How To: Shampoo Carpeting

Pristine, dirt-free carpets are just a few easy steps away.

How to Shampoo Carpets


Our carpets suffer the collateral damage of our busy, active lives. The daily foot traffic and those inevitable spills and stains guarantee they will need regular cleaning. The good news: The hot water extractor, a machine specially designed for deep restorative carpet cleaning, can attack deeply embedded dirt and grime to keep carpets as pristine as the rest of the décor. Of all of the machines available to homeowners for cleaning carpets with commercial shampoo—including shampooing machines and buffers with solution-moistened pads attached—the hot water extractor models are today’s gold standard for a deeper, long-lasting cleaning. When used once or twice a year on stained and heavily soiled synthetic carpets, heated water mixed with an appropriate shampooing chemical can remove even stubborn substances like ketchup, coffee, wine, pet urine, and ink.

- Hot water extractor
- CRI-approved carpet shampoo
- Can of spot remover
- Clean cloth
- Vacuum cleaner

It’s important to note that, though the industry tends to juxtapose hot water extraction with steam cleaning, they are in reality two completely different cleaning methods. A steam cleaner uses—surprise!—steam along with shampoo. Critics claim can steam cleaning can actually worsen stains and damage carpet fibers, so it is more widely recommended for hard surfaces. Hot water extraction, on the other hand, forces a mixture of hot water (though not quite steaming) and carpet shampoo deep into the carpet. The solution and dirt are then extracted from the carpet, leaving the fibers and carpet base clean. Now, read on for how to shampoo carpets with this deep-cleaning machine.


First order of business: Acquiring the equipment. Deciding whether to rent or buy a hot water extractor rests on your projected usage. Prices to buy are all over the map—from under $200 up to $4,000 for bigger, more powerful models—depending on the bells and whistles included. For most consumers who devote one day to the task, the rental option is the more cost effective. Renting a machine from a big home improvement store will typically cost about $30 for the day, or $116 for the week.

Whether you rent or buy, be sure to select a machine that is approved by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). Representing carpet manufacturers nationwide, the CRI tests machines for effectiveness and those that qualify are labeled with a bronze, silver, or gold certification.

Once you’ve chosen your cleaning device, pay close attention to the directions. Use only a commercial carpet shampoo with a CRI seal of approval and make sure it is a brand compatible with your particular extractor. Do not add any other chemicals to the mix or under dilute the cleaning solution in an attempt to make it stronger.

How to Shampoo Carpets


Before you even press the start button on the extractor, clear the room to expose as much carpet as possible. Take a little time to notice and address smaller tough stains using a stain remover spray. The cleaner is sprayed directly on the stain and then either vacuumed up or dabbed with a clean cloth, depending on the product’s recommendations.

Run your trusty vacuum cleaner over the entire open space before you bring in the big guns. This will remove loose dirt as well as any gravel or sand that has been tracked into the house. At the same time, vacuuming will fluff the carpet fibers and loosen dirt trapped deep within, making your cleaning effort much more effective.

A good pre-shampoo vacuuming will also give you an opportunity to spot and pick up those little items—like rubber bands, hair accessories, and paper clips—that can jam the hot water extractor and wreak havoc on your cleaning parade.

Your basic hot water extractor is a self-contained, two-tank unit. One tank holds the clean water mixed with commercial carpet shampoo. The other becomes filled with dirty waste water as you shampoo carpets. Strictly adhering to measurement instructions, fill the clean water tank with the exact amount of water and carpet shampoo specified. Do not use more shampoo than stipulated, as this won’t dissolve well and will leave added residue on the carpet that will act as a dirt magnet.

Once you have set up your dispersal and collection buckets according to the machine’s instructions, you are ready to begin. Start in a far corner of the room and slowly walk forward, pressing the button on the handle to gently release the properly diluted carpet shampoo onto the rug. The vacuum runs as long as the machine is turned on and will suck up the residual dirty, sudsy water as you go.

Be careful:

  • Before you expose your entire carpet to any chemical solution, test the hot water extractor on an inconspicuous corner to make sure the carpet shampoo solution will not affect the color or damage the surface.
  • Do not use hot water to clean natural materials as it will shrink and destroy the fibers. For wool carpets, fill the machine with cold water instead of hot. Use hot water with synthetic carpet only.
  • For best results, do not hold the water release button down continuously but instead press intermittently to keep from flooding the carpet with excess water. Drowning the carpet will definitely increase drying time and could potentially cause subsequent mold issues.

Continue working from one wall to the other until the water being extracted appears clear. Empty the waste water tank and refill the clean water tank with solution as needed.

How long it takes carpets to dry after shampooing with the hot water extractor depends on the size of the room, type of carpet, thickness of the padding, amount of dirt addressed, and ventilation. Some experts predict 4 to 6 hours of drying time for an average sized room with good ventilation, but carpets may take anywhere from 8 to 12 to up to 24 hours to be fully dry. Beware of wood furniture coming into contact with wet carpeting; when wet, dyes from the wood stain can be released onto the carpet and create lasting marks.

If you’ve only rented the hot water extractor for one day, and you have a whole house of dirty carpets to tackle, time is of the essence. While one room is drying, empty out the waste water tank, refill the clean water tank with diluted carpet shampoo and move on to the next space.

Once you are sure the carpet pile is well and truly dry, you can run the vacuum cleaner to remove any traces of leftover cleaning residue (remember: dirt magnet). Now all that is left is to enjoy the clean fruits of your labors!


How to Shampoo Carpets


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