How to Clean Carpet Yourself: You Need These Pro Tips!

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If you have carpet, odds are you’ve had to deal with stains on a certain level. When we moved into our home, our family room had white carpet. White carpet + a dog + three kids + Oklahoma red dirt equals Bad News Bears. Thankfully, I already knew how to clean carpet!

My uncle has laid carpet for years and both of my brothers worked at a carpet store at one point so I’ve picked up on some of their wisdom when it comes to caring for carpet! I’m going to share some helpful tips with you so you can keep your carpet looking new!

PLUS, read to the end for a bonus tip on how to remove dents from your carpet!

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. See my disclosure policy here

You don’t have to hire professional carpet cleaners to deep clean your carpet. A good carpet cleaning machine will go a long way in helping with deep cleaning carpets yourself. We’ve really been happy with ours and you can find a similar cleaner here.

Before you start, it’s a good idea to vacuum carpet to remove any loose particles in the carpet fibres.

A carpet cleaner works by filling the tank with water. I like to use warm water but some types of carpet do better with cool water so be sure to check first. You can also add carpet shampoo, but more on that later.

Hoover Smartwash Automatic Carpet Cleaner
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  • AUTO-DRY: Powerful extraction removes water and dirt while HeatForce technology helps dry floors faster
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  • WHAT'S INCLUDED: 2-in-1 Pet Tool, Stair Tool, Sample Bottle of Cleaning Solution, 12 ft. hose, and Accessory Storage Bag
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03/21/2024 12:24 am GMT

Turn on the machine and instead of pushing it forward like a vacuum cleaner, you slowly pull it backwards releasing the water as you go.

The brushes attached to the underside work together to remove dirt and debris from the carpet fibers. As you go, the water and dirt get sucked up into the machine and stored in a separate tank. You have to stop periodically to refill the water tank and dump the dirty water tank.

Working in rows you continue moving up and down the length of the room until all of the affected carpet has been cleaned. Once you have the hang of it, it’s easy to clean carpet yourself!

Use the following tips to keep your carpet looking new with the help of a machine.

Hoover carpet cleaner

1. Skip the cleaning solution

Don’t put a cleaning solution in the carpet cleaner. The soap sinks down into the carpet and it’s almost impossible to get it all back out. Dirt and dust mites stick to the residue making it difficult to ever get your carpet completely clean.

I can attest to the truth of this. In a previous home, before I knew that the dirt would stick to the residue left behind, I used a cleaning solution in the cleaner and no matter what I did I had certain spots that refused to come out.

Or they would appear to come out only to come back a day or two later. So frustrating! Then my uncle told me the secret was to use hot water without the cleaning products. He was right!

2. Clean carpet stains by pretreating

For problem areas and tough stains, you can pretreat them with stain remover specifically made for carpet before going over the stain with the hot water in the carpet cleaner. I’ve found this works really well to remove stubborn stains.

Make sure to test the stain remover in an inconspicuous area first to make sure it doesn’t discolor the flooring.

Bissell stain remover for spot cleaning
Bissell stain remover for spot cleaning.
BISSELL Heavy Traffic Pretreat and Spot Carpet Cleaner Spray

  • Comes in 22 oz. Spray trigger bottle
  • Pre-treat and spot cleaner for heavy-traffic carpeted areas in your home
  • Improves deep cleaning results
  • deeply penetrates stubborn oily soils and Loosens tough carpet stains
  • Easily removes spots and stains like gravy, coffee and embedded dirt
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3. How to clean carpet with bicarbonate of soda

Baking soda! Who would’ve thought? Baking soda is great both for spot cleaning and removing stains from your high-traffic areas! And it’s a great alternative to harsh chemicals.

I sprinkled some baking soda over this stained area followed by some hot water from my tea kettle and let it soak in for a few minutes before going over it with the carpet-cleaning machine.

bicarbonate of soda on carpet
Bicarbonate of soda on carpet stains.

Here it is after the first run:

how to clean carpet
Carpet after using baking soda to pretreat.

I had to sprinkle it a second time and run over it with the carpet cleaner again, but it came out! Here it is after the second time. How about that baking soda! You can even use a scrub brush to make sure the baking soda get down into the carpet before going over it with the cleaner.

clean white carpet
Clean carpet after using baking soda and carpet cleaner.

4. Pretreat with hot water

This tip is for those little annoying spots. You know, the ones where your kiddo dripped his hot chocolate across the floor. I heat up my kettle and pour a small amount of hot water on each spot to let it soak and break up the stain before going over it with the cleaner. It works like a charm!

KitchenAid kettle for pretreating stains on carpet
KitchenAid kettle for pretreating stains on carpet.

Ahhh…so nice to have a clean carpet again! This is a good-sized room so it took me about an hour and a half to do it all, but it was worth it!

clean carpet in living room
Clean carpet after using carpet cleaner.

How to clean carpet without a machine

But what if you don’t have a carpet cleaner? There are still several ways to get stains out of your carpet! Try these ideas for different types of carpet, always testing in a small inconspicuous area first for best results.

Club soda

Club soda is known for being a universal stain remover for a lot of things, dirty carpets included! Apply directly to the stain using a spray bottle or by gently pouring onto the affected area. Allow the club soda to sit for a few minutes before using a clean white cloth to blot the area clean.

White vinegar

White vinegar, another natural source popular for removing stains is great for carpet, too. Apply it to the stain, using a clean cloth to dab at the area until the stain is removed.

Shaving cream

This one may come as a surprise, but shaving cream is actually great to use as a cleaning method for stains.

According to Apartment Therapy, “Thanks to the soapy and foamy nature of classic shaving creams, they work great for lifting up stubborn stains on everything from coffee stains to carpeting.” Check out this video to see it in action!

Dish soap

Yes! Mild dish soap is yet another great option for removing stains from carpet.

“Mix 1 teaspoon mild dishwashing detergent in 1 cup warm water, dip a sponge in the liquid and dab at the stain, moving from the outside toward the middle. Do not over wet. Rinse with fresh water and dry with towels, ” says the Columbus Dispatch.

Type of stain: Solutions for specific stains

Sometimes you need a specific solution for a specific stain. Whether it’s food stains, different liquid spills, or you tracked mud into the house, there’s usually something you can do to get it out!

Pet urine

Pet accidents happen, especially when they’re potty training. Contrary to what you may have heard, steam cleaning is not a good idea for these stains.

According to the Humane Society, you want to “avoid using steam cleaners to clean urine odors from carpet or upholstery. The heat will permanently set the stain and the odor by bonding the protein into any man-made fibers.”

Instead, use a paper towel to soak up the urine and then use clean water to dab at the spot. Cold water works best for pet urine. You can also use a stain remover made specifically for pet stains if needed.

TIP: If you’re moving into a home with old carpet, check to see if they had pets. If so, you probably want to invest in new carpet. There’s no way to be certain any stains didn’t reach the carpet pad making it almost impossible to remove urine smells.

BISSELL Oxy Stain Destroyer Pet Plus Pretreat
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03/21/2024 12:29 am GMT

Coffee stain

As mentioned above, shaving cream works great on coffee stains. However a mixture of water with dish soap and vinegar will also do the trick.

Good Housekeeping shares this tip: “Blot up as much of the coffee as you can. Then, mix 1/2 tsp of liquid dish soap and 1/2 tsp of white vinegar, and 2 cups of warm water. Using a clean, white cloth, sponge the stain with the mixture. Apply a little bit at a time, blotting frequently with a dry cloth until the stain disappears.”

Nail polish

UGH. If you’ve ever had to try to remove nail polish from carpet I feel your pain. My son knocked over a whole bottle onto my daughter’s carpet and it was ruined.

We did attempt to use nail polish remover to get it out to no avail. The area was just too big and they had already smeared it trying to clean it up themselves. But I wish I had read this HGTV article full of helpful tips before I gave up! Be sure and check it out if you have this happen to you!

Tomato sauce and red wine stains

Tough tomato sauce or red wine spill? A mixture of one part hydrogen peroxide with three parts water can help to eliminate the stain. You can also check out this helpful article from Family Handy Man for more ideas!

What about area rugs?

If you have area rugs around your home like I do, you know they get dirty, especially if you have kids or pets! I recently switched to Tumble’s spill-proof washable rug for my entryway which has been fantastic and you can read more about them here.

But my living room rug isn’t washable so I have a few tricks I use. It is NOT recommended to use a carpet cleaner on your area rug. Instead, start by dabbing clean water on the spot. If that doesn’t work, dry baking soda or diluted mild dish soap to remove the stain, blotting with a clean towel.

BONUS: Ice cubes – Use this trick to remove dents in your carpet!

Did you know you can use ice cubes to remove dents from your carpet?

If you have indentions caused by rearranging furniture, etc. you can place ice cubes over the dents and let them melt into the fibers. The water will cause the carpet fibers to expand and fluff back up! For a couple more tips, check out this article by Bob Vila.

How to clean carpet FAQs:

What is the best thing to clean your carpet with?

Start with water and natural cleaning agents like baking soda before turning to chemicals. Many time the stain can be removed with things like mild soap or vinegar, as well.

How do I clean my carpet without a carpet cleaner?

There are many ways to clean your carpet without using a cleaner including using a small brush or clean cloth together with natural cleaning agents such as club soda, hydrogen peroxide or baking soda and water.

How do you deep clean carpet by hand?

If you have areas in your carpet that need a good deep-cleaning, you can do this by hand using a small brush, some water, a clean cloth and a cleaning agent like diluted mild dish soap. If you use dish soap, go over the area with rubbing alcohol or vinegar to remove any soap residue.

How do you clean disgusting carpet?

For high traffic areas that get filthy due to the constant use, a carpet cleaner works best.

The first step is to pre-treat the area with baking soda or a stain remover made specifically for carpet. The next step is to run the carpet cleaner with a water solution over the affected areas, sucking up the excess water as you go.


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  1. This couldn’t have come at a better time! I bought a carpet cleaner 4 months ago and it’s still in the box in the garage. I was going to call a carpet cleaning company. They charge $169 no matter how little carpet you have. Now I feel much more confident and I’m going to break out that cleaning machine and get busy!

  2. Amazing work! You did a good job and it is worth-sharing. It will help and guide many readers and will continue following more of your articles. You can also visit our website if you are looking for office carpet cleaning services. We also offer different items just for you!

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