Learn the Right Way to Vacuum Carpet

Words of wisdom my mother always stood by was to always care for anything that came between you and the ground.

Typically this adage applies to shoes, tires, and mattresses. But we think it can be said for carpet, too.

Despite being one of the biggest investments that homeowners can make, carpet is often taken for granted—at least until you have to replace it.

For renters, there’s nothing like moving into an apartment with new carpet. Knowing how to maintain its fluffy and unblemished appearance can make a big impact on the look of your home’s interior for the life of your lease.

Whether you’re ready to revive your flooring or want to keep new carpet looking fresh, our carpet care series has got you covered!

Read on to find useful info how vacuuming the right way can keep your carpet like-new for years longer. Then, hop over to part two for stain removal specifics and cleaning tips that come straight from the pros.

You’ve Probably Been Vacuuming Wrong All Along

We’ve already shared tips on how to pick out the perfect vacuum, but do you know how to use it?

If your vacuuming tactics involve short, quick back-and-forth motions that head in whichever direction you can navigate, you’re potentially trapping dirt, dust, and lint underneath your carpet’s fibers.

To vacuum like a professional, you’ll need to maneuver your vacuum in rows that consist of long, smooth sweeps.

The first going against the nap’s grain, then going over the same row in the opposite direction.

Why does the direction that you vacuum matter?

All carpets are woven in such a way that the nap lays down flat when pushed one direction, and puffs up when rubbed the other. To see what we mean, simply run your hand along your carpet until you find which direction makes it fluff up.

Before you can vacuum correctly, you need to identify which way your carpet faces. (Hint: If there are stairs in your home, the carpet will typically be in line with their direction.)

Then, follow these steps for maximum dirt, dust, and lint removal:

  1. Move as much furniture up and off the ground or out of the room as possible to make room for long, interrupted passes with the vacuum.
  2. Pick up any large pieces of debris or toys that are on the carpet, so as not to damage your vacuum.
  3. Vacuum an interrupted row (from wall to wall if possible) against the grain. This pulls the pile straight back to reveal debris.
  4. Then, pull the vacuum back over that strip you just vacuumed. This will lay the carpet back down and will pick up some of the dirt you missed on the first swipe.
  5. Once you're back to your starting place, vacuum another strip right next to the first, overlapping slightly. Keep doing this until the whole room has been vacuumed.
  6. After the entire room is done, vacuum the room going the opposite direction. For example, if you were vacuuming north to south the first time, vacuum east to west on the second pass.
  7. Finally, take an attachment and vacuum any stairs by hand, pulling against the nap’s grain.

Going against the carpet nap grain doesn’t just help maximize your cleaning efforts, it also counteracts wear. That’s because, as you walk on your carpet daily, your steps reinforce the nap’s natural lean.

But vacuuming in the opposite direction helps to counteract the constant foot traffic, and doing so regularly can help to extend your carpet’s lift by years.

6 Vacuuming Tips That Don’t Suck

Getting less-than-stellar performance from your vacuum cleaner? Before you chuck it out, check these tips to see if you’re just using it wrong:

1. Adjust Your Vacuum’s Suction If It Makes a Grinding Noise

Does your vacuum make a grinding noise when rolled across the carpet? If so, it doesn’t mean that your floor is covered in invisible pennies and bobby pins. Instead, vacuums make a distinctive grinding sound when their power is too low for the pile of carpet that they’re tasked to clean.

To stop the grinding noise (and clean more effectively) adjust your vacuum’s settings to add suction until all you hear is a smooth, even airflow with each pass.

2. Use the Crevice Attachment Near Baseboards to Prevent Mold and Mildew

Vacuums come with a variety of attachments that help you clean more efficiently. You’re probably already familiar with the crevice attachment, shown below, which can be used to clean in nooks and crannies, where carpet meets another flooring, or along baseboards.

Crevice Attachment

That last are is extra important, especially for those living in cold climates in the winter. That’s because external-facing walls or areas near doors and windows can build up condensation as the warm air from inside your home comes in contact with a cold surface.

If hard-to-clean spots, such as carpet corners near baseboards, are chock-full or organic matter (skin cells, pet hair, dust, and lint) you’re more likely to get mold and mildew—so be sure to give these areas extra attention.

3. Know Which Attachment is Intended for What Surfaces

You probably spent a pretty penny on your vacuum. Yet, most of us don’t use all those nifty attachments that can squeeze even more value out of the appliance.

Vacuum attachments

For example, the wide attachment to the top-left of the crevice tool above is used to vacuum your upholstery and drapes. Upholstery attachments have a smooth inner lip to gain maximum contact with the surface you’re cleaning.

Be sure not to confuse your upholstery attachment with the hardwood and tile floor attachment, which features bristles on its inner lip to protect surfaces. This attachment acts like a broom with extra suction power, and is also handy when cleaning spider webs from high corners.

Finally, at the top-right of the image is a round bristled attachment that can be used to make the chore of dusting easier. Use this to vacuum shelves, knick knacks, and even your keyboard—just be sure that it’s powered down and unplugged before doing so.

4. Clean from Top to Bottom

Most of us vacuum the floor first, then do any work with attachments as an afterthought. However, doing potentially scatters more debris right back to the area that you just cleaned!

Instead, use your attachments to vacuum shelves, ceiling fans, and even baseboards first. Then move your furniture to vacuum your floor.

5. Release Odors and Pet Hair With baking Soda

When browsing the cleaning aisle, you might have noticed powder products intended for use as a pretreatment before vacuuming. While many contain baking soda and perfumes, you can save by just picking up a box of the standard cheap stuff.

You might already know that sprinkling a generous layer of baking soda on your carpet and waiting 15 minutes will help get rid of smells. But, did you know it can help to loosen carpet fibers and release pet hair as well?

After sprinkling baking soda on your carpet and waiting, just vacuum as normal. The baking soda also helps to deodorize your vacuum’s canister, so double win!

See Also: Super Simple, Natural, & Cheap Cleaning Solutions Already In Your Kitchen

6. Know How to Clean a Shag

Shag rugs—those with extra-long fibers—are pretty popular. What’s not is knowing how to clean the darn things.

If your shag rug is small enough to handle, then feel free to shake it outside to remove debris. However, larger area rugs can be surprisingly heavy. So, how to vacuum a shag without getting its fibers wound, bound, and knotted around your vacuum’s beater bar?

Flip it over!

Since you don’t have to worry about a shag matting down, and are more concerned with cleaning out debris, flip your shag rug over and vacuum as you would the floor. If your rug is extra floppy, use your feet to stabilize the area on either side and move slowly.

Vacuuming the back doesn’t remove the debris, however—it just shakes it out. So, once you’ve completed, roll your shag up and push aside, then vacuum the area where it was previously covering.

If any visible debris remains on the shag rug’s surface, use the round brush attachment to spot vacuum on low power.

Don’t Forget to Clean Your Vacuum, Too

There are several reasons why you’ll want to keep your vacuum clean. First, vacuuming with a dirty vacuum just isn’t as efficient—a full vacuum canister won’t suck up debris as well as one that’s empty.

A filter that’s clogged will also reduce suction. And, clogged beater bar brushes that are wrapped with hair and lint? Those don’t pick up debris very well, either.

Most vacuum manuals suggest emptying your canister after every time that you vacuum while giving your filter a thorough cleaning when a visual check confirms that it’s necessary or after several uses.

It’s important to consult your vacuum’s manual for proper cleaning instructions. If you no longer have your manual, look up the make and model online, as most companies provide downloadable copies for customers who’ve misplaced theirs.

Don’t forget to check the brush bar that comes in contact with your carpet! This area can become tightly wound with hairs and lint, which not only limits its ability to clean in the short-term but can cause the brush bristles to become misshapen and lessen the vacuum’s effectiveness even after cleaning.

Again, it’s important to check your manual for how to best access the rotating brush. Once you do, carefully run a pair of sewing scissors or small shears along the base of the bristles, perpendicular to the direction of the wound debris, then pull the cut hairs and fibers out by hand.

A final note: It’s important to clean your vacuum in a well-ventilated area. Even if your vacuum appears relatively clean to the naked eye, there’s plenty of microscopic dust particles just itching to settle back into your carpet, so it’s a task best done outside.

Why Is Vacuuming So Important?

Gravity causes common household particles, such as dust, pollen, and pet and insect dander, to fall to the floor. Carpet traps those particles, removing them from the breathing zone and reducing their circulation in the air.

That’s great for removing allergy-causing particles from the air you breathe, but it also means that regularly vacuuming is pretty important.

How often depends on how much traffic an area of carpeting gets. Experts suggest that your whole home should be vacuumed at least once a week. However, high-traffic areas or rooms that are occupied by pets can benefit from being vacuumed every other day.

All this means that, while your technique can make a difference in the appearance and life of your carpet. it’s important for your indoor air quality as well.

That’s a Wrap on Our Vacuuming Tips

We know vacuuming likely isn’t your favorite chore. But, the good news is that vacuuming regularly does help to prevent built up dirt and debris from grinding into fibers, which requires a professional cleaning to remove.

Are your carpets already in need of some serious attention? Join us for part two, in which we’ll spill professional secrets on cleaning up stains—and compare wet versus dry cleaning methods to help you decide on who to call for your carpet’s annual deep clean.

Read Next: Easy Homemade Cleaning Solutions to Treat Common Carpet Stains

Autumn Yates

Autumn draws from a reporting background and years of experience working remotely, while living abroad, to focus on topics in travel, beauty, and online safety.