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How to DIY Clean Carpet without a Machine

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​Whether you have a small stain or want to clean your entire carpet, you don’t need an expensive carpet cleaner from the store, and you don’t need to hire a professional. There are great products that you have in your pantry that will erase stains, clean carpets and deodorize smells.

​How to Clean Carpet Without Carpet Cleaner

Not only can you do it yourself, but by cleaning your carpet without hiring a carpet cleaner, you control the chemicals and substances that you use. Cleaning your carpet the natural way not only avoids needing a professional carpet cleaner, but keeps your home healthy and away from those pesky carpet beetles that can live and feed on your rugs.

You can also avoid renting the large carpet cleaning machines for small stains by taking the time to do it yourself. With hard work, natural products, and a simple ​inexpensive vacuum, you can learn how to clean carpet without carpet cleaner.

​Cleaning the Carpet

​​Big, industrial carpet cleaners are very good at removing dirt, debris, and stains from the carpet, but they don’t always do it in the safest of ways. Many times professionals use high powered chemicals that work well, but leave you wondering what is in your carpets.

Learning how to clean a carpet without a carpet cleaner is a great choice for a chemical free home. Even the toughest stains can be cleaned without harsh chemicals or extensive scrubbing.

Dark blue carpet with white shoes being cleaned by a vacuum cleaner

As with most cleaners you put on your carpet, it is always a good idea to test a small area before you apply on a larger spot. This will ensure your choice cleaner does not discolor your carpet.

Even when you are using natural products, it is always a good idea to wear gloves for protection. This will keep your hands clean from any bacteria on the floor.

Also, while you may be focusing hard on the stain that is on your carpet, this first step is mainly for cleaning the area. While most times, a simple cleaning can lift the stain, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t. We will cover stain lifting treatments a little further down in this article.

​1. Remove Debris

The first step in carpet cleaning is to remove anything from the top of the surface. Whether you just need to vacuum up small debris or if there is a larger mess sitting on the top, this needs to be picked or scraped off.

Without picking up the debris first, you’re actually going to end up grinding it deeper into the carpet.

Even if you don’t see any obvious mess on your carpet, it is always best to begin your carpet cleaning with a quick vacuuming. This will get up any dirt and debris that can be lurking just under the surface. 

When you vacuum your carpets, then that allows the cleaning solution to penetrate into the carpet fibers and work on the area without any interference of dirt smudging.

Make sure that you are using a powerful vacuum, especially when you are planning to clean your carpets, this way you are getting the best overall suction power to pull up dirt, dander and hair that can be embedded in the fibers. 

​2. Pick Your Cleaner

There are a few different cleaners that you can use from your pantry to help clean your carpets.


Vinegar is by far one of the most referenced and used natural products when it comes to carpet cleaning. To cut down on the acidity in vinegar you will want to dilute it 50/50 with water.

White distilled vinegar is also a popular choice for dried messes. Spray a good amount of the 50/50 water-vinegar mixture on the area. The water will rehydrate the dried stain while the vinegar works to break down the dirt.

The diluting also adds water to the cleaning mixture which is good for rehydrating crust stains and creating a transitional element for pieces of stuck on dirt and debris to be lifted off of carpets fibers.

Essential Oils

If you don’t really like the smell of vinegar then you can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to lessen the bright odor. Popular essential oils to use for cleaning are:

  • ​Citruses like lemon and orange.
  • ​Soft fragrances like lavender

By adding a citrus based essential oil it can double as a smell deterrent to keep pets from using your carpet as their restroom. While not harmful to pets, dogs and cats tend to deter away from bright citrus smells, so they don’t become comfortable enough to use that corner of your carpet for an indoor potty.

The Hoover Linx vacuum being used in a living room by a woman


​Dawn dish soap is also something you can add to a vinegar mixture or use it alone by adding a few drops to warm water. Just like the advertisement states, just a few drops is all you really need!

Once activated, the suds will penetrate into your carpet and break down the dirt or stains. The dish soap suds also create a vessel for dirt to stick to instead of the carpet fibers. The suds work to liberate and trap any residue in your carpets so that you can lift stains easier.

​3. Don’t Scrub

Using a brush or cloth to scrub your carpets really does more damage than good. While at first, you can see the scrubbing action working to remove the stain, afterwards you may notice that your carpet is looking a little dull or frizzy in that area.

This is because scrubbing your carpets over agitated the carpet fibers. When this happens, the ends of your carpet fibers will begin to fray or seperate. This is why blotting is so important instead of scrubbing.

Blotting may seem anti-climatic, but it is a proven way to lift stains, you just need a little patience and a good cleaner

Dawn dish detergent is a great cleaner that you can add to a 50/50 vinegar and water mixture to help add an extra oomph to your carpet cleaning. If you feel the need to scrub then you can use your gloved hands to gently massage the mixture into the fibers. This will agitate the suds and help get them deeper into the carpet, without potentially damaging your carpet fibers with scrubbing.

​4. Always Dry

This is a pretty low maintenance step, but always important to never skip it. There are a few different techniques for drying your carpet that you can try to help finish your cleaning treatments.

  • ​Blotting  – Never underestimate the powers of a good blot. If you have too much moisture still in your carpet, then you will want to lift as much of it off of your carpets as possible to allow them to dry faster. Use a paper towel or cloth towel to press into the carpet fibers. Keep applying a dry cloth to the carpet and replace once it picks up moisture until you have gotten up as much as you can.
  • ​Baking Soda  – If you have a very moist area and lack the time to sit and blot, then you can sprinkle baking soda over the area. Let it sit for a few minutes to soak up the moisture and then vacuum up the baking soda. Repeat this process a few times until the baking soda has effectively soaked up most of the moisture.
  • ​Air Dry  – The easiest and usually last step in the drying method. Just let the carpet sit and dry naturally. Opening widows or turning on a ceiling fan to help circulate the air allows the carpet to dry a little faster. Carpets can also dry a little faster when there is limited to no traffic on them. If you live in a high traffic home then find a way to keep family members off certain wet spots or wait until bedtime to clean, so that the carpet can dry overnight.

It is very important to make sure that you are limiting how much moisture you are allowing on your carpet while cleaning. If you are cleaning up a wet spot then first make sure that you are blotting up most of the moisture before you start to clean it.

When you overload your carpet with too much water or cleaner then you run the risk of soaking the carpet and carpet pad below it. Once that happens it is very difficult to dry the lower layers and it becomes a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

For using liquid cleaners to clean carpet without shampooer, then it is best to use a spray bottle. This will allow you to control how much liquid gets on the carpet. You will want to dampen the stain, not completely soak it.

It is also important to make sure that you dry your carpet in between treatments. Overloading sprays will make it harder for the carpet to dry.

There is no best method for how to clean carpets without a carpet cleaner – only the best method for your unique situation. You will need to find the best fit for each stain that you encounter. You also may need to repeat the method two or three times in order to get your carpets clean overall.

​Removing the Stains

Learning how to clean carpet without carpet cleaner starts with cleaning the carpet, and then moves on to tackling the stains. In this next portion we are going to look at the different ways that you can lift the stain.

​Once your carpet cleaning efforts are no longer making ​helping the stains or spots, then it is time to start stain treatment. Most cleaning efforts will lighten a stain, but a final stain removal treatment is needed to restore your carpet.

The following stain treatment products will help you learn how to clean carpet without a shampooer. If you can catch stains and treat them in time then you eliminate having to rent a large machine to clean your carpets.

club soda clean carpets

​For Bold Stains

For bold color stains, you can grab a bottle of club soda. This is a great stain fighter for red wine, blood or coffee spills.

To use, pour club soda onto a cloth and blot the area. If you pour the club soda directly onto the stain then you run the risk of over saturating the area and causing a risk for mold and mildew.

Club soda is primarily used with fresh spills and stains, when it comes to older stains then it won’t help much. For older stains you will want to use another product that can rehydrate and break down the enzymes.

​For Lighter Stains

For lighter stains, shaving cream is a miracle cleaner that you can spray on and leave. It does not cause discoloring, nor will it leave a greasy area to clean up after. You should let the shaving cream sit for twenty to thirty minutes, then you can blot it up with a damp paper towel. 

You can also use the bubbling power of baking soda plus vinegar. Sprinkle baking soda on the stain, then spray the baking soda with a water and vinegar mixture. As the two start to react, place a towel over the area and apply pressure.

This will push the cleaner deeper into the fibers instead of allowing it to bubble on the surface.

If you have lighter colored carpets then you can use hydrogen peroxide. It can discolor darker carpets, so test a spot if you are unsure. For the hydrogen peroxide you will want to spray the area and let it sit. After fifteen minutes you can blot it up with a damp cloth.

​For Sanitizing Stains

For stains that also need sanitizing you can use vodka. A cheap brand will work just as well. Vodka is a triple threat cleaner that will absorb odors, fight stains and kill any lingering bacteria.

These natural products lend a huge helping hand when it comes to knowing how to clean carpet without carpet cleaner. They are cheap to keep on hand and will work just as hard as brand name carpet cleaning solutions.

​Deodorizing the Area

You’ve got a clean carpet, and you’ve removed all of the stains. Chances are you might have some areas that still have a residual smell, and you will want to deodorize the area.

While adding essential oils to cleaning mixtures may refresh carpets, it may not always be the best option. When you are deodorizing your carpet, then you want something that will absorb the odor, not just mask it.

Baking soda is a cheap and safe product to use for this task. This powder is a natural odor eliminator. Most of the carpet deodorizers you can buy start with the base baking soda ingredient before adding other chemicals and smells.

Using baking soda is also a great option for people who have allergies to overwhelming smells. Baking soda will leave the carpet refreshed without adding a perfume-like strong smell.

To use, you will liberally sprinkle the baking soda over your carpet. Then use a broom to lightly sweep the baking soda. This will distribute the powder a little more evenly around the area.

baking soda vinegar clean carpet

Let the baking soda sit at least an hour. For stubborn odors you can leave it out overnight and vacuum it up the next morning. Do at least two rounds with the vacuum to make sure that you get it all up.

It is also important to make sure your vacuum has HEPA filtration so that the baking soda won’t blow out into the air. The HEPA filter helps fight tiny allergens by trapping dust, dirt and small particles in the vacuum and not allowing them to go back out into the open air once vacuumed up.

If you want more of a deodorizer with a smell then you can add essential oils to the baking soda. Simply add a few drops of your choice oil to a jar of baking soda and mix it well.

If you don’t have a box of baking soda on hand then cornstarch or borax works just as well for killing carpet odor. Sprinkle it on the carpet and let it sit for fifteen minutes before you vacuum it up.

How to Clean Carpet without Vacuum Cleaning

While this website is focused on helping you find the best vacuum for your specific needs, there are times when it makes sense to clean your carpets without a vacuum. Lets spend a few minutes showing you to how to clean carpet without vacuum cleaning.

​Whether your taking part in a spring cleaning or just trying your best to keep your ​house clean on a routine basis, learning how to care for carpet without the hassle of a vacuum cleaner is a valuable skill.

​Clean the Surface Area

One of the easiest things you can do to make your carpet instantly look cleaner is to pick up any large pieces of dirt, debris, and trash. Normally this is something you will also do before you break out the vacuum, since most machines cannot pick up large objects.

​1. Get Close

The best way to do this is to get down on your hands and knees. This will get you lower to the carpet so you can easily see any dirt, clumps of dust or small pieces of trash.

Take a paper towel with you and use that to pile stuff on it as you pick up and move around the room. Similar to deep cleaning your hardwood floors, you want to remove as much from the carpet as you can. 

Most of the time, you’ll be surprised by how much that gathers in corners, under furniture, and behind lights. Make sure to navigate behind all of these items to maximize what you collect. You will want to do the equivalent of mopping your tile floors and grout to your carpet with this step, and you will want to do it well.

In addition to the corners, high traffic areas of carpet also tend to have a lot of debris. Often these areas will be ground in and more difficult to collect, you’ll need to use something sticky to attract the dirt out.

​2. Use Packing Tape

If you see tiny particles on the surface but are unable to pick them up with your hand then you can use a piece of packing tape.

To use this trick, cut a strip of the clear packing tape and firmly press it onto the carpet. Then quickly pull it up.

You can use one strip repeatedly over various areas of the carpet, until it is full or no longer sticky. You can also use a lint roller over your carpet. It is best to go slower when you are rolling and press down a little to pull up any dirt that is just below the surface.

3. Quick Pick Up

A quick pick up is a great way to clean carpet without machine vacuums. If you get the dirt and debris while its still on the surface, then you prevent it from getting ground into the carpet, and that is where a vacuum becomes necessary. 

​This is an easy daily task to help straighten up, but you will need a more deep cleaning as time goes by without a vacuum.

Sweep your Carpet

If you want to clean dirt and hair out of your carpets then a quick sweep might be all you need. There are carpet sweeping or raking brooms available, but you can do this task with the broom that you currently own or with a manual carpet and floor sweeper.

​1. Short Motions

To sweep your carpet you will want to start in one area and do quick, short sweeping motions. Don’t try to sweep it like you would the floor. Instead it is similar movements to raking leaves.

The short, quick motions allow the bristles of the broom to pull dirt and hair away from the carpet. Once you sweep out the hair and dirt, guide it into a dust pan and move on to a new spot.

​2. Small Areas

Working in small areas gives you more traction to clean and clear the debris before moving to another spot. Also cleaning up each area makes sure you don’t accidentally step on the pile and push it back into the carpet.

Alternatively you could use a hand scrubber brush to sweep the carpet. This smaller device will have more power and control since it is in closer range. However, it will require more effort and take a longer time.

Deep Clean your Carpet

You can clean small spots or your entire carpeted area without having to purchase or rent a machine. There are plenty of items in your pantry that you can use as cleaner so that you don’t have to run out and buy chemical based cleaners.

​Water and Vinegar

For small spots you can use a fifty-fifty mix of water and white vinegar. Add a few drops of essential oil to cut down on the vinegar smell or add a couple drops of dawn to make it a foam cleaner.

It is important to use a sparing amount on carpets, putting down too much liquid makes the carpet hard to dry and can lead to mold or mildew. To better control how much you use, pour the mix into a spray bottle and then spray a concentrated amount on the stain.

You can let the vinegar spray sit on your carpet for a few minutes, and then blot it up with a paper towel or rag. Use a rag that has been dipped in warm water and wrung out to blot up the solution. You may need to repeat this once more to clean and remove the stain.

Vinegar is also effective in getting rid of annoying insects and pests that may reside within your carpet, so make sure you clean your carpets regularly.

Soap and Water

You can clean your entire carpet area by using a few drops of Dawn in warm water. You don’t want to scrub since that can damage your carpets. Instead, dip a rag into the soapy water, wring it out and lightly rub it over the carpet.

You can follow up by doing this again with just warm water to rinse out the dawn. Blot up any very wet areas and use a ceiling fan to circulate the air and help the carpet dry.

​Don’t forget – a ​high quality stick vacuum makes vacuuming really simple. If you’re avoiding cleaning with a vacuum because of the hassle, consider adding a stick vacuum to your repertoire. 

​Enjoy Unplugged Cleaning

Even if you have a vacuum you can incorporate these tips into your cleaning routine. Doing quick pick up and spot cleaning give you a break from dragging out the vacuum multiple times a day, and a deep clean will make your vacuuming efforts much more effective.

Now that you know how to clean carpet without vacuum cleaning, you can save yourself the effort of having to break out the vacuum at the sign of any mess. 


These natural methods are a great option to help your wallet and to keep your home green. While chemical based cleaner may promise quick results, when you opt for a chemical free cleaner you know what is going into your carpet.

Now that you know how to clean carpet without carpet cleaner, the next time you have a spill you can walk to the pantry with confidence. And, when you want to give your carpet a deep clean, you need to call a professional in to do the job.

Lauren Moldvay is a freelance writer from Virginia and the mother of one (not always) sweet little girl. She specializes in trying to help others find easier ways to clean, manage the home and save money with DIY projects.