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Spring Cleaning : Carpet Cleaning (2 Ways to DIY)

Clean Your Carpet - 2 Ways to DIY via Clean Mama

If you could only do one Spring Cleaning task, what would it be?  Having the carpets cleaned (whether it’s done by me or by a pro) is my top priority for spring cleaning.  With children, pets and those random spills and drips, our carpets can take quite a beating.  It doesn’t have to be difficult to remove stubborn spots and giving our carpets a little refresh.

How about mixing up our own carpet cleaners – one for the SPOTS and one for general, ALL OVER carpet cleaning.

I like to start by tackling the individual spots and stains first, followed by a general carpet cleaning. The first step is to mark just what needs attention and take care of a little spot treatment. Be sure to do this in the daylight hours so you don’t miss anything.  I like to walk around with little Post-It notes to mark the spots.

Use a Post-It Note to Mark Stains On Your Carpet via Clean Mama

After you have marked what needs some individual attention and spot treatment, it’s time to get out the cleaners. Really, the ingredient list doesn’t get much easier and is two things you probably already have on hand: white vinegar and baking soda.

All You Need Are 2 Ingredients to DIY Your Own Clean Carpets via Clean Mama

The key to this cleaner is to apply the two in the correct order: vinegar followed by baking soda. Pour a small amount of vinegar on the stain, followed by a sprinkle of baking soda. The vinegar works to saturate and soften up the offending mark while the baking soda does the lifting and deodorizing. Together, they bubble a little and work as a team to lift the stain to the surface. If you have a minor stain you can just leave the mixture until it dries and vacuum it up, or you can let it sit for 30 minutes or so and rub or blot up the stain with a damp cloth if if’s a little more of a stubborn stain.  Let it dry thoroughly and then vacuum. That’s it! I have found this concoction to work wonders on all sorts of stains, from pet to food and goodness-knows-what.

Step by Step Carpet Stain Removal via Clean Mama

After spot-treating and vacuuming up the residue, it’s time to freshen up your carpets with an all-over cleaner. Again, this is simple: vinegar is the only (yes, only!) ingredient besides water. You may want to check out your local big box store for an economy size jug of vinegar since you will be using a fair amount of it.  Our local Costco carries a 1.32 gallon jug of white vinegar for under four dollars. Can’t beat the price!

I have the BISSELL Pro-Cleaner steam cleaner and love it.  It works perfectly for area rugs, the stairs, and hallways, as well as tackling a room or even the whole house. If you need to get your whole home done in one day, professional carpet cleaning is always an option, but I love this cleaner and method to fluff up and deodorize our carpets. The beauty of vinegar is that it leaves no residue behind and brightens and removes light staining or discoloration like a champ. Unfortunately, a lot of commercial cleaners leave a tacky or sticky residue on carpet fibers that attract more dirt and dust and make all your hard work pointless.

Mix equal parts hot water and vinegar and pour in your carpet cleaner’s reservoir tank.  Clean your carpets as per your cleaner’s instructions. Yes, vinegar might leave a temporary pickle smell in your home but it dissipates and disappears as your carpets dry.  I can’t take credit for this concoction – it was my professional carpet cleaner that let me in on this little-known secret concoction.

It doesn’t get much easier to clean your carpets than that!  Two household ingredients are all it takes to freshen, brighten and clean your carpets.

To get a version of this recipe and many more amazing cleaning recipes, tips, and tricks, check out my book, The Organically Clean Home.

The Organically Clean Home - Clean Mama

This post is part of a spring cleaning series – go here to see all the posts.

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  1. amy mcclatchy says:

    good morning! It’s early and I haven’t had my coffee yet so I need tiny bit of clarification. I have two reservoirs on my steam cleaner – one where the water goes and one where the cleaner goes and the machine mixes them together. Do I put the vinegar and water together where I put the water or should I put the vinegar where the cleaning solution would normally go and let the machine mix them?

    Thanks so much and love your blog:)

    • Hi Amy!
      Mix one part water and one part white vinegar where the cleaner would normally go. Put water in the water spot too :)
      xo, Becky

  2. For the carpet cleaner you mention mixing equal parts in the reservoir of the machine. Then it will be diluted more when placed on the carpet since it will be mixed with the water when it is put on the carpet, right? Would it be better to just put all vinegar in the detergent area and then it will dilute when it is put on the carpet? Or does you machine have the option to just use only the stuff in the detergent reservoir and rinse later? Thanks!

    • Hi L Bray!
      Just mix one part water and one part white vinegar where the detergent would go. Put water where you’d normally put water for the rinse.
      xo, becky

  3. That’s fantastic!!!!! Thank you for sharing!!

  4. For years I been ‘rinsing’ my carpets with the 1:1 vinegar mixture after cleaning with carpet cleaner. I found this removed the carpet cleaner residue. Thank you for letting me know I the vinegar mixture is enough!

    Love your website. Thank you for your helpful ideas.

  5. So I only read the 4 step spot removal instructions with pictures & spot treated our carpets as you said, before my husband went ahead & cleaned all over with our normal cleaner. I now have bleached white spots all over the off-white carpets where I spot treated! Very disappointing! Would using the vinegar & water mix all over as you suggested in the rest of the instructions have prevented this? Could it fix the problem now? I have to go rent another carpet cleaner to redo but if it would fix the bleach spots it could save a couple hundred in rent deposit…..

    • The vinegar and baking powder will not bleach your carpet. I am guessing that you might have an abundance of baking soda still on/in your carpet. Probably from not letting it dry and going over it with the carpet cleaner(?). Try plain, lukewarm water on a rag to get that up from your carpet. Let it dry and vacuum with your vacuum cleaner. Hope this helps! xo, Becky

      • Thank you for this question Brandi and THANK YOU for response. I decide to spot clean all over the house and all over off white carpeting ( wall to wall) and followed directions ( vinegar first then baking soda _ it ‘s cool how it bubbles and foams and let it dry and then vacuumed. My husband came home to white spots all over the house was on the phone with carpet cleaners and possible installers to replace. I tried getting a brush and rubbing it out and more vacuuming- nothing. I ruined the whole upstairs even my little 7 year old said thanks a lot. Then i saw this post – got a white thin towel and ran it under water- squeezed out excess water and went to town rubbing each and every spot and whew! it was disappearing. I may need to go back again but we thought we were out thousands of dollars and I thought I bleached out the white rugs but it was just baking soda residue that gets down deep.

      • Do you have advice on using vinegar cleaning with. Kirby?

        • Race Anne, you can use the same water/vinegar mix in the Kirby. I have for years. I suggest spot cleaning as mentioned here, then spray in sections the whole area you want to clean with water/vinegar mix followed by sprinkling baking soda over the same area. Fill the cleaner attachment tank on the machine with the water/vinegar mix. By the time you start using the machine on the first section, it should have done it’s job and be ready for the rinse.

          Definitely want a nice powdery shower of baking soda to avoid the white blotches. Suggest using a parmesan cheese shaker like the ones they have on tables at restaurants. A reused dry parmesan cheese container is what I typically use, but the clumps that come through the holes are still too large.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Thanks so much for these tips. Carpet cleaning is on my to do list today. Good think I have lots of vinegar and baking soda. Can’t wait to try this.

  7. When spot cleaning, how long do you recommend leaving the mixture on your carpet before wiping up?

    • Let it bubble up and you can let it dry and vacuum after about 24 hours or you can wipe it up with a damp cloth too after you see the bubbling stop and the stain appears in the baking soda.

  8. Aloha Becky, Thanks for posting all your helpful detailed comments about using vinegar and baking soda.
    My carpets have old pet urine stains that I didn’t remove properly and it left a slight ‘stinky’ smell in our home. I bought the Bissell steam cleander similar to what you have. I’ve contacted Bissell and reviewed tips on their website and they instructed me to do these steps as follows:
    1) water rinse first to rid other methods/cleaners that I used before
    2) pretreat spots with their pretreat formulas; place damp cloth over to let enzymes work better
    3) shampoo carpet with their shampoo
    4) water rinse again to remove shampoo residue; dry carpet well

    I noticed it still had a slight ‘stinky’ smell . . . so I ‘over-sprinkled’ the carpet with baking soda thinking that a little more will definitely take away the smell. I then vaccumed as much baking soda as I could with my ‘vaccum cleaner'; however, those areas felt a little ‘tacky’ like it would be a magnet for dirt. I ‘water rinsed’ those areas again and it still feels very little ‘tacky’.

    Do you think your half vinegar / half water mixture put into the ‘detergent area’ of the Bissell carpet cleaner which will mix with the water tank . . . will help take away the very little ‘tacky’ feeling?? Should I water rinse first before doing that?? Or should I water rinse after that . . . or don’t need to water rinse at all??

    I’m having guests come over within 2 weeks and want to take care of this problem. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


    • I would rinse first and then try the vinegar/water combination – good luck!

      • Thanks Becky for the quick response . . . I’ll try the water rinse again and then the vinegar/water combination. Do you think I can do the vinegar/water combination right after I do the water rinse??

        Or do I need to let it dry first and then do the vinegar/water?

        I look forward to your suggestion again.


        • I think I’d let it thoroughly dry and then assess the situation and decide if the vinegar/water is necessary.

          • Thanks Becky for the quick response and GREAT suggestion . . . I’ll try water rinsing only first, let it dry thoroughly and then assess the situation to see if the vinegar/water is necessary.
            Thanks again for your time.

  9. Becky,

    Do you think this carpet cleaning method would work on furniture as well?

  10. wow — I was so impressed with how well this worked! We are moving into an older home that had lots of really yucky dark spots on the beige carpeting in the den. I spent some time today using the spot-treating method (haven’t done the steam cleaning yet) and was amazed at how much better it looks! Most stains came out and the rest are at least significantly faded. So great to be able to clean with healthy, cheap ingredients!

  11. maria Killeen says:

    Hi, can you advise If this will work on a mattress stain, my dog was unwell and urinated on the spare mattress, have used varies cleaners and you can still see a stain

  12. Heather Venezia says:

    I used Bissell shampoos in our carpet cleaner and now the carpet is sticky. Water rinsed with only water 3 times letting it dry in between each time. It’s better but still sticky. Our machine has a clean water tank and a detergent tank. Do you think water rinsing with vinegar as above will help break down and remove the residue? I think a 1:1 ratio in the tiny detergent tank only might not be enough? Also, should the heat option on the machine be turned on or not?

    • I have a Bissell carpet cleaner – probably the same one. I would rinse just with water until it isn’t sticky anymore and definitely use the heat option.

      • Heather Venezia says:

        I’ve already done that 3 times. I need advice about the vinegar (see my questions above) before proceeding. If I’m reading this correctly it might save me many hours of effort.

        • Hi Heather! Yes, I saw that in your question, but I don’t think adding vinegar to the water will necessarily help break down the solution, it’ll just add more to your ‘mess’. That was why I suggested getting it thoroughly rinsed out. The vinegar won’t hurt, but it won’t necessarily speed up the process.
          xo, Becky

  13. Vinegar and baking soda! My cleaning superheros! If someone has not try it yet..Do it!

  14. What if its not bubbling at all? Does that mean I put to much baking soda?

  15. I want to assure the other readers that this carpet cleaner really works! I tried it and I really like the final result!

  16. I read another site that recommended pouring vinegar around outer edges of old dried pet urine stain. & then soaking stain with vinegar followed by lightly sprinkling baking soda on area. I was a little heavy on the sprinkling! ( it did bubble) It recommended placing paper towel over it for 24 hr to let it dry, then vacuum. I did & it looks bleached !
    I then read your blog & a few storie’s. I tried a wet towel to soak up any left over baking soda, let it dry & vac again. Still looks bleached ! Any suggestions ?
    Please help ! Sue

    • I forgot to mention, I was a little nervous pouring strait vinegar on only, so I sprayed diluted vinegar/ water solution on rest of stain to saturate. Then sprinkled baking soda. It did bubble . I noticed though only a slight yellow stain on paper towel next day when I lifted it & baking soda was still white. It didn’t absorb the stain. Sue

      • Hi Becky, do you think I should Start over again, with straight vinegar & sprinkle of baking soda? worried I have ruined this carpet.
        Thanks, Sue

  17. Vinegar and baking soda are amazing cleaners! I don’t know why people use so many chemicals when there are natural ways of cleaning that work great!

  18. Thank you for the tips, it’s really helpful to me. Now I know how to clean my carpet in a simple way. I appreciate it. Well done.

  19. Its amazing how much money we pour into the high marketing products that are on the store shelves, when we should ask our grandmothers for advise on what they used back in the day for cleaning

  20. Watch the price of vinegar sky-rocket! I had read another blog on using vinegar in a front loader washing machine to get rid of and control the mold. Works great and softens the clothes. So many good uses for vinegar! The companies will hear about this and have an “aha” moment – LOL.

  21. I used a carpet cleaner on my off white carpet and when it dried there was orangish spots all over my carpet I tried just water rinsing and they are still there after the carpet dried. Will the vinegar and baking soda help remove these spots

  22. If I used my carpet cleaner with full strength vinegar on my heavy traffic area, then sprinkle the baking soda on it. Will the results come out the same once I let it sit over night and vacuum?

  23. Jane Thelaner says:

    Found this article on Pinterest and it’s very timely! We recently moved into a home with lots of carpet and had it cleaned when we moved in…$$$. I’ll want to clean it again soon and would like to try your method and invest in the Bissell cleaner which will quickly pay for itself. There are so many types…would you be able to recommend a model number? Thanks so much!

  24. Hi Becky.

    I am looking for some help. Have a serious carpet problem. The carpet is a berber that is about 15 yrs old. I was
    unable to clean for about a year and I did decide to preteat an use my hoover steam machine(1993 purchase). Now I have dirt streaks through all the high traffic areas. I tried vinegar and it left orange streaks which I was able to remove with a cold rinse. Can the carpet be saved? What steps should I follow. I have ordered the Bissel Green Machine from Amazon and expect it on Wednesday.

  25. In addition to buying my white vinegar at the large box store (Sam’s), I also bought a 13.5# of baking soda. I use a “bit” of baking soda for lots of cleaning, as well as home-made deodorant/anti-perspirant. Regular commercial deodorants made me break out and the more natural ones did not work for me. Thank you for all your tips. . .I’ve been switching to more eco-friendly and healthier cleaners, etc., for over 20 years–have learned a lot over the past 2 decades and continue to learn more. . .even at my age (retired). :)

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