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How Can You Tell If Your Carpets Are Actually Clean?

how to tell if carpet is actually clean

This might sound like an odd question at first but there are levels of cleanliness to a carpet.

Many people are often left flabbergasted after cleaning carpets themselves. They look cleaner than before but some things telling you that those carpets aren't quite as clean as they could be.

Sometimes after a carpet cleaning, your carpets can still appear dirty and in many cases that's true.

You may notice some parts of the carpet look darker than others, or there might be a lingering smell that could be coming from the carpet.

In this blog post, we will explain how you can tell if your carpet is truly clean, or if you've only scratched the surface.

How To Tell If Your Carpets Are Truly Clean

The best way to know if your carpets are really clean is to compare the colour to another part of your carpet that has had less traffic. Other than that, you can touch the carpets and see if they feel fresh or sticky, do a quick smell test, if there are foul odours coming from your carpet, you know that it is dirty.

Let's take a look at some of these methods and more to determine whether or not your carpets are clean or dirty.

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Run the carpet cleaner until the water is clear

Clear water in carpet cleaner

The best way to ensure that your carpets are fully clean is by continuing to run your wand over the carpets until the water coming out is completely clear.

That way you will know whether or not that dark spot is discolouration or a pile of dirt that was hard to remove.

Doing this effectively is all about preparation beforehand. When pre-spraying, make sure that you do an even coating on the carpets and spray extra only on heavily soiled areas.

When it comes to extraction your best bet is to first go over a section with the extraction trigger squeezed, immediately follow up with a couple of passes without touching the trigger to get rid of all that excess moisture.

Dirt is normally still found within that moisture so it's essential that you remove as much as possible. Then just repeat the process until the water running is clear.

Is there an odour coming from your carpet?

bad smell in carpet? Time to clean it

Bad smells in your carpet is a good sign that there is dirt, grease, or some kind of contaminant still in your carpets.

Even If your carpet 'looks' clean, it's entirely possible that it isn't. Dirt could be trapped inside the carpets hidden away from the surface.

this is a common problem with people who attempt to clean their carpets with a rental. Those machines are not strong enough to reach deep inside the fibres and often leave carpets soaking wet, full of dirty water that needs removing before it dries back into your carpets.

It can also be a problem if you have pets in your home. Having a dog that runs around your home is great, but they often leave a wet dog smell that can be difficult to move. You will need to be thorough and use the right chemicals to remove that bad odour.

Let your carpets dry

You might be wondering if your carpet will look clean once it's dried. If you've used a professional carpet cleaner, the answer is almost always yes and the carpets wouldn't be so wet that you couldn't tell anyway.

If however you decided to use a rental machine, let the carpet dry before making a final judgement.

In this case, you will still probably see some visible dirt and if you Don't, there almost certainly will be some in the carpet fibres.

How can we say for sure? Well, it's simple. If your machine wasn't strong enough to suck out the water you put onto the carpet, some of the dirt and grease will still be in it.

The water in a carpet cleaning process is a way of rinsing and diluting the pre-spray, priming it for extraction.

If you don't have a powerful enough machine to do this, the chemicals and dirt aren't going anywhere.

For some tips on drying your carpet manually, have a look at our 'how long does it take for carpet to dry' blog.

Do your carpets appear to get dirtier faster?

Carpets getting dirty more quickly is a telltale sign that your carpet wasn't cleaned properly, to begin with. If they get dirtier faster after a clean, it's probably because the layers underneath weren't cleaned properly which means that a build-up of dirt will accumulate more quickly.

A truly clean carpet shouldn't start to get dirty with normal foot traffic for at least 6-8 months (that is people walking on carpet without shoes.) It takes time for visible dirt to accumulate and show itself on the surface.

This isn't the case with a half-clean carpet, unfortunately. Because there are contaminants inside the carpet fibres already, they will reach the surface more quickly.

Just another reason why using a professional carpet cleaner is always the better option for your carpet and upholstery!

Should I go over my carpet again if it's dirty?

Here's the thing: if your carpet cleaner isn't strong enough to remove the dirt and water the first time, adding more liquid is only going to make the problem worse.

That is why brands like rug doctor does not recommend doing more than one pass over your carpet with their machine.

They understand that over-wetting the carpet is bad for it, they just forgot to tell you that their machines aren't strong enough to remove the water they are putting in!

The best thing to do in this situation is to call it a day and get a professional in. They have machines powerful enough to suck out the water that their machines put in, thus cleaning them properly.

If you are a professional with the right equipment and didn't quite get all of the dirt on your first try, consider using a stronger pre-spray and then go over it again to remove the remaining dirt.

How can you tell if a dark-coloured carpet is clean?

It's harder to know if darker carpets are fully clean than lighter colours simply because they mimic the colour of dirt and the before and afters aren't as dramatic.

The best way to know is to inspect the carpet closely, feel it to see if it's greasy or rough feeling and make sure that there are no bad smells coming from it.

Hot water extraction is always better for synthetic dark carpets. This will ensure that the carpet is completely deep cleaned and sanitised.


The sad reality is that most people who opt to clean carpets themselves will not have managed to clean their carpets properly. Not for want of effort but simply because the machines hired are never strong enough to get the job done properly.

As mentioned in this blog post, there are ways to tell if your carpet is actually clean or not, but the only way to truly rectify it is with professional equipment.

Hiring a carpet cleaning company may not be as expensive as you think, we come to your home and deep clean your entire home for around £150.

Renting out all of the equipment and buying the right chemicals aren't that much cheaper than this anyway, so do your carpets a favour and call in the professionals.

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