How to Deep Clean Carpet: A Step by Step Guide

Gladys K. Connelly
As a HouseKeeping Technical Writer, Gladys actively enjoys writing guides and tips about housekeeping for Thehousewire's audience. She's a professional housekeeping specialist with just shy of 9 years' experience to boast. That, combined with seven years prior experience in teaching, helps her create content that is both captivating and insightful.
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Updated May 21, 2023

Cleaning your carpets is an easy way to refresh your home

Cleaning your carpets is an easy way to refresh your home

how to deep clean carpet

Your carpet takes a lot of wear, from spills and shoes to pets making a mess. How are you ever meant to keep your rug feeling fresh underfoot with all that going on?

Fear not. Some vacuuming and simple tricks will give you a wall-to-wall clean carpet in no time. And will help to extend the life of your carpet and area rugs, too!

We’ve got some handy tips up our sleeves and are ready to share our knowledge on deep cleaning carpets. So dig out your cloth and let’s go.

How Often Should You Clean Your Carpet?

It depends on how much you use them. Frequent vacuuming is one of the best ways to keep your carpets in good condition and free of loose soil and pet hair.

But how often is “frequent”?

The CRI (Carpet Rug Institute) suggests you should vacuum:

Pet or high-traffic areasDaily
Medium-traffic areasTwice per week
Light-traffic areasOnce per week

And make sure you clean any spills as soon as they happen, and spot-clean dirty patches. They don’t have time to soak in if you act fast.

Finally, it’s worth having your carpets deep-cleaned by a professional every 12 to 18 months. Using a proper carpet cleaning machine helps to remove all of that grime that gets embedded deep in the fibers, causing weird colors and smells.

Before Cleaning Your Carpet

There are a couple of things you can do before you start to make the cleaning process a bit easier.

Remove Furniture and Vacuum Thoroughly

Remove Furniture and Vacuum Thoroughly

This doesn’t mean you have to heft your sofa out every day, but it’s worth the extra effort for your annual deep cleaning. By moving furniture out of the way, you can get to all the dirt that sits deep within the carpet fibers.

This dirt is what causes your carpet to look worn and smell musty. Plus, it will eventually wear the carpet backing and fibers away, so you need to get it all out!

Make sure you pick up all of the smaller bits of clutter, too. It’s easy for these to get sucked into the vacuum where they could get stuck and affect the suction, or cause damage.

When you’ve got a clear area, vacuum your carpet thoroughly to blitz away any loose soil. Use the highest suction setting possible and adjust the height to suit your carpet, if your vacuum has that option.

Powerful suction is key for getting the best results for your carpet! A carpet scrub brush tool is also a great addition for deeper cleaning.

The Best Vacuuming Technique

Using the right technique ensures you cover all the carpet across the entire room:

  • Vacuum slowly in straight strokes, around three to four feet at a time
  • Move sideways for the next stroke
  • Make sure you overlap the passes. You won’t miss any debris or loose dirt this way
  • Carry on with this pattern until you’ve finished the whole room

Need a bit more guidance? Check out our detailed guide on how to vacuum your carpet.

Spot Treat the Stains

Spot Treat the Stains

Now you’ve got a clear room and a freshly vacuumed carpet, it’s time to spot treat any visible stains on rugs. This is an important step, especially if you don’t know what caused the stain in the first place.

Take Note

Protein-based stains, like milk, eggs, and blood, are better cleaned with cold water. Hot water causes them to coagulate, so it bonds with the fibers and makes the stain much harder to remove from your carpet.

And seeing as deep cleaning carpet tends to involve hot water and steam, you want to make sure you’ve cleaned any possible protein stains with cold water first. It will save you a lot of time and hassle further down the line!

Of course, it’s always best to remove any stains and spills as soon as they happen. Cleaning a fresh stain is much easier than one that’s had time to sit and soak into your carpet.

But this isn’t always possible when you’ve got a million other jobs. So here are some more handy guides on how to remove dirt and deep stains from your carpet:

Ways to Deep Clean Carpet

You’re all prepped and ready to go, so let’s look at the different methods for carpet cleaning.

Clean with Detergent

Clean Carpet with Detergent

Adding a detergent into your carpet cleaning routine is a great way to remove grease and grime. These chemical substances use surfactants to bond water to the dirt in your carpet.

Once bonded, they break up the stain, and then you can simply wash it away. Plus, the CRI approves detergent as a safe carpet cleaner.

Top Tip

Liquid dishwashing detergent won’t damage the fibers of your carpet, and it’s safe to use in homes with children and pets. But make sure you use the exact concentration and don’t try to use a stronger mixture.

You also need to give your carpet a good rinse to remove any residue that could cause a fresh carpet stain. A few rinses with warm water will make sure all traces of detergent residue are removed.

What You’ll Need

You can make this DIY carpet shampoo with a few basic things from around your home:


The Way to Do it

  • Make your cleaning solution by mixing ¼ teaspoon of your chosen liquid dishwashing detergent per cup of lukewarm water. Pour into your spray bottle.
  • Spray the carpet cleaning solution onto your carpet until damp. Work in small areas or follow a grid to make sure you cover the whole area. Pay particular attention to tough stains, like pet accidents and wine stains.
  • Leave it to work for a few minutes.
  • Rinse the area with a spray bottle of clean water. Then, blot with a microfiber cloth (or paper towels) to remove the stain and water solution and any remaining moisture. Rinse your microfiber cloth with clean water when you see that it becomes dirty.
  • Leave the carpet to dry completely. Opening the windows and doors helps to increase the airflow and speed up drying. Or you can use a fan if it’s very humid outside. Make sure nobody walks on the carpet until it’s fully dry.

If you’re still left with stains, you can repeat the process. Or move onto another carpet cleaning process for a boost of extra cleaning power.

Clean with White Vinegar

Clean Carpet with White Vinegar

This cleaning method uses the natural cleaning powers of distilled white vinegar. It’s one of the best carpet stain removers, and it’s safe to use if you’ve got children and pets in your homes.

It also has the huge bonus of cutting through odors! It helps to remove salts that embed into the fibers and cause nasty smells.

That said, the smell of the vinegar itself isn’t the most pleasant. It will disappear as it dries, but you can try another tip to leave your home smelling sweet.

Try adding a few drops of essential oils, so you’re left with a lovely smell to tickle your senses. And don’t worry, distilled white vinegar is approved by the CRI as a safe way to get your carpet clean.

What You’ll Need

You don’t need any complicated ingredients to make this carpet cleaner:

* : like this Lucy’s Family Owned Natural Distilled White Vinegar
** : like lavender, citrus, or peppermint

The Way to Do it

  • Make your vinegar and water solution by mixing one cup of vinegar per two cups of water. Pour into your spray bottle.
  • Spray the whole carpet with the cleaning solution, until it gets damp. But don’t soak the carpet with the cleaning solution. Again, use a pattern to make sure you cover the area entirely. Pay particular attention to pet accidents that are causing odors.
  • Leave the vinegar and water to sit for at least five minutes to give it time to break down the soil.
  • Then, blot with a dry white cloth or some paper towel to soak up the cleaning solution. You’ll see the soil transferred onto the white cloth. Again, rinse the microfiber cloth if you notice that it gets too dirty.
  • Leave the carpet to dry completely. Air drying is the best way and you can speed up the process by opening windows or using fans.

Still seeing stains? Then it’s time to try steam cleaning to deep clean your carpet stains.

Clean with a Steam Cleaner

Clean carpet with a Steam Cleaner

Steam cleaning sanitizes your carpets and leaves them looking fresh without the need for chemical cleaning products. But they’re designed just for steaming!

Keep In Mind

Steam cleaners are not an alternative for a carpet cleaning machine and you can’t use them with shampoo. Think of them as carpet refreshers and deodorizers instead.

But they’re a great option to deep clean your carpet if you’re still struggling with a stubborn stain.

If you’ve already got a steam cleaner, check it’s safe to use on carpets. Most machines have a special attachment or glider if they’re designed for carpet cleaning.

What You’ll Need

You need some more advanced kit for this than our other carpet cleaning solutions, but it’s worth it:

* : with a carpet attachment, like the Bissell Power Fresh Steam Mop


The Way to Do it

  • Fill the water tank and Select the right attachment on your machine for carpet cleaning. It’s often a microfiber mop head or another specialist carpet tool.
  • Turn your steam machine on so it can heat up.
  • Press the trigger to produce steam when it’s at the right temperature. Test a small area of carpet first, particularly if you’ve got light-colored carpet. Check it in around 15 minutes or so to make sure you’re happy with the result before starting a larger area.
  • Push the machine backward and forward in straight lines. Keep pressing the trigger to release steam and remove carpet stains.
  • Move slowly across your carpet to ensure the steam stays hot. You want the steam as hot as possible to ensure it sanitizes and gives your carpets a deep clean. Hot steam is also the best way to kill any dust mites and bed bugs.
  • When you’ve finished steam cleaning, you’ll need to remove any debris that’s lifted to the surface. This is where your vacuum cleaner comes in.
  • Vacuum your carpet to get rid of any pet hair and debris. You can do this straight away, as steam cleaning doesn’t leave your carpet saturated with water.
  • Leave the carpet to dry completely before using the room as normal. Even though it’s not saturated, you should still let it air dry to remove excess moisture. Steam cleaners do need a small amount of water, after all.

Tips to Help Your Carpet Last Longer

Replacing a carpet is expensive and a real hassle, so you want to do everything you can to look after it and extend its lifespan.

Here are some top tips to help keep your carpet clean and long-lasting:

  • Vacuum your carpet regularly, making sure you pay attention to those tricky crevices and corners where dust tends to build. You need to vacuum high-traffic areas more frequently.
  • Look after your vacuum cleaner! Carry out some regular maintenance and empty it or replace the bags when they’re around two-thirds full. This keeps your vacuum working efficiently, which is crucial to deep clean carpet.
  • Pay attention to the filters, too. Changing them regularly minimizes the number of airborne dust particles.
  • Clean messes and spills as soon as they happen. Yes, carpet cleaning isn’t at the top of your to-do list, but it will save you time and hassle in the long run.
  • For pet owners, you can use small hand extractors to tackle any accidents.
  • Use a carpet cleaning machine, or call for professional help every 12 to 18 months. A deep clean removes all the embedded dirt and grime lingering in the carpet fibers. But make sure you use a product with the CRI steal of approval (1).
  • Use mats or old towels at all your doors, and remove shoes before entering your home. This stops mess at the door, so you can’t walk it all over your carpet and cause a stain.
  • Stay away from baking soda! It’s often cited as a miracle cure to clean carpet, but it can cause more harm than good. A baking soda mixture sits in the carpet and acts as an abrasive, scratching fibers and damaging the carpet backing.

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