How to Steam Clean Carpets With Ease

Get your carpets clean with the power of steam

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated August 29, 2022
Baby boy crawling on carpet at home
Photo: twinsterphoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images


Simple project; big impact.

Time to complete

24 hours

We’ve calculated assuming you’ll need a day to let the carpets fully dry; using the steam cleaner on your carpets should only take two hours at most.



You might need a few supplies.

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What you'll need:


  • Vacuum
  • Steam cleaner
  • Floor fan (optional, speeds up drying time)


  • Liquid carpet cleaner of choice
  • Hot water

Between dust, dander, and plain old grime, our carpets get dirty over time. Regular vacuuming helps, but steam cleaning can take your carpet from well-worn to good-as-new in just a day. Whether you want to save money on professional carpet cleaning costs or just want a new DIY task to tackle, learning how to steam clean carpets is a worthy task to take on.

Prepping to Steam Clean Your Carpet

Before steam cleaning your carpet, it’s important to clear the room of furniture and other objects so you can access all parts of the carpet and prevent steam damage to your sofa or other objects. If there are pieces of furniture too heavy to move, place pieces of aluminum foil on the base of the furniture legs to protect them. If there’s too much furniture to move to another space, work on one half of the room at a time.

You should also dust your baseboards and ceiling fans before getting started to prevent dust from falling into the carpet as you steam clean.

How to Use Steam Cleaners on Carpets 

For a deep carpet clean, nothing beats a steam cleaner. Steam cleaners lift dirt and grime embedded deep in the carpet pile through a mixture of hot water, carpet cleaner, and intense suction. 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 to remove dirt, debris, and pet hair. Use a nozzle attachment to get those hard-to-reach areas near the baseboards. 

    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 your carpet for more specific information and instructions.

  2. Fill the Machine with Hot Water and Cleaner

    Fill the steam cleaner with hot water and carpet cleaner. Most steam cleaners have a built-in water heater, but starting with warm or hot water is recommended anyway. Follow the machine’s instructions to determine the proper amounts and confirm which kind of detergent to use. Not all detergent is safe to use with all carpets. Vinegar is a good option—just mix it in a 50-50 ratio with water.

  3. Deep Clean the Carpet

    Your instructions should tell you exactly how to steam clean a rug or carpet using your specific machine, but here are the basic steps:  

    • Start in the corner of the room and press the trigger while doing one slow forward and backward pass through the corner area.

    • 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. Working slowly is key: you need to give the machine time to suck up the moisture. Moisture left behind by cleaning too quickly can cause mold or mildew.

    • 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, working backward out of the room and starting 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. 

    • Make sure not to walk on areas you have just cleaned.

  4. Wait for Carpet to Dry Before Walking on It

    Typically, it takes six to eight hours for carpet to dry when you use a home steam cleaner, though sometimes it can take as long as 24 hours. To speed up the process, set your thermostat to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and turn on a floor fan. If you find it necessary to walk on your newly cleaned carpet, put plastic bags over your feet to prevent tracking in dirt.

DIY Steam Cleaning vs. Hiring a Pro

You’ll spend around $300 to have a professional steam clean your carpet. Cleaning the carpet yourself is less expensive, especially if you have your own steam cleaner. If you do not, expect to pay $35 to $50 to rent one, plus the cost of detergent, which should be an additional $25. In total, you’ll likely spend about $75 to steam clean your carpet yourself, a savings of $225. Tackling this project on your own is not difficult, but it is time-consuming, so weigh the cost versus time saved. 

If your carpet has deep, stubborn stains, or you’re still not confident that you know how to steam clean carpet correctly, you might want to call a local professional carpet cleaner to take care of the task for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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