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Carpet Cleaning Tips - Vacuuming

Proper vacuuming is the easiest and most effective way to keep carpet clean, while having a positive impact on the cleanliness of your home and the air you breathe. Removing loose soil while it remains on the carpet surface also prevents dirt from embedding in the carpet pile and causing premature wear. Here are some inside tips to get the most from your vacuuming routine.
Scheduling: The more foot traffic on your carpet, the more you need to vacuumGenerally speaking, you should vacuum at least once a week with a CRI Seal of Approval/Green Label vacuum cleaner that has a high airflow, high-efficiency filtration, proper attachments, and height adjustment. Reasonably, you should vacuum high-, moderate-, and light-traffic areas on different schedules. Most of the house is fine with a once-a-week vacuuming, but high-traffic areas like hallways, entryways, and pet and kid areas need more attention — at least twice a week and sometimes daily.


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When vacuuming, don’t ignore corners and crevices where dust builds up — you know, those gray areas around the perimeters of rooms.

What about stairs? The frequency of vacuuming depends on how often you use them. An active family with second-floor bedrooms needs to clean the stairs more often than empty-nesters with a downstairs master suite, who rarely go upstairs.


The general formula is:

  • Vacuum daily in high-traffic or pet areas.
  • Vacuum twice weekly in medium-traffic areas.
  • Vacuum weekly in light-traffic areas, using attachments at carpet edges.

REMEMBER: “Top-down” cleaning saves you the step of vacuuming again after dusting. Dust blinds, windowsills, and furniture surfaces first. Collect as much dust as possible in treated dust cloths and then vacuum away any fallen dust during your whole-house vacuuming.

TIP: Don’t forget to check your vacuum bags. When bags (or containers) are ½ to 2/3 full, remove and replace or empty them. 

Setting vacuum height

What type of carpet do you have in your home? Plush, Berber (named for a North African nomadic tribe), velvet, or shag? Each pile type may require its own height setting or vacuum model. Pile is the visible wear surface of carpet, consisting of yarn tufts in loop and/or cut configuration. Pile crush occurs when those tufts become matted by foot traffic. You can help prevent pile crush with proper vacuuming.

Set your vacuum for the type of carpet pile you are cleaning, whether low and smooth or deep, shag carpet. Generally speaking, the higher the pile, the higher you need to adjust the base or vacuuming head. Do refer to your manufacturer’s instruction book for guidance. But over time, your own experience will show what is most effective.

How to vacuum
What about method? On carpet, use slow, repetitive front-to-back motions in an overlapping sequence. A quick once over won’t do much. But do not press down or make too many passes over the same spot. Instead, move slightly to the left or right about every four strokes. This method removes soil well and also provides an attractive end product — a fresh, no-footprints pattern.

Area rugs with fringe require special technique. Use gentle suction and start from the center of the carpet, vacuuming toward the fringe — being careful not to catch the strands in the beater bar. Lift the carpet edge to vacuum beneath the fringe. You may notice that antique or heirloom rugs often have missing fringe — probably the result of over-vigorous vacuuming or playful pets. Missing fringe detracts from a rug’s appearance and in some cases from its worth.

TIP: In closets, store shoes off the floor in specially designed closet organizers to make vacuuming easier.

TIP: Keep two vacuum cleaners in a two-story house, one upstairs and one down. To clean stairs themselves, work top down; a hand-held vacuum may do this job more easily than other models.

Understanding the attachments:

•   The all-purpose or universal brush works well on books and shelves.
•   The crevice tool (long and thin) reaches into narrow slots and corners.
•   The dusting brush details items that need a softer touch.
•   The radiator brush catches radiators and narrow spaces.
•   The upholstery nozzle, as its name implies, is good for vacuuming chairs, sofas, cushions, drapes, mattresses, and fabric furniture covers.

Your particular vacuum may feature all of the above or only a few. Regardless, keep in mind that attachments allow vacuums to do more than clean carpets. They can tackle many other projects, such as cleaning bookshelves and other dust collectors.
Vacuum care tips
For the best cleaning results, no matter what type of vacuum cleaner you have, inspect it periodically to be sure it is functioning properly

  • Keep hoses and attachments free from obstructions.
  • Don’t lose the attachments.
  • Grip the handle, not the hose. I know you want to drag the vacuum cleaner by the hose, but for the sake of its health and longevity, don’t do that. 
  • Keep brushes clean (for example, remove tangled hair) and replace them when worn. Typically, worn brushes are stiff, and they cause texture change on carpet.  
  • Empty containers or replace bags when half full.
  • On your machine, look for rough edges or bent metal that can snag carpet.

Locate vacuum repair shops or stores that carry replacement parts and vacuum bags that fit your model. Keep their contact information on hand.


(Note: This is one of a series of tips based on a collaboration between The Housekeeping Channel and the Carpet and Rug Institute, and adapted with permission from the book,"Carpet Cleaning Tips for Dummies." )


Carpet Cleaning Tips - Vacuuming:  Created on November 23rd, 2007.  Last Modified on January 21st, 2014


About The Carpet and Rug Institute

The Carpet and Rug InstituteThe Carpet and Rug Institute, headquartered in Dalton, Georgia, is the national trade association for the carpet and rug industry. Its members are manufacturers, suppliers, and service providers, representing over 90% of all carpet produced in the United States. CRI is the source for science-based information and insight into how carpet and rugs can create a better environment — for living, working, learning and healing. For more information, visit the CRI Blog.