The Right Way to Vacuum Your Carpet

Vacuuming your carpet regularly is essential to keeping it clean and extending its life. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Following proper technique and using the correct vacuum and attachments can make all the difference in getting your carpets truly clean. Here is a comprehensive guide on the right way to vacuum your carpet.

Choose the Right Vacuum

Not all vacuums are created equal when it comes to carpet cleaning. Upright vacuums with a rotating brush are ideal for digging deep into carpet fibers and lifting out dirt, dust, and debris. Canister vacuums can also be a good option as they are powerful and versatile.

Some key things to look for include:

  • Strong suction: Look for a vacuum with powerful suction to deeply clean carpets. Aim for at least 10 Amps for an upright and 5 Amps for a canister.
  • Adjustable height: Being able to adjust the height of the vacuum head is crucial to optimally clean different carpet piles. Look for multiple height settings.
  • Rotating brush: An upright vacuum should have a motorized brush roll to agitate carpet fibers and lift out embedded dirt. Make sure it can be turned off for bare floors.
  • Large wheels: For an upright, look for large rear wheels that will glide easily over carpet. Canisters should have smooth-rolling casters.
  • Long hose: A canister vacuum should have at least a 10 ft hose to provide ample reach for cleaning carpets.
  • Variety of attachments: Look for a crevice tool, dusting brush and upholstery tool. A pet brush is also useful for homes with shedding pets.

Investing in a high-quality vacuum designed for carpets will make the chore quicker and more effective.

Vacuum Thoroughly and Methodically

The key to getting carpets clean is to be slow and systematic in your approach. Rushing through the job will leave much of the dirt behind. Here are some tips for thorough and methodical carpet vacuuming:

  • Go over each area of carpet multiple times in overlapping paths to get up as much dirt as possible.
  • Make several slow passes back and forth in the same area, rather than quickly pushing the vacuum around.
  • Vacuum against the natural nap of the carpet, then go back over it again with the nap. Alternate directions helps lift dirt out.
  • Completely finish vacuuming one room before moving on to the next.
  • Check edges and corners carefully to remove all debris. Use attachments to vacuum along baseboards, under furniture and on stairs.
  • Vacuum under area rugs and carpets to clean the fibers underneath.
  • Empty the vacuum between rooms to avoid losing suction as the container fills.

Thorough vacuuming takes time but is essential for keeping carpets looking their best.

Adjust the Height for Your Carpet

One of the biggest mistakes people make is vacuuming their carpets on the wrong setting. Adjusting the height allows the vacuum to optimally clean each specific carpet type. Here are tips for setting the height:

  • For high pile plush carpets, raise the setting to the highest position so the brush roll doesn’t tug on the long fibers.
  • For medium pile oxford or saxony carpets, use a mid-range height setting.
  • For low pile commercial grade or berber, use a lower setting so the vacuum can dig down deep.
  • For shag carpet, use the highest setting, and vacuum very slowly to avoid damaging the longer twisted fibers.
  • For very thick luxury carpeting, you may need to turn off the beater bar altogether to avoid damage and just rely on suction.

Take a moment to check the pile of your carpet and consult the vacuum manual to choose the ideal height. Proper adjustment protects your carpet and leads to better cleaning results.

Use the Proper Attachments

The included attachments that come with your vacuum are designed for specific purposes. Using the right attachment makes cleaning easier.

  • Use the crevice tool attachment to vacuum along baseboards, furniture legs, and corners. Its angled shape makes reaching tight spots easier.
  • Attach the dusting brush when you need to gently vacuum curtains, furniture surfaces, lampshades and other delicate objects. The soft bristles prevent damage.
  • Use the upholstery tool to vacuum furniture, stairs, cushions, and even car seats. It has a smaller head and bristles ideal for fabric.
  • For pet owners, use a pet brush attachment regularly to vacuum upholstery, beds, and other areas where pets spend time. It lifts pet hair effectively.

By matching the right attachment to the surface, you’ll get a deeper clean without causing any damage.

Vacuum Against the Carpet Nap

Carpet nap refers to the natural direction that the carpet fibers lie in after being installed. Vacuuming against the nap helps lift up the fibers so dirt can be removed from below.

To find the nap direction, trail your hand lightly over the carpet in several spots. The fibers will naturally want to lie back down in the original direction. That is the nap direction.

When vacuuming:

  • Make your first few passes over each area going against the nap direction. This will agitate the fibers and bring dirt to the surface.
  • Then make a few passes going with the nap to lift out the now loosened debris into the vacuum.
  • Alternating nap directions as you vacuum results in deeper cleaning of carpet fibers and removal of embedded dirt and dust.

Paying attention to carpet nap and vacuuming accordingly helps get carpets noticeably cleaner.

Empty the Canister Frequently

Allowing the vacuum canister or bag to overfill will cause suction power to drop dramatically. That leads to subpar cleaning results. Here are tips for maintaining suction:

  • Check the canister/bag fill level frequently as you vacuum and empty as needed. For heavy carpet cleaning, you may need to empty several times.
  • Change vacuum bags when they are 2/3 full for optimal performance. Overstuffed bags severely reduce airflow.
  • Clean or replace the filters as recommended by the vacuum manufacturer to maximize suction.
  • Remove tangled hair and debris from the brush roll, wheels and hose as needed to maintain airflow.
  • For canisters, keep the hose clear and free of obstructions.

By regularly checking and emptying the vacuum, suction will remain strong and constant during use.

Spot Clean Heavy Traffic Areas

High foot traffic areas like in front of seating or busy hallways get dirtier faster. These spots may need more frequent vacuuming and periodic spot cleaning to keep them cleaner between deep cleanings.

To spot clean carpets:

  • Mix an all-natural carpet cleaner (like vinegar and water) according to directions. Test on an inconspicuous area first.
  • Use a clean sponge or cloth to work the solution into heavily soiled areas. Avoid excessive wetting.
  • Let soak 5-10 minutes then blot up the dirt using clean absorbent towels.
  • Rinse the spot with cool clean water and blot dry.
  • Sprinkle baking soda once fully dry to deodorize and neutralize odor.
  • Vacuum up the baking soda once dry.

Spot cleaning high traffic zones helps maintain their appearance between regular vacuuming.

Address Spills Quickly

Prompt attention to spills and stains is crucial for preventing permanent damage. Having an effective carpet spot cleaner on hand makes this easier. Follow these steps for handling spills:

  • Blot liquid spills immediately with absorbent cloths to lift as much liquid as possible. Don’t rub, which can spread the stain.
  • Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch over spill to absorb remaining moisture. Let set 10-15 minutes.
  • Gently lift powder into vacuum or broom sweep up when dry.
  • Apply carpet spot cleaner according to directions. Use sparingly and blot, don’t rub.
  • Rinse with water and blot dry if cleaner requires it.
  • Weigh down a clean cloth on the spot with a heavy object to soak up any remaining moisture.

Acting quickly when spills occur protects your carpet from becoming permanently stained.

Know When It’s Time for a Deep Clean

As diligent as you are with regular vacuuming, periodic deep cleaning is still necessary to refresh carpet fibers. It’s time for a deep clean when:

  • Daily vacuuming isn’t removing surface dirt effectively anymore.
  • You can see grimy buildup at carpet edges or in high traffic lanes.
  • Carpets feel gritty or matted down, not plush.
  • Spots reappear quickly after vacuuming.
  • Pervasive odors linger in the carpets.
  • Allergy symptoms seem aggravated in carpeted rooms.
  • It has been over a year since your last professional deep clean.

While you can rent equipment for DIY carpet cleaning, hiring a professional every 12-18 months ensures optimal results and protects your investment.

FAQs About Vacuuming Carpet

How often should you vacuum carpets?

Aim to vacuum carpets 2-3 times per week in high traffic areas like living rooms, bedrooms and hallways. Vacuum daily or every other day in very high traffic zones like entryways and stairs. For lighter use formal rooms, 1-2 times per week is sufficient.

Should you vacuum before or after shampooing carpets?

Always vacuum thoroughly before deep cleaning or shampooing rugs. This prepares the fibers to be fully penetrated by the cleaner. Then vacuum again after to lift out excess moisture and restore carpet nap.

Is vacuuming enough for cleaning carpets?

Regular vacuuming removes surface dirt, but not the deeper embedded grime that gives carpets a dingy appearance. Periodic deep cleaning every 12-18 months is recommended for healthy and fresh carpets.

What direction should you vacuum carpets?

Make initial passes against the direction of the carpet nap to agitate and lift the fibers. Then make passes with the nap to remove loosened debris. Alternating directions results in deeper vacuuming.

How do you vacuum carpets without destroying them?

Use the proper height setting for your specific carpet type, adjust the beater bar as needed and don’t rush. Check the vacuum head for tangled strings that could catch or loose wheels that can damage the carpet.


Vacuuming properly really makes a visible difference in improving carpet cleanliness and appearance. By using the right vacuum for carpets, being systematic and thorough in your approach, adjusting for carpet pile height, using attachments appropriately, paying attention to carpet nap and cleaning high traffic areas promptly, you can keep your carpets looking their absolute best. Making carpet care a regular priority protects your investment and promotes a healthier indoor environment. With the right technique, you can look forward to fresh, clean carpets that add comfort and beauty to your home.