How to Clean Carpet

November 8, 2022

How to Clean a Carpet

If you’ve been wondering how to clean a carpet or a rug, you aren’t the first. It’s a rare house that doesn’t have some type of carpet or rug, and unless you’re the cleanest person alive, it’s likely that you’ll eventually need to clean them.

Carpets and rugs easily collect dust and crumbs, but sometimes, they become unfortunate targets for liquid spills, kid- and pet-related messes, and tough-to-remove stains. Whether you’re trying to get food, paint, blood, urine, or some other type of slime out of your carpet or rug, you definitely have multiple options. 

The cost of carpet cleaning can be substantially lower when you DIY, but if you’re going to do it, make sure you follow the best methods for your particular stain.

What’s the Best Thing to Clean Your Carpet With?

There are five main approaches to cleaning your carpet or rug, and all of them depend on what type of mess you’re cleaning up and how dirty the carpet is. Depending on the situation, you may want to mix and match the different cleaning options at your disposal.

  1. Upright vacuum. If you’re looking to clean up crumbs or other loose but non-gooey refuse from your carpet, the upright vacuum cleaner is a classic option. Many vacuums now include a hose option that makes it easy to clean area rugs without the vacuum’s suction causing the rug to move around.

  1. Robotic vacuum. If you’re wondering how to clean a carpet in a completely passive way, a robot vacuum might just be your next best friend. You can get versions that both vacuum carpets and mop hard surfaces, which means you’ll barely have to lift a finger when managing your floor care. 

  1. Spot cleaner. If you’re wondering how to clean carpet by hand due to a specific stain or mess, spot cleaning is your next option. If you’ve already done an initial cleanup of whatever dirtied your carpet (i.e. picked up the spaghetti that fell all over it), you might be able to manage the mess using spot cleaner alone. There are multiple brands to choose from; most simply require you to spray the affected area, let it sit, and wipe or dab the stain with a towel or rag. Just note that deep stains may require multiple passes!

  1. Portable carpet shampooer. Gone are the days when you need to rent a special machine to shampoo your carpet—you can now buy these vacuum-shaped devices at affordable rates. If you’re wondering how to clean deep stains out of a carpet, a shampooer is one of your best options. The only downside to shampooing is that it requires rinsing as well, and it’s essential that your machine completely vacuums up excess moisture so mold doesn’t form in your carpet. 

  1. Steam cleaner. According to experts, the best all-around option for carpet cleaning is a steam cleaner. Steam cleaners can reach 360℉ and pressures up to 150 psi, and they can help you get rid of buildup, dirt, allergens, and pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and mold. But is it easy to learn how to steam clean a carpet? With the right tools, it’s very simple. Carpet steam cleaners now come vacuum-sized, and their vapors penetrate carpets by surrounding and softening the fibers, which loosens dirt and old stains. The vacuum function then lifts these unwanted elements away, leaving your carpet as good as new. 

How to Clean a Carpet in 6 Easy Steps

Now that you know all the different tools, solutions, and machines available for carpet cleaning, it’s time to get to work. If you’re wondering how to clean a rug also, realize that the below strategies can be adjusted or repeated for that situation. 

  1. Move furniture (if necessary). Sometimes, a nasty spill might trail under your furniture. If this is the case, move the furniture so you have enough space to clean your dirtied carpet or rug.

  1. Clean up the initial mess. When something initially spills onto your carpet—whether it’s paint, your kid’s toy Slime, or a broken pen’s ink—you’ll have to first clean up whatever you can. This might mean picking up solid (yet potentially staining) bits by hand or using old rags to sop up liquids. Depending on what made the mess, you may want to run your vacuum over the dirtied spot to make sure you’ve cleaned up as many of the removable elements as possible.

  1. Test your spot cleaner. Before using any product on your rug, make sure to test it in a hidden area of the room. If you’re using a new product, it’s always best to make sure it doesn’t negatively affect your carpet or rug before you use it in a prominent area of the room.

  1. Pre-treat with spot cleaner. If you catch a mess quickly enough, you may be able to prevent a stain by immediately applying spot cleaner, letting it sit, and thoroughly wiping or blotting the area. If you’re unsure how to clean carpet by hand, just follow the instructions on the spot cleaner’s packaging. Repeat as needed until the stain goes away, or move on to the final step.

  1. Shampoo or steam clean. While most experts prefer steam cleaning to shampooing, either one can be your last step when it comes to DIY carpet cleaning. Make sure to follow the directions on whatever machine you’re using, and make sure as much moisture as possible is vacuumed off the carpet before you let it dry. 

  1. Move the furniture back into place. Once your carpet is clean, let it dry thoroughly before moving any relocated furniture back into place. 

How to Clean a Rug

While the above strategies for carpet cleaning can also apply to rugs, there may be a few differences. First, a vacuum’s suction can sometimes lift a rug right off the floor or move it in ways that make it difficult to clean effectively. 

Depending on the size of your rug, you may want to lift it off the floor and shake out whatever initially made the mess, then clean that off the floor before treating your rug with spot cleaner, shampoo, or steam. You may even be able to wash your rug in the laundry as a final step. 

How to Steam Clean a Carpet or Rug

If you don’t already own a steam cleaner, the prospect of using one can feel intimidating. While steam cleaners do have a suction component, they’re not the same as vacuums, so it’s important to know the difference. They’re also quite similar to shampooers these days, so depending on your machine’s instructions, you might be able to repeat the below steps for shampooing.

  1. Pre-treat the stain you want to clean. Most steam cleaning techniques start with pre-treating the affected area. Spray the cleaning solution on the stain, and let it sit for as long as directed before blotting it up with an old rag.

  1. Fill the steam cleaner’s tanks. Typically, steam cleaners have a tank for hot water, another for detergent, and a third for dirty water. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for filling both of these tanks. Note that some also may require a defoaming agent, which can help prevent dirty water from overflowing onto your carpet. If you want a 100% natural alternative to detergent, you could also try mixing half water with half white vinegar.

  1. Begin steam cleaning. Using long, slow pushes and pulls, run the steam cleaner over your carpet. Like many similar shampooing machines, steam cleaners may require you to press a button to activate the vacuum portion, which sucks up the dirty water containing the loosened dirt or stains. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions!

  1. No, really—move slowly! This is not your traditional vacuum. Because steam cleaners require time to break up heavy stains and suck up the resulting mix of water, detergent, and dirty water, take one step roughly every two seconds when performing the clean. 

  1. Let your carpet try thoroughly. After vacuuming up as much moisture as possible, let your carpet dry thoroughly. Keep the floor clear of all objects, and keep shoes off of it. You can also set up box fans, switch on ceiling fans, or open windows to help the area dry faster. This will help prevent mold and mildew.

Removing Paint, Ink, and Slime From a Carpet 

While some stains are the result of unfortunate accidents, certain ones are tough to deal with no matter who you are. The top three are paint, ink, and Slime (a messy toy that parents often hate and kids always love). Read below for tips on how to get these pesky items out of your carpet once and for all.

How to Get Paint Out of Carpet

Before you try to clean paint out of your carpet, you’ll need to know if you’re dealing with water-based/latex paint or oil-based paint. Water-based paint dries faster than oil-based paint but is generally easier to clean. On the contrary, oil-based paint is designed to be very durable and can be tough to remove from carpet. Read below for the best ways to approach both!

Water-based / Latex Paint

  1. First, moisten the stained area by pouring hot water over it.
  2. Drizzle some mild dish soap over the wet spot.
  3. Bring the area to a light lather by lightly scrubbing it with a stiff-bristled scrub brush.
  4. Keep scrubbing until the paint starts dissolving. 
  5. Wipe up the mess with a clean towel. Repeat steps as needed. 
  6. For very tough stains, you may want to treat the area with a carpet shampooer or steam cleaner.   

Oil-based Paint

  1. First, treat the area with a carpet cleaning machine.
  2. Apply paint remover to a cloth and blot the paint stain. If you don’t have paint remover on hand, 100 percent acetone or hydrogen peroxide are alternative options. But be careful—hydrogen peroxide can bleach your carpet, so be sure to test it first in a hidden area.
  3. Continue blotting the area until the paint starts breaking down and dissolving. This might take a while, but keep at it!
  4. Once the paint is gone, shampoo your carpet thoroughly and let it dry.
  5. Vacuum the affected area.

How to Get Ink Out of Carpet

Even if you don’t have kids, your carpet can become a target for unwanted ink stains. If you’re also wondering how to remove blood from a carpet or how to remove pee from a carpet, the below options will also help!

  1. Rubbing alcohol. This is the most common approach for getting ink out of a carpet. Wet a clean rag with the rubbing alcohol, and dab the stain out. Rinse the rag and repeat as needed.

  1. Hand sanitizer. Because this item also has alcohol in it, it can also remove stains. While it’s safe to use on your carpet, it has a lower alcohol concentration, so you may need to use more. Rinse carpet thoroughly after treatment. 

  1. Vinegar. While you can use vinegar in the same way you’d use rubbing alcohol, you’ll want to make sure it’s diluted with water so you don’t damage your carpet. 

  1. Shaving cream. This might be a surprising one, but it works just like soap or shampoo. Apply it to the carpet, scrub and let it lather, rinse it with water thoroughly, and let it dry.

  1. Dish soap. This is safe on all carpets, and you can use it the same way you’d use it for anything else. (Dawn dish soap is particularly useful for gel pen ink.) Dish soap is also a go-to option if you’re wondering how to clean blood out of your carpet. Mix it with cold water, and be sure to blot the stain with a towel instead of rubbing it.

How to Get Slime Out of Carpet

There are a few carpet-cleaning nightmares that need special attention, and your child’s toy Slime is one of them. If you’re wondering how to get Slime out of carpet, follow the steps below:

  1. Remove excess Slime from the carpet. Use a paint scraper or knife to get rid of as much Slime as possible, starting from the outside of the mess inward.

  1. Create a solution from 2/3 cup distilled white vinegar and 1/3 cup warm water. (Slime contains ingredients like borax and glue, so vinegar is necessary to break it down.)

  1. Pour this solution over the entire stain, but take care not to saturate the carpet completely. If the Slime is deep in the carpet fibers or dried, let the solution sit for an extra 10-15 minutes.

  1. Loosen the slime from the carpet with a scrub brush. Make sure you use enough pressure to loosen the slime, but not so much that your carpet fibers become damaged. 

  1. Pat the area down with a clean, dry towel. Repeat the above steps as needed until all Slime is removed. 

  1. Once all Slime is removed, you can apply OxyClean as a spot treatment, which will help remove any colored dyes that might still be staining your carpet. Let the OxyClean sit for up to five minutes, then use a clean cloth to lift the stain. Repeat until any color dye is fully removed. 

  1. When the affected area is dry, finish the clean by vacuuming. Your carpet should be even cleaner than it was before the Slime made its mark!

As you can see, there are many things to consider when removing stains from a carpet. The good news? If you’re also wondering how to remove odors from carpet, most of the above methods will take care of that, given that odors typically arise from spills, stains, and years of wear and tear. If you treat your carpet or rugs well, they can and should last for many years. 

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