How to Deep Clean & Sanitize Carpets

Carpets and rugs can really tie a room together. They add color and style to a home while providing comfort and warmth underfoot – but they’re also subjected to tons of dirt, dust, allergens, and harmful bacteria every single day. We and our pets bring contaminants into our homes on our shoes and feet, and add in pet accidents, food and drink spills, and respiratory droplets from sneezes and coughs that settle on surfaces, and carpets can be absolutely teeming with germs. Follow our step-by-step guide below for cleaning small throw rugs, large area rugs, and wall-to-wall carpeting. Happy cleaning! 

How Often Should You Clean Your Carpets? 

Generally, carpets and rugs should be vacuumed two to three times per week, or daily if you have a crawling baby or a furry friend that sheds. Vacuum cleaners are effective in removing surface dust, pet hair, and loose crumbs that accumulate on the carpet, and while vacuuming is an important aspect of day-to-day cleaning of the carpeting, it doesn’t deep clean or sanitize. This means that although the carpet is free of dirt and debris, it’s not free of germs.

Deep cleaning should be done at least twice per year to keep carpets clean and healthy. If someone in your home has a compromised immune system, asthma, or allergies, more frequent deep cleaning is recommended. Additionally, carpets should be deep cleaned and sanitized if someone in your household has been ill with a communicable disease. 

When you’re ready to deep clean and sanitize your carpets, it’s important to note the distinct differences between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting surfaces. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these three actions all have different definitions:

  • Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and other impurities from surfaces, but doesn't necessarily kill germs.
  • Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects – either by killing them or removing them – to a safe level, according to public health standards or requirements.
  • Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects.

Soft surfaces, like carpets and rugs, cannot be disinfected, only sanitized. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only registers disinfectants for hard, non-porous surfaces. As a porous surface, carpet contains small pores (or holes) that can collect dirt and germs. However, you can greatly reduce the germ-load on your carpets and rugs through sanitization. Vital Oxide is an EPA registered disinfectant; it also has the The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Seal of Approval. Vital Oxide can be used to sanitize soft surfaces like carpets and rugs and is effective against a wide range of bacteria and viruses, including Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, E. coli, Norovirus, Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. 

Materials Needed 

How to Clean & Sanitize Washable Carpets 

Small area rugs and throw rugs are the easiest to keep clean and germ-free. Unless your rug has a care tag that states it is dry clean or spot clean only, most throw rugs can be washed in the washer, even those with a rubber backing. For the best results, follow these four simple steps for cleaning your small throw rugs: 

  • Vacuum thoroughly with a HEPA-type vacuum to remove loose debris. If the rug is heavily soiled, take it outside and shake it out to loosen up the dirt before vacuuming. If you're not sure which HEPA vacuum to use, you might want to read Spotless Vacuum's guide
  • Place rug inside the washer and select the appropriate settings. Keep in mind that a front-loading washer or a standard washer without a center agitator will accommodate a rug better than a standard top-load washer. If you have a larger washable rug, consider heading to a laundromat to use a commercial washer. Select the hottest water recommended for the carpet on the care label.
  • Add detergent along with Vital Oxide to clean and sanitize. Use an Anti-Allergen Laundry Detergent to cut through grime and to neutralize common indoor allergens from dust mites, pet dander, molds, mildew, smoke, and pollen from the rug. Add in ½ cup to 1 cup Vital Oxide (depending on the size of the rug) along with the detergent to sanitize. 
  • Dry the rug. Always check the rug’s care tag before drying inside a dryer, but generally, 100% cotton rugs without a rubber backing can be tumble dried on high heat. If you aren’t sure, or if your rug has a rubber backing, allow it to air dry. 

  • How to Clean & Sanitize Wall-to-Wall Carpets and Large Area Rugs

    The thought of deep cleaning wall-to-wall carpeting or large area rugs may feel overwhelming, but take heart, with the right tools, your carpets can be made to look (and smell) their best. As always, check your carpet’s care instructions before deep cleaning, as some materials (like wool) cannot be cleaned with liquid. Most carpets can be cleaned and sanitize using the following method: 

  • Clear off the carpet and prep the area. Before you begin deep cleaning your carpet, start by moving as much furniture as you can out of the area. If you have large furniture that can’t be moved, place plastic floor protectors or caps under each leg to lift it slightly off the carpet. Additionally, if you’re planning to deep clean an area rug that’s located on hardwood floors, protect the wood floors with plastic sheeting or lining to prevent water damage.
  • Remove loose soil. Use a HEPA vacuum to remove as much loose soil, pet hair, dust, and allergens as possible. Make at least two passes (ideally three) with your vacuum over the entire carpet. 
  • Use a carpet cleaner or hot water extractor along with Vital Oxide to sanitize. Vital Oxide is safe for use on stain protected carpet and fabric finishes, and can be used as a carpet pre-spray, or in the tank of hot water extraction units to sanitize carpet. When using a carpet cleaner or hot water extractor, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean for best results. Vital Oxide can be added directly to the tank of the hot water extractor to sanitize, either full strength, or diluted 1 part Vital Oxide to 5 parts water. Allow to dwell for 10 minutes. Do not rinse, use an extraction wand and dry stroke carpet to remove excess moisture.

  • NOTE: Before using any cleaning product on carpet, always test it on the fibers in an inconspicuous spot to make sure it does not cause discoloration. Spray the solution on the fibers. Let it sit for five minutes and then blot with a clean white cloth. If there is color transfer, do not use the product on your carpet.

  • Air dry the carpet. Allow carpets to air dry for at least eight hours (ideally overnight), or use circulation fans to speed up the drying process. 

  • Keep Your Carpets Clean Longer 

    While it’s important to deep clean and sanitize carpets regularly, there are a few things you can do to keep the dirt and germ-load down on a day-to-day basis. 

    • Place washable mats outside and inside entry areas to catch excess dirt and grime. Clean them once a week using the instructions above for washable rugs. 
    • Make your home a “no-shoe zone” by always removing your shoes by the door. 
    • Vacuum floors at least two to three times per week with a HEPA vacuum to capture dirt, dust, and allergens.
    • Brush and bathe pets regularly with an Anti-Allergen Pet Shampoo to cut down on the amount of fur and pet dander on your carpets. 
    • Clean up spills and pet accidents as soon as they happen. 

    Want more cleaning tips? Follow Vital Oxide on Instagram (@vitaloxideofficial). If you have any questions, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. We’re here to help!

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