How to Disinfect a Carpet (Step by Step)

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Dirt, allergens, grime, and bacteria infest carpets and rugs daily. It’s not surprising given that carpets are what we tread, sneeze or cough on. Carpets also take up spills.

Therefore, carpet disinfection is crucial to household hygiene and sanitation. Despite being a requirement, carpet disinfection is tricky because of unevenness, material makeup, and size.

It’s not possible to eliminate the infestation in totality. But all hope isn’t lost. When our carpets get dusty or dirty, vacuuming is the first thing that comes to our minds.

But vacuuming isn’t a reliable way to disinfect your carpet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn us that vacuuming encourages the circulation of disease-causing microbes.

Luckily, the market offers us plenty of steam cleaning and sanitizing products. Some solutions are costlier than others, though. Low-cost alternatives are also in plenty in the market.

You can also make your solutions at home. Let’s see the techniques that are available at your disposal.

Homemade Carpet Disinfectants

Steam Cleaning with Distilled White Vinegar

The acetic acid-containing substance is readily available and is an effective disinfectant. Acetic acid is a highly corrosive substance with a pH below 3.

But acetic acid doesn’t only corrode substances; it destroys microbes and bacteria. It’s why it’s found use in disinfecting carpets.

However, it works like a charm if you use it to neutralize alkaline stains like alcohol and pet urine. However, white vinegar may not remove acidic stains like soy sauce or fruit juices.

Steam Cleaning with Distilled White Vinegar

Vinegar can also damage carpet fabric whose makeup is natural fibers like wool and silk.

Distillation removes microbes from the vinegar solution that may compound the disinfection. And so, white distilled vinegar is a great go-to option.

However, high concentrations of vinegar can ruin the fibers of the carpet. Ensure vinegar isn’t in excess.

A spray bottle helps you to minimize the amount of vinegar you pour on your carpet. Observe the following steps when you steam clean with vinegar:

  • Pour two cups of white distilled vinegar into a spray bottle.
  • Spray the vinegar mist onto the carpet. Pass draft over the carpet to dry it.
  • Create a 1:3 mixture of vinegar and water, respectively.
  • Fill the fluid section of the steam cleaner with the mixture.
  • Clean the carpet surface.
  • Switch on the steam cleaner and wait for five minutes for the heat to build up.
  • Gently press the steam cleaner against the carpet and slide across it. As you glide across the carpet, press the button to release the steam jet.
  • Air-dry the carpet in a less humid condition for best results.

Cleaning with a Mixture of White Vinegar, Water, and Liquid Detergent

carpet cleaning with a mixture of white vinegar

You can make a potent mixture of white distilled vinegar, liquid detergent, and cold water in equal proportions.

  • First, vacuum your carpet as you usually do.
  • Take sodium bicarbonate and sprinkle it over the carpet. Wait for about five minutes to allow yourself to prepare the potent mixture of the three key ingredients. As you stir to mix the ingredients, you will see the foam will become consistent.
  • Don’t use the mixture on wool or silk carpets.
  • Saturate the scrubbing brush by soaking it in the foamy blend. Be sure not to oversaturate it.
  • Lay the carpet on the floor and start scrubbing it from the corners. Continue until you reach the other corner. Saturate the scrubbing brush when necessary.
  • Once you finish scrubbing, wait for five minutes.
  • Rinse the carpet. Use the same scrubbing brush for rinsing purposes.
  • Air-dry your carpet by laying outside or use a fan to pass the draft. Do this on a low humid or dry weather.
  • Complete the cleanup with vacuuming.

Homemade Detergent

Mix dish soap and sodium bicarbonate to make detergent. You will need a bucket, a clean rag, an old toothbrush, and a brush.

  • First off, vacuum the area to remove dirt and dust.
  • Sprinkle sodium bicarbonate on the spot and wait for a couple of minutes. This time should be enough for you to prepare dish soap. As you prepare the dish soap, measure the stain size. For every six to eight inches of stain, add one tablespoon of the dish soap.
  • Add the dish soap to warm water in the bucket until bubbles begin to form.
  • Soak the old toothbrush in the warm water and scrub the stain gently with it.
  • Dry out the carpet through air drying or using a box fan.
  • Vacuum the carpet to remove any leftover dirt or dust.

Deep Cleaning with a Steam Cleaner

deep cleaning carpet with a steam cleaner

You can buy or hire a steam cleaning machine to aid you with stubborn stain removal. Deep cleaning isn’t something you should do as often as vacuuming.

It’s recommendable to deep clean your carpet every six months. You can do vacuuming as many times as you can every week to remove dust, debris, or dirt. Before you begin deep cleaning, vacuum the carpet.

If the carpet is small, toss it into a washer. Else:

  • Remove loose dirt or debris through vacuuming or shaking.
  • Washers come in different shapes and sizes. Top-load or front-loading types devoid of the central agitator are more accommodative of larger carpets can otherwise. Read the care label and select the highest temperature setting on your steam cleaner. Optionally, you can visit a laundromat if your carpet is large.
  • Pick an enzyme-rich detergent and mix it with pine oil, bleach, or sanitizer.
  • Air dry or tumble dry the carpet.
  • Ensure no furniture is in contact with the carpet.
  • Vacuum or shake off dust or debris from the carpet.
  • Select a cleaner with an EPA-approved disinfectant (for example, quaternary ammonium). You should find proof of this approval on the label of contents, which contains the product’s registration number.
  • Test the disinfectant on a spot that is not visible, so it doesn’t discolor the fibers. Sprinkle the contents on the carpet. Wait for five minutes and blot up the liquid with absorbent material. If transmission of color occurs, don’t use the product.
  • Check the user guide for directions on using the cleaner and mixing the solutions.
  • Steam clean your carpet.
  • Leave the carpet to air dry.

Deep Cleaning Without a Steam Cleaner

Spot Cleaning

cleaning carpet with scrubbing brush

You will need a scrubbing brush with stiff bristles and a spray bottle. You will also need a blend of liquid detergent and water as well as table salt, sodium bicarbonate, and pieces of rags.

  • First off, mix water and a little amount of detergent (1/8th of a teaspoon) in a spray bottle. Shake the contents a bit and wait for a couple of minutes.
  • Sprinkle table salt and sodium bicarbonate over the spot you intend to deep clean.
  • Spray the droplets of the bottle over the spot and wait for a few minutes.
  • Scrub the spot from one direction and keep at it. In case dirt or grime remains after you make sweeps across that direction, turn perpendicularly.
  • Dab the piece of rag gently onto the spot to blot up the liquid until the capillary action stops.
  • Once the spot dries out, empty the contents of the spray bottle and refill it with tap water. Spray the new content over the carpet.
  • Again, press the pieces of rags against the spot. Place a heavy object on top of the cloths and let them sit for some time.

Natural Cleaning

Some proprietary cleaning chemicals can invoke allergic reactions in people and pets. Fortunately, some ingredients are as potent as harsh chemicals.

A Mix of Vinegar, Dish Soap, and Water

To one quart of warm water, add one tablespoon of dish soap and stir. Then, add a 1/4 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar. There you have it.

An effective cleaner! Be sure to test it on an inconspicuous spot on the carpet before you apply it on the stain actual.

Club Soda

For best results, use it on acidic stains like juices and wines. Spray the liquid cleaner on the carpet and dab the spot with absorbent material. Rub gently to remove residues.

Cleaning with Snow

If you live in temperate regions where the snow falls during winter, then you are lucky nature endows you with an effective cleaner. Dry, powdery snow gives the best results.

  • First off, shake or vacuum the carpet to remove dust or dirt outside in a snowy environment. Leave the carpet to acclimate to snowy conditions.
  • Stack layers upon layers of snow up to a height of five inches on the carpet. Be sure to spread and even out the pile. Use a broom to do this.
  • Use the broom’s flat side to beat the carpet. Wait for about 20 minutes to allow the reaction between cold gases and ammonia in the atmosphere, which causes the hidden dirt to harden.
  • Repeat the previous procedures for the other side of the carpet.
  • Afterward, remove the layers of snow and suspend the carpet for about half an hour. Doing so ensures the snow evaporates without wetting or saturating the carpet.


Not all carpet cleaners receive approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Even distilled white vinegar isn’t EPA-approved.

And so, it can’t guarantee you optimal results. But this isn’t to say that homemade solutions are impotent. When you have less costly and readily available alternatives, you have nothing to lose!

We have explored different techniques. Choose the ones that best fit your circumstances.

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