Contact us


Supreme Carpet Cleaning is proudly sharing professional tips, tricks, and interesting information with our wonderful community.

The History Of Carpet Cleaning

Posted on March 1, 2023

As long as people have had carpets, they’ve needed them cleaned regularly. And over the years, inventors created all kinds of strange and interesting ways to keep carpets looking sharp.

Today, we have well-tested techniques for keeping your Long Beach carpets clean, but that hasn’t always been true. It took housekeepers, cleaning professionals, and scientists many decades to determine ways to get the grime out of a carpet. Here’s some history behind how we got professional Long Beach carpet cleaning.

The Industrial Revolution

In the early 1800s, area rugs became popular with the wealthy. They were a luxury that only the rich could afford – but, of course, they wouldn’t clean their rugs themselves. The history of carpet cleaning began with the wives, housekeepers, and even slaves of aristocratic men trying desperately to keep sooty rugs clean despite a lack of proper ventilation.

Early carpets were dirty. Fireplaces without ventilation meant soot and dust got everywhere, and there were no vacuums to do anything about it. And the wealthy frequently had large numbers of guests and staff walking around carpets daily, meaning things got bad fast.

Housekeepers would place a cloth called a “drugget” over frequently used areas in the carpet. This cloth was a kind of smaller, cheaper carpet that could get dirty without being too much of a problem. The less wealthy would sometimes place newspaper clippings to a similar effect.

When a carpet got gross, a male housekeeper would hang it up and beat it with a carpet beater to eliminate dust and soot. Sometimes wives would do this work as well. It didn’t do much.

An easier, yet less effective, way to deal with dust was to sprinkle damp tea leaves, grass clippings, or pieces of paper on the floor before sweeping. The wet cellulose would gather surface-level dust as it swept along the rug.

Unfortunately, sweeping was harmful – the broom’s bristles often damaged the rug’s fibers. Straw brooms were better than other broom types, but they’re ultimately made for hardwood, not carpet.

If a stain occurred, housekeepers would squeeze some lemon juice into bread (which was not cheap back then) and rub the stain. Lemon juice is still a common ingredient in cleaning chemicals, so while this seems horribly inefficient and frankly ridiculous today, they were onto something.

Around the 1880s, many used bull’s gall mixed with water to treat stains. Gall is a type of bile found in a bull’s stomach. Like the lemon, this sounds ridiculous until you realize bull’s gall contains oxalic acid, which is still found in many cleaners today. It’s fantastic at removing rust.

But as you can imagine, a rust-removal agent is pretty harsh for carpets. This “cleaner” would often destroy the dyes. But don’t worry – they had a remedy for restoring the carpet to its original color – a fancy, useful little chemical called – you guessed it – chloroform! No, you didn’t guess that, did you? Fortunately, nobody uses chloroform today.

They also used naphtha to clean carpets – a flammable petroleum product that kills insects. It’s not great for human health, either. It actually made carpets even dirtier, as the oils trap dust.

As most of these were damaging to carpet dyes, the late 1800s saw the popularity of carpet re-dyeing. Their methods would often result in the carpet shrinking, though, so they weren’t going to stand the test of time.

In 1868, Ives W. McGaffey invented a manual vacuum. You had to hand-crank it while vacuuming, so customers found it not very efficient and somewhat annoying.

Early 20th Century

Powered vacuum cleaners were invented by several people all at once. Early patents by John S. Thurman and Corrine Dufour resembled the modern vacuum cleaner, but the first person to start a successful business out of it was British inventor Hubert Cecil Booth in 1901.

Booth went door-to-door on a horse-drawn carriage with his “Puffing Billy” that could suck up the air with a motor. Unfortunately, these machines weren’t incredibly safe and took many people to operate.

After that, James Murray Spangler was the first to successfully market a portable electric vacuum. He was an American janitor looking for an easy way to stop his carpet sweeper from triggering his asthma. His patent was bought by a man whose last name likely sounds familiar – William H. Hoover.

Several decades later, in the ’30s, the first carpet shampooing methods started to pop up. People performed carpet shampooing with soap jelly, an egg beater, and a scrub brush. (At least they’re using actual cleaning products at this point.)

But in the ’20s and ’30s, carpets started to go out of style. After World War I, vacuums finally took off – but not necessarily for carpet cleaning. They were generally popular for household cleaning as a whole.

After World War II

In 1947, the first hot water extraction machines popped up, paving the way for modern carpet cleaning, although they weren’t widespread just yet.

In the ’50s, carpets finally became popular again, prompting people to innovate better cleaning methods. It wasn’t long before more techniques were developed, like rotary cleaners and better carpet shampoos. These shampoos were popular until the ’70s when important industry changes started to occur.

While consumers realized that hot water extraction, or steam cleaning, was a very efficient way to clean their carpets, advertisers started to push the method more and more. Unfortunately, most carpet cleaning professionals had no steam cleaning training. Because they didn’t know how to clean with these machines, they lost business to the largely untrained steam cleaning professionals, despite being better trained as a whole.

But in this industry, it’s change or die, and the old professionals eventually brought steam cleaning into their usual repertoire.

Modern Carpet Cleaning

To this day, steam cleaning is the go-to way of cleaning carpets all around Long Beach, to the point that many Long Beach carpet cleaning companies only offer steam cleaning.

We’ve come a long way since the days of lemon juice and bread. Experts recommend that you get your carpet steam cleaned by a Long Beach professional at least once a year, as it’s still the best method for carpet cleaning yet invented.

But who knows what the future holds? Maybe one day, we’ll have grime-resistant carpets or even dust-proof lung implants that make Long Beach carpet cleaning services unnecessary. We’ll see where the future of carpet cleaning takes us.


When was the first carpet cleaner invented?

The first vacuum, designed for carpet cleaning, was invented in 1868 by Ives W. McGaffey. These machines were hand-cranked and very difficult to use, so they weren’t popular. Long Beach carpet cleaning today is much easier.

How did people clean carpets before vacuums?

They would often string their carpets on clotheslines and beat the dust out of them. Sometimes they used damp tea leaves to collect dust while sweeping.

Who started the carpet industry?

In 1791, William Sprague produced carpets in the United States. Back then, they were something that only the wealthy could afford.


Carpet cleaning has a long and often strange history. It’s a story of luxury turning into necessity and scientific innovation riding on the coattails of other scientific innovations. It’s an industry that has developed significantly over the past two centuries and will continue to develop further.

Fortunately, you’ll never have to know the soot-choked air of a Victorian aristocrat’s house. Your Long Beach carpets can be much cleaner than that with a professional Long Beach carpet cleaner. Remember to keep your air clean and that a nicer home is only a phone call away.

Tired of your dirty carpets?
Call us to schedule your appointment
Contact us