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Tips and Tricks for How to Clean Your Carpeted Stairs

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Carpeting on stairs is a beautiful and comfortable option for any home, but it can sometimes also be an arduous task to keep them clean. ​Stairs get a lot of foot traffic, and the high traffic means a lot of dirt. Additionally, the nature of climbing up and down stairs pounds and grinds the dirt into the carpet.

Even in the most well kept homes, dirt and debris can settle into carpeted stairs, making them prime targets for discoloration and stubborn stains. Thankfully, there are some simple steps to take to clean and maintain​ your stairs. ​We’ll show you the best methods for how to clean carpeted stairs.

How to Clean Carpeted Stairs

In this article, we’ll walk you through the five step process to thoroughly clean your carpeted stairs.

Not all five steps have to be followed every single time you want to clean your stairs. ​As a matter of fact, Step Two (vacuuming) is really the only step you should do every single week.

However, following all of the steps will give you a thorough, deep clean of your stairs. We recommend going through the five step process for how to clean carpeted stairs every three to six months, depending on how much traffic you have in your home.

Dirty carpeted stairs

​Step One: Brush & Sweep ​Your Carpeted Stairs

You might be asking yourself why we don’t immediately turn to a vacuum cleaner. If you’re just doing a quick clean, then you’re probably going to want to skip ahead to step #2.

However, if you want to do a deep clean of your carpeted stairs, then brushing and sweeping is an important first step. Dirt and debris doesn’t just collect in your carpets – it also builds up on the sides of your stairs. It gets caught in the railings, on the wood or metal frame, and against the wall where the carpet meets.

  • On first thought, for learning how to clean carpeted stairs, you make grab your broom and sweep the stairs. While this is an effective method, you should also consider grabbing a handheld brush and getting a little closer to brush your stairs.
  • Using a brush like the Mother’s Carpet and Upholstery Brush allows you to have an up close and personal experience with your carpet.
  • Opt to kneel or sit on the stairs as you use light and quick hand movements to brush your carpeted stairs.
  • Also have a damp microfiber cloth on hand to wipe down the banister, baseboards or any visible parts of the stairs that is not carpeted.
Mothers 155901 Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning...
  • Tough bristles remove dirt and grime
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​The main goal for step 1 is loosen the dirt and dust particles on the stairs​, especially the ones that aren’t actually in the carpet (yet). ​

  1. Start by using a broom or a handheld brush to sweep the stairs. It is important to make sure the brush or broom you are using has strong bristles to penetrate and pull out the stubborn dirt.
  2. ​When you begin, start from the top stair and work your way down. When you start at the top, you naturally end up “pushing” the dirt down the stairs, rather than just stepping all over the stairs you just swept.
  3. Make sure that you are able to get into the corners and edges to pull away any dust or debris that is hiding. Continue to sweep down any large particles or dirt for easy cleanup at the bottom of the stairs.

You can use a vacuum attachment to penetrate the carpet and pull up the sunken in dirt. However, we recommend brushing or sweeping the stairs first, as this is best when learning how to clean carpeted stairs.

using broom to sweep carpeted stairs

Step Two: Vacuum ​Your Carpeted Stairs

Now that the dirt and dander is loose, you can vacuum the stairs more effectively. Again, start your vacuuming at the top and work down so that you are not having to walk back over the stairs after you have worked on them.

Choosing the Correct Vacuum for the Task

​Let’s talk about what type of vacuum to use for cleaning carpeted stairs. Using a standard upright vacuum will prove to be awkward and potentially harmful if the main part is unsteady. ​An upright vacuum is really not advised for cleaning stairs. Typically heavier and bulkier, an upright vacuum will be tough to maneuver up and down the stairs.

If you are cleaning more than two or three stairs then you will want to invest ​in a vacuum that is designed for cleaning stairs. Here are a few of the characteristics that make up the best vacuum for stairs:

  • ​2-in-1 vacuum that easily converts into a handheld option for the stairs
  • ​Lightweight, since you have to lug it up and down stairs consistently
  • ​Crevice tool, for pulling dirt out of the corners and railing
  • Brush tool, to agitate dirt that has been ground into your stairs
  • Cordless (if possible) for ease of cleaning

When vacuuming your carpeted stairs, make sure to use the an attachment that has the brush roll feature. ​Because of the pounding that a staircase takes from the up and down travel, dirt can really get embedded into your carpet. A brush roller will agitate the dirt, kicking it up and into the vacuum.

Some prefer to go with more of an all-around vacuum for cleaning stairs, because it will also be versatile enough to handle all of the other situations around their house.

​Learning how to clean carpeted stairs involves going over the heavily trafficked portions of the stairs multiple times with the vacuum. Also make sure that you are emptying the canister or making sure that the bag inside of the vacuum is not too full. Once there is a certain amount of debris inside of the dirt collecting cup/bag then the vacuum will lose some of its suction power.

Running the vacuum over You’d be surprised how much you’ll pick up on the second and third passes.

​Step Three: Steam Clean Your Carpeted Stairs

Steam cleaning is becoming a popular way to clean carpeting. This method uses steaming hot water to penetrate the carpet and dislodges dirt. The rapid force of the water blasts the dirt out of the carpet fibers. The steam vacuum then picks up the excess water and debris, leaving the carpeted area damp.

Benefits of Steam Cleaning

​Opting to steam clean your carpets is a great way to refresh them without having to get down and scrub. While steam cleaning can potentially be a hassle if you don’t own a carpet steam cleaner, here are a few reasons why you should consider renting or investing in one.

Steam cleaning has several benefits:

  • First, it is eco-friendly – there are zero chemicals involved.
  • ​Second, steam evaporates quickly, which is important when you are cleaning heavily trafficked areas like stairs. You don’t want to walk on carpet that is wet, as it will attract dirt. Steam cleaning dries fast so you avoid that problem.
  • ​Third, it works out stains, whereas just vacuuming alone won’t combat a previous stain.
  • Fourth, due to the heat level of steam, it kills 99.9% of common household allergens and illnesses. These include dust mites, E. coli, staph bacteria and salmonella.

While it is not very effective at removing stained patches or areas of heavy soil, steam cleaning is a great option for normal upkeep. It can also knock out mildew spores or mold in carpets. There is also a low risk of carpet discoloration that can come from some of the commercial products used in cleaning or shampooing.

If you prefer using steam to clean and have a couple of stubborn stains, then check this out for the best DIY cleaner for stubborn carpet stains. It can help give you a more concentrated steam clean, which might be necessary every couple of months on the stairs.

If you plan to steam clean your carpets more than once a year, then you should consider investing in a great steam cleaner instead of shelling out more money over time to rent one.

Even if you only plan on steam cleaning the carpets a few times a year, owning a steam cleaner allows you to steam clean multiple areas of your home and increase the frequency in which you steam clean carpets.

​Step Four: Shampoo Your Carpeted Stairs

Shampooing is a great option when you are choosing how to clean carpeted stairs by hand. This method takes longer but offers the same level of deep cleaning that a machine gives.

We recommend shampooing your carpeted stairs once every few months. Shampooing provides a deep cleaning, and helps to restore your carpet closer to its original condition.

Most commercial carpet shampoos are a foam that you work into the carpet. The foam works to loosen deep down dirt in the fibers so that it can be picked up by a vacuum. This product also offers a brightening agent to keep your carpets fibers clean and vibrant.

When you are shampooing your carpet by hand, make sure to have an extra towel or cloth to soak up the excess moisture from the carpet. If too much water is left in the carpet, it can cause damage and mildew to your carpeted area.

Once you have finished shampooing, the carpets will need a good twelve hours to dry. Try to limit foot traffic on the stairs while they are drying. Shampooing them at night is a good idea if you have a high traffic household. This allows them to dry for a good amount of time while everyone is sleeping.

Remember – you still need to vacuum again after shampooing.

​Step Five: Vacuum the Carpeted Stairs Again

Steam clean or shampoo – one ​or both is advised every few months. After you have completed your choice method of cleaning and the carpet has had an ample amount of time to dry, then you will want to vacuum the stairs again. This will pick up the newly released dirt that shampooing or steaming your carpets unlocked.

carpeted stairs in home

At this point, you might be noticing that not all vacuums are made for stairs… they can really present some challenges. You can always opt for a convenient, cord free cleaner for your stairs if you’re noticing the strain.

It’s important to make sure that you are emptying your vacuum between uses. If you allow the bag or debris cup to become too full, it will hinder your suction power. Also, the bag or bin if full to the max, the vacuum can actually eject some of the collected dirt back onto the floor, not to mention it can also begin to pick up some clogs due to the backing up in your dust collector cup and coils.

​Review of ​How to Clean Carpeted Stairs

​In a nutshell, here is what you want to do:

  1. Brush and Sweep – get rid of excess dirt.
  2. Vacuum – so that you aren’t scrubbing topsoil into your carpets.
  3. Steam Clean or Shampoo – either or, pick which one works best for you.
  4. Vacuum again – pick up newly loosened dirt and restore the carpets soft texture.

​How to Maintain your Carpeted Stairs

You should strive to vacuum heavy foot traffic area carpets and stairs every few days to cut down on accumulating debris and dirt. While it can seem like an extraneous purchase, having a second vacuum that is specifically designed for cleaning stairs can save you a lot of hassle. Or, ensure that your primary vacuum has a feature specifically designed for stairs.

How Often Should you Clean your Carpeted Stairs – Quick Review

​Strive to run the vacuum over your stairs once a week for high traffic households. If you don’t have a lot of people going up and down the stairs then you can plan to vacuum them once or twice a month.

Doing a deep clean like a shampooing or steaming once every 2-3 months.

Should you Shampoo or Steam your Carpets?

​It is a good idea to shampoo or steam your carpets ​every few months to keep them looking fresh and clean​. Try both steam cleaning and shampooing to find which you like best. Also, it’s not uncommon to alternate between both.

Steam cleaning is a tough yet gentle way to clean your carpets without adding in any chemicals or having you scrub. Shampooing your carpets is a great way to lift stains, but isn’t always an easy task.

Alternating your carpet cleaning method lets you really deep clean your carpet each time. What one method won’t pick up, the other will next time you clean. It also makes sure you​ prevent parasite infestations such as carpet beetles.

If you do not own a wet/dry vacuum then you can rent one from your local grocery store. Remember, you will save a lot of money if you go ahead and invest in a good carpet cleaning vacuum versus constantly renting one. Owning a good steam cleaner opens more ways for you to clean around your home.


Learning how to clean your carpeted stairs and maintaining them can seem like a big task to take on. However, once you learn how to do it and create a routine for revisiting cleaning your stairs then it can become much easier. Also having the right tools on hand like a vacuum cleaner that is made for stairs can make this arduous task a little easier.

Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.