4 Tips to Clean and Revive Carpet Pile

Written by Doug Bonderud
Updated May 10, 2021
living room with couch, fireplace and ceiling fan
Photo by Jessica Anderson

Go beyond routine carpet cleaning to keep your carpets looking new by reviving carpet pile.

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To keep your carpet looking new, in addition to regular upkeep from a carpet cleaning company nearby, you must take care of its most important feature: the pile.

Carpet pile is a combination of the type, length and thickness of its fibers, with each aspect impacting quality and cost. But while piles vary from carpet to carpet, both cleaning and reviving are easily accomplished following these simple cleaning tips.

1.) Try Ice Cubes and a Stiff Brush

Even great-looking carpet shows wear and tear after a homeowner moves tables, chairs or couches into new positions, leaving behind unsightly carpet divots.

Dealing with these furniture indentations is simple: Start by getting an ice cube from the freezer and placing it on the divot. Let it melt naturally, or use a hairdryer to hasten the process, but make sure not to use a high heat setting or you risk damaging the carpet.

Once the ice is melted and the divot fully saturated, use a stiff brush to gently scrub the pile up and back into place.

2.) Use a Damp Cloth and an Iron

To deal with carpet pile trampled after years of use, try a damp cloth and steam iron.

Start by wetting the cloth and placing it over the affected carpet area, and then place a hot iron on top of the cloth for several seconds. This will cause the trampled fibers to stand back up again.

There are several caveats when using this technique, the most important being to never let the iron touch your carpet directly. Even if the contact is only for a few seconds, it may leave burn marks.

Also, make sure to keep the cloth damp when doing multiple spots. It's the combination of water and heat that helps straighten the pile. If either is missing, the technique won't work.

cream cut carpet pile closeup on texture
© Kanawa_Studio/Getty Images

3.) Clean with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Similar to the methods listed above, using homemade carpet cleaner made of vinegar or baking soda can help refresh your pile, and has the added benefit of spot cleaning.

Start by liberally applying baking soda to the carpet and working it in with a stiff brush.

Baking soda acts as a natural carpet cleaner, both by removing odors and killing bacteria. Make sure to rub it in more than just one direction and use a fair amount of pressure to fully saturate the carpet.

Allow the baking soda to sit overnight, and then vacuum it up.

Next, mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle, and liberally coat the area. Use your brush to raise the pile, and let dry. The smell of vinegar will dissipate after a few hours, and you'll be left with a clean, new-looking patch of carpet.

Make sure not to put the baking soda and vinegar on your carpet at the same time. The result will be a thick, foamy white substance similar to what's produced in grade school science projects about volcanoes.

Although the cleaning efficacy won't be reduced, dealing with the additional mess will be time consuming.

4.) Protect Your Carpet Pile

It's possible to prevent damage to your pile in several ways.

First, make sure to regularly move or even slightly shift your furniture. A few inches in either direction can minimize carpet divot damage.

You can also use area rugs in high-traffic areas to take the brunt of foot traffic.

Installing high-quality carpet with a dense pile also helps prevent this kind of damage, as it will better resist divots and wear over time.

If you do choose to put in new carpet — or replace older carpet that is too damaged to revive — consider hiring a professional contractor. Pros can streamline removal and installation and recommend carpeting best suited to your needs and budget.

Reviving carpet pile is simple and cost effective and doesn't take long. Preventative measures, meanwhile, can help limit the amount of maintenance required.

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