How To Deep Clean Carpet With a Steam Cleaner (6 Easy Steps)

how to deep clean carpet with a steam cleaner

Whether you need to deep clean your carpet at the end of a lease, as part of your annual spring clean, or your kids have spilt their drinks one too many times, several options are available.

You can hire a professional carpet cleaner, a DIY carpet shampooer, or deep clean carpet with a steam cleaner. In this guide, I will discuss how to deep clean carpet with a steam cleaner to get the best results.

 5 Benefits of Steam Cleaning Carpets

  • Easy to use: One of the significant benefits of steam cleaners is that they are straightforward. When cleaning, you just need to direct the steam on the carpet.  
  • Kills up to 99.9% of germs: Unless you use chemicals or some strong detergents, it is not easy to kill bacteria when cleaning. However, steam cleaners heat water to over 212 degrees Fahrenheit, enabling them to kill viruses, bacteria, and other germs, depending on the exposure time. 
  • Stain Removal: When cleaning, steam cleaners release steam at high pressure, helping blast away ground-in dirt and stains. 
  • Eco-friendly: Since they do not use chemicals, steam cleaners are friendly to the environment. 
  • Inexpensive Options: There are steam cleaners to suit all budgets, from under $100 to thousands of dollars. The performance will vary, but you can still find a reliable steam cleaner for carpets even if you are on a budget. 

How to Deep Clean Carpet With a Steam Cleaner

using steam cleaner on carpet

To deep clean carpet with a steam cleaner, follow these steps: 

Proper Preparation

Pick up toys, shoes, and any small items that may get in the way. Put the pets outside, keep the kids busy and get your steam cleaner, water and any spot treatments ready. Open the windows now (so you’re not trying to hop across damp carpet later to do this).

If you are cleaning the whole room, move your furniture out of the way. Ensure you’ve cleaned everything else in the room that needs cleaning – think fans, light fittings, window tracks etc. Anything that may drop dirt and dust back onto your freshly cleaned carpet. Don’t forget your baseboards!

If you are moving house, the carpet should be one of the last tasks completed.


Give your carpet a really good vacuum. Start from one corner of the room and work your way backward. If you have multiple suction settings on your vacuum, use the highest setting to pick up as much dirt and dust as possible.

Vacuum in all directions to ensure you get as much dust and dirt out of your carpet as possible. This will make your work easier when steam cleaning.

Spot Treat Stains

If you have had stains on your carpet for some time, they can be challenging to remove with steam alone. The stain may have set in the fibers of the carpet. This is where I would recommend spot-treating stains. 

Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover or TriVona Carpet Spot Remover Spray are two products that help remove even the toughest stains.  

The Cleaning Process

Once the carpet is ready, you can now start the cleaning process. 

Set Up Your Steam Mop or Cleaner

Add water to the water reservoir and allow it to heat. You should only add a specific type of water recommended by the manufacturer.

Check the manual to see if the manufacturer recommends tap, distilled, demineralized water, or a combination of these. 

If you have a steam mop with a triangle head, attach the triangle attachment that sits over the microfiber pad. This will help the steam mop glide across the carpet. 

Remove the microfiber pad if you have a Shark steam mop that doesn’t have a carpet glider. You won’t be able to glide the steam mop across the carpet otherwise.

Attach the floor tool to the steamer head without a microfiber pad for steam cleaners. You can also use the brush attachment to help lift the pile.

Start from the Furthest Corner

Start steam cleaning the carpet from the furthest corner to ensure you don’t step on the clean area. Work slowly, in short strokes back and forth.

Spend a little time hovering over any stains and marks. An old towel can come in handy here to blot the carpet. This will help absorb any dampness from the steam cleaner, help wipe away the dirt and stains, and if you have used a spot cleaner, soak up some of the residues.

Leave Your Carpet to Dry

Most steam cleaners are not able to dry the carpet after cleaning. Therefore, you should open the windows to speed up the drying process (but you already did that in the preparation stage, right?).

Below are some tips on how to speed up the drying process. 

Vacuum Again (Don’t Skip This Step)

Once your carpets have fully dried, vacuum them again thoroughly before putting any furniture or rugs back into place. 

When you steam clean, the hot steam helps to loosen the ground in dirt from the fibers of your carpet. But the dirt doesn’t go anywhere (unless you have a steam vacuum and are vacuuming and steaming simultaneously). 

If you don’t vacuum again, the dirt will stay on your carpet and get tracked back into the fibers. 

How to Dry Carpets after Steam Cleaning

can i use steam cleaner on carpet

After steam cleaning your carpet, try not to walk on it until it is completely dry. Otherwise, wet carpet may encourage dirt to be ground back in and the development of mold and mildew.

Below are the steps you should follow to speed up the drying process. 

Open the windows

The first thing you need to do is to create enough airflow in the room. You should do this by opening all the windows to allow fresh air in the room. This also prevents any musty or damp smells that your wet carpet may produce when drying it indoors. 

Use a fan

A room with a ceiling fan will be the best for drying the carpet, but you can also put a standing fan nearby. The good thing about having a fan in the room is that it creates the required air flow to dry the carpet.

If possible, place two small fans on opposite sides of the room. Some people may opt to use an air conditioner, but it is less effective than a fan since it doesn’t circulate as much air. 

Use a wet and dry vacuum cleaner

Even though this method may not be effective for damp carpets, it’s very reliable for wet carpets. You must also choose a suitable dry and wet vacuum cleaner with a water-safe filter. 

A wet vacuum will still leave the carpet damp, so follow that with open windows and circulating air for the best outcome.

Dry Cleaning vs Carpet Steam Cleaning: Which is Better?

Dry cleaning and steam cleaning carpets are different methods you can use to clean your carpets. Before you decide which method to use, you must understand their differences.  

Dry Carpet Cleaning

steam cleaner on carpet

Dry carpet cleaning requires little moisture. It involves using advanced chemical technologies and specialized machines to clean the carpet. There are 4 methods of dry cleaning, which include; 

  1. Use of shampoo: When using this method, you just apply dry cleaning shampoo to the carpet and then leave it to remove dirt from the carpet. After the shampoo has removed all the dirt from the carpet fibers, you should use a standard vacuum cleaner to clean the residue. 
  2. Bonnet pads: There are no significant differences between shampoos and bonnet pads. However, you must add a bonnet pad to your machine when cleaning. The damp bonnet pad helps absorb all the shampoo residue or dirt as you move the cleaning machine on the carpet. 
  3. Dry compounds: This method involves spreading a biodegradable mixture on your carpet to absorb all the dirt. After that, you should use a vacuum cleaner to clear the biodegradable mix (including the absorbed dirt).
  4. Oscillating pads: Here, you spray a solution with a balanced pH on the carpet and then leave it to do the cleaning. This solution will react with the carpet fibers, which help to loosen dirt. Once the cleaning is complete, use an oscillating cleaning machine to deep clean the carpet.  

What are the Benefits of Dry Cleaning Carpets?

Unlike steam cleaning, dry cleaning takes less time and requires less human intervention. It can be effective if your carpet has some tough stains or spots. However, leaving the chemicals on the carpet for a long time may cause discoloration. 

Steam Cleaning Carpets

steam cleaner on carpet stains

Steam cleaning involves using super heated water, which turns into steam. This method effectively kills bacteria, germs, and viruses without using chemicals. 

Steam cleaners come with different attachments for various surfaces or items. This means that they are more versatile than dry cleaners.

However, your carpet may take longer to dry than when dry cleaning.

The good thing about both methods is that they suit all types of carpets. When deep cleaning thick carpets, steam cleaning is the best method as the steam can penetrate well into dense fibers.

It is also suitable for those suffering from allergic reactions since you don’t need to add chemicals.  

A Note About Hot Water Extraction

Many professional carpet cleaning companies use hot or cold water extraction to clean carpets. This is slightly different from steam cleaning.

Water and detergent are mixed and sprayed onto your carpet before being extracted (i.e., sucked or vacuumed) back up. This is a popular and effective method of cleaning carpets, and is often referred to as steam cleaning carpets.

For more information, see my post: Is Hot Water Extraction the same as Steam Cleaning?

 Frequently Asked Questions

can you use steam cleaner on carpet

Can you Clean Carpets With a Steam Cleaner?

Steam cleaners are among the best cleaning appliances for carpets. They are suitable for most types of carpets and safe for pet owners and allergy sufferers since they don’t require cleaning chemicals.

If you have natural fiber carpets, please check with the carpet manufacturer before using a steam cleaner. The high heat from steam can cause natural fibers to shrink.

Can You Clean Carpets Without A Steam Cleaner?

It is possible to clean carpets without a steam cleaner. Try sprinkling baking soda over your carpets. Use a soft (clean) broom to agitate your carpets so the baking soda isn’t just sitting on top.

Leave it on the carpet for 30-60 minutes then vacuum thoroughly in both directions of your carpet. For example work from north to south, then vacuum again in an east to west direction.

Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and stain remover and will help to clean your carpets if you don’t have a steam cleaner.

What is the Easiest Way to Deep Clean a Carpet Stain? 

shark steam cleaner on carpet

There are different methods you can use to deep clean your carpet. You can use a commercially available spot treatment for carpets. You could also try baking soda mixed with warm water to form a paste.

Alternatively, try a DIY stain remover for carpets:

  • Mix ¼ cup of borax with ¼ cup of salt
  • Add that mixture to 1/4 cup of vinegar to make a paste
  • Spread the mixture on the carpet stain.
  • Leave the paste on the carpet until it is dry.
  • The paste will absorb the stain.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner to clear the residue.  

Does Steam Cleaning Damage Carpet?

how to use steam cleaner on carpet

Steam cleaning is safe for most types of carpet (but should be avoided on natural fiber carpets).

According to Heartland Steam Cleaning, damage to carpet can occur from too much water being injected into the carpet and not sucked back out.

I’ve listed different ways in this post to help dry your carpets post cleaning with a steam cleaner. Follow these steps for the best results. 

Is it Better to Steam Clean Carpet or Shampoo? 

There are pros and cons to both using a steam cleaner on carpet or shampooing carpet.

The problem with steam cleaners is they don’t extract the dirt, or water from your carpet. This is why we’ve recommended following up with a wet vac, spot cleaning and using a towel or paper towel to absorb moisture, or allowing your carpet to dry then vacuuming again, so dissipated dirt isn’t left sitting in your carpet.

Here is great (short) video showing you getting a dog urine stain out of carpet using the Vapamore MR-100:

The problem with shampooing carpet is it can be ineffective. Inefficient extraction of water post shampooing your carpet can also lead to a build up of carpet shampoo left in your carpet. Here’s how it looks, and how effective steam is at removing the stain and the carpet shampoo:

clean carpets with a steam cleaner

Compared to carpet shampoo, steam cleaning will give you the best results when deep cleaning.

This is because steam cleaners are powerful enough to penetrate the bottom of your carpet fibers to loosen stubborn dirt. You just need a way to then get that loosened dirt out of your carpet after using a steam cleaner.

Can a Steam Mop be Used on Rugs?

A steam mop can be used on rugs in the same manner as cleaning carpets. Use the carpet tool if you have one to help the steam mop glide over the rug. Using a brush tool can also help loosen the fibers and let the steam penetrate the rug.  

How Do You Clean a Carpet With a Handheld Steam Cleaner?

A handheld steam cleaner is best for spot cleaning carpets and rugs. It will be difficult and time-consuming to clean an entire room of carpet using a handheld steam cleaner.

If you want to try, follow the steps above for how to deep clean carpet with a steam cleaner.

How Often Should You Steam Clean Your Carpet?

You should vacuum your carpet as often as possible to ensure it is always clean. You should also deep clean it using steam at least once every 12-18 months. This really depends on how dirty your carpets get. 

If you have pets in your home, wear shoes on your carpet, or have a large household, you may need to clean more often. Likewise, if you live alone, wear socks on the carpet, and it’s only the bedrooms – you will likely not need to steam clean your carpet anywhere near as much.

How Long Does it Take For a Carpet to Dry After Steam Cleaning?

The time it takes for your carpet to dry after steam cleaning will depend on the ambient temperature, additional drying methods, and humidity. You can generally expect your carpet to be dry in 4-6 hours.

If it is not drying appropriately, you may have left too much water in your carpet. Keep going with airing the room and using fans. If you are concerned, contact a carpet cleaning professional who will be able to extract the water for you.

Enjoy Your Fresh Clean Carpet

can I use a floor steam cleaner on carpet

Now that you know how to deep clean carpets with a steam cleaner, enjoy refreshing your carpets whenever needed. Keep in mind that many commercial carpet cleaning services or online tutorials about steam cleaning refer to hot water injection and extraction.

Talk to your local professional carpet cleaning company if you don’t want to do it yourself with your steam cleaner. They will guide you through the different cleaning methods and chemicals they use.


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