How to Steam Clean a Carpet (Complete Guide)

Carpet delivers a sense of warmth and comfort that simply can’t be replicated by other flooring types. But there’s a downside — the carpet gets dirty relatively quickly. Not only that, it’s very difficult to clean effectively.

You can just drench your carpet with a cleaning solution in the way you can with lino or tiles. In order to preserve the quality of your carpet (and prolong its life), you need to clean it with care. And you also need to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions to the letter.

If you remain vigilant, clean up messes as soon as they occur and vacuum every day, you should be able to keep your carpet looking reasonably good. As long as you have the best vacuum cleaner for carpets, you shouldn’t run into too many problems.

But even with constant cleaning and various preventative methods, every carpet needs a deep clean every now and then. Odours, bacteria and stubborn stains can bury themselves deep within the pile of the carpet, and only the most advanced cleaning methods can get rid of them.

This is where the steam comes in. Steam is perfect for carpets, as it is often capable of delivering results without reliance on caustic cleaning chemicals. Superheated steam is directed exactly where it is needed. And the latest steam cleaners use the optimum amount of water, ensuring your carpet isn’t completely drenched afterwards.

Why are more people steam cleaning their own carpets?

In past years, carpet cleaning was a specialized job requiring advanced equipment and a range of chemicals. Some people would hire the necessary equipment, while others would pay the professionals to do the job. Now, however, most people steam clean their own carpets.

Advances in steam technology have led to a new range of domestic steam cleaners. For roughly the same price as a vacuum cleaner, people can now buy their own steam cleaners. Even the latest steam mops can be adapted with accessories for use on carpets. After the initial outlay for the cleaner, there’s nothing else to pay. Unless you have a serious problem with your carpet, you don’t need any chemicals or special cleaning agents.

How to steam clean your own carpet?


Remove furniture and obstructions

Whether you’re using a dedicated carpet cleaner or a steam mop, the first job is always the same — remove all the furniture. For steam cleaning to be effective, you need a clear run at the floor. Having a blank canvas to work on also makes the job a great deal quicker.

Part of the process involves allowing your carpet to dry naturally. This process can be hindered if there’s lots of furniture in the room at the time.

Vacuum the floor

The next job is to vacuum the floor. This is vitally important, as steam cleaning over dirt, dust and general debris can actually damage the fibres in your carpet. Do a thorough job to ensure that all the loose debris in your carpet is removed before you start steam cleaning.

Work in small sections

If you’re using a dedicated carpet cleaner, there’s a chance that you’ll need to add a shampoo or cleaning agent to your machine. But most modern cleaners now rely solely on the power of steam. All you need to do is fill it up with water, and start cleaning.

The easiest and quickest method involves using an upright machine that resembles a vacuum cleaner. You can usually push it with one hand, and manoeuvring around awkward spaces is a lot easier.

Start with a small section of carpet that’s relatively hidden away. This is your test area. Some older carpets may suffer an adverse reaction to steam, so it’s always a good idea to play it safe. Once you’re happy that the steam isn’t damaging your carpet (which it very rarely does), you can go ahead and start cleaning the rest of the floor.

To ensure you keep track of what you’ve cleaned, cover the floor in sections of about a square meter. Once you’ve cleaned a section, move to the adjacent one. It’s also a good idea to start at the far side of the room. Once you’ve finished cleaning, you’ll want to exit the space without walking over your newly steamed carpet.

Allow the carpet to dry naturally

The great thing about using a steam mop with a carpet attachment is that you’re administering a minimal amount of water. As a result, your carpet may be almost dry to the touch when you’ve finished the process. But don’t be fooled, moisture will be present — even if it’s hidden away in the depths.

It’s always a good idea to make the room you’re cleaning out of bounds for at least 24 hours. This is why you need to plan your steam cleaning day carefully. The best way to allow the carpet to dry is to keep it well ventilated and empty. If someone trails dirt across your slightly damp carpet, cleaning it up could prove very difficult.

You don’t need any fans or dehumidifiers for this process, just fresh air and time. Open all of the internal doors, and crack open the windows during the day. And if someone HAS to enter the room, make them wear protective plastic bags over their feet.

Dealing with stubborn stains and odours

Some carpets are beyond cleaning, so there may no option other than to buy a replacement. But even if you’re dealing with stubborn stains and odours that won’t budge, don’t despair.

In the first instance, cover the area in baking soda — after the carpet has been air-dried. Wait another 24 hours, and then vacuum the area thoroughly. If the problem persists, spray a solution of water and vinegar (in equal parts). Wait for an hour or so, then sprinkle on some more baking soda. If vinegar doesn’t work, try some rubbing alcohol. There are some stain and odour-removal agents on the market too, but they can be expensive.

A few steam cleaning tips for your carpet


Start gently

Each steam cleaner on the market delivers its own combination of water and energy. Be cautious by starting the cleaning process in the gentlest setting possible. If that doesn’t deliver results, move up to the next setting… and so on.

Don’t force things

If you’re cleaning a thick carpet, there will be quite a lot of resistance when it comes to moving the cleaner back and forth. Don’t force things. Just take your time, otherwise, you might cause some serious damage.

Don’t use detergents or shampoos

If the staining on your carpet is serious, it might be best to leave the cleaning to the professionals. They’ll use special agents that won’t damage the fibres. You shouldn’t need anything other than steam. If that doesn’t work, it’s either time to ask for help or buy a new carpet. But if you are using a cleaner that requires a detergent, remember that you don’t need to use the manufacturer’s — which will usually be a lot more expensive than the alternatives!

Don’t rely on your steam cleaner

If you look after your carpet, it shouldn’t need steam cleaning more than once every two or three years. This means taking preventative measures such as enforcing a no-shoe policy, adding mats and dealing with spillages immediately. It’s also important to vacuum your carpets regularly. Be ready with the necessary cleaning tools and agents at all times. The sooner you deal with stains, the greater the chance of removing them.

Make sure you have the best vacuum cleaner for your carpet and choose a steam cleaner that works for your home. With some care, preventative maintenance and regular steam cleaning, your carpets should maintain their showroom quality for many years.

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