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Carpet Cleaning ABCs

No matter what type of carpet you have, regular vacuuming is the single most important maintenance task you can perform. Grit and heavy soil particles have irregular shapes that become abrasive and saw away at the individual carpet fibers. Neglected carpeting wears out much more quickly than fibers that get regular attention. (This is why carpets in some offices and hotels look as good as they do for many years.) [Note: Ad or content links featured on this page are not necessarily affiliated with IICRC (The cleantrust) and should not be considered a recommendation or endorsement by IICRC (The cleantrust)].


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A good rule is to vacuum carpeting once a week. High-traffic areas will need a visit by the vacuum cleaner more often than this, perhaps even daily in a very busy household. Vacuum edges, corners, and carpeting under furniture less often. These areas generally don’t get foot traffic, but still need dust removal occasionally.

The best choice for most cut pile or plush carpet is a vacuum cleaner with a beater bar. Canister machines with a simple suction wand are most practical for edges, corners and under furniture. Whatever the equipment, the machine itself needs maintenance to stay on the job and to prevent carpet damage. See the entry Vacuum cleaner maintenance for tips.

Even with careful vacuuming on a regular basis, soil will become embedded in carpeting over time. That’s why most experts recommend the deeper cleaning attainable from a hot water extraction method. During hot water extraction, the cleaning solution is sprayed into the fibers to penetrate and loosen stubborn soil, followed immediately by suction to remove the soil-laden solution from the pile. Hot water extraction is generally not recommended for exotic carpet materials like silk and plant fibers such as sisal, however.

Most carpets can benefit from an occasional touch-up extraction cleaning by a do-it-yourselfer. Many manufacturers offer wet-extraction machines for use by homeowners; see the entry Portable extractor for more details. Even if you do this, most experts recommend hiring a professional contractor as often as annually to clean carpeting deep down. Many professionals use equipment such as a truck-mounted extractor, which offers far greater cleaning power than a portable machine can.

If your carpet is made of silk, sisal or another unusual fiber, however, you may need a dry extraction cleaning that can only be performed by a trained professional.

When choosing a contractor, be certain to ask about professional training or certification, and rely on references from satisfied friends and customers. Many carpet mills recommend using carpet cleaners certified by the IICRC.

Accidents happen — sooner or later, spots will get on carpeting. When this happens, you need to act immediately in many cases to prevent the spot from becoming a permanent stain. For expert help, consult

Carpet Cleaning ABCs:  Created on September 3rd, 2009.  Last Modified on January 21st, 2014



The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is a certification and standard-setting nonprofit organization for the inspection, cleaning and restoration industries. The IICRC serves the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Japan, in partnership with regional and international trade associations.

The mission of IICRC is to identify and promote an international standard of care that establishes and maintains the health, safety and welfare of the built environment.

The IICRC, with industry-wide participation, certifies - and develops certifications and standards for - inspection, cleaning and restoration. The IICRC also serves as a valuable consumer referral source for IICRC-Certified technicians and firms. There are currently more than 53,000 active IICRC-Certified technicians, many with multiple certifications, and more than 6,000 IICRC-Certified Firms around the world.