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How to Clean Carpet Like a Pro

Paul F. P. Pogue
Written by Paul F. P. Pogue
Updated November 22, 2021
Beagle snuggling into freshly cleaned cream carpet
alexugalek – stock.adobe.com

For that new carpet smell

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Whether you want to save money on professional carpet cleaning costs, or are trying to find a local carpet cleaner but they’re all booked solid, you should know how to clean carpet yourself. Here’s exactly how to do that using two methods: with a steam cleaner or without one. 

Difficulty: Easy (1/5)

Total Project Time: about 60–90 minutes per room

Depends on the cleaning method—cleaning with a machine will be faster, but it still can be time-intensive.  

Cost: $50–$75

This includes the price of renting a steam cleaner, as well as carpet cleaning solutions.

Tools

Tools for Steam Cleaning

  • Vacuum

  • Steam cleaner

  • Floor fan (optional, speeds up drying time)

Tools for Cleaning Without a Machine

  • Carpet scrub brush with stiff bristles

  • Carpet rake and groomer 

  • Spray bottle

  • Old towels or rags

  • Floor fan (optional, speeds up drying time)

Materials

Materials for Steam Cleaning

  • Liquid carpet cleaner/shampoo 

  • Hot water

Materials for Cleaning Without a Machine

  • Liquid carpet cleaner/shampoo 

  • Warm water

  • Baking soda 

How to Deep Clean Carpet with a Steamer

For a deep carpet clean, nothing beats a steam cleaner. Through a mixture of hot water, carpet cleaner, and intense suction, steam cleaners lift dirt and grime embedded deep in the carpet pile. They can also help with stain removal. Ready to try it? Here’s how to steam clean carpet.

1. Vacuum Thoroughly and Pretreat Stains

Vacuum the carpet thoroughly to remove dirt, debris, and pet hair. 

If you notice old carpet stains, spray them with a pretreat formula. Complicated stains like pet urine may require a little more work, so see our guide on how to get pet urine smells out of carpet for the exact steps to take.

2. Fill the Machine with Hot Water and Cleaner

Fill the steam cleaner with hot water and carpet cleaner. Follow the machine’s instructions to determine the proper amounts. 

3. Deep Clean the Carpet

Your instructions should tell you exactly how to clean carpets and rugs using your specific machine, but here are the basic steps:  

  • Press the trigger while doing one slow forward and backward pass.

  • Release the trigger and do another slow forward and backward pass over the same spot. You’ll notice the dirty-water tank filling up with brown water. 

  • Repeat this process over that same spot until the water being pulled up into the dirty-water tank looks clean. 

  • Move to the next spot and start the process over. Continue until the full carpet is clean. The machine should let you know when you need to empty out the dirty water and refill the clean-water tank. 

4. Wait for Carpet to Dry Before Walking on It

How Long Does It Take Carpet to Dry? Typically, it takes a few hours for carpet to dry when you use a home steam cleaner. To speed up the process, set your thermostat to 70 degrees and turn on a floor fan.

How to Clean Carpet Without a Machine

No machine? No problem. It’s simple enough to get a good clean without a steam cleaner, though it does require more manual labor and time. It’s also important to use your carpet shampoo sparingly to avoid oversaturating your carpet.  

1. Sprinkle Baking Soda and Vacuum Thoroughly

Liberally sprinkle baking soda over the entire carpeted area to help deodorize it. Leave it on for at least an hour so it has time to soak up any odors. The longer you can leave it, the better, so consider doing this step right before you go to bed and leaving it overnight.  

After you leave the baking soda on for a bit, vacuum it up. You can also use a carpet rake and grooming tool to lift embedded hair and dirt out of the carpet fibers before vacuuming. 

2. Spray the Carpet

Fill a spray bottle with warm water and two drops of carpet shampoo. Lightly spray the mixture over the carpet—don’t oversaturate it. 

3. Scrub with the Carpet Brush

Use the carpet brush to scrub the carpet pile and loosen dirt. Don’t scrub too hard, or you may damage the fibers. 

4. Blot the Carpet and Spray on Clean Water

Blot the carpet with dry towels and rags to remove the shampoo and water mixture. Then, fill a clean spray bottle with warm water and lightly spray the carpet again. 

Blot one more time to remove as much of the moisture as you can. While your carpets should only be lightly damp at this point, you can still turn on a floor fan to help speed up the drying process.

5. Rake the Carpet

Use a carpet rake and groomer tool to revive the carpet that was matted down during the blotting process. Skip this step if you have loop-pile carpet. 

Carpet Cleaning Tips

To make the most of your carpet cleaning, follow these pro tips: 

  • There are a few cleaning products that you should never use on carpets because you may accidentally ruin them: bleach, dish soap, laundry detergent, and abrasive cleaners. And no matter what internet hacks tell you, don’t pour white wine on the carpet to remove a red wine stain.

  • Treat stains immediately as they occur. Use a commercial stain remover, or try spot cleaning with one part distilled white vinegar mixed with three parts cold water. 

  • To prevent dust from falling on your freshly cleaned carpet, remove dust and cobwebs from the ceiling, ceiling fans, and lighting before you start on the carpet. Our 10 Things to Do Before a Carpet Cleaner Arrives has more advice that can help even if you don’t hire a professional cleaner. 

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