You'll be surprised to learn how much dirt vacuums miss -- and how simple the best cleaning methods really are.
Limit how much dirt gets into carpets in the first place. Declare a shoes-off rule, or place sturdy doormats at all entries.
Frequent vacuuming is the only way to keep grit from becoming embedded. Having a vacuum that's easy to use is crucial. Spend the bulk of cleaning time where dirt collects: a dozen passes of the vacuum within 4 feet of outside doors, eight passes in high-traffic areas, and four passes elsewhere. Where carpets have not been regularly and thoroughly cleaned, double the passes for three months.
The safest, easiest, and most effective deep-cleaning solution for area rugs is to have them rolled up and taken away for cleaning. With wall-to-wall carpeting, truck-mounted, hot-water extraction -- or steam cleaning -- works best. .
Out of the Carpet and Into the Air
The dust that collects in carpets may contribute to health problems -- particularly asthma, the most common chronic disease among children. Many vacuums worsen the problem by sending that dust shooting into the air, but a relatively new breed uses HEPA (high efficiency particle arresting) filters to trap essentially all of it in the machine.
When the Carpet and Rug Institute, a trade group, tested vacuums' effect on air quality, it found that just having a HEPA filter doesn't necessarily mean the machine is a clean one. The beater brush may still stir up dirt that becomes airborne. To be awarded the group's "green label" a vacuum cannot cause dust in the air to exceed 100 micrograms per cubic meter -- ess than the amount of dust a person generates by scratching his head a few times.