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


Purchase the right kind of carpet for the area you will be covering. No matter how diligently you maintain it, a thick white pile will not hold up in a busy entrance hall. When you are shopping for carpet or rugs, get tips from good carpet-cleaning outfits. A reliable one knows which kinds of rugs hold up best in various situations, and won’t share the biases of some carpet and rug salespeople. Click here for info on buying carpet.

Spot Removal

To prevent permanent stains, clean up spills immediately. Click here for tips.


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

Become a Smarter Consumer Get free, expert advice delivered to your inbox every Wednesday when you sign up for the Weekly Checklist newsletter.

Do-It-Yourself Cleaning

You’ll save money by cleaning your carpets yourself, but there are good reasons to turn to a professional. They will save you time and trouble, and also use heavier, more efficient equipment than homeowners ordinarily can buy or rent. Pro cleaners recognize fiber types and the risks of bleeding; they know from experience how much water a carpet can stand; and they work relatively quickly. Plus, the cost of a pro cleaning might not be more than what you’d pay to DIY.

But if you do decide to save bucks and clean your own Berbers or shags, you can rent hot-water-extraction machines from tool rental outlets, although they’ll be less powerful than the ones pros use. You can also buy the chemicals they need. 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 and less costly. These machines scrub a solution of water and detergent into the carpet and then vacuum up the dirt and water. These machines are significantly less powerful than those used by professionals, and don’t perform deep cleaning. But they can be effective for topical light cleanings and for regularly cleaning carpet in entranceways, stairs, and other areas that get dirty quickly.

No carpet-cleaning machine removes stains; you’ll still need to clean up spills immediately.

  • If you decide to obtain professional equipment:
  • First, vacuum the carpet to remove as much soil as possible.
  • Avoid getting the carpet too wet.
  • Don’t overdo the detergent. Doubling the amount 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 deodorizer. The residue can irritate your lungs.