When you do laundry, you select different cycles, temperatures, tumble dry, line dry or dry clean depending on the piece of clothing, how it is made and what material it is made from. Cleaning carpets and rugs is very similar. There are different cleaning methods that work best for each kind of carpet, especially for at-home care, and that’s what we are going to talk about today.

There are three main types of carpet that distinguish the cleaning methods we would choose to use on them: standard pile, berber and shag (or long pile). No matter which carpet you have, there is one thing that is essential to the care of all three types of carpet to keep them looking their best: vacuum your carpet/rugs at least once a week.

Berber carpet gets its name from the Berber people in Northern Africa where the carpet was originally invented. Due to the dusty terrain and dry climate, the Berber people of north Africa developed a method of very tightly weaving fibers to create a carpet flooring that would be less penetrable to dust and dirt. The upside of this type of carpet is that it is more resistant to dirt and grime. The downside is that the tight weave can snag and pull if not cared for properly, and also that it takes a long time to dry if it becomes wet.

For these reasons, when caring for your berber carpet, it is best to use a vacuum function that is suction only rather than brush and suction to prevent snags and wear on the tightly woven carpet. When it is time to have your carpets cleaned, do not use a consumer wet shampoo vacuum machine. It is best to have your berber carpets cleaned by a professional company who uses high-temperature steam cleaning or dry foam cleaning to prevent long-drying times since bacteria, mold and mildew thrive in moist places. If you have a spill, act fast: try putting some baking soda on a spill and let it sit for a few minutes before vacuuming it up and then blot away any extra moisture you can with a white towel.

Standard pile carpet is the most common type of carpet and is most conducive to at-home cleaning solutions if you can’t get a professional to come right away. Since standard carpet isn’t tightly woven like berber carpet, it is actually beneficial to use the brush and suction functions on your vacuum cleaner to keep dirt from settling down at the bottom of the carpet and padding. If you have a spill or a pet accident, blot up as much as you can right away, then follow with a white towel that has been soaked with a mixture of hot water and laundry detergent. Soak up the liquid and repeat the process with a towel soaked with just hot water.

The long fibers of shag carpeting and area rugs is the ideal place for dirt, grime and even microorganisms to hang out, which means that they need to be regularly vacuumed and professionally cleaned even more often than other types of carpeting. Shag (long-pile) carpets and rugs are the most difficult to clean and that is why we always suggest that you bring in a  professional to prevent damage to the fibers and ensure that they have been ridden of dirt and bacteria. Of course this does not mean that you shouldn’t still vacuum them regularly. Most shag carpets and/or rugs will list the specific vacuum cleaner models that are compatible with your type of carpeting to prevent tangling…our advice: heed these labels as they will ensure you don’t inadvertently damage your carpets’ fibers. If you want to maximize your vacuum’s effectiveness, purchase a carpet groomer and groom your carpet before and after you vacuum to loosen dirt and keep the shag carpeting plush.

Alternatively, if your vacuum isn’t compatible, you can use a stiff bristle broom or your vacuum cleaner’s hose attachment to clean very long pile shag area rugs such as alpaca wool. This will also help prevent the pile from getting matted and unevenly worn.