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, call a good carpet cleaning outfit for advice. 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. Our ratings of carpet stores and installers will help you find great advice.

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 save money by cleaning your carpets yourself, 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. Furthermore, the cost of hiring some pros may not be much more than what you’d pay to do it yourself.

But if you 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 your rented equipment requires. 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 significantly less power than their machines, and they 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.

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

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