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How to Steam Clean Carpets

Carpet Cleaning, Rug Cleaning, Upholstery Cleaning
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According to the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), the best way to deep clean is to steam clean carpets. This can be accomplished by hiring a professional or using a rented or purchased steam cleaner yourself. Actually, this carpet cleaning method doesn't use steam and is properly termed the hot water extraction method. No matter what you call it, though, steam cleaning carpets is the most effective way to clean deep down, embedded dirt.

Preparing to Steam Clean Carpets

If you are planning to clean an entire room, it's usually a good idea to remove as much of the furniture as possible. This will allow you to clean that area just under the edges of sofas and chairs that gets dirty but can't be reached while the furniture remains.

It's important to begin the cleaning process when you're sure you'll have enough time to both clean and allow the carpet to dry. It may take as long as eight to ten hours for the carpet to fully dry, and the furniture should not be moved back into the room before that. It can be helpful to clean the carpets in the afternoon or evening and then allow them to dry overnight. Another possibility is to schedule an all-day family outing while the carpets are drying.

Choosing a Cleaner

Before the actual cleaning day, you'll need to choose a cleaning solution to use. A variety of commercial cleaners exist, some specially formulated to fight pet odors or destroy allergens. If you prefer a natural and non-toxic cleaner, plain white vinegar can be safely used in a steam cleaning machine. Vinegar makes an effective cleaner because it can kill bacteria, mold, and allergens and is also a natural deodorizer. Have no worries about the smell--it will completely disappear as the carpet dries.


Carpets must be thoroughly vacuumed before cleaning. A steam cleaning machine is not designed to suck up large debris or hair. It can be helpful to vacuum a room first in one direction, and then in the other. This will lift the carpet fibers in every direction and allow the vacuum to pick up as much dirt as possible.

How to Steam Clean Carpets

The carpet cleaning machine's instruction manual should be carefully read before the cleaning begins. Hot water and cleaning solution should be added to the machine's tanks as directed, and any settings on the machine should be changed to match your cleaning needs.

It's best to begin cleaning in a corner of the room opposite the doorway. Depending on the carpet's soil level, one or two passes over an area should be made to release cleaning solution. Two to four additional passes should be made to extract the dirty water from the carpeting.

After the entire carpet has been cleaned in this manner, it should be allowed to air dry. Fans and opened windows can help speed this drying process, but it will still take several hours for the carpet to fully dry.

It's a good idea to steam clean carpets about once a year to keep them looking their best and keep allergens at a minimum. These periodic cleanings also help to prolong the life of your carpet since embedded dirt can damage carpet fibers over time.

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