Besides adding warmth, creating a soft surface underfoot, and reducing noise, carpeting within the home can help act as a passive air filter by trapping pollutants that may be circulating in your air. Pet hair, dander, and dust eventually settle within the home, and gravity will bring most of it down to the floor. Most carpet will then trap those particles. This is not necessarily a bad thing if you regularly vacuum and clean your carpets.
If carpets are not cleaned regularly, they eventually become a reservoir of all the bad things that affect air quality in your home: dust, pesticides, dirt, pet dander, and worse. Over time, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) released into the air from common activities such as cleaning, use of hair and cosmetic products, cooking, burning candles or a fireplace, painting, etc. will begin to build up in your carpet as well. Pets in the home mean the particles in your carpet will dramatically increase along with the potential for other contaminants such as urine, vomit, blood, or feces. These substances can be a challenge to remove even in the best of circumstances.
You may not realize how toxic your carpets have become. And while you walk around your home a little higher up from the carpet, your pets are at ground zero, with no way to escape contaminants that exist at ground level.
The Best Way To Clean Carpets for Pet Owners:
Above all, we recommend you stick to a regular maintenance/cleaning schedule for your home. Not only will this help you stay ahead of any pet hair build-up, you will spot any hidden accidents your pet might have had with plenty of time to intervene before lasting damage occurs.
Always use the right tools for the job. Never use a steam cleaner on pet stains.
For daily/incidental cleaning, our strategy includes:
- A good daily or weekly-use vacuum that’s meant for pet hair on both carpets and hard surfaces with wand and attachments. You can read our top picks for vacuums for pet hair here.
- Mats or rugs at the doors to your home to reduce the amount of dirt your pets bring in on their feet. It should be easy to clean. We chose one we can take outside and hose off if need be.
- An “oops” kit with everything you need to clean specific kinds of stains such as blood, urine, vomit, and feces. Having everything you need already on hand will make it a snap to get the problem taken care of right away. Our guide for removing these kinds of stains can be found here.
- An enzymatic cleaner- here’s our top 3:
- Rocco & Roxie’s Stain and Odor Eliminator
- Pawstruck Stain & Odor Remover
- Bubba’s Super Strength Commercial Enzyme Cleaner
For deep cleaning/extraction of pet-related stains, here’s our strategy:
If you want it done right, do it yourself. You may know a great carpet cleaner or the phone number of a reputable company to do it for you at least once a year, but keep in mind that you’ll pay more for the convenience. We don’t like most commercial carpet cleaning services, the chemicals they use, and the results. Many of them rush through a job. You may not know the job was inadequate until weeks later when stains and odors return and by then, it’s too late. Different stains and odors need different approaches and chemical treatment. A pro team rushing to finish a big job may not have the time to ask what specific stains are and use the appropriate kinds of cleaners on them.
With a little hard work, the right tools, and a little patience you can get professional results for about the price of one or two pro jobs and still have your carpet cleaner around for next time!
Choose the right cleaning solution. We’ve spent years dealing with the frustration of carpets that had been cleaned with oily cleaning solutions that make the carpet feel soft for about a week after cleaning but invite the stains, dirt, and odors right back. Look for a carpet cleaner with enzymatic or oxy cleaning. You may even want to use vinegar, it’s a universal cleaner that achieves outstanding results. It can be used in many carpet cleaning machines.
Choose a carpet cleaning machine that meets your needs. And pretreat those stains before you even turn on a machine.
Categories of Carpet Cleaner:
Heavy Duty Rental or “Pro” Style
Our favorite carpet cleaners are the professional style that are similar to the ones you can rent at the hardware store. They may not have the best ratings as far as noise and how dry the carpet is immediately after use, but multiple passes pick up more water and we find the extraction level is unmatched. These giant tank-like machines can’t be beaten when it comes to extraction. For the price of a professional carpet cleaning, you can get a professional-grade machine that allows you to utilize the water extraction method with the cleaning solution you choose in a large tank so you aren’t spending half your day running back and forth refilling a tiny little tank. This means a heavy, bulky machine.
However, the level and depth of cleaning achieved is far superior to what you’ll get with a lightweight little machine that puts down more carpet conditioner than it removes dirt. If you don’t believe us, these types of machines are available for rent at many grocery and hardware stores, most of them under the Rug Doctor name. The amount of deep-down dirt they pull up is gloriously… disgusting.
Occasional Use/Vacuum Style
For a smaller home or space, or if you don’t have a lot of carpet and have really well-behaved animals this type of carpet cleaner is likely adequate.
We say casual use because we just don’t think these are made for whole-house cleaning. Yes, you could feasibly do a lot of surface area with one but with smaller tanks, you’ll spend a lot of time filling, emptying, etc. Buyer beware- Some of these are little more than a wet-dry vacuum with a water reservoir. Just like most mid-grade vacuums out there, it can be a challenge to find one with decent suction that has a little more to it than cheap plastic and components. Some of them can be frustrating to take apart and clean and if they break it may be harder or more expensive to find parts than to replace them.
The third type is spot cleaner-style. These are essentially a small canister style vacuum with hose that you can use to clean small spots. Most of these vacuums rely on elbow grease to be effective, so do not consider buying one of these if you think you may want to clean more than just small areas here and there.
Considerations for choosing a carpet cleaner:
- Is your carpet still under warranty and there are specific types of cleaning or treatment that could void your warranty?
- Are the carpet cleaning machines you’re considering light enough for you to use when filled with water and cleaning solution?
- Will the carpet cleaner you’re considering only work with brand-name cleaner and if so, is that a product you want to use on your carpets?
- If you have stairs, is the hose long enough on a carpet cleaner to do them?
- Is the machine you’re considering loud enough where you’ll need to consider wearing hearing protection?
- Does the cleaner you’re using have enough suction to remove most of the moisture it puts down?
Carpeting is convenient and can make all the difference in how cozy and warm your home feels, and keeping it clean and well-maintained doesn’t have to be an impossible task. With a good routine and regular care, you can stay ahead of the curve and keep your home welcoming, fresh, and healthy for both you and your pets.