How to clean a carpet without a machine – 6 tricks for a simple spruce-up

Carpet cleaning machines can be expensive and bulky, here’s how to clean up your carpet without one

Carpeted master bedroom, armchairs
(Image credit: Sarah Kaye Representation)

Carpets and rugs need cleaning at least once a year to keep them fresh and remove odors and stains. If you don't have a large carpet cleaning machine, however, this can be tricky – especially if you are not able to hire one either. 

Although truly deep cleaning a carpet is best achieved with a machine and carpet shampoo, there are six ways you can keep on top of clean carpets that don't involve lugging a heavy appliance around your home. 

Here is what the experts would do if stuck without a carpet cleaning machine.  

How to clean a carpet without a machine  

Although there are several ways of cleaning a carpet without a machine, not all of them work for every situation, says Parveen Garg, cleaning expert and manager at OlaClean: ‘Which method you choose will depend on the severity of the stain and the type of carpet you have. If you are unsure which method to use, it is always best to consult a professional cleaner.'

Parveen Garg
Parveen Garg

Parveen Garg is a dedicated and experienced Manager in the cleaning business, specializing in leveraging my extensive knowledge of cleaning practices and products to ensure exceptional cleanliness solutions. With 4 years of experience, he possesses a deep understanding of the industry and excels at leading teams to deliver outstanding results.

1. Deodorize and refresh with baking soda

A container of baking soda beside a scrubbing brush

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cleaning a carpet with baking soda is an old trick that can help lift odors and absorb wet spots. When stuck without a machine, this is a great way to stay on top of your regular cleaning, says Will Cotter, cleaning expert and owner of HappyCleans.

‘Sprinkle baking soda over the carpet, let it sit for a few hours or overnight, and then vacuum it up to absorb odors and refresh the fibers,’ he recommends. ‘It is effective in cleaning carpets due to its absorbent qualities and odor-neutralizing properties. Also, its mild abrasiveness allows it to gently scrub away grime without damaging the fibers, and its alkaline pH can help neutralize acidic stains.’

2. Lift grease stains with salt

A white bowl of salt with a spoon

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Although this common condiment may not be the first thing you reach for to clean your home, cleaning with salt can be an effective way to remove grease stains from carpet fibers, reveals Angela Rubin, professional cleaner from Hellamaid.

‘For tackling grease and oil stains, mix equal parts salt and borax and rub the mixture into the stained area. Allow it to sit for a few hours before vacuuming. Borax is a natural cleaner that can effectively break down and lift stains from the fibers.’

3. Tackle tough stains with enzymes

Cream textured carpet in modern living room, built in wooden seating with green cushions, black round coffee table, plants and books

(Image credit: Kersaint Cobb)

Although not the gentlest cleaning solution, enzyme-based cleaners, commonly used for pet stains, can also work wonders on other organic stains, Angela Rubin, cleaning expert, continues.

‘Commonly used to help clean mattresses, these cleaners break down proteins and other organic matter, effectively removing stains and odors – just be sure to wear gloves when working with them to protect your skin, and ventilate the area.’ 

4. Use vinegar or hydrogen peroxide for spot cleaning

An amber glass bottle surrounded byy lemons, baking soda and scrubbing brushes

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We will never get tired of cleaning with vinegar, and it is a great solution for spot-cleaning carpets. 

Will Cotter, cleaning expert, suggests mixing equal parts white vinegar and water and spraying on the stain.

'Let it sit, and then blot with a clean cloth,' he advises. 'Aside from being a mild antibacterial and having antifungal properties, which can help stop the growth of bacteria and mold in the carpet fibers, vinegar can dissolve residues left behind by soap or detergent residues from previous cleanings too, in case you have overdone it or used the wrong detergent,’ he assures. ‘This helps to prevent the accumulation of residue that can attract dirt over time.’

You can also clean with hydrogen peroxide if you are looking for a slightly gentler approach, Will continues. ‘Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful oxidizing agent, meaning it can break down and dissolve organic compounds, stains, and odors on a molecular level. For tough stains like blood, apply hydrogen peroxide (3%) to the stain, let it fizz, and then blot.’ 

5. Consider a steam cleaner

Someone using a steam cleaner on couch cushions

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If you haven't got a carpet cleaning machine because of their price, single-use, or bulkiness, then the best steam cleaner or steam mop could be a better alternative that has multiple uses around the home, making them a more worthy investment. 

‘A steam cleaner can be used to clean carpets without using chemicals. Steam cleaners work by using hot steam to loosen dirt and grime, and they don't leave your carpets soaking wet afterward either,’ says cleaning expert, Parveen Garg. ‘Just be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions when using a steam cleaner to prevent damage to your household furnishings, or yourself.’

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6. Resort to hand cleaning

Someone scrubbing the carpet with a brush

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Although a cleaning tip no one wants to hear, if you need to clean large areas of carpet without a machine, it is often best to hand scrub, Will Cotter, cleaning expert, says. 

‘I recommend using a soft-bristle brush to gently scrub the carpet in circular motions, focusing on high-traffic areas and stains. After using cleaning solutions, rinse the area with clean water to remove any residue.’


What soaks up water in a carpet?

If you have a wet carpet but not a carpet machine to suck it out, resort to using clean dry towels pressed down over the area to help absorb some of the excess liquid. Alternatively, use baking soda, sprinkled evenly over the wet spot, to help absorb some moisture, allowing the soda itself to dry a little before vacuuming it up.
You can then also leave windows open on hot days to allow the water to dry naturally, or use a dehumidifier to help suck some of the moisture out of the space allowing it to dry more quickly. 

What liquid can I use to clean carpet?

The best liquid to clean a carpet with is water, with a little added carpet shampoo or detergent if needed. There is often no need for anything harsher than this, as it could damage the carpet or rug, or make the problem worse. Just be sure to only use detergent designed for use on carpets, rather than dish detergent or laundry detergent, as this may damage the carpet fibers or cause excess bubbles that are hard to remove.  

When cleaning a carpet without a machine, we are left without any means of sucking up moisture afterward. It is, therefore, vital that you employ good drying techniques to prevent mold growth and musty odors, reminds cleaning expert, Will Cotter.
‘Either lay clean towels in the damp areas to absorb excess moisture after cleaning, or use fans and open windows to facilitate faster drying and keep foot traffic to a minimum while the carpet is drying to prevent dirt from being transferred.’ 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.