How to clean carpet – 4 steps that will give your carpet a new lease of life

Carpet looking tired, dull, or dirty? Experts share their top cleaning tips to get it looking spotless and new

Blue walls with black and white rug
(Image credit: Future PLC / James French)

Carpets can quickly go from fresh to tired, and that's before they start to carry stubborn and unsightly stains. Knowing how to clean carpet will get your floors back to tip-top condition, so all your rooms look lovely and clean from the ground up.

Our carpets put up with a lot; even if we do take our shoes off in the hallway, there always seems to be bits of mud and debris that cling to our carpet fibres. And then there's the dust, which can feel never-ending. That's why getting hold of one of the best carpet cleaners and learning how to clean a carpet is vital for a healthy home. 

'There are plenty of ways to save money and clean your carpet yourself – but be mindful that there's a chance you can end up doing more harm than good and damage your carpet,' says Viesturs Silneiks, Chichester Carpet Cleaning

So that you can clean your carpet thoroughly but without the risk of damaging the pile, we've asked the experts to share their best tips and tricks on how to clean a carpet properly. Whether your stairway carpet ideas need a good cleaning or you're looking to improve every carpet in the house, our guide has you covered.

Cream bedroom with green fold out sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC / James French)

How to clean carpet

'Cleaning the carpet is a love-hate relationship, but a regular cleaning schedule can ensure it always looks brand new,' says Chloe Baker, Dr. Beckmann. 'Before you start to clean the carpets in your home, make sure you have the right tools to tackle even the most stubborn stains.'

Top of the list of your carpet cleaning kit should be a powerful vacuum cleaner; the Shark ICZ300UKT Anti Hair Wrap Cordless Upright Vacuum Cleaner is one of our top picks. We promise a good vacuum cleaner will be your new best friend when it comes to learning how to clean carpet and giving your floors a new lease of life. 

The essential carpet cleaning kit


1. Start by vacuuming

White cordless vacuum cleaning under armchair

(Image credit: MyJobQuote)

Before you whip out the stain removers, you need to rid your carpet of any loose dirt, dust and hair (and fur, too if you have pets). 'Vacuuming is a fantastic way to stop the build-up of dirt and dust which can lead to the dulling or damage of the carpet over a long period of time,' says Jack Ogden, Flooring Expert, ScS.

If you're wondering how often should you vacuum, the experts recommend once a week as minimum, though high-traffic areas like the kitchen and living room might require more frequent cleaning. And if you have pets, use one of the best vacuums for pet hair every day if you can, or every other day if not.  

'For most carpets, it’s best to use a vacuum cleaner with a rotating brush,' says Catrin Davies, Senior Product Manager, SDA Hoover. 'The brush gets under the surface to lift any particles lurking lower down for a deep clean.'

Don’t just vacuum around furniture, get right under sofas, armchairs and beds, and clear your dining room of chairs so you can move around more easily. The best cordless vacuums are easier to manoeuvre around furniture as there isn't a pesky wire getting tangled up. Use the various nozzles or heads that come with your vacuum cleaner for a really thorough clean right up to the skirting boards.

If you're constantly having to remove hair from the roller brush in your current vacuum, consider upgrading to one with anti-twist or anti-hair wrap technology, such as the Hoover HF9 Cordless vac or the Shark Stratos range.

2. Tackle the stains

White room with dressing table and mirror

(Image credit: Future PLC)

After a thorough vacuum, you might have spotted lingering marks, scuffs or stains, at which point you'll need to learn how to remove stains from carpets

'Spot cleaning is an effective way to tackle hard and stubborn stains beyond the vacuum,' says Chloe Baker from Dr. Beckmann. 'It’s important to act quickly, remove any remaining stain with a dedicated carpet cleaner like Dr. Beckmann’s Carpet Stain Remover.'  

Whatever stain remover you're using it, apply and dab it with medium pressure for a few minutes. 'You shouldn't rub the stain or scrub it with force,' says Viesturs, Chichester Carpet Cleaning. 'Instead, dab it gently with a dry cloth, starting from the edges.' 

Using too much force may damage the pile. Wait around an hour for the patch to dry and try again if the stain hasn’t completely vanished. For future stains, always tackle them as soon as they happen. Blot them repeatedly with a cold damp cloth until they disappear – don’t rub or use hot water.

Dr. Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover, £3.33 at Amazon

Dr. Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover, £3.33 at Amazon

If you still haven't tried Dr. Beckmann's Carpet Stain Remover, you must. It will break down the toughest of stains, and even vanish red wine completely. The product’s brush gets deep into the stain, while the special oxy-powered formula also eliminates any unpleasant odours. 

3. Time for a deep clean

Grey ribbed carpet with double bed and mustard yellow blanket, bedside table

(Image credit: Kersaint Cobb)

If you have a pale or neutral-coloured carpet, it’ll really benefit from a deep clean. Either hire a carpet cleaner (try HSS Hire, from £25 per day) or invest in your own machine (check out Bissell’s wide range of carpet cleaners, priced from £100). 

'Note that certain carpets are not suitable for wet cleaning and excess water will cause them to shrink,'  says Alice Lynch, Cleaning Expert, Henry. 'Remember to read and follow the manufacturer's guidelines.'

When you’ve covered and cleaned the entire floor, make the room a strict foot traffic-free zone to allow it to dry – anything from two to 24 hours as required – ensuring the room is well-ventilated throughout.

Or, consider investing in a steam mop with a carpet attachment to give your carpet a deep clean. 'The heat from steam cleaners disintegrates stubborn stains and dirt from the carpet’s fabric, leaving it clean and fresh', Lily explains. 'The water vapour it generates penetrates deep into the carpet’s fabrics where other cleaning agents can’t reach. It can also eliminate germs without using chemicals.'

If your carpet is wool, experts recommend steam cleaning every 12-18 months to keep it in tip-top condition. 'This can help extend your carpet’s lifespan and keep it feeling soft and clean,' says Jack from Scs. 'But if you steam your carpet more regularly than this, you can end up damaging the natural wool fibres, so sticking to this timeframe is advised.' 

4. Freshen it up

Double bed on top of grey carpet with wooden headboard and linen blankets

(Image credit: Kersaint Cobb)

The last step to learning how to clean carpets properly is to sprinkle over a carpet refresher to deodorise your floor. Available in spray or foam form, apply this liberally then leave to dry naturally. This will remove any lingering odours and replace with a lovely fresh scent. 

You can either use a dedicated carpet shampoo, a spray such as 1001 carpet fresh, or simply sprinkle some bicarbonate of soda on your carpet. Like when learning how to clean a mattress, this will break down any odours and leave your carpet fresh and clean. Leave it on your floor overnight, sweep up, then vacuum the rest.

How to maintain your carpets

Now that you've learnt how to clean carpet and you've removed any stains, you'll want to make sure that you keep it looking its best for as long as possible. Here are our favourite tips that will make carpet maintenance much easier going forward.

1. Keep the dirt out

Shoes and boots lined up in a hallway with floral wallpaper

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Brittain)

Place a large doormat at external entrances for people to wipe their feet on before they enter. This will also help reduce the amount of dirt from outside being spread around the house.

2. Fit protectors

Frequent movement of furniture can affect the fibres of your carpet, so fit castor protectors or felt pads to the feet of your furniture to limit the extent of the damage. There's nothing worse than deciding to move your furniture around only to find that the old placement of the sofa has left semi-permanent marks. 

3. Try it first

Blue walls with black and white rug

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Laura Edwards)

Before using any cleaning or stain-removing product, check the colour fastness of your carpet or upholstery. Simply apply a little of the product to an inconspicuous area – for example, behind the TV or sofa – and allow to dry.


Is washing up liquid good for cleaning carpets?

'Using washing-up liquid or dish soap as a carpet cleaner is generally not recommended,' says Lily Cameron, Cleaning Supervisor, Fantastic Services. 'While it may be effective at removing grease and stains from dishes, it isn’t a product that’s formulated for cleaning carpets and can lead to potential problems and damage.'

You've probably used washing-up liquid before when something has spilt on your carpet, and it can be an effective way to lift stains in the first instance. The main problem though is that washing up liquid can leave a soapy residue behind, which can accumulate and attract more dirt over time. Try using a specially formulated carpet cleaner or upholstery cleaning products instead.

'To make sure your carpet is cleaned effectively and safely, it's best to use carpet cleaning solutions that are specifically designed for the purpose, because these products are formulated to address their unique requirements, such as maintaining the colour and minimising residue buildup,' says Lily.

What is the best DIY carpet cleaner?

There are two household staple items that the experts recommend using for how to clean carpet, and they come in handy for cleaning many areas of the home. Diluted white vinegar and baking soda are two effective DIY carpet cleaners, guaranteed to give your floor a second lease of life. 

'Baking soda is like a DIY magic eraser that saves a lot of money around the house,' says Lily. 'A baking soda and water paste and a brush can clean a carpet without the use of expensive, environmentally unsafe chemicals.'

You can either create a baking soda paste by mixing it with water, or you can sprinkle baking soda over your carpet before vacuuming it up. You can also cleaning with white vinegar. Make a solution with equal parts vinegar and water, then spray this over the baking soda for an extra deep clean.

'Don’t underestimate the power of home remedies,' says Chloe from Dr. Beckmann. 'White vinegar with warm water can help sanitise, disinfect and deodorise your carpet without the need for a cleaning machine. Remember to blot rather than scrub so the dirt doesn’t go deeper!' 

How can I clean my carpets at home?

There are different ways to learn how to clean carpet, most of which can be effective. Always start with a good vacuum, to remove the surface-level layer of dirt and dust. This should ideally be done every couple of days, to prevent bacteria build-up.

You can then focus on specific areas showing stains. 'Blot the spill with a white towel or tissue paper, working from the outside in. Then apply a carpet cleaner, suitable for your fibre type, to a white cloth and blot the area. Don’t scrub or apply carpet cleaner directly to the carpet,' says Johanna Constantinou, Brand and Communications Director, Tapi

'Before applying any cleaning agent, test it on an inconspicuous area of the carpet. Repeat with clean water to remove any residue and repeat until the cleaning agent is removed.'

This should lift any stains effectively without damaging your carpet. Dry the area by patting it with a towel, then re-vacuum to remove any remaining product and debris.

Deputy Editor

Jennifer is the Deputy Editor (Digital) for Homes & Gardens online. Prior to her current position, she completed various short courses a KLC Design School, and wrote across sister brands Ideal Home, LivingEtc, 25 Beautiful Homes, Country Homes & Interiors, and Style at Home. 

With contributions from