and half a gallon of white vinegar
  • Best for pets or odor removal: 2 cups white vinegar, 2 cups of warm water, and 4 tablespoons of baking soda
  • Best for a carpet cleaning machine: 1 cup water, 1 cup rubbing alcohol, 1 cup of white vinegar, and 1 capful of Lysol concentrate disinfectant

How to spot clean carpet

To successfully spot clean a stain, respond as quickly as possible and use the following tactics:

  • Clean up any debris or particles (especially important for food or pet stains).
  • Blot the carpet dry using a towel or paper towel. Do not rub.
  • Using a stain remover, spray or soak the stain. The best type of remover depends on the stain—blood, red wine, and coffee all require a slightly different mixture. Again, avoid rubbing.
  • Blot the liquid dry.

How often should you clean your carpet?

The type of carpet, the amount of foot traffic, whether you have pets, and many other factors contribute to how often your carpet needs cleaning. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Vacuum at least once a week. If you have pets, have kids, smoke, or have a high amount of foot traffic, you may need to raise that to 2–5 times a week.
  • Spot clean using a carpet cleaner as needed.
  • Hire a professional or do a deep cleaning every six months to a year. The more family members, pets, and foot traffic, the more frequently you’ll need a deep cleaning. If you live alone, you could extend the time in between.

Cleaning up after a spill or accident as soon as it happens is best, though these sometimes go unnoticed until the stain has set in. If you don’t already have a home cleaning routine, establishing one makes cleaning the carpet easier.

If there’s a flood, a fire, or major damage from a leaky pipe, an overflowing sink, or improper drainage, you’ll want a professional to perform a deeper cleaning as part of the water damage restoration process. Otherwise, you could end up with more significant damage and need to replace your carpets.

Carpet stain

Cost of carpet cleaning

Carpet and upholstery cleaning is affordable. Whether you buy a carpet cleaner from a store or hire a professional, costs depend on the amount of carpet you have.

The average cost of professional carpet cleaning is $176 for a treatment. Rates are either based on a per-square-footage or a per-room rate. If your room is larger than the typical square footage, a company may consider that two rooms.

Costs also depend on the type of carpet. Berber carpet is the easiest to clean and therefore, cheapest, whereas cotton and wool are the most difficult and expensive to clean.

Why should you hire a professional carpet cleaner?

Although some DIY cleaning methods are effective, we recommend treating your carpets to a professional cleaning. Even professional service one a year or every other year is better than none at all.

When it comes to hiring a professional carpet cleaner, consider the following:

  • Customer service: Make sure the company offers reasonable, reliable customer service. Check response times and if there’s a 100% satisfaction guarantee, in case you’re on a tight schedule or if you’re not happy with the results and want them to return.
  • Professionally trained experts: Anybody can learn how to clean carpet, but are the experts professionally trained? Ask if the technicians are trained, background checked, and in-house workers (not contracted).
  • Other cleaning services: Does the company offer a wide range of services, such as hardwood floor cleaning or upholstery cleaning? To save yourself the hassle, consider using one company for all of your professional cleaning needs.
  • Natural cleaning solutions: If you want chemical-free options, check with the company to ensure they use eco-friendly products. Some companies even use an EPA Safer Choice solution, which is ideal if you have kids or pets.

How to protect and preserve your carpet

When you don’t frequently clean your carpet, allergens build up from dust, dirt, food particles, and dead skin cells, which is both unpleasant and problematic. In addition, your room will start to smell, and the carpet itself will start to wear down and eventually need to be replaced. Taking steps to protect your carpet is key to making it last. Try these tips:

  • Reduce moisture: Keep your carpets moisture-free as much as possible. For example, if you have carpet in an unairconditioned laundry room or basement, consider opening the windows or setting up a fan or dehumidifier to prevent any mildew from developing. If your carpet is slightly damp, you can sprinkle baking soda over the top and leave it overnight.
  • Prevent tracking in dirt: If you have carpet in your living room, den, or any room that’s adjacent to the outdoors, place walk-off mats in the doorways where family and guests can remove their shoes before stepping onto the carpet.
  • Avoid natural sunlight: Natural sunlight can be damaging to the fibers of your carpet, especially dealing peak sunlight hours. If you want to reduce the damage, keep the shades closed.
  • Shift furniture when cleaning: An easy way to prevent a buildup of particles is to move furniture when vacuuming. Dust piles up in unreachable corners, so you want to make sure you vacuum every inch of your carpet.
  • Use carpet pads when possible: Carpet padding is a simple way to extend the length of your carpet. These thin pads are placed between your floor and your carpet. When you’re installing carpet, consider the best type of carpet padding (foam, fiber, or rubber) for your home.

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