The life of your carpet will depend more on what you do regularly than on what is done occasionally by a hired professional.


Purchase the right kind of carpet for the area you will be covering. Our ratings of carpet stores and installers will help you find great advice.

No matter how diligently you maintain it, a thick white pile will not hold up in a busy entranceway. When you are shopping for carpet or rugs, call a good carpet-cleaning outfit for advice. A reliable carpet cleaner knows which kinds of rugs hold up best in various situations, and won’t share the biases of some carpet and rug salespeople.

Spot Removal

To prevent permanent stains, clean up spills immediately.


Vacuuming is the biggest factor determining how long carpet wears and looks clean. Frequent vacuuming prevents traffic from working soil particles down into your carpet and embedding particles among the twisted fibers of the yarn.

Do-It-Yourself Cleanings

While you may want to save money by cleaning your carpets yourself, there are good reasons to turn to a professional. Obvious ones are that a professional will save you time and trouble. But good professionals also use heavier, more efficient equipment than homeowners ordinarily can buy or rent; they can recognize fiber types and the risks of bleeding; they know from experience how much water a carpet can stand; and they work relatively quickly. Furthermore, the cost of hiring some professionals may not be much more than the cost of homeowner-done jobs.

On the other hand, if you clean your own carpet you will almost certainly save money. For thorough cleanings, you can rent hot-water-extraction machines from tool rental outlets, although these machines are usually much less powerful than the ones most professionals use. You can also buy the chemicals to use with your rented equipment at various outlets. When applying chemicals, read all warning labels first, and carefully measure out the correct amounts.

In recent years, vacuum cleaner models that also function as carpet cleaners have become popular. These machines scrub a solution of water and detergent into the carpet and then vacuum up the dirt and water. Their cost has come down in recent years, with basic models going for under $100. But these machines won’t completely replace professional cleaning because they have only a small fraction of the power found in the machines used by professionals, and they don’t perform the deep cleaning that carpets regularly need. But they can be effective for topical light cleanings and for regularly cleaning carpet in entranceways, stairs, and other areas that get dirty quickly.

Keep in mind that no carpet-cleaning machine removes stains; you’ll still need to clean up spills immediately, and try and remove stains with specific cleansers.

If you decide to obtain professional equipment to do your own cleaning—

  • Vacuum the carpet to remove as much dry soil as possible.
  • Avoid getting the carpet too wet.
  • Avoid using too much detergent. Doubling the amount of detergent won’t make it easier to clean extra-dirty carpet; instead, it will leave residue that may attract soil and cause excess foam the next time the carpet is cleaned. If a first pass doesn’t remove all of the dirt, wait for the carpet to dry and try again.
  • Avoid applying carpet protector or deodorant.

Avoid using powder deodorant since its effectiveness is limited and it can form into a hard cake during later cleanings if not completely removed by vacuuming. Also, if you fail to completely vacuum out powder detergents, the residue can become a lung irritant.