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How to Disinfect and Sanitize Carpet Without a Steam Cleaner

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How to Sanitize and Disinfect Carpet Without a Steam Cleaner

When they’re well maintained, carpets can add a sense of warmth and comfort to a home that is much more difficult to achieve with hardwood or vinyl flooring. Lots of people opt to lay carpets in living spaces and bedrooms. The carpet is comfortable to walk on and can really transform a space that might once have looked dark and cold.

But, carpets do require a good amount of upkeep, and many people aren’t aware of quite how much dirt and bacteria could be hiding in their carpets. They also are not familiar with how to disinfect and sanitize carpet without a steam cleaner.

If a carpet is not cleaned frequently and effectively, mold, stains, and dirt particles can all make their way down to the base of the carpet, particularly in areas of high traffic or where furniture is often being moved around. This makes the carpet much more difficult to clean and can lead to unpleasant odors, discoloration, and damage to the fibers of the carpet.

When steam cleaned, dirt particles are lifted and bacteria are killed as the steam penetrates the carpet. Any dirt is then removed and sucked up into the steamers disposal cartridge. This is an effective way of cleaning carpets, but it’s not without its limitations, and there might be a better option for you.

Here, we are going to talk you through why steam cleaning might not be the best cleaning method, before outlining how to sanitize and disinfect carpet without a steam cleaner.

Related: 15 Carpet Cleaning Hacks

How to Disinfect and Sanitize Carpet Without a Steam Cleaner

The method we’re going to detail below is cost-effective, straightforward, and requires no harsh chemicals or toxins.

You’re going to need to put in some hard work if you want to get your carpets looking and smelling as clean as if they had just been professionally steam cleaned, but it is absolutely possible and is likely to be extremely rewarding!

The great news is, that once you’ve completed this initial deep clean, some basic maintenance steps should enable you to keep your carpets sanitized and fresh for an extended period of time before you’ll need to repeat this process.

It’s important you follow each of the steps listed below carefully and accurately to avoid damaging the carpet or leaving it with excessive moisture after cleaning.

Equipment

  • Two Cloths – Any clean, washable cloths will do fine, although microfiber cloths tend to be most effective when it comes to picking up dirt and dust particles.
  • Brush – Choose a bristle brush that’s not too stiff if possible, it’s best to go for a brush with rubber or plastic bristles over wire bristles. These are less likely to damage or tear the carpet fibers but will still effectively loosen any stubborn dirt or stains.
ImageProductOur RatingPrice
Chemical Guys ACCG25 Induro 7 Heavy Duty Carpet/Upholstery BrushChemical Guys ACCG25 Induro 7 Heavy Duty Carpet/Upholstery Brush
  • Rugged and durable stiff bristles break up stains, dirt, and debris
  • Versatile for use on any upholstery or carpet in the car, home, office, and more
  • Chemical resistant brush works well with carpet cleaners
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Mothers Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning BrushMothers Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning Brush
  • Tough bristles remove dirt and grime
  • Contoured, comfortable design
  • Extremely durable
9.6
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Best Value
Amazer Comfort Grip & Flexible Stiff Bristles Heavy Duty Scrub Brush
Amazer Comfort Grip & Flexible Stiff Bristles Heavy Duty Scrub Brush
  • Quality & durable bristles that air dries quickly
  • Ergonomically shaped handle makes it easy to apply pressure as you scrub without straining 
  • Can be used for hard and soft scrubbing on all surface types such as tubs, tile walls, carpet and floors
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  • Bucket – The bucket doesn’t need to be too big. A regular household bucket will do the job; just make sure it’s thoroughly cleaned first.
  • Water – Regular or distilled water will both work well.
  • White Vinegar White Vinegar is an excellent multi-use product and will effectively remove odors, stains, and bacteria from your carpet.
  • Baking Soda – Again, Baking Soda is a great multi-purpose cleaning agent to have on hand. It is especially effective when it comes to sanitizing and deodorizing carpets and household fabrics.
  • Dish Soap – Your regular dish soap should work fine here! Just make sure it has no artificial colorings to avoid dying the carpet. There is a huge range of excellent chemical-free, non-toxic dish soaps available, which are much safer to use within your home and won’t leave any unwanted marks or residues on your carpet.
ImageProductOur RatingPrice
Most Versatile
Dr. Bronner’s - Pure-Castile Liquid Soap (Peppermint)
Dr. Bronner’s - Pure-Castile Liquid Soap (Peppermint)
  • Concentrated, plant-based, fully biodegradable & use all-natural, vegan ingredients 
  • Our products & ingredients are cruelty-free, over 70% of ingredients are certified fair trade, over 90% are organic
  • No synthetic preservatives, thickeners, or foaming agents

 

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Eco Me Dish SoapEco Me Dish Soap
  • Fragrance-free dish soap quickly cuts through dirt, grease, and grime leaving dishes sparkling clean without a filmy residue
  • Packed with natural plant extracts and all-natural plant-derived ingredients
  • Chemical-free containing all-natural antibacterial properties so that you don't have to sacrifice sanitation for the environment and greywater and septic safe to protect aquatic life
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Better Life Sulfate Free Dish Soap (Pomegranate)Better Life Sulfate Free Dish Soap (Pomegranate)
  • Plant-based cleaning ingredients like corn and coconut and scented with pomegranate and grapefruit extracts
  • Natural, hypoallergenic that cuts through grease without sulfates
  • Cruelty-Free: BETTER LIFE is a Leaping Bunny Certified company that never tests on animals.
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  • Vacuum – The final piece of equipment you will need is a vacuum. Your regular vacuum will work just fine, so long as it is compatible with your carpet type and in full working order!

Method

Step 1: Pre-Clean

It’s important that you start off with a clean and empty space. Remove all furniture or items sitting on your carpet and try to keep the area out of use throughout the cleaning process. Any weight or pressure that is applied to the carpet throughout the deep-clean will cause dirt and moisture to become more deeply embedded into the base of the carpet.

Give the carpet a preliminary vacuum to remove any surface-level dust or dirt particles. After this, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda evenly over the surface of the carpet. Allow this to soak in for 5 to 10 minutes.

Step 2: Prepare Your Cleaning Solution

While the baking soda is soaking in, you’ll need to mix your sanitizing solution. To do this, combine equal parts cool water, dish soap, and white vinegar in your bucket. Give this a good mix until you have a foamy consistency.

The amount of solution you will need to prepare will depend on the size of the carpet you are looking to sanitize and it’s level of soiling. We suggest making around 1 liter, to begin with, and mixing more as you go if necessary to avoid product wastage.

Step 3: Soak the Carpet

Next, take one of your clean cloths and rinse it in the cleaning solution. Apply this to the carpet, being careful not to over-saturate or add too much moisture, as this will make it much harder to thoroughly dry the carpet fibers later which could lead to mildew growth and unpleasant smells.

You might find it easiest to work in small sections to avoid walking over the damp carpet. Apply the solution to a section of the carpet and then move on to the next step before returning to this step for the next section of the carpet.

It is also a good idea to test out your cleaning solution on a small section of the carpet that isn’t visible if possible. This will let you know that the dish soap and white vinegar combination is compatible with your carpet type. Some dish soaps may cause the color in your carpet to lift or darken, so always test it out first to be safe.

Step 4: Scrub the Carpet

Taking the bristled brush, gently scrub the solution into the carpet. Try to work right into the base layers without damaging the fibers. If you have had furniture sitting on the carpet for a long time, you might find that some areas have become flattened or worn. By using a brush, you should be able to loosen these fibers and restore their fluffiness.

Stubborn stains may require more time and elbow grease to remove. If necessary, add a little more solution to the affected area and continue scrubbing. But, again, ensure you don’t over-saturate the carpet, it is always best to start with a little and add more if needed.

Related: How to Get Nail Polish Out of Carpet

Step 5: Rinse the Carpet

Now, take a clean cloth that has been saturated in warm water and go back over the area of carpet you have just scrubbed. The cloth should be damp but not wet so that you can effectively remove the remaining cleaning solution from the carpet.

You might need to squeeze the cloth out multiple times and go back in to remove any excess moisture. Try to leave the carpet as dry as possible at this stage.

Step 6: Allow the Carpet to Dry

Arguably the most important step when it comes to disinfecting carpets, you must ensure that the carpet is able to dry efficiently and thoroughly.

If the carpet is left too wet and cannot fully dry, you will see an increase in mold and bacteria growth which will result in unpleasant odors being emitted from your carpet and lasting damage to the carpet fibers.

Related: My Shampooed Carpet Now Smells Musty. What Should I Do?

Allow plenty of ventilation to pass through the space; leaving doors and windows open is the best way to do this. You can also use a fan or dehumidifier to speed up the process.

ImageProductOur RatingPrice
Top Choice
Kesnos 70 Pint Dehumidifier
Kesnos 70 Pint Dehumidifier
  • Able to handle removing moisture in large spaces, up to 4500 Sq Ft 
  • Easy to move around with 360° easy-roll wheels, runs quietly easy to use digital display
  • 30-days money-back and 1 year warranties
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hOmeLabs Dehumidifier
hOmeLabs Dehumidifier
  • Portable dehumidifier reduces moisture through its built-in pump compressory
  • Use in medium to large rooms and basements, up to 1,500 sq. ft
  • Energy Star
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Honeywell Energy Star DehumidifierHoneywell Energy Star Dehumidifier
  • Use in medium to large rooms
  • Energy Star qualified, various modes including auto-restart after power outage
  • Easy to move around, empty and includes washable filter
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Step 7: Vacuum to Finish

Finally, once the carpet is thoroughly dried, go back in with your vacuum cleaner to remove any loose fibers and give it a final refresh.

It is vital that you only vacuum once you are absolutely sure that the carpet is dry. Vacuuming wet carpet could be dangerous and is likely to cause pulling and tearing of the fibers.

Related: The Best Hand Held Steam Cleaner for Grout

Why Steam Cleaning Isn’t Always the Best Option

Steam cleaning can be effective when done well and with high-quality equipment, but it’s also typically pretty expensive.

There are a huge number of steam cleaners on the market with lots of variation in terms of price. It can be difficult to know which ones will be worth the money and which ones won’t (some of our recommendations are below).

ImageProductOur RatingPrice
Top Choice
Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Max Clean Pet Pro Full-Size Carpet Cleaner
Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Max Clean Pet Pro Full-Size Carpet Cleaner
  • Engineered to be powerful for the toughest pet stains and odors even removes skunk odor
  • Express clean mode can dry carpets in about 30 minutes
  • Lightweight design can be used on upholstery, low-profile foot for maneuverability
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Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet CleanerHoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner
  • Powerful cleaning on toughest messes
  • HeatForce for faster drying
  • Lightweight & compact design for efficient cleaning and storage
9.5
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Great Value
BISSELL Turboclean Powerbrush Pet Upright Carpet Cleaner
BISSELL Turboclean Powerbrush Pet Upright Carpet Cleaner
  • Clean powerfully, four-row dirt lifter power brush and powerful suction
  • Quickly cleans spots and stains
  • Lightweight & easy-to-use
9.5
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Using a low-quality steam cleaner is likely to mean that dirt is not fully extracted from the carpet and moisture is not removed adequately which could lead to dampness at the base of the carpet and the growth of new mold and mildew, leaving your carpet even dirtier than before you cleaned it!

For a good-quality, effective steam cleaner, you could be looking at spending upwards of $300. For lots of people, this simply isn’t viable.

Related: Cleaning vs. Disinfecting vs. Sanitizing: What’s the Difference?

Alternative Method to Sanitize Carpet Without a Steam Cleaner – Hire a Professional

Hiring a professional to deep-clean your carpet might be a good option for you. A professional carpet cleaner should be able to thoroughly sanitize your carpet and remove enough residual moisture to prevent subsequent bacteria growth.

But again, this is likely to be expensive. This is a skilled job that requires the use of specialist equipment, so carpet cleaners will be charging for their time and manual labor, as well as the products and equipment, used. As we’ve said, these high costs are simply not within the budgets of lots of homeowners.

Professional carpet cleaners may also work with harsh chemical cleaning agents that could contain toxins and be harmful to you and any other people or pets in your household. If you do opt to go down the professional route, be sure to check this out with them first.

Maintaining a Clean, Sanitized Carpet

Once your carpet has been deep cleaned, maintaining it is pretty straightforward.

Firstly, your carpet should be vacuumed regularly. For most people, once a week is enough, but this will vary depending on your household and the level of footfall.

ImageProductOur RatingPrice
Top Choice
Shark NV356E S2 Navigator Lift-Away Professional Upright Vacuum
Shark NV356E S2 Navigator Lift-Away Professional Upright Vacuum
  • Large dust cup capacity with lift away functionality to easily clean hard to reach areas
  • Anti-allergen complete seal technology plus a HEPA filter that traps 99.9 percent of dust and allergens
  • Powerful and lightweight, brush roll shutoff, deep carpet, and gentle bare floor cleaning
9.8
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BISSELL 2252 CleanView Swivel Upright Bagless VacuumBISSELL 2252 CleanView Swivel Upright Bagless Vacuum
  • Powerful pet hair pick up with triple action brush roll with scatter free technology
  • Swivel steering to easily maneuver around furniture and other obstacles
  • Clean edges and corners with edge-to-edge cleaning 
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Best Value
eureka NEU182A PowerSpeed Bagless Upright Vacuum
eureka NEU182A PowerSpeed Bagless Upright Vacuum
  • Powerful vacuum cleaner with 5 height adjustments and XL dust cup
  • Smooth wheels ensure hardwood floors won’t sustain scratches or gouges
  • Multiple accessories are included to extract dirt, pet hair, freshen up your car, curtains, ceilings, or door frames
9.6
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You can also go in every few weeks or so with some baking soda to re-fresh and disinfect the carpet. Just sprinkle this all over the carpet, allow to soak in for several hours, and then vacuum off as usual. This will remove any odors and bacteria.

Related: How to Deodorize Carpet: 5 Safe and Natural Methods

It’s also really important that any spills are cleaned up as soon as possible. Not only will this prevent staining and permanent discoloration of the carpet, but it will also reduce the risk of bacteria growth leading to unpleasant smells being emitted from your carpet.

Making your own DIY carpet freshener is also a good idea. Simply mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a clean spray bottle and add a few drops of your favorite essential oils. Lemon, Jasmine, and Lavender all work great. The white vinegar and essential oils have antibacterial and odor neutralizing properties. Spray this all over your carpet and then allow plenty of ventilation so that the carpet dries fully before being walked on again.

Finally, you will probably need to repeat the deep cleaning process every two to three months, but again, this will depend entirely on your household and your own specific preferences. By staying on top of the maintenance, however, you can significantly reduce the need for regular deep-cleaning of the carpet without compromising on cleanliness.

Final Thoughts on How to Disinfect and Sanitize Carpet Without a Steam Cleaner

By following the steps listed in this article on How to Disinfect and Sanitize Carpet Without a Steam Cleaner, you can sanitize carpet without a steam cleaner in no time, without the need for any harmful chemical cleaning agents or expensive steam cleaning equipment.

Related: Carpet Odor Removal: The Best Natural Carpet Deodorizers

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