The Best Way to Vacuum Carpet is to Memorize this Routine

Perhaps this has happened to you: You’ve lived with carpeting, then for one reason or another you live with hardwood or some other type of hard surface flooring that shows up every little bit of dust and dirt. You can’t believe it! You can sweep or vacuum one day and by the next morning, dust and dirt have returned. 

Happy family of four in love with their clean carpet

Of course, you think that some new dirt- and dust-producing thing has mysteriously descended on your living space, but the truth is it’s the same dust and dirt that has always been present only now you can see it.

I cannot tell you how shocked I was to see what accumulated in such a short time on my new dark wood floors. In my mind, I multiplied by 7, 14 and even 21 days. Am I the only one who doesn’t vacuum every day of her life? Yes, I admit it. And just imagining what had accumulated in the carpeting almost made me wretch. Seriously.

Another surprise is how much dirt vacuums miss, especially when we use them on carpet. Because we cannot see the dirt, we assume a single pass will do it.

The problem is that once dirt goes deep into the carpet (closer to the bottom than it is to the top of the pile), it doesn’t easily come out. It takes agitation and suction to coax it out of there. And in the meantime, it’s easy to start hating your carpet. 

RELATED: How to Stop Hating Your Carpet

Keep it clean

The best defense is a good offense. That means you need to do all you can to keep the dirt from getting to the carpet in the first place. A shoes-off rule is ideal, but not always practical. Place sturdy doormats at all entrances.

Vacuuming carpet frequently is the only way to keep dirt and grit from embedding into the weave of the carpet backing. It is critical to use a vacuum that is lightweight and easy to maneuver. It should glide effortlessly.

Know your passes

As you plan your vacuuming route, spend the most time on the areas where dirt collects. Memorize this routine and count as you work:

  • 2 passes of the vacuum within 4 feet of outside doors
  • 8 passes in high-traffic areas
  • 4 passes elsewhere

In the areas where the carpet has not been regularly and thoroughly cleaned in the last year, double the passes given above for three months. It will take that kind of effort to get all of the dirt, grit, dust, and grime out of the pile and into the vacuum.

Area rugs

Because they are not stable, it is difficult to thoroughly clean area rugs at home. The best way to deep-clean area rugs is to have them rolled up and taken away to be washed in big tanks created just for this purpose. I have my wool area rugs cleaned this way and they turn out well. This is an investment I make in these rugs that were manufactured to last a lifetime.

Best vacuum

I’m nearly certain I have owned or used every major brand of vacuum ever produced. Call me a vacuum snob and it’s OK. In fact I kind of like it. And I would be a worthless columnist if I did not share what I know.

The best vacuum on the market is the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional. It is bagless, easy to empty, lightweight, maneuvers like a dream and extracts the most amazingly disgusting stuff out of carpet that you could ever imagine—yes, even sand and pet hair.

Over the years I’ve purchased and tested so many Shark models, I’ve lost track; I keep giving them away. I love my current Sharky so much,  I have three of them—one in every area of my home. (Remember when I got my first one?)

You can vacuum with your Dyson or Miele, Electrolux, Kirby or Hoover. When you’re done, I’ll vacuum the same area with Mr. Sharky Pro. Prepare to be amazed (if not a little embarrassed) by what Sharky will find that the others left behind.

Here’s the best part: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional is cheap—way less expensive than its competitors, which for me is a fabulous bonus. While price is not my first consideration in vacuum cleaners, that it comes in so cheap just makes me smile.

Originally published: 8-19-14; Updated 3-17-19

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42 replies
  1. Sara Thurston
    Sara Thurston says:

    I just got my first Shark (the TruePet Lift Away NV-752) and I AM IN LOVE!!!!
    I’m a vacuuming nut to begin with, and would shampoo the carpets twice a year. I thought they were clean.
    OMG, when I unpacked the Shark and did a test run I thought I was seeing things. The canister was filled to the top within minutes! I’ve now had it for about a month, and I’m still stunned at how much crapioli it keeps picking up, even from carpets that don’t get a lot of traffic. I can tell it’s old stuff, too because of the dingy gray color.
    I have always dreaded vacuuming, even though I do it religiously and slowly go over and over and over each section before moving on to the next. But the Shark is so amazing. I love the way it easily turns into a canister, too, so you can vac under furniture. And the TruePet motorized attachment is great on that furniture.
    I found the best deal at Bed Bath & Beyond with the 20% coupon – and no shipping. I swear, everybody NEEDS this vac! The carpets are so clean and the pile so fluffy, I may never have to shampoo again!

    Reply
  2. Jody Daugherty
    Jody Daugherty says:

    Your funny, every test I have ever seen disproves what you say. and I mean real testing not someone using multiple vacuums. Direct suction vacuums with good agitation blow away dyson and shark which only have good marketing.

    Reply
  3. Dana
    Dana says:

    The vacuuming recommendation seems a little off. Why would one only vacuum 2 passes in front of exterior doors but 4 passes everywhere else? I vacuum the most passes in front of the exterior doors and the high traffic areas.

    Reply
  4. Michelle Stewart
    Michelle Stewart says:

    This tip will help me train my men to vacuum “right”. Thanks! After Mary reviewed the Shark Apex Duoclean with pet tools, I upgraded from our 2 year old Shark Navigator Pro. Because we live in rural Montana, have kids, a cat and a Bernese Mountain Dog, plus my long hair, it was well worth the investment. For those who share such cleaning challenges, I cannot praise this new Shark vacuum system highly enough. Although it had only been 2 days since cleaning with the former “best vacuum” we collected FOUR tanks of hair and grit from the common room. We have hardwood, several pile densities of area rug and linoleum in our home; ALL these surfaces looked better after the first vacuuming. The dusting and under-appliance tools have helped to effortlessly reduce the “Dust Bunnies of Incredible Size” population, too.

    Reply
  5. Kathleen French
    Kathleen French says:

    Mary told me way back then and she (as usual) was right. And they are so inexpensive that I have one on both floors so I don’t have the excuse of not wanting to lug it upstairs and down to vacuum. LOVE the onboard tools and the dirt cup. I’ll never give up my Sharky.

    Reply
  6. holly
    holly says:

    I loved my shark navigator. but now it doesn’t suck up right and it all stacks in one place, I have tried to fix it. and I live in a rural area and don’t know where to take it to be fixed.

    Reply
  7. Pamela Guthrie
    Pamela Guthrie says:

    Needed to replace my old Dirt Devil vac and found one of these Sharks refurbished for $90 and I am in absolute love with it. I’ve cut down my vacuuming time and everything is so much cleaner. Thank you so much for the recommendation.

    Reply
  8. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    I’m buying a vacuum for my daughter for Christmas and read your article in the paper on the Shark NV356E. The Shark that you recommended is only 7th on consumerreports.org (3 other Sharks plus some different brands rank higher). So now I’m confused and don’t know what to do. Any insight?

    Reply
  9. Wendy Clarke
    Wendy Clarke says:

    I just got the regular Shark Navigator, only because it was a little cheaper. I don’t have a lot of carpet in my house and I didn’t want to spend a lot on a vacuum. I absolutely love this vacuum! I picked this one because it had a large dirt cup (I have 5 cats and a dog). I was constantly having to empty my old vacuum’s dirt cup. Not the Shark. It can pick up a lot. It’s only clogged once on me and that’s because my lovely boyfriend vacuumed something he shouldn’t have. It was easy to clear the clog. It has great suction. I’m now using this on my bare floors too because it just does such a great job.

    Reply
  10. Pat
    Pat says:

    I have tile floors. I got the Brute shop vac (wet and dry), and use it to vacuum the floors. It has amazing suction and only cost me about $60.

    Reply
  11. Brad Bishop
    Brad Bishop says:

    I highly recommend just getting a Neato or Roomba. I have one and run it at least once, often twice, a day and it gets into far more areas than I ever did with a regular upright. I haven’t vacuumed in 2 years. It also helps keep the dust down and is great if you have pets.

    Reply
    • Theresa H
      Theresa H says:

      I agree with this comment. I have a roomba and use it daily. It gets under the beds, which I never did. And it picks up a ton of stuff. I do also vacuum with a Hoover once a week or once every other week and do still have to mop the tile. I love my Roomba. Well worth the price to me.

      Reply
    • Raine
      Raine says:

      I have a Roomba and a collie. We could probably build a new dog every week with shedding. The Roomba collection bin is way too small for us.

      Reply
  12. Lynda
    Lynda says:

    I bought the Shark Rotator Professional, but have no carpet. I find that it does not suck up the stuff from next to the baseboards very well. With many animals I use the edging tool around the whole house for the baseboards and around/under furniture, then go around and do the rest of the floor in the upright position.

    Reply
  13. Ed
    Ed says:

    I’m a bit of a snob as well. I’d never trade my Kirby or Filter Queen for an overpriced plastic machine such as a shark or, god forbid, a dyson. I like things that are built to last (and can be repaired if problems arise). You can often get a quality brand used for a fraction of what they cost new and still get years of good use from them. One thing you should know though is that even the best vacuums are only about 80% effective. No matter what machine you have, a good salesman can go behind it with a different brand and show you how much your vacuum missed.

    Reply
  14. crabbyoldlady
    crabbyoldlady says:

    I just read the reviews on Amazon. It is generally agreed that it works well, but many many complaints about breaking and poor customer service from the company. I need a new vacuum, but I’m not so sure now…….

    Reply
  15. Guest
    Guest says:

    Ok … regarding standard vs premium roller: I have only had standard roller because Premium was not an option on my last purchase. I have to admit that if I were to buy a new Shark today, I would go for premium because, as I said, I’m kinda’ vacuum-crazy. I want the most suction the greatest agitation to get every last bit out of the carpet as quickly and easily as possible.

    Reply
  16. Karyn A.
    Karyn A. says:

    We love our Kirby! Sturdy, but not heavy. And yes, pricey, but my husband had a really good job at the time we bought it. Now he’s been unemployed for 20 months, so glad we have a reliable vacuum! We also have a non-shedding dog AND we don’t wear shoes in the house.

    Reply
  17. JoanN
    JoanN says:

    We have loved our ClearTrak for the past 18 years … same machine .. so easy to clean any clogs, change parts, etc. Would have to see the Shark pick up after my ClearTrak to believe it is more powerful. Maybe I’ll find someone with one and try one day.

    Reply
  18. kasaan
    kasaan says:

    Seems like a lot of people have had a bad experience with this product. On Amazon the bad remarks seem pretty major with shocks and broken parts and a LOT of back orders.

    Reply
    • Guest
      Guest says:

      Hmmm … I’ve used three different Sharks over a matter of years and have never experienced shocks or breakdowns! I am hard on vacuums, too. Back orders? Probably because I tell everyone they need one. Haha.

      Reply
    • Sassy
      Sassy says:

      Some people don’t follow directions too well. I have a vacuum on every floor (all Sharks) because I have back problems and it’s difficult for me to go from one floor to another carrying a vacuum cleaner and for the price I can do this. I’m also a vacuum-crazy person. My husband used to joke that I was looking for the perfect vacuum — one that would do the work for me. The Shark really has performed just as well or better then the very expensive vacuums I used to own.

      Reply
  19. Mitomom
    Mitomom says:

    I have to say that we bought a Shark a year or 2 ago after Mary raved about it and my husband (who does the vacuuming) has not been at all impressed. He finds it difficult to use, we’ve had to replace a couple of parts that have broken, and it doesn’t do a very good job on pet hair. Just my $.02. Don’t assume that it’s the best one on the market for your situation. I’m glad that others have been happy with it.

    Reply
  20. LisaD
    LisaD says:

    After I read your first column telling us of your recommendation of the Shark Navigator, my husband and I bought one at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. Reasonably priced, not heavy, and does a fantastic job! We bought one for our son the following year and he also loves how well it cleans! Then we picked one up for our daughter and she is also delighted with it. Thanks for all you do, Mary!

    Reply
  21. shadon
    shadon says:

    I just found it on Amazon. It is really reasonable. I’ve been through so many vacuums, and have usually been disappointed in their performance. I was wondering if I should stick with the standard brush roll or go with the premium brush roll. ?

    Reply
  22. MzKlly
    MzKlly says:

    I have a Shark and I have to agree it is the best!! Especially for cat hair. I got mine on Amazon. I do surveys and save up the points I get for Amazon gift certs. I ended up paying about $9 and change for mine. I absolutely love it…

    Reply
  23. Becky B
    Becky B says:

    Recently when purchasing new carpet the salesman told us that carpet should be vacuumed 1 time a week per people in the house — if there are 2 people in the house carpets should be vacuumed 2 times in a week — if there are 5 people 5 times a week!

    Reply
    • Guest
      Guest says:

      Oh thats is a great rule of thumb. I feel sorry for my niece with 8 kids. (Joanie, can you hear me? You need to be vacuuming 10 times a week.)

      Reply

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