8 Signs You Need Professional Carpet Cleaning

Updated: Nov. 14, 2023

If you're seeing these signs of a dirty carpet, it's time for a professional carpet cleaning to remove grime and leave your carpets feeling like new.

Did you know that, according to The Carpet and Rug Institute’s Susan Lang, carpet acts as an air filter? It traps dust, pollen and other particles, keeping these problematic pests out of the “breathing zone” until they can be vacuumed.

But as good as you might be at vacuuming, a deeper clean is required from time to time. Carpet cleaning can be a DIY job, but there are times when you should call in the professionals.

Carpet cleaning, in general, is tedious and time-consuming. Every inch must be sprayed, scrubbed, rinsed and dried. Professional-grade equipment and techniques remove deep-down grime and set-in stains, as well as efficiently extract water and any solvents used in cleaning. DIY cleaning methods are more likely to leave residue behind. This lingering residue then traps dirt particles.

The drying capabilities that come with the professional process are another reason to hire out the job. You don’t want to be walking on wet carpet for days, and lingering dampness can cause mildew.

How do you know it’s time for a professional carpet cleaning? Consider these eight signs:

You Last Cleaned Your Carpet in 2018 … Maybe

If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your carpet, it probably means you’re due. “Most carpet should be professionally cleaned at least once a year, and if you have pets or small children, the frequency usually increases due to the higher risk of messes and wear and tear,” says Lauren Bowen, director of franchise operations for Two Maids & A Mop.

An insured professional carpet cleaning team not only has the expertise to do the job properly, they also provide a safety net should something go wrong. If you undertake the job and ruin the carpet, you’ll pay for new carpet out of pocket.

You Can’t Remember Your Carpet’s Original Color

If your carpet is looking more than a few shades darker than what you remember, it’s due for a cleaning.

“The most obvious sign is discoloration, especially darkening of carpet areas indicative of heavy foot traffic,” says Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, president of ServiceMaster by Zaba, a certified carpet cleaning company.

Pro cleaners use powerful equipment with better water pressure than smaller consumer-grade carpet cleaners you can buy or rent at a home improvement store.

“Professional carpet cleaning machinery is large and powerful. Any lightweight tool won’t clean your carpet deeply,” says Fantastic Services cleaning expert Dean Davies. “The lower water pressure of consumer-grade carpet cleaning machines doesn’t reach the deepest carpet fibers like professional-grade equipment will.”

Shoes Don’t Always Come Off at the Door

It happens: You’re leaving the house and forget something. So you run back to grab it without removing your shoes, leaving a trail of dirt and grime in your wake.

“If you always remember to take your shoes off at the door, bravo!” Bowen says. “But many homeowners forget and track the bacteria and dirt from their shoes across the carpet. Not only can a buildup of grime break down your carpet fibers, but it can also harbor pollutants that may make you sick.”

DIY methods aren’t the most effective way to remove that deep, down grime. “Professional carpet cleaning companies use commercial-grade hot water extraction and steam cleaning technology to dislodge and remove dirt, grime, and allergens embedded deep into carpet fibers,” says Rodriguez-Zaba.

It’s Got Stains That Just Won’t Budge

Spills and muddy paws leave their mark on carpets. It’s best to address stains as soon as possible.

“The longer you wait, the more the stain has a chance to set,” Bowen says. “Letting the stain dry may be your first thought, but it will actually allow the stain to set and permanently damage your carpet.”

When pet stains have set in and no amount of treatment, blotting and drying will remove it, call the pros.

Something Smells

Carpet fibers can hold onto odors and not let go. Vacuuming with scented baking soda carpet cleaners can mask or even temporarily dissipate the odor, but lingering scents from things like pet urine and smoke require a deeper clean.

“The scent of your carpet will also indicate whether it needs a clean, as a lingering smell can mean that a stain or fluid has penetrated deep into the fibers,” says Bowen. The steam-powered extraction professional cleaning methods can remove these tough odors.

Something Doesn’t Look Right

Take a good look at your carpet. If it’s looking a little defeated, a good deep clean can put some pep back in its step.”If your carpet appears dull, muted and matted down, you should get it cleaned to restore the fluffiness and vibrancy,” says Bowen.

Before you dive into a do-it-yourself cleaning, check to see if your carpet manufacturer requires a certain type of cleaning for the warranty to remain in effect.

Something Doesn’t Feel Right

Run your hand over your carpet. Does your carpet pass the “feel” test?

“A dirty carpet will feel rougher than usual and matted down,” says Bowen. “Also, if you rub your hand across the carpet and feel grit or other particles, you’re likely feeling a host of dirt, sand, pet hair, and other debris that needs to be cleaned up.”

If your hand recoils after the feel test, it’s time to call a carpet cleaner. While regular vacuuming removes nearly all debris, professional cleaning is designed to pick up and extract what regular vacuuming cannot.

Your Carpet Fiber Is a Tricky One

Delicate materials or antique rugs require special attention, but even some common carpet materials are candidates for professional care.

Nylon carpeting benefits most from professional carpet cleaning as these fibers tend to flatten over time, leading to a dull, flat appearance,” Rodriguez-Zaba says. “Professional carpet cleaning revives the fibers significantly.”