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How to Disinfect Carpet Without a Steam Cleaner

By: Sheryl Cannes
Updated on: April 05, 2024

A clean home includes disinfected carpets, but not everyone owns a steam cleaner. Thankfully, you don’t need a steam cleaner to disinfect and clean your carpets. There are plenty of home cleaning solutions with natural ingredients and organic materials like essential oils mixed with hydrogen peroxide, club soda, or warm water. The results are impressively clean carpets without steam cleaning.

Know Your Carpet Type

The first step to cleaning your carpet is to know your carpet fibers. The most common carpet types include:

  • Wool
  • Natural fibers, like jute and sisal
  • Berber
  • Synthetic
  • Silk

Some types of carpet, like silk and wool, require extra care. Commercial carpet cleaners and excess water easily damage both. Your best bet for wool and silk is to rely on your vacuum cleaner. However, the other types of carpet like polyester blends and nylon respond well to home disinfecting solutions.

Recipes for Home Carpet Cleaners

If you don’t want to go with a commercially-prepared cleaning solution, there are plenty of home recipes worth trying:

  • Mix 1 teaspoon of clear liquid dish detergent with 1 cup of lukewarm water.
  • Mix ¼ cup of white vinegar with ¼ cup of warm water.
  • Mix 1 tablespoon of household ammonia with 1 cup of warm water.

Each of these solutions works well on synthetic fibers. A word of caution—always test the cleaning solution on a small area of the carpet. Wash it out, and give it time to dry. That way, if it damages the fibers or causes discoloration, you’ll know before you’ve cleaned the entire carpet.

Prepare the Carpet for Disinfection

The following steps may change based on your goals. For example, if you’re spot cleaning, you don’t need to remove all of the furniture in the room.

  • Remove all of the furniture. Water and cleaning solutions can damage furniture legs, causing their stains to bleed into the carpet fibers.
  • Vacuum the carpet. Remove as much dirt and debris from the carpet as possible. With the carpet cleaner, you want to target what the vacuum cleaner leaves behind.
  • Gather your materials. You’ll need a bucket, a scrubbing brush, and gloves. Get them all ready before mixing the cleaning solution.
  • Mix your cleaning solution. Now that the carpet is prepped, it’s time to mix. Make enough that you don’t have to make more solution halfway through the cleaning process.

Start Cleaning

Disinfecting without a steam cleaner takes elbow grease. Either spray or dab on the cleaner using a clean cloth. Use the scrub brush to work the cleaner into the fibers. Be gentle. You don’t want to untwist or loosen the fibers, just help the liquid sink in. Your goal isn’t to saturate the carpet either. Only use enough cleaning solution to moisten it. Be sure to target the fibers from different directions. That pulls out the dirt that’s worked its way deep into the carpet. Move in a methodical pattern, starting from one corner and working toward the next until you’ve covered the whole room. If you’re spot cleaning, target high-traffic areas and stains.

Leave the cleaning solution on for about five minutes before removing it with clean, fresh water. Dab or spray on the clean water, and soak it up with dry towels. This process absorbs the dirt, grease, and other debris from the carpet.

A note about water temperature—if you’ve got greasy stains, warm or hot water will work better to remove them. Blood and dark juices, on the other hand, soak deeper into the fibers when exposed to hot water. Use cold water for these types of stains to prevent them from setting into the fibers.

Dry Your Carpet

Now it’s time to dry the carpet. Soak up as much moisture as you can using towels before letting the carpet air dry. If you live in a dry climate, the carpet may dry on its own in a few hours. For those in wetter climates, pull out the fans, space heaters, and anything else that gets the air moving. Circulating air helps evaporate the water.

If at all possible, avoid replacing the furniture until after the carpet is completely dry.


Your last step is to vacuum the carpet. This removes any remaining dirt or residue left over from the cleaning solution.

What Not to Do When Disinfecting Your Carpet

  • Replace the furniture before the carpet is dry. The furniture’s stain or paint can soak into the carpet, and the moisture can damage the furniture legs. Your furniture might also trap moisture in the carpet which can lead to mold or mildew.
  • Oversaturate the carpet with cleaning solution. It can be tough to remove the cleaner if the carpet gets oversaturated. Cleaners become sticky, attracting dirt faster than if it hadn’t been cleaned.
  • Clean the carpet without testing the cleaning solution first. You never know how the fibers will respond.
  • Walk on the carpet before it’s completely dry. If you have to, place dry towels or sheets over the carpet and walk over them instead.


How often should I disinfect my carpet?

Spot cleaning is something you can do once a week, while overall disinfecting may only need to happen once or twice a year. The average home generally needs disinfecting once a year.

Certain situations may call for more routine deep cleaning. For example, a home with children will naturally get dirtier than a home without. Spilled food, mud, and all kinds of critters may find their way indoors with your children. Pets are another situation that may call for more frequent disinfection, especially if they have accidents.

How do I remove odors?

The homemade cleaning solutions we recommended above are best for removing dirt and grime. Odors are another matter. Pet odors respond better to white vinegar or isopropyl alcohol. You definitely want to dilute them, so you don’t damage the carpet fibers. Mix equal parts of vinegar or isopropyl alcohol and water, then spray it on the carpet. Rinse the carpet, and use a clean towel to soak up the cleaning solution. Be sure to test the solution in a small area before starting.

You can also sprinkle baking soda onto the carpet and let it soak up odors for several hours. When you vacuum up the baking soda, the odors come with it.

How do I get rid of furniture impressions in the carpet?

Get the indented area of the carpet wet. You can do this with a spray bottle or ice cube. Once the water has been absorbed, blot the excess water, and iron the carpet. Be sure to put the heat setting on low, so you don’t melt the carpet fibers. Stop ironing when the fibers are almost dry. Fluff them back into place before they are completely dry, and they should look like new.

Clean Carpet for the Win

There are many ways to clean your carpets without using a steam mop. Whether you’re cleaning the whole carpet or just a small area, there are cleaning solutions made of natural ingredients that disinfect and remove odors. The most effective way will depend on the type of carpet and the nature of the stain.

No matter what solution you choose, test it before applying it to the rest of your carpet. Regular cleaning and disinfecting will keep your carpet and home looking and smelling fresh.


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