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How to clean a carpet

By Kate Martin

From day-to-day cleaning to tackling tough stains, here’s how to keep your carpet looking its best.

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Although they’re warmer and cosier than a wooden floor, the downside of carpets is that it can take a bit more effort to keep them clean.

Regular cleaning is important to prevent dirt, dust and hair collecting among the fibres and ruining the appearance of your carpet.

The risk of staining is also higher than for most other types of flooring. A fifth of the people we surveyed said their carpet had been stained by pets, children or other factors.

Read on for our advice on the best ways to maintain your carpet and expert tips to prevent stains.

Cleaning carpets regularly

To keep your carpet looking good, a vacuum cleaner should be the first line of defence.

Dirt can quickly build up between the fibres and isn’t always instantly visible. So don’t just wait until your carpet looks dirty to get the vacuum out – stick to a schedule of vacuuming once or twice a week.

If you’re using carpet in high traffic areas such as hallways, or if you have children, pets or allergies, you might need to vacuum even more regularly to keep the dirt at bay.

Read our advice on how to buy the best vacuum cleaner and take our quick quiz to figure out which style is best for your home.

If you’re a Which? member, log in to read our vacuum cleaner reviews. You can use the filters to find models which have high scores for carpet cleaning.

How to get dirt out of carpets

Even with regular vacuuming, after many months of use, grime can collect in the fibres and leave your carpet looking dull and smelling musty. A good quality carpet cleaner can help to restore it to its original glory.

You can rent carpet cleaners from some high street DIY stores, tool hire shops, dry cleaners and supermarkets. Read our carpet cleaner reviews to find out how popular rental models such as the Rug Doctor performed in our tests.

If you have a lot of carpets or you need to clean them regularly because you have pets, young children or you’re a smoker, you might want to invest in your own carpet cleaner. See our advice on how to buy the best carpet cleaner to get the right model for you.

How to clean carpet stains

Stains were the most common problem experienced by the carpet owners we surveyed.

So it’s a good idea to stock up on carpet shampoo when you get a new carpet put down so it’s always on hand, rather than waiting until something is spilt.

We spoke to John Kilkenny from Advanced Clean, a carpet and upholstery cleaner endorsed by Which? Trusted Traders, about the best way to tackle stains.

To avoid a stain ruining your carpet, John recommended that you should:

  • act quickly to improve the chance of removing it
  • carefully scrape, remove and blot away as much of the spill as you can
  • test your cleaning product on an inconspicuous area of your carpet before use to make sure it won’t damage or discolour the material
  • avoid using hot water, as this can make some stains worse
  • don’t rub the stain too aggressively, as this can damage the carpet fibres.

For water soluble stains, such as fizzy drinks, mud and red fruits and berries, John said you can gently blot away the mark with a solution of two pints of water with a quarter of a teaspoon of white vinegar.

For tough stains like blood, coffee and wine, he recommends a solution of a large spoonful of ammonia mixed with one cup of water. However, if the carpet is wool or a wool blend, stick to mild detergent and water.

If you can't remove the stain and want to call in a carpet cleaning service, cover the area with polythene or a damp towel to try to keep it moist until it can be dealt with.

Professional carpet cleaning

If your own efforts to shift ground-in grime and stains have failed, it might be time to call in the professionals.

Read our advice on finding a carpet cleaning service and getting the best value from professional cleaning.

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