The Right Way to Vacuum Your Carpet

Upright vacuum cleaner vacuuming over carpet

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Most people are familiar with the concept of using a vacuum to remove dust and dirt from the carpet. However, to ensure the best care and protection of your carpet, there are a few important considerations of which to take note.

Here are some tips to help you make sure that you’re vacuuming your carpet properly, to help keep it looking and performing its best.

  • 01 of 05

    Choose the Right Vacuum

    Upright vacuum cleaner resting on carpet

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

    There are so many different vacuum cleaners available on the market today. Everything from uprights to canisters to hand-held vacuums. Not all vacuums are created equal, so it is important to choose a vacuum will adequately meet the needs of your carpet.

    If you’re buying new carpet for your home, consider checking with the carpet manufacturer to see if there are certain recommended features for your new carpet. For example, the new “soft carpets” that are very popular today may require a different type of vacuum than traditional cut-pile carpets.

    Even if you have a centralized vacuum system (Central Vac) you have choices when it comes to the vacuum head attachments, so be sure to look at the options available, and choose wisely.

    CRI Program

    The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) has created a labeling system to provide consumers with guidance and peace of mind when purchasing a vacuum. CRI tests vacuums on three criteria: soil removal, dust containment, and carpet appearance retention. If the vacuum meets CRI’s standards on all three criteria, it is awarded the CRI Seal of Approval/Green Label for vacuums.

  • 02 of 05

    Beater Bars

    Upright vacuum cleaner head with beater bar lifted up

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

    Many vacuums feature a rotating brush, known as a beater bar, which is designed to agitate the carpet fibers to help loosen soil deep in the pile. This feature is helpful in many cut-pile carpets but can be damaging to certain styles.

    Looped styles of carpet such as Berber should not be vacuumed with a beater brush, as it could loosen the fibers and cause the loops to have a “fuzzy” appearance. Also, if there is a small strand of fiber that has pulled loose from the loops, it could become wrapped around the beater bar and pulled with such force that it is pulled out of several rows, creating a run in the carpet.

    Long frieze styles could also be damaged by a beater bar, if the long strands of fiber become entangled in the brush. Carpet made from natural fibers such as wool should also never be vacuumed with a beater brush.

    If you have any of these types of carpets, do not choose a vacuum with a beater bar or, opt for one that allows the beater bar to be turned off, so that the vacuum will operate using suction only.

    Adjustable Height

    An adjustable vacuum head height is a common feature of vacuum cleaners and one that is a good idea if you have more than one style of carpet in your home. Different carpets may require different vacuum heights, to maintain proper airflow and ensure the best suction. Set the height to the vacuum manufacturer’s recommendation for your particular style of carpet. 

  • 03 of 05

    Proper Technique

    Small paper clip being lifted from carpet

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

    Before you begin vacuuming your carpet, walk through the space looking for small objects on the carpet that are too big to be vacuumed up (such as small toy pieces, coins, paper clips, etc.). These items should be picked up by hand to avoid the possibility of their getting caught in the vacuum and impairing suction, or causing damage to the vacuum.

    Don’t Rush

    As you vacuum your carpet, pass the vacuum cleaner back and forth slowly. When there are so many other chores and duties requiring your time, it can be very tempting to move the vacuum as quickly as you can, to speed up the process. However, this does not allow the vacuum adequate time to pick up everything in the carpet fibers, and so it will not be as effective.

    Instead, run the vacuum slowly in one direction, and then pull it back towards you. Move on to the next section of carpet, allowing the vacuum to slightly overlap the area you just cleaned, to allow for the lack of brush or suction at the very edge of the vacuum head.


    Continue this way until the entire area is finished. For best results, repeat the process in the opposite direction i.e., if you originally vacuumed in a north-south motion, turn and vacuum east-west. This is not necessary every time that you vacuum but is a good idea every once in a while to ensure a nice deep clean.

    Be sure to empty the canister or vacuum bag when it gets full. A full bag or canister will decrease the suction power of your vacuum, causing all of your work to be less effective. Try not to let it get more than three-quarters full, to ensure the best performance of your vacuum. 

  • 04 of 05

    Use the Attachments

    Upright vacuum cleaner with hose adjustments laid on carpet

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

    Most vacuums come with hose attachments to make it easy to vacuum hard-to-reach places, and for vacuuming upholstery, etc. Make use of the attachments. Use a crevice attachment along the baseboard at the edge of your room to help prevent dust build-up and possibly filtration soiling.

    Area Rugs

    The upholstery attachment on your vacuum is good for using on delicate area rugs, such as wool or silk—fibers which should never be vacuumed with a beater brush. Gently glide the upholstery attachment over the rug.

    If you have a cut pile synthetic rug, then you may be able to use the beater bar for vacuuming. Just be careful not to run the beater bar over the edges of the rug, as this could lead to fraying. Instead, use one of the attachment pieces to gently suction along the edges of the rug.


    Stairs are not big enough to use an upright vacuum on them, and maneuvering a large vacuum head on them is difficult. The easiest and most effective way to vacuum stairs is to use a hose attachment or even the end of the hose itself.

    Using a smaller piece on stairs allows you to reach every corner of the stairs, and between the railing posts if you have them.

    Run the attachment or hose along the edges of the stairs, paying close attention to areas where dust is most likely to collect, such as the back of the stair where the tread meets the riser. Then, slowly run the vacuum back and forth over the whole stair, including the stair nosing (where the carpet wraps around the edge).

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Vacuum Often

    Upright vacuum cleaner cleaning carpet around table leg

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

    How often you should vacuum your carpet depends on the level of traffic and activity in your home. Once per week should be the minimum that any household should vacuum its carpet. For homes with high traffic or pets, more frequent vacuuming will be necessary, likely twice or even three times per week. This will release allergens such from the carpet fibers and will help to keep your carpet looking and performing its best.

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  1. CRI. “Vacuums.” Accessed August 11, 2021.

  2. “The Importance of Vacuum Cleaners in Controlling Allergies.” Accessed August 11, 2021.