How Often Should You Wash Your Carpet?

Carpet looking a bit dull? Children with allergies in the household? Is pet dander getting to you? Sometimes vacuuming just doesn't cut it. Are you wondering how often you should be shampooing those carpets? Put your worries to rest as we've researched all about carpet care and maintenance and will share our findings below!

It is recommended that you have your carpets professionally cleaned every 12 to 18 months to remove embedded dirt and grime and to keep your carpets looking clean and fresh.

With proper care and maintenance, you can maintain a clean, cushy-looking carpet surface with a long lifespan. Continue reading below to find out all the ins and outs of carpet care, maintenance, and the best practices to get the most life out of your carpets.

Man cleaning carpet of a home, How Often Should You Wash Your Carpet?

Carpet Care Essentials

There are four essential main steps recommended by the Carpet and Rug institute for maintaining clean, vibrant, and new-looking carpet:


This is by far the easiest and most important step. Routine vacuuming with a HEPA filter not only removes surface dirt and dust but also removes pet dander and allergens from the surface of the carpet, improving the overall indoor air quality. It is also the best way to extend the life of your carpet.

If you have children and pets, you should expect to vacuum your carpets twice a week at a minimum to keep the dust and dander down. If you are a smoker, experts recommend as much as 4 times a week to reduce staining and odors. Heavy smokers may even need to vacuum every day.

If you're concerned about the effects of vacuuming on carpet, check out this post: Does Vacuuming Damage Carpet?

Quick response to spills and messes

Janitor cleaning stain on carpet with sponge

Quickly cleaning up messes and moisture on the carpet's surface helps prevent mold growth and deterioration of your carpet fibers. For pet stains, it is recommended to use a handheld extractor and use cold water to flush out any urine stains as hot water will actually set the stain and odor into the fibers.

Professional deep cleaning maintenance

Getting your carpet professionally cleaned (every 12 to 18 months) regularly removes embedded dirt and grime. This also leads to a healthier and more hygienic environment removing mold spores, dust, and dander.

Preventative measures

Front door entrance to grand house

Placing mats and rugs in entryways or high traffic areas will cut down on dirt and moisture brought into the home and the carpet. Experts recommend not wearing footwear on the carpet as this brings outside contaminates into the carpet fibers.

Washing Guidelines

How often should you shampoo your carpets?

Experts recommend you plan to have your carpets professionally cleaned every 12 to 18 months. This is not a one size fits all guideline though; they recognize some households have children and pets. Especially in the case of households with pets or smokers, they recommend having them professionally cleaned more regularly, sometimes as often as every 6 to 12 months. For those without busy households and pets, you can space professional cleaning out 18 to 24 months.

If having a professional come in every 6 to 12 months is asking a little much, a good interim care plan is to shampoo your carpets yourself with a rental shampoo unit or a self-bought carpet cleaner. This can be almost as effective as having a pro come in and you can increase the frequency to every 3 to 6 months for those with busy households or smokers.

Making The Most Out Of Your Carpet Care

If you are going to shampoo your carpets by yourself at home, there are some simple steps you can take to make the most out of your interim care:

  1. Attempt to remove all furniture you can from the space. If the furniture is too heavy or not able to be moved, then you can place plastic wrap around the bottom of the furniture to protect it from water damage.
  2. Prior to using a shampooer, make sure you vacuum the carpet thoroughly to get the very best results and remove all surface debris.
  3. Follow all instructions set forth by the manufacturer of the machine you are using with the recommended detergent. Do not attempt to make your own detergent for shampoo machines as these can leave residues in your carpet fibers, and in some cases, cause more wear than necessary.
  4. Begin at a point furthest away from the entry/exit area, that way you can thoroughly clean without having to step over your shampooed area once you are done.
  5. Work slowly and attempt to extract as much water from the carpet as you can. This helps reduce mold and aids in drying time.
  6. Wait until the carpet is fully dry before vacuuming, walking, or replacing the furniture. This can take up to 12 hours.
  7. Ventilate the area as best as you can. This also speeds up drying and reduces the chance of mold growth.

Is it bad to clean your carpets often?

Man cleaning carpet in home

The answer to this depends. When using a professional carpet cleaner, they are typically using commercial chemicals in a pressurized hot water mix that is then shot on the carpet and quickly vacuumed back up. If this process is repeated too frequently (more than once a year), it can wear down your carpet fibers, loosening the structure of your carpet and making it more susceptible to losing carpet threads and trapping dirt and grime. This is especially true if harsh chemicals are used in the hot water mix on a repeated basis.

The do-it-yourself machines are not as heavy-duty as the professional machines and are generally regarded as safe for frequent use. They clean by using a mixture of detergents and agitation. However, there are some common mistakes homeowners use that can contribute to carpet damage.

Mistakes That Can Lead To Carpet Damage

Over-shampooing is a common mistake homeowners can make. Many people have a tendency to think more is better. This leaves shampoo residue in the carpet and leads to build-up and more grime in the carpet. This is why following the manufacturer's instructions and recommended cleaners is a must.

Too much water or not allowing the carpet to dry thoroughly before replacing furniture or walking on the surface of the carpet is another common mistake.

It is important to work slowly and to soak up as much water as you can with your machine to prevent mold and mildew growth deep in the fibers of the carpet. The more water that is left on the carpet the longer the dry time will be.

Placing furniture back on the carpet's surface too soon also traps moisture in the carpet. This leads to mold and mildew problems, along with possible waterlogged furniture or furniture damage.

Is it better to shampoo or steam clean carpets?

Both shampooing and steam cleaning are highly effective ways to deep clean your carpets. Shampooing generally refers to an at-home shampoo machine that is either bought or rented from a grocer or hardware store. The consumer then uses store-bought chemicals mixed with water in the machines and it uses both the detergent and agitation to clean the carpet fibers.

Check out this carpet cleaner on Amazon.

Steam cleaning generally refers to a professional company with commercial chemicals and a truck-mounted steam cleaner that applies heat and suction to the carpet. In recent years especially, there are many companies that advertise they use just pure water and no harsh chemicals in their process.

Though at-home carpet cleaners and shampooers have come a long way, the gold standard in carpet cleanliness is to have them professionally done.

Shampooing is a great interim maintenance plan for your carpets, especially if you have pets or are a smoker and require more frequent cleaning. Shampooing versus steam cleaning generally comes down to cost, availability, and time. Experts do recommend having a professional come in during that 12 to 18-month interval and having the carpets steam cleaned even with regular shampooing.

How often should you use a carpet cleaner?

Experts report you can safely use an at-home carpet cleaner or shampooer on your carpets every 3 to 6 months. Again, if you have lots of high-traffic areas, children, or pets, you will want to shampoo more frequently at that 3-month mark. For best results, you should follow the tips listed above in the washing guidelines.

In Summary

We recommend professional carpet care maintenance to help maintain the hygiene, cleanliness, and durability of your carpets. Preventing dirt build-up and grime in your carpets helps to keep them looking newer longer. We hope this guide has answered all your questions about carpet machines, maintenance, and washing.

If you enjoyed the information in this article, consider these articles for further reading:

Can You Use A Carpet Cleaner On Tile?

Should New Carpet Be Cleaned?

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