How to Clean the Dirty Edges of Carpet

Dark, shadowy, dirty lines on the carpet along baseboards, under doors and draperies, along the edges and in the crevices of carpeted stairs are visible signs of a problem called filtration soil. With the right tools and information, you can clean the dirty edges of the carpet. But first, it’s important to know what that dirt is and how it got there.

Basically, your carpet is the biggest filter in your home. Just like your furnace and air conditioning filter that filters out airborne soils that pass through it, your carpet does the same thing. Filtration soil is an accumulation of soot from dirty ducts, smoke from candles, the fireplace or tobacco, kitchen grease from the oven and cooktop, smog, auto emissions, and pollutants from outdoors.

A home’s HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system is designed to filter out airborne soil, trapping it in the filter. But once the filter is full, the system will send the air pollutants back into the house through the ducts, where all of that icky mess gets lodged into corners and crevices. And if that’s not enough, filtration soil makes your house smell bad.

A severe case of filtration soil may require the services of a professional carpet cleaner who specializes in this unique problem. However, it is possible to effectively do it yourself, provided your soil problem is not severe.


The key to cleaning these dirty edges is to agitate the fibers by scrubbing or scraping to loosen the dirt particles.

Step 1: Use a pull scraper or a hard-bristle scrub brush to vigorously scrape away surface fibers and discolored dirty edges of the carpet. This is going to pull up a lot of debris and dirt. Do this before you get the carpet wet.

Step 2: Using your vacuum with the crevice tool attached, remove what you were able to pull up with it. You may see a noticeable improvement after you’ve scraped and vacuumed. However, some discoloration is likely to remain because it’s caused by grease, oil and the electrostatically bound particles deep within the nap of the carpet.

Step 3: Use a specific cleaning product for this kind of soil, like Prochem Filter Out, which is formulated to remove filtration soil lines, soot and other electrically charged particles. Apply it undiluted so that it saturates the fibers in the stained areas. Allow to sit for 3 to 5 minutes. Scrub the lines of filtration soil with a good, strong brush that can get down into the crevices. It’s important to agitate the carpet fibers to loosen the dirt particles so you can remove them.

You can also mix your own solution by adding a cup of white vinegar to a gallon of warm water. A solution of equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide is also an effective cleaner. Test your solution of choice in an inconspicuous part of the carpet (like inside a closet) to make sure it won’t affect the color or damage the baseboards.

Step 4: Rinse well with hot water or All Fiber Rinse, an excellent product that will assure a good, clean rinse. Use a wet-dry vacuum to do this if you have one available, or blot well with a clean white cloth to avoid transferring any dyes to the carpet. Repeat as needed, depending on the severity of the problem.


— Change the filter(s) on your HVAC system once every three months without fail.

— Thoroughly clean the filter in the range hood weekly.

— Use the range hood fan and vent every time you use the oven or cooktop. You want all of that smoke, cooking oil and airborne residue to leave the house immediately.

— Keep doors and windows closed if you live on a busy street or in an area with a lot of pollutants.

— Make your home a smoke-free zone. All smoking should be taken outdoors and away from open windows and doors.

— As lovely as candles and aromatherapy can be, these can contribute to a filtration soil problem. Switch to flameless LED candles, which create a lovely, realistic ambiance. Some even have fragrances.

— If you use a fireplace, make sure the system is clean and the pollutants it creates are being properly removed from the house. Clean the chimney and filter (if any) regularly as well.

No carpet? If you have no carpet, don’t think you’re off the hook when it comes to filtration soiling. Sure, you won’t have black lines on the carpet, but that sticky, black residue is going to find its way to upholstered furniture, hard surface flooring, draperies, blinds, windows and so on. If that’s not bad enough, it will make your house smell bad.

Do what you must to get rid of all the dirty edges of the carpet and/or furnishings in your home. Then take the easy steps to prevent it forever!

For more information and links to the products mentioned in the instructions above, please visit www.everydaycheapskate.com/filtrationsoil.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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