Step By Step Guide To Cleaning Your Carpet


In this major section of the book we deal with basic daily cleaning and care, how to deal with heavy wear and accidents on your carpet, and repair and restoration, which should be handled by professionals.


This is the one thing that cannot be said too often: treat your carpet as you would anything else that you cherish. The trouble is that while most of the objects in your home come with instructions on maintenance, carpets don't. And while this may make you hesitant about even owning one, caring for a carpet is no more complicated than that required for any other piece of furnishing. It's simply a matter of knowing what to do. This is not always easy to find out, though. At the point of purchase, your dealer's advice is always available, but being only human, we tend not to take it in because at that stage, we're sure it'll be some time before our carpet requires any maintenance work.

Then when we do come around to it, we aren't exactly sure what it was the dealer instructed us to do. This volume, meant as a quick and handy reference for the carpet owner, will fill this gap. On that Sunday morning when you've discovered a mysterious stain on your precious Isfahan, and your dealer cannot be on hand, this book will tell you what you can do yourself, at home, or if the damage appears serious, what you can do until expert help is available. But this is not your normal sort of occurrence. What is everyday, though, is dirt. And before it gets "set" into the carpet, or ground into the pile by feet walking over it, you should consider cleaning with a strong-bristled brush or broom as often as you think it's necessary.

Turn the carpet over with its pile against the floor and sweep the underside with firm strokes. This will help loosen particles of dirt and sand from the pile. Then after sweeping the floor under it clean, turn the carpet back and brush the pile, first against, and then in the direction of the pile. Sound simple? It is, and such a ritual can play a big part in prolonging the life of your carpet. We hear the question coming - What about using a vacuum cleaner on a carpet? Purists claim that no one serious about their carpet will consider using a powerful machine on it. In our experience, though, we have found that, subject to certain conditions, a vacuum cleaner does a good an undamaging job on a carpet.

The conditions are simple. Not more than once a week, always in the direction of the pile, never on the fringes, no rotary brush fixtures, and not too powerful a machine. There is , though, only one method of cleaning which carpets weavers and dealers the world over agree on, and that is hand cleaning. As more than one expert believes, "a carpet made by hand needs to be cleaned by hand." There is more to this opinion than a romantic-sounding notion. Since no two carpets are exactly alike, each should receive individual treatment. And since even within a single carpet, different areas may require different intensities of treatment, only hand-cleaning will do the job effectively.

Time-consuming it surely is. And costlier than machine-cleaning if carried out by an expert (and which may be necessary if the carpet is an old or antique one). In any other case, and at inconsiderable cost, you can hand-clean your own carpet. And such cleaning is necessary - brushing and vacuum cleaning remove the dust but not the dirt, which needs to be removed from the carpet at least once a year. Remember, cleanliness is the best protection against damage. Regular grooming protects the investment value of a carpet because the amount spent cleaning it is negligible compared to its constantly appreciating value. Except antique carpets, and carpets that are seriously damaged, most carpets can be hand-cleaned, whether made by hand or machine. The latter kind are usually delicate and valuable, and should be entrusted to an expert for any kind of treatment. Never attempt the job yourself in these instances because mishandling the carpet can lead to costly damage. When in doubt, always ask your dealer.


Pick a clear-weather day and begin early. Ideally, your carpet should get about five hours of sunshine in order to dry completely. Get into a comfortable position with the carpet before you begin. Try a raised surface if possible, so that you don't end the job with a backache!


Inspect the carpet for any signs of damage that require repair. This is important because cleaning process may cause further damage without your realising it. If you come across, for instance, a minute tear or rip, or selvedge threads coming loose, the area must be sewn together or secured temporarily, and then seen to immediately after cleaning and drying. Any work that requires repiling, such as threadbare or moth-eaten patches on the carpet should be handled after cleaning so that the best colour match can be found.

Dust and Dirt Removal

Remove all dust, dirt, sand and other particles from the carpet. You can do this by using a carpet beater and lightly beating the back of the carpet first to loose the grit from the pile, and then thoroughly brushing or vacuum cleaning both sides of the carpet. This step is important because any residue grit, when wet, turns into a mud-like substance which hardens and cracks just like mud does. This will leave the pile rough and shaggy after the cleaning, and eventually weaken the foundation of the carpet.

Stain Treatment

Treat any stains that are on the carpet. If stains are not removed completely before cleaning, the cleaning process itself may cause stain to "set", making it difficult or even impossible to remove them later. (See pages 42 & 43).

Colourfast Testing

Test the carpet for clourfastness before cleaning. This can be done by wiping a small, highly-coloured portion of the carpet with a damp white cloth. The carpet is colourfast if very little or no colour rubs off onto the white cloth, and this means that you can safely hand-clean it yourself. If colour appears easily on the white cloth, then you should entrust the cleaning to a professional who has the chemicals to prevent colour run.

Solution Mixing

Mix half a cup of shampoo with four and a half cup of warm water. Never use hot or boiling water as this strips natural oils from wool. A tablespoon of vinegar can be added to the solution. If you're using detergent, use the recommended proportions required for hand-washing.


Lay the carpet out on a flat hard surface with the pile facing upward. If the carpet is small enough, use a table top. Dip the brush into the solution, start at one corner of the carpet and begin to gently brush the solution into the pile. Use a gentle but firm movement, up and down, and in circles, keeping the pressure as constant as possible. Resist the urge to use force or to rub at the pile with your bare fingers - neither of these will clean the carpet more thoroughly. Keep the amount of solution and brush pressure as even as you can. Try not to over-soak the carpet, as the dyes could react to the chlorine in the water, leading to colour runs. The carpet will also take a lot longer to dry. Move across the carpet with small, overlapping movements until the entire surface has been treated. You can go through this procedure more than once if necessary.

You now need to end the job by using a clean towel and water to remove dirt as well as the soap solution. We t the towel, squeeze, and then work along and against the pile. You'll notice that the towel is picking up grime, so continue sponging until the towel comes away clean. Your final move should be to use the wet towel to smooth down the pile in the correct direction, because the earlier brushing would have separated the pile strands. Throughout the cleaning process and immediately after, handle the carpet with extra care.

The fringe, too, requires cleaning, and can be done by wetting it with some of the shampoo solution, and then gently brushing it in an up and down movement. Then, holding portions of it over the basin of clean water, let part of the fringe fall into the water as you gently massage the shampoo and dirt out your fingers. Then gather small bunches without pulling on them, gently squeeze and flip them onto the pile until they are dry. This way they won't pick up dirt from the floor.

As for the back of the carpet, it is neither necessary or advisable to clean it as it does not come into direct contact with dust and dirt. But if you do notice dirt and dust on the back, it is fine to sponge it with towel. Do this when the pile is already dry so that you can turn the carpet over to dry the back.

Once the job is done, carefully ready the carpet for drying. Carry it flat or rolled (never fold a damp carpet because fibres could break in the process), to a hard, dry and flat surface which, if weather and space permits, receives direct sunlight. Never place a carpet on the lawn because it will absorb moisture instead of drying out. If there is no available sunlight, or if there is simply no outside space available, place the carpet on a dry floor, preferably where there is a current of dry air. You can place it under a fan or an airconditioned room, but only as a stopgap measure until the next day. If you can't ensure this, get your carpet cleaned by your dealer. Ensure the carpet is completely dry before you place it back in its chosen position. To ensure the carpet is dry, check the floor area below the carpet. If the floor is still damp move the carpet to a different spot until you notice the floor area below it is dry. You will also know it's dry by feeling the warp, weft, and pile which should feel soft and pliable. Placing a damp carpet for use on the floor will damage its foundation, and over time, cause disintegration. This is because the moisture will be trapped between the carpet and the floor, and this will lead to rot.

After the carpet has dried, remove any residue dried dirt and shampoo power by brushing (with a dry brush) or gently vacuum cleaning, against, and finally, in the direction of the pile. Your efforts are rewarded by the personal satisfaction that comes from completing a task, the improved appearance of the carpet, and the fact that you now know your carpet intimately, having looked at every square inch of it as you cleaned it.

You should hand-clean your carpet every 12-18 months. Then, even if you have been carefully maintaining it, you should have your carpet professionally cleaned once every 4-5 years. The same cleaning procedure should also be used for Soumaks and kilims.