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How to Use a Carpet Cleaner

By: Sheryl Cannes
Updated on: April 05, 2024

Carpet cleaners remove the dirt and grime that vacuum cleaners leave behind. Carpet cleaners let you keep your carpets fresh and new, whether it’s pet dander you want to stay on top of or stains from kids and pets. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you get the best use out of a carpet cleaner.

Please note that each carpet cleaner is different. Always start by reading through the owner’s manual to learn the ins and outs of your particular model. The following steps are meant as guidelines. Make adjustments according to the unique features and characteristics of the carpet cleaner you’re using.

6 Steps on How to Use a Carpet Cleaner

1. Preparing the Carpet

Carpet cleaners are more complicated than a vacuum cleaner. It’s not as simple as flipping a switch. You’ll need to do a little preparation to make sure the process goes smoothly.

Remove all furniture from the room. Clear the room of furniture to make sure obstacles don’t get in your way. You want to make long, even strokes, moving at a consistent rate. You can’t do that if the furniture is in the way.

Do a spot test. Carpets are made of a wide range of fibers, including wool, synthetics, and silk. Spot test using water and the cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area of the carpet. Give it a chance to dry to make sure the carpet cleaner won’t damage the fibers. A word of caution—do not use a carpet cleaner on silk carpets. It will irreparably damage the fibers.

Choose your solution, including a spot cleaner for tough stains. Most carpet cleaner manufacturers include a list of suggested cleaning solutions. Follow their recommendations, so you don’t inadvertently damage the carpet cleaner. You may also want to do some spot cleaning. If so, you may need an extra spot cleaning solution. The other option is to use the same cleaning solution but in a higher concentration.

You may also have to choose your cleaning solution based on the type of carpet you have. Professional cleaners don’t use the same cleaning solution on every carpet, and neither should you.

Vacuum the carpet. Vacuum the carpet before using the carpet cleaner. You want to remove as much dirt and debris as possible so that the water and cleaning solution can penetrate fully into the fibers.

2. Tips Before You Begin

  • Read through the owner’s manual if you haven’t already. We cannot emphasize enough the fact that every carpet cleaner is different. Even if you’ve used or rented a carpet cleaner before, chances are there could be some differences between models.
  • Check the tanks before filling the clean tank with cleaning solution. Rinse them both out if there’s any dirty water inside.
  • Mix the cleaning solution. Most cleaning solutions come in a concentrate that needs to be diluted. Follow the instructions to dilute it to the proper strength.
  • Check the brushes for debris, and clean them out.

3. Fill the clean tank with warm water and the cleaning solution

It doesn’t take much explanation with this step. The only advice we have is to watch for the maximum fill line, and do not exceed it.

4. Running the Carpet Cleaner

Turn on the carpet cleaner and move forward in straight lines at a slow, consistent pace. Each time you push the carpet cleaner forward, it forces water into the fibers. When you pull it back, it sucks the water back into the machine. Make more than one pass. Cross the carpet in one direction then the other. You can even take a third pass on the diagonal. Different angles access every part of the carpet fiber.

Clean carpet doesn’t happen by accident. Carpet cleaners aren’t hard to run, but it does take a certain technique to use one successfully. Take your time. Rushing through the process can reduce the effectiveness of the carpet cleaning machine. This is the type of job where you want to be slow and methodical. Give the carpet cleaning solution time to soak into the carpet fibers and leave time to wash out the solution.

Trust the manufacturer’s recommendations for the appropriately diluted cleaning solution. Adding extra solution can make it difficult to remove the cleaner from the carpet. If there’s too much cleaning solution, the carpet can become sticky, attracting dirt faster.

After you’ve done the entire carpet, spot clean in high traffic areas. Corners, hallways, and stairs, for example, concentrate your passes and collect more dirt. A deep cleaner should be able to pull stains out of the carpet in these trouble areas.

5. Rinse the Carpet

When you’re done, empty your clean water tank and fill it with warm or hot tap water only. Then, run your carpet cleaner through your carpet again to rinse out all of the remaining cleaning solution. You may need to go over areas where you used extra spot cleaners or cleaning solution two or three times.

6. After Cleaning Care

Just because the carpet cleaner is turned off doesn’t mean you’re 100 percent done. Here are a few aftercare tips to make sure your time isn’t wasted:

  • Feel the carpet. If you feel moisture, go over the carpet one more time to extract more water. Be patient, and keep extracting water until there’s very little moisture left. After you’ve removed as much water as possible, give the carpet time to dry, especially in high-traffic areas where you may have gone over the carpet several times.
  • Check the baseboards and any wooden furniture. Water and cleaning solutions can damage the wood. Wipe off and soak up any water or cleaning solution that may have gotten on the furniture to prevent damage.
  • Avoid replacing furniture until the carpet is completely dry. Water can cause the finish on furniture legs to seep into the carpet. If you can’t wait to replace the furniture until the carpet is dry, place tin foil under the furniture legs to protect both the furniture and the carpet from damage.
  • Use fans. If your carpet needs some extra help drying, try using the ceiling fan or room or table fans to circulate air and evaporate the water.
  • Vacuum again. Vacuum the carpet after it has dried. Vacuuming removes any leftover residue from the cleaning solution.


Can I walk on the carpet before it’s dry?

For the best results, don’t walk on the carpet until it’s completely dry. Dirt and oils from your skin can seep into the carpet fibers and get it dirty prematurely. Again, that’s not always practical. If you have to walk on the carpet before it’s dry, lay down a white cloth or clean towels to protect the carpet.

How often should I clean my carpets?

The answer to this question depends on how much and what kind of foot traffic takes place in your home. Large families with many people walking on the carpet or families with pets will end up with dirtier carpets than a single person or couple.

However, on average, most carpets only need deep cleaning once or twice a year. If you have children or pets, once every six months should do.

Can I use any cleaning solution in a carpet cleaner?

Most carpet cleaner manufacturers have cleaning solutions they recommend. It’s best to follow these guidelines because some cleaning solutions may have ingredients that are harmful to the carpet cleaner’s components. In some cases, homemade carpet cleaners may work in a pinch as long as they don’t have any corrosive ingredients.

Keeping It Clean

Regular carpet cleanings prolong the life of your carpet and keep your house clean and sanitary. With the right preparation, you can do a professional cleaning yourself. Be methodical, take your time, and your carpets will be sparkly clean.


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