How to Clean Your Own Carpets

Refresh Your Carpets With This DIY Cleaning Guide

How to Clean Your Own Carpets

Carpets can take a real beating with constant foot traffic, spills, stains, dirt, dust, and grime building up over time. While regular vacuuming helps lighten the load, every so often your carpets need a deep clean to look their best.

Hiring professional carpet cleaners can get expensive. But with the right tools, cleaning products, and techniques, you can get your carpets squeaky clean yourself. This DIY carpet cleaning guide covers everything you need to know to refresh your carpets on your own.

Is It Time to Clean Your Carpets?

How do you know when to deep clean your carpets? Here are some signs it’s time to break out the cleaning compound:

  • You notice dark lines around high traffic areas and entryways
  • There’s a noticeable dullness or matting of fibers throughout
  • Frequent vacuuming reveals more dirt and debris in the collection tank
  • Spills and stains seem impossible to remove
  • You catch a whiff of a musty or unpleasant odor
  • Allergy symptoms seem more aggravated recently

Generally, carpets should be deep cleaned every 12 to 18 months. High traffic areas likely need more frequent cleanings while lesser used rooms can go longer between cleanings.

Every 12-18 Months30 Minutes4-6 Hours$25-$100Intermediate


While DIY carpet cleaning does take an investment of hours upfront, you’ll save hundreds compared to hiring pros. And with the right methodical approach, you can knock it out in an afternoon.

Gather Your DIY Carpet Cleaning Supplies

Armed with the right tools and products, tackling carpet cleaning is very doable. Here’s everything you need for a DIY deep clean:

Cleaning Tools and Equipment

  • Vacuum cleaner – Thoroughly vacuum first to lift and remove loose debris
  • Carpet rake – Helps lift matted pile and fluff
  • Scrub brushes – For working deeper into fibers
  • Microfiber cloths – For spot cleaning prep and detail work
  • White cloth – For testing cleaning agents on small hidden area first
  • Bucket – For mixing solvent
  • Measuring cups – To measure out right ratios of cleaners
  • Plastic tubs/bins – Useful for transporting supplies
  • Old towels – For placing under heavy furniture legs and stain spotting
  • Knee pads – Provides comfort and saves your knees
  • Protective gloves – Keeps hands protected from harsh chemicals
  • Mask – Important if you have allergies or scent sensitivities

Cleaning Solutions

  • Carpet or upholstery shampoo – Choose professional grade for best results
  • Spot remover spray – Helps break down stubborn oily stains
  • Hydrogen peroxide – Helps lift stains and brighten carpet
  • White vinegar – Removes stubborn odors and messes
  • Baking soda – Helps neutralise odors and dissolve some stains
  • Distilled water – Important for getting desired cleaner strength/effect

A note about renting an optional carpet cleaning machine: While pricier upright models with rotating brushes help maximise carpet refresh results, for occasional DIY cleaning you can clean effectively with manual scrubbing and shop towels/terry towels.

Renting a steam cleaner unit can simplify rinsing, but isn’t always necessary if you’re willing to put more elbow grease into your work. Consider your carpet’s soil level and traffic, plus your own physical mobility/strength before deciding if machine rental makes sense for your needs and budget.

Test Carpets for Colorfastness

Before diving into full carpet cleaning, test how colorfast carpet fibers are to avoid bleaching or discoloration. Mix a half-teaspoon clear dish soap with two cups hot water in a spray bottle. Mist onto a small hidden area of carpet, wait 5 mins, then dab with a white cloth and check for colour transfer or bleeding. If color remains intact, your carpet passes the test. But if you notice color on the cloth, consult a professional carpet cleaner about the safest cleaning method.

Step-By-Step DIY Carpet Cleaning Instructions

When tackling wall-to-wall carpeting, working in manageable sections helps the job feel less overwhelming:

1. Vacuum Vigorously

Give all carpeting a thorough pass over with your vacuum cleaner. Use various attachments to reach into corners, along edges and entryways, under furniture legs, and wherever buildup tends to accumulate most. Vacuum slowly in multiple directions to lift out as much debris as possible before introducing moisture.

2. Sprinkle and Scrub

For heavily stained high traffic areas, try this intensified scrubbing step first while the carpet is still dry:

  • Sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda over the section – about 1 cup per 3′ x 3′ area
  • Using firm pressure from a scrub brush, work baking soda thoroughly down into carpet fibers lifting dirt along the way
  • Let sit for 15-20 mins before vacuuming up. The baking soda helps break down and lift stains without the use of moisture

3. Pre-Treat Stains

Examine carpeting for any remaining stains or heavily ground in grimy marks. Use a targeted stain remover spray to help break down oily and sticky spills. Avoid rubbing stains at this stage which can drive them deeper or wider into fibers. Allow product to dwell for about 5 mins before rinsing carpet.

4. Deep Scrub

Moving section by section:

  • Mix carpet shampoo with hot water in bucket at product’s recommended ratio
  • Apply evenly over section with brush, keeping the carpet as saturated as possible without creating excessive standing water
  • Let dwell 3-5 mins so cleaners start breaking down oils and grime
  • Scrub vigorously with a brush using overlapping strokes. Apply additional cleaning solution if needed.
  • Wrap a scrub brush head with a towel and scrub areas of extra ground in traffic lines and stains
  • Once section is scrubbed thoroughly, move onto next section of carpet

5. Rinse & Dry

Depending on the type and level of soiling, carpets may require an extra water rinse after scrubbing to fully remove cleaning residue and soil buildup.

  • Use wet/dry shop vacuum to remove dirty solvent and water
  • Place fans nearby to speed up drying time
  • Replace any furniture only once clean carpets are completely dry to avoid mold or mildew

For quicker dry times, consider renting a carpet cleaning machine if not already doing so. Machines help quickly extract maximum soil particles and excess moisture leaving freshly scrubbed carpets dry fast. Check your machine’s instructions regarding proper water temperature, soap ratios, dry period, plus any other specific guidelines.

Remove Stains From Carpet

Carpet stains happen, that’s life. Don’t fret. Tackle fresh stains ASAP for best chance of removal. Follow this process when stains strike:

  1. Blot – Immediately blot stain with a clean white cloth to soak up as much of the spill as possible. Avoid rubbing motions which drives liquid spills deeper and wider into fibers.
  2. Spot cleaners – Choose a cleaner formulated for your type of stain. For food-based stains, use an enzyme cleaner. For grease stains, try a degreaser. Spray and let set a few minutes to allow cleaners to work.
  3. Dab – Using a new section of your cloth, gently press and lift straight up to transfer stain rather than rubbing side to side.
  4. Rinse – Use water poured from a cup or sprayed from a bottle to rinse stain residue fully after spot cleaning. Blot dry with towels.
  5. Vinegar – If any hint of stain remains, spray vinegar solution and let sit 1-2 minutes. The mild acid helps remove leftover residues and detergent buildup. Rinse again.
  6. Repeat and monitor – Allow the marks to fully dry then check carpet from all angles in daylight. If stain persists, repeat cleaning process.

Step-By-Step DIY Carpet Cleaning Instructions

Final DIY Carpet Cleaning Tips

  • Work top to bottom when tackling whole rooms. Ceilings first, then walls, and flooring last.
  • Remove furniture legs or place foil squares underneath during cleaning to prevent rust marks on damp carpet.
  • Open windows and run fans during and after you clean a room. Accelerating dry period is key to avoiding mold/mildew.
  • Replace floor air and heating vents after carpets dry. Running HVAC systems too soon can deposit debris onto wet carpets.
  • Consider wearing shoe covers after cleaning so oils from bare feet don’t transfer.