Regular vacuuming is the most important carpet-care practice. Another key is to clean up spills quickly and get an overall professional cleaning when the carpet becomes visibly dirty. Click here for our ratings and advice on carpet and rug cleaners.

Some common causes and cures of other carpet problems:

  • During the manufacturing process, yarn ends can get buried in the carpet pile and later “sprout” up above the pile level. Use scissors to cut the sprout even with the carpet surface. Don’t pull a high tuft out of the carpet, as you may pull out other fibers as well. You can snip off carpet snags the same way as sprouts, but very large snags may need professional attention.
  • The surface of some types of carpet can develop small balls of fiber known as “pilling.” As with sprouts and snags, you can snip off pilling.
  • To prevent spots of pile from becoming crushed or flattened, place rubber or plastic glides, cups, or other special carpet-protector pads underneath heavy furniture. Also, periodically rearranging your furniture helps avoid flattened spots—and changing traffic patterns promotes more even wear. You can often bring crushed pile back up by releasing steam from an iron a few inches above the flattened area, allowing the steam to penetrate the pile, and then brushing briskly. Another trick: Place an ice cube in the dent and after it’s half melted vigorously brush out the area.
  • Damp weather and humidity can cause wall-to-wall carpet to buckle or ripple. These problems are usually temporary, but if they don’t disappear soon after the weather becomes drier, you’ll need to have the carpet restretched.
  • Exposure to direct sunlight causes fading. Closing drapes, blinds, or shades—especially on windows that receive direct sunlight—reduces fading.
  • Foot traffic and vacuuming cause pile fibers to change angles, making the carpet appear shaded. Shading is particularly noticeable on luxurious cut pile carpets, especially plushes in solid colors. Vacuuming the pile in one direction will temporarily fix shading.