Filthy floors? Deep clean carpets so they look new with tips from the pros

If your carpet looks as if it’s seen better days, it could be time for a thorough scrub. We share some expert suggestions for making your floor look fabulous.

Regardless of the colour, weave or pattern, there’s no doubting that while carpets can feel deliciously tactile underfoot, they also attract more dirt. Even though it’s not always visible, the fibres quickly trap daily debris, leaving them less hygienic than other flooring solutions.

And while a good old vacuum will spruce them up on a regular basis, experts still recommend that we give carpets a deep clean at least twice a year. But is this a job for the professionals or can you achieve the same clean-carpet feel at home? Here’s what they told us.

pink carpet in pink toned living roomCredit: Carpetright
Carpet can feel luxurious underfoot, but can you really deep-clean it at home?

When to deep clean carpets

Seasonal changes are good reminders

Autumn can be a good time to consider a carpet clean, says Jennifer Sharpe, chief fragrance officer at cleaning company Fabulosa. “After spending more time outside in the summer, you’ve likely walked dirt through from your garden, so deep cleaning a carpet or rug will be much needed, freshening up your home ready for cosier nights in.”


Faye Doolittle, carpet-washing product manager at Vax UK, notes how other peak times are also recognised in the industry. “We see a surge just before Christmas to freshen the home for visitors, and post-Christmas and New Year to remove any spills and stains left behind after festive celebrations. Next up is Easter or spring-clean season for a full deep clean of carpets and furnishings.

“However, regardless of the time of year,” says Doolittle, “if you have young children and pets rolling around on your floors, then you may want to wash even more regularly to keep carpets hygienically clean.”

Punam Chada, carpet buyer at Carpetright adds: “How often you should deep clean a carpet also depends on how much the room itself is used and thereby how worn a carpet may be.

“A solid recommendation is a minimum of twice a year, with a weekly once-over with a vacuum.”

The benefit of regular cleaning? “It will not only leave your carpets looking clean and smelling fresh,” says Dolittle, “but also it will prolong their life and help to avoid the expensive costs of carpet replacement.”

Which vacuum should you choose?

Looking for a new vacuum? “An upright cleaner with an active beater bar, which will help loosen and lift soil, works well for cut-pile carpets,” says Chada, “whereas loop piles are best maintained using a suction cleaner.” For more expert advice, find out which vacuum cleaner is right for you.

Deep cleaning a carpet – what you’ll need

The right kit is key – especially if you aren’t using a specialist wet-and-dry vacuum

As the saying goes, prepare well, or prepare to fail. It’s the same for any cleaning jobs around the house. Put aside some time, clear the area, position your tools to hand and suddenly the job seems less of a chore, and more of an achievable challenge.

Chada recommends having the following kit if you are tackling the carpet clean without a specialist machine:

  • Vacuum
  • Spray bottle
  • Bucket
  • Cloth or towel
  • Scrub brush or sponge

With your tools to the ready, it’s next a question of deciding what liquid-based solutions you use to clean your carpets. Our kitchen food cupboards are often a valuable source of help, and as is often the case, it’s the standard home heroes that sport carpet-cleaning capes:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Table salt

For those of you who prefer to call in something slightly stronger, then there are also commercial carpet-cleaning powders, shampoos and foams available, with some proving useful at this time of year, suggests Sharpe.

“A foam freshener is great to use in between vacuuming, especially during the colder months when windows aren’t opened as frequently,” she says. “It eliminates odours and leaves a lovely fresh and clean smell.”

Featured product

Fabulosa Foam Freshener

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Fabulosa Foam Freshener

Feel your vacuuming isn’t quite making the grade? Make sure you’re not doing it wrong. Here’s the vacuuming mistakes you should avoid.

How to deep clean stains with salt, baking soda and vinegar

Teamwork to the rescue

If you need to remove stains prior to your carpet clean and prefer to take a home-grown approach, then it’s teamwork time for your food-cupboard staples.

Chada recommends the following mix as a DIY stain remover:

  • 85g (3oz) salt
  • 85g (3oz) baking soda
  • 70ml (2½ fl oz) vinegar

Put the mixture onto the stained areas, leave to dry and then vacuum.


If you’re running low on any of these, there’s also another alternative in the bathroom cabinet. According to Chada, shaving foam can be sprayed on stains. Leave for 30 minutes, blot it away, spray with vinegar and then wipe away any residue.

Alternatively, use a custom carpet stain remover but be sure to test it in an inconspicuous area beforehand.

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Dr. Beckmann Original Carpet Stain Remover

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Dr. Beckmann Original Carpet Stain Remover

Using bleach

Experts at Carpetright are keen to point out that you should only use bleach on a 100% polypropolene based carpet. If you do use bleach, it’s also recommended you dilute this to create a 50% water and 50% bleach solution. Always test this on a small inconspicuous area first.

How to clean with a specialist wet and dry machine

It’s now a much easier process thanks to improved drying times

If the thought of a deep, wet carpet clean using a machine leaves you filled with visions of empty rooms and hours of drying time, thankfully this is doesn’t have to be the case any more.

“Gone are the days when you needed to schedule a day to wash your carpets and then vacate the house until they dry,” says Doolittle. “These days, it’s quick and easy to wash and dry carpets, particularly if you choose one that features a ‘quick-dry’ or ‘dry-only’ mode, some of which leave your carpets dry in as little as an hour.”

She recommends the following plan of attack to make the job as easy as possible:

  1. While carpet washers are relatively easy to manoeuvre around larger pieces of furniture, clear out smaller moveable pieces from each room so you have a clear path.
  2. Quickly vacuum around the area to remove any surface debris, as this will help prevent your carpet cleaner from getting clogged.
  3. Plan your route in each room. Start in the far corner and work your way back to the door. Even with quick-dry modes it’s best if you can avoid stepping on damp carpet and it’s also nicer on your feet.
  4. Start at the top of the house and work down. Alternatively, consider starting with the dirtiest room first that will require most effort, leaving easier rooms to tackle if you start to tire.
  5. Move backwards and forwards, moving smoothly and more slowly than you would with a regular vacuum cleaner. To avoid over-saturating your carpet, repeat passes up to four times in the same area and work your way across the entire room.
  6. If your carpet washer has a dry-only mode, go over the area again once you’ve washed it to leave your carpets as dry as possible.

Doolittle’s top tip for getting the best out of your machine? “Don’t rush,” she says. “It’s a common mistake. Instead, move slowly forward to allow the solution to be released into the carpet and the rotating brush bar to properly agitate the fibres.

“A slow step is much more efficient than hurriedly pushing forward and pulling back multiple times.

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VAX Platinum SmartWash Carpet Cleaner

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VAX Platinum SmartWash Carpet Cleaner

How to speed up drying time

Drying time for any type of carpet clean, whether by hand or machine, can be aided by keeping rooms well ventilated with fresh air.

How to deep clean a carpet by hand without chemicals

Try this method if you’re prepared to put in elbow grease or only have a smaller area to clean

Chada recommends the following six steps for best results when cleaning by hand:

  1. First start by mixing 1/8 teaspoon of liquid soap with water in a spray bottle.
  2. Sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda and table salt over the carpet (or the area you wish to deep clean if not deep cleaning the whole carpet).
  3. Spray the mixture of soapy water over the carpet and let it sit for a few minutes to soak in.
  4. Get a stiff-bristled scrubbing brush and brush the carpet in one direction first as this will accumulate most of the dirt. Move to scrub the carpet in opposite directions to get the best possible results.
  5. Press a towel into the carpet to soak up the water.
  6. Once the area is damp or dry, spray the carpet with regular tap water and again press a towel or cloth into the carpet.

Still prefer to call in the professionals?

If your house is wall-to-wall carpet, even cleaning with a machine may seem a little too daunting. To find a professional cleaner near you, visit the National Carpet Cleaners Association.

Chada tells us about the most common types of carpet and what we need to be aware of when it comes to cleaning them.

The most common carpet in homes, thanks to its versatility. This is a soft but hardwearing carpet with a tufted construction that’s easy to clean. It can even withstand light bleach solutions if the stains are heavy. Just don’t go overboard and remember to always test a sample before using something across a whole room.

Twist carpets are durable and very resistant to spills and stains, making them a great choice for a busy home. As with Saxony, you can use mild bleach on this material.

This type of carpet is also suitable for hardwearing places, but can need regular cleaning due to heavier traffic causing more stains and spillages. The short loop pile is very tough, and the thicker yarn makes it resistant to damage.

Wool is a very natural option but can withstand harsh stains. However, as this is a natural material, it is best to avoid any bleach substances and to spot test tough cleaning solutions before applying them to a stubborn stain.

Sarah Harley

Written by Sarah Harley she/her


Since first picking up a paintbrush and experiencing the joy of re-decorating her bedroom in a questionable red, white and grey scheme as a young teenager, Sarah Harley was hooked on the world of interior design. This obsession even led to a real life ‘Grand Designs’ project in 2005 when she donned a pink hard hat and appeared on TV screens, project managing the renovation and extension of a Grade II listed 17th century Folly in South Wales.

Throughout her career, Sarah has gained an array of experience in several different roles, ranging from copywriting, PR, events management and photography to interior design and home staging. With her two passions being the written word and the joys of a beautifully designed home, Sarah’s mission is to open the door on the world of interiors, inviting readers in to help them work their way through the vast choice of products, ideas and trends so that their own homes can reach their full potential.

Away from work, Sarah fills her Pinterest boards with more ideas, dreams of where to travel, takes photographs and loves being by the sea. She has two sons and if she absorbed everything they said would also be a football expert. The fact is she is often more interested in the colour and design of the kit – but don’t tell them that.

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