Updated: March 29, 2019
Steam cleaning carpets is a good practice to remove dirt and debris stuck deep in the carpet fibers. It requires a steam cleaning machine, soap, and water. Wait for a good time to do it, when foot traffic will be low and the weather is warm and dry so you can open up windows to dry out the carpet when you’re done. Be sure to clear the room out and vacuum thoroughly before steam cleaning. Fill the machine with hot water and the appropriate amount of soap. Your machine may work whether it is pushed or pulled, but make sure you read the operating instructions carefully. Start in a corner and cross the room back and forth making long strips. Allow plenty of drying time and use fans to dry the carpet.
Part1Cleaning the Room
- 1Remove everything from the room. Steam cleaning is most effective when you remove all toys, papers, and general clutter from the floor. Move all tables, chairs, and furniture out of the room. Clear as much of the floor space as you can.
- If some furniture is too heavy to move, place squares of wax paper, foil, wood blocks, or plastic film under the legs to protect them from the moisture of the steam cleaner. You can’t clean the carpet completely if you leave furniture in the room.
- If you don’t have room to move the furniture to another room, move it all to half of the room and do the room in two separate sections. Let the carpet dry before you move furniture back to the already cleaned half.
- 2Dust the baseboards. As you run the steam cleaner, you might knock dust off the baseboards if you don’t dust them beforehand. Use a dust cloth with wood polish or a long handled duster to remove as much of the dust as you can.
- Dust ceiling fans and corners of the ceiling to prevent extra dust from falling on the carpet after you have steam cleaned them.
- 3Vacuum the entire carpet carefully. Steam cleaners are meant to pull up small dirt particles that are down in the fibers of the carpet. They are not for removing hair and larger dirt pieces. Vacuum the entire room more slowly than you usually would. It is best to go over the room twice to get as much of the larger debris as possible. The second time, go over the room in the opposite direction to pick up more dirt.
- For extra cleaning, use a nozzle attachment to get right up to the baseboards and edges of the room.
- Vacuuming also fluffs up the carpet so that the steamer can clean the fibers more effectively.
- 4Use stain remover on specific bad spots. Steamers can’t always lift deep, set-in stains, so it’s always helpful to treat stains before steaming the carpet. Use a carpet stain remover, or other natural solutions if you prefer. Blot the stain remover up with a cloth or leave it to be sucked up by the machine.
- When you do this, dab at the stains with a cloth. Never scrub at stains as this can cause them to work deeper into the carpet.
Part2Filling the Steam Cleaner
- 1Fill the steam cleaner with hot water. Most machines have a heating mechanism for the water, but using hot water helps. Use water that is as hot as possible without actually being boiling. Only put as much water as the machine directs so that you don’t overfill the water tank. Look for a max fill line on the water tank.
- Some natural fiber carpet can shrink from hot water or be harmed by detergent, so always be aware of what type of carpet you are planning to steam clean.
- 2Add soap as directed. Steam cleaners usually use a detergent of some kind, so make sure to check the machine’s instructions to use the right kind. Only use the amount directed, as using too much soap will cause it to stay in the carpet.
- Some machines will have a specific compartment where the soap goes, and others might direct you to mix the soap into the water.
- 3Opt for vinegar over detergent. Steam is not actually what cleans the carpet, a detergent or cleaner is. If you are sensitive to chemicals or want a natural option, vinegar is great for cleaning. Mix a 50/50 solution of vinegar with the hot water.
Part3Steaming the Entire Carpet
- 1Start in a corner. Find the corner that is diagonal from the door or entrance of the room. Start cleaning in the corner and slowly work yourself out of the room. If the room has an open concept or more than one entrance, you have more freedom regarding where to start. Wherever you start, don’t walk on the parts that have already been cleaned.
- If your steamer is one that you pull backward, put the head as close to the corner as you can. If you push the machine forward, clean a small area in the corner and then walk along the wall out of that area.
- 2Push or pull the machine as directed. Steam cleaners put hot water on the carpet and then immediately suck up the dirty water. Some are meant to be pushed to lay water and pulled back to suck it up. Others work only by pushing or only by pulling. It is important to read the directions for your machine before you use it.
- However the machine works, make sure that you don’t walk on the carpet you have just cleaned. If you must walk behind the steamer on the wet carpet, do so with bare feet so your shoes don’t leave marks.
- 3Walk the machine in long lines across the room. Steamers are most effective when you make long passes from wall to wall. Walk from the corner to the opposite wall and back. Pass over the same line twice if your steamer lays the soapy water going forward and sucks it up going backward. Don’t use short, back and forth strokes as you would with a vacuum.
- When you start each new line, slightly overlap the line before it to make sure you don’t leave any lines of uncleaned carpet.
- 4Move the machine slowly to allow it work. Steam cleaners work slower than vacuums, so moderate your speed. Pulling the machine too fast will not give it time to suck up the water, leaving your carpets wetter than they should be. It’s better to go too slow than too fast. Going too fast means you might be leaving moisture behind which could cause mold or mildew later on.
- As you walk in lines, a good rate is taking one step about every 2 seconds. This allows the machine plenty of time to work.
- If you have more time and want to clean your carpet even better, go over the area a second time, but with just warm water or a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water to remove any leftover soap.
- 5Allow the carpet to dry completely. Most carpet takes six to eight hours to dry all the way, but some may take 12-24 hours. Make sure you don’t walk on the carpet during this time. If you absolutely have to, put plastic bags over your feet so you don’t track any dirt onto the wet carpet.
- Place a sign at the entrance of the room to deter people from walking on it while it is wet.
- You can also turn on the air conditioner and ceiling fans, as well as place standing fans or floor blowers in the room to dry the carpet out faster. Alternatively, if it is relatively warm and dry outside, open up all your windows to increase air circulation.
- QuestionAre steam machines hot enough to kill bed bugs?Michelle DriscollFounder, Mulberry MaidsExpert AnswerUnfortunately bed bugs are very tough and resilient. Steam cleaning should help to reduce the problem temporarily, but it may not eliminate the problem. Bed bugs and their eggs hide in many places throughout your home. However, if you do plan on using a steam cleaner, be sure that your steamer reaches at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. You will also want to play close attention to cracks and crevices and be very careful to clean them all thoroughly.Not Helpful 0Helpful 2
- QuestionIs it safe to steam clean carpets?Michelle DriscollFounder, Mulberry MaidsExpert AnswerSteam cleaning can be very safe. It is recommended to read the instruction manual and know what type of carpet fibers you are wanting to steam clean. If you are worried about the chemicals in the steam cleaning solution, you can always opt for a 50/50 vinegar and hot water mixture instead. You should always ventilate the area when you are steam cleaning and allow the carpet to dry completely.Not Helpful 1Helpful 2
- QuestionShould you vacuum the carpet prior to steam cleaning?Community AnswerYes. Pick up all items that would be challenging for a vacuum cleaner to pick up, then vacuum well. Use the steam cleaner as the final step. The result is a much cleaner carpet.Not Helpful 3Helpful 8
- QuestionHow many times do I need to pass over a path on the carpet with cleaner, and how many times should I pass over the same path with rinse water?Community AnswerOn lightly soiled carpet, we go over it twice with cleaner, twice with rinse water and thrice with the extractor. If moderately soiled, we go over it at least thrice with both cleaner and clear water rinse. We also repeat with the extractor at least three trips, touching to ensure that we have left it sufficiently dry. Heavily soiled areas may require even more work to get outstanding results, but we have been rewarded with like-new carpet for all the effort.Not Helpful 0Helpful 2
- QuestionWhat’s the best way I can get a heavy traffic area clean with a steam cleaner?Community AnswerWash with a solution specially made for high traffic areas, rinse, and let it dry.Not Helpful 5Helpful 8
- QuestionIs the use of a cleaning solution necessary for a carpet to be sanitized?Community AnswerYes, carpets won’t be sanitized unless you use a cleaner.Not Helpful 3Helpful 5
- QuestionI cleaned my carpets properly but now they smell like mildew. What do I do?Community AnswerYour carpets may not have dried out all the way or dried out too slowly. Try turning on the air conditioner and some fans to air the carpet out more thoroughly.Not Helpful 5Helpful 5
- QuestionCan a steam cleaner vacuum be used on an area rug?Community AnswerMost likely, yes, it can be used on most kinds of rugs, depending on the material.Not Helpful 1Helpful 2
- QuestionHow do I turn on a steam vacuum cleaner?Community AnswerThere should be a power button on the bottom of the steam cleaner, or sometimes at the top, depending on the brand. The button will probably have a circle with an “I” in the middle of it. It may be red.Not Helpful 9Helpful 5
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- The best practices that keep carpets clean longer are to place doormats at every entrance, vacuum at least twice a week and to take off shoes before walking on the carpet.