Foolproof tips on how to clean a carpet (without a machine)

Is your carpet looking a bit sorry for itself? Find out how to clean carpet like a pro (and keep it that way) in our handy guide.

Updated 2 October 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time7 minutes

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Most of us can’t afford to bring in a professional carpet cleaner or hire a machine every time we need to clean a carpet. So, knowing how to clean carpet by hand is a seriously useful skill, especially when you have pets, kids (or both) in the house.

Whether it’s muddy paws, mucky hands, or simply a build-up of everyday dust and dirt that’s got your carpet looking tired, keep reading. This handy guide will help you get your carpet fresh as a daisy (and keep it that way).

You will need:

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  • How to clean a carpet with baking soda or powder carpet cleaner

    Powder carpet cleaners are the easiest way to refresh your carpet. Just follow these steps...

    1. 1

      Vacuum the carpet

      First things first – make sure there’s no loose dirt or debris on the carpet by giving it a thorough going over with the vacuum cleaner.

      image of a person vacumming the carpet
    2. 2

      Treat any stubborn stains (if needed)

      If you’ve got some obvious stains on the carpet, it’s a good idea to treat these first in isolation before tackling the whole carpet. You’ll need that washing up liquid and white vinegar. For best results, follow the step-by-step instructions in our tips for removing stubborn carpet stains.

      treating stains
    3. 3

      Sprinkle on the powder (once the carpet is dry)

      Once the carpet is dry following any stain treatments, take the power of your choice – either powdered carpet cleaner or baking soda (bicarbonate of soda). Sprinkle it liberally over the carpet.

      Quick tip: Sodium bicarbonate or baking soda contains whitening properties.[1] So, it’s also effective in brightening your light-coloured carpet.

    4. 4

      Leave the powder to work its magic

      Leave the powder for at least 30 minutes – but if you can leave it overnight, all the better. Do so gives the cleaner time to work, softening stains and consuming odours.

    5. 5

      Vacuum up the powder

      It really couldn’t be simpler. Just use your vacuum cleaner to suck up all the powder, leaving your carpet clean and fresh.

    And there you have it – a lovely clean carpet with minimal fuss. Keep reading for tips how to clean carpet yourself.

How to clean a carpet using carpet shampoo

Of course, powder carpet cleaner and baking soda aren’t the only ways to clean your carpets by hand. Carpet shampoo is another popular choice and you don’t need a machine to use it. It can be a great option when you want to learn how to deep clean carpet at home

It’s worth bearing in mind though that shampoos can take hours to dry, leaving the room off-limits until ready. Powdered products can be vacuumed up much faster, and do just as good a job. Even so, this method is also effective in removing odours, especially when you’re trying to get dried cat urine smell off a carpet.

But if you decide carpet shampoo is your preferred choice, here’s how to use it…

  1. 1

    Make up the solution as directed on the packaging. There are many different brands of carpet shampoo. So it’s important to follow the guidance on the label (even if it varies from the steps we’ve outlined). In many cases, the product will need to be diluted with water.

  2. 2

    Use just enough carpet shampoo to cover the area.

  3. 3

    Do not make the carpet too wet – not only is this a waste of detergent, but it’s also going to increase drying time.

  4. 4

    Scrub on the particularly stubborn areas using a hard-bristled brush or an old toothbrush.

  5. 5

    Let the carpet dry completely.

  6. 6

    Vacuum the shampoo once it’s dried.

10 top carpet cleaning tips

Still got problem areas on your carpet? These handy tips will help you tackle a whole host of different issues...

1. Deal with spills immediately This is a simple one, but holds true no matter what you spill on the carpet, from hot chocolate to nail polish. It’s always easier to get a mark off a carpet if you deal with it immediately.

Pro tip: Check out our article on how to remove red wine from carpet to prevent stains.

2. Get to know the most common carpet stains and how to treat them

Carpets can take a bit of a battering when it comes to stains – everything from mud to red wine can end up on the floor all too easily. So it’s a good idea to get to know all the different types of carpet stains and how to remove them. Take a look at our article on cleaning carpet and rug stains for the lowdown.

3. Make sure you test your cleaning solution

The last thing you want to do is damage your carpet or affect its colour while cleaning a stain. So, whichever cleaning solution you choose, always make sure to test it on a small, inconspicuous area first.

4. Always blot, never rub

No matter what sort of stain you have on your carpet, always follow this golden rule. If you rub a stain, you’re likely to spread it and work it into the carpet fibres even more. And that’s the opposite of what you want.

No matter which cleaning solution you opt for, blotting is the way to go. For best results, blot inwards from the outside of the stain to ensure the stain doesn’t spread further.

5. Use a squeegee to combat pet hair

We love our four-legged friends. But their hair all over the carpet? Not so much. You might think of the humble squeegee as purely for use on windows. However, it’s designed to dislodge substances that form thin layers and stick to a surface – exactly like pet hair on a carpet. Simply water the squeegee and then use it as you would on a window.

6. Handle deep pile carpets with a lint roller

Are you finding that no matter how hard you vacuum, you’re still not able to get bits out of your deep pile carpet? Well, it’s time to get your hands on a lint roller. With a bit of elbow grease, it will pick up all those hairs, crumbs and other specks that the vacuum cleaner just can’t seem to get rid of.

7. Discover the power of shaving cream

One of the best carpet cleaners for general stains is – believe it or not – ordinary shaving cream, which can remove just about every type of normal dirt stain (think muddy footprints or smudges from small hands).

Apply the shaving cream directly to the stain and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Once the shaving cream has set, blot it up with a dry white cloth. Finish by spraying the area with a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water, and then wipe away the solution with a cloth.

8. Use an ice cube to remove gum

It’s all too easy to trail gum into the house on the bottom of a shoe. But don’t worry, if gum ends up on your carpet, the solution is in your freezer.

Grab a few ice cubes and press them against the gum for 30 to 45 seconds. Once the gum is frozen solid, use a spoon to lift it up, then use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the carpet strands as close as possible to the gum. If you cut only a small amount of carpet, the spot will be undetectable.

9. Remove indents with an ice cube

While this isn’t exactly cleaning-related, who doesn’t want to know how to get rid of those annoying indents left by furniture? As it turns out, ice cubes are also really handy for this problem. Pop some ice cubes in the dent and leave them to melt. Afterwards, blot the excess water and iron the area until dry through a towel. Once the fibres are almost dry, they’ll be pliable and you can fluff these areas by hand with ease.

10. Disinfect your carpet with vinegar and water

Disinfecting your carpet regularly is a good idea if you have kids and/or pets. It’s a fast way to get rid of outside bacteria and allergens, while freshening up your carpet. Studies show that the active acidic component of vinegar is effective in disinfecting surfaces.[2]

Take a spray bottle and fill it with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water. Then simply spray this solution on your carpet and you’re ready to go (a light spray is enough, don’t soak the carpet).

You can also use this method after cleaning the carpet as it will help the results last longer.

How to keep your carpet clean

When you’ve just cleaned your carpet, the last thing you want is to have to do it again straight away. So to keep your carpet cleaner for longer, follow these handy tips...

Keep your carpet away from potential stain-makers

If you want to avoid the long process of stain and dirt removal, the easiest thing is to avoid spills in the first place. For example, try to keep eating and drinking in carpeted areas to a minimum.

Remove your shoes before walking on your carpet

It’s not always easy to follow this rule, especially with children. But ideally it’s a good idea to get into the habit of leaving your shoes by the door. Slippers, socks or bare feet are much more carpet friendly.

Install a doormat to keep dirt out

Doormats either inside or outside the main doors to your home will seriously cut down on dirt being trailed into the house. And the bigger the doormat is, the better.

Fit furniture protectors to prevent dents

Adding protectors to the ‘feet’ of furniture like sofas and sideboards can help protect your carpets from annoying dents and depressions. Saving you time trying to remove them (and all the dust and dirt that gathers in them).

Make a cleaning schedule and stick to it

A good rule of thumb is to vacuum your carpets once a week (depending on how much foot traffic and dirt they’re likely to come into contact with). It’s also worth considering having your carpets deep cleaned once a year. Besides, professional steam cleaning can get rid of airborne fungi and fine particulates in your home.[3]

Frequently asked questions about cleaning a carpet without a machine

Q: How can I make my carpet smell nice?

Some of the ways you can keep your carpet smelling nice include removing your shoes inside the house, dealing with spills immediately, and having good ventilation. 

Q: Can I use vinegar on carpet?

Yes, vinegar is a carpet-friendly cleaning solution. It also has antimicrobial properties. So, it can disinfect your carpet as well.

Q: What is the best homemade carpet cleaning solution?

A mixture of baking soda, white vinegar and distilled water is among the best homemade cleaning solution for carpets. You can also try salt, borax and vinegar for stubborn stains.

Q: What are the benefits of cleaning carpets?

Regular carpet cleaning prolongs the lifespan and quality of your carpet. Moreover, it effectively removes dust particles, bacteria and allergens. So, you can also improve indoor air quality.

What about other types of flooring?

Most people have a mix of flooring in their houses these days. But we’ve got you covered no matter the flooring type:


Ahrari, F., Hasanzadeh, N., Rajabi, O., & Forouzannejad, Z. (2017). Effectiveness of sodium bicarbonate combined with hydrogen peroxide and CPP-ACPF in whitening and microhardness of enamel. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry, 0.

Cortesia, C., Vilchèze, C., Bernut, A., Contreras, W., Gómez, K. M., De Waard, J. H., Jacobs, W. R., Kremer, L., & Takiff, H. (2014). Acetic acid, the active component of vinegar, is an effective tuberculocidal disinfectant. MBio, 5(2).


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