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.
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:
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:
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.
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.