How to Deep Clean Your Carpet

Muddy Carpet and Sneakers


It’s a new year. The parties and festivities are over, and it is time to make sure everything is cleaned out. Chances are that you, as a responsible homeowner, have hired a professional cleaning service for some of your more difficult or deep cleaning needs.

But if you want to take care of some of the more difficult cleaning yourself, then there are always DIY options to take into consideration. Maybe you want to have your carpets cleaned between professional visits, or you have a major accident that needs immediate attention. Or maybe the local cleaner doesn’t offer all the deep cleaning services you need.

In any case, here is a carpet deep-cleaning checklist to help you in the event you need to handle a deep clean on your own.

Step 1: Vacuum, Vacuum, Vacuum


Pre-vacuuming the floor before a deep cleaning is an important first step to take, and it’s one that many DIY carpet cleaners try to cut corners on. But the truth of the matter is that if you don’t properly vacuum your carpet, all the dust, dirt, and hair caught in the fibers will end up in the cleaning machine that you use. Much like mopping a floor, you’ll just find your cleaning efforts ruined by pushing dirt and debris around your house and not actually cleaning much of anything.

Vacuum over each section of your carpet multiple times. Try to go over each section from a different direction to push the fibers around and dislodge dirt. And make sure that you are using the right carpet setting on your vacuum, otherwise you might find that you aren’t pulling up all the dirt that you could.

Cleaning Methods


Before hiring a carpet cleaning company, you should understand the different cleaning methods available, and which ones they use. The best home carpet cleaning companies will typically be able to use multiple methods, depending on the job. 


  1. Steam Cleaning is a common approach to cleaning carpets, and one that you are probably most familiar with. This is when the cleaner uses the big vacuums with hot water and chemicals to saturate your carpet, break up dirt, and suck it all back up.  
  2. Encapsulation is different from steam cleaning in that instead of using water, a cleaning agent is placed on the carpet dry. The detergent will crystallize around and “encapsulate” dirt and debris, which can then be removed with a brush of vacuum. 
  3. Bonnet cleaning is the process of using spinning brushes soaked with water and detergent to rub and clean the top of a carpet quickly. You often see this in commercial cleaning or for very thin carpets that get a lot of regular traffic and need to dry quickly.  


For your money, steam cleaning and encapsulation are going to be what to look for. The first is your traditional, deep-cleaning method for annual carpet cleaning needs. The second, however, can be great for deep stains or regular cleaning where you need the carpet dry fast.

Step 2: Treat Dark, Deep Stains


If you aren’t the kind of homeowner that tackles stains when they happen, then you might find yourself with a discolored carpet and the misguided hopes that a quick steam clean is going to help.

Steam cleaning isn’t a miracle cure for poor carpet care. Often, deep stains are harder to remove if you’ve waited too long to treat them. But it’s most important to try spot cleaning. Get a carpet brush with stiff bristles (or a toothbrush) and a bucket of warm water. Then you’ll want some sort of cleaner.

  • Commercial carpet cleaning chemicals are purpose-built for carpets, but not all carpets are created equal. If you plan on using a carpet cleaner off the shelf, test it on a section of your carpet that isn’t visible to make sure it doesn’t discolor the fabric.
  • For a natural option, mix salt and vinegar with hot water and apply it to the stained area.
  • Or split the difference by diluting a bleach-free home detergent with warm water and apply it to the stained area.

Whatever cleaning solution you decide to use, work it into the stained area with your brush and let it sit for a few minutes before proceeding with your actual cleaning.


Step 3: Bring Out the Carpet Steam Cleaner

Now, it’s time to clean.


There is some debate on how to deep clean carpet. A few of the questions that might come up are:

  1. Should I rent a machine or purchase one? If you don’t plan on cleaning your carpet regularly, then there isn’t a real reason to purchase a deep cleaning carpet machine. Since most hardware stores (and some local grocery stores) will rent machines, it isn’t that difficult to get one. However, if you do rent, then make sure that the vendor cleans the machines before use. Buying one, however, does have some benefits. The primary benefit is that you know exactly how the unit has been used and how well it has been cleaned so that you always have a clean machine ready. If you clean your carpet often, it will also save you money in the long run.
  2. Shampoo or natural cleaner? Again, this is a personal preference. Some users will only put natural cleaners or home remedies on their carpet because they have pets, they want to protect the coloring, or they just don’t like the idea of artificial chemicals staying in their carpeting. There are several natural cleaners available, and you can create a mixture of borax and vinegar and dilute it in your steam cleaner reservoir.
  3. In either case, you can use vinegar to help with deep cleaning. Vinegar can help break up difficult stains, and it is a natural odor neutralizer.

No matter your cleaner, make sure that you use your cleaner correctly. Typical cleaners have one mode that releases hot water and cleaner into the carpet, and one that uses the brushes and suction to pull water back out. Go over a wet carpet multiple times with the moisture-removing brush setting to pull as much water out of the carpet as possible. And avoid walking on, or putting furniture on, wet carpet.

Steam Cleaning or Dry Chemicals?


There are several chemicals that can clean your carpet without the use of water (or at least a minimal use of water). “Dry” carpet cleaning uses different chemicals to loosen or trap dirt for cleaning. Some dry-cleaning methods, like encapsulation, will use a chemical compound to trap dirt so you can just vacuum it up later.

“Dry” cleaning is a little bit of a misnomer, as there is typically some moisture involved. However, there is almost no necessary drying time, and a strategic dry cleaning can help you avoid moving around heavy furniture.

Dry cleaning chemicals can prove to be a little harsher than wet ones, so if dry cleaning is something you want to try then it is best to consult with your professional carpet cleaning provider.


Supplement Regular Cleaning with DIY Support


Remember that DIY cleaning is not a replacement for regular professional cleaning. Professional carpet cleaners near you are going to have different tools and training than you do, so they can hit the deepest spots on your carpet for maximum cleanliness. However, that doesn’t mean that, with the right tools and some care, you can’t supplement that professional cleaning with some DIY cleaning of your own.