How to steam clean carpet – 3 floor care tips from the experts

Learn how to steam clean carpets to get deeper into the fibers of your floor, and find out whether your carpet is safe and suitable.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing how to steam clean carpet will turn your appliance, traditionally a hard floor cleaner, into something that can tackle a whole house.

While regular cleaning with one of the best vacuums will prevent buildups of dust, dirt, and debris, your carpet deserves a deeper clean every once in a while. This is where your steam cleaner can help.

It's best to use caution here, so we've consulted the experts to determine which carpets are suitable and the best approach.

How to steam clean carpet

Learn exactly how to steam clean your carpet to get deep into the floor's fibers while understanding which carpets are suitable for this more rigorous method.

1. Understand your steam cleaner

Carpet trends 2020

(Image credit: Cormar Carpets)

'Firstly, “steam clean” can mean three different types of equipment,' says Matthew Baratta, VP of operations at Daimer Industries. He elaborates on what these commonly are:

  • Hot water carpet extractor. This is what the professionals likely will (or should) be using. They spray a mist of hot water on the carpet while simultaneously vacuuming with a cleaning wand.
  • Small, consumer-grade steam cleaners. These look like regular upright vacuums and inject very small amounts of steam while they vacuum.
  • Vapor steam cleaners. Primarily used on hard floors and not generally intended for commercial or deep carpet cleaning.

Matthew explains that vapor steam cleaners are typically too hot to use on carpets, 'so stick with the first two options in most circumstances.'

2. Assess carpet type

'Do not use steam cleaners on antique rugs,' Matthew emphasizes, regardless of whether you're using a hot water carpet extractor or a smaller steam cleaner. 'Dyes/fabrics used on antique rugs may not be able to handle the moisture or temperature.'

'If you have an old, valuable rug - take it to a professional,' he continues, as steam cleaners can only be used on modern carpets.

Carpets with a high wool content are also at risk. As Matthew puts it, 'extraction is ok, but do not use heat unless the manufacturer specifically states that hot water extraction is okay on that carpet.'

If you're concerned about the durability of your carpet, you can always test a small patch that's typically under furniture. Or, better yet, consult the professionals.

3. Clean, slowly

'Whether you are using a commercial-grade hot water extractor or a small Bissell steam vacuum, make sure to let the machine do the work,' says Matthew. 'That means go slow. Use slow, deliberate strokes, and do not move the wand or unit back and forth quickly,' he stresses.

By going slowly, the technique will allow enough time for the vacuum to properly pick up as much grime and moisture as possible. This will result in a cleaner carpet and a faster drying time.

Once your carpet's had a deep steam clean, make sure to remember how often you should vacuum carpet for the lighter, more frequent touches. If you're (justifiably) cautious about using your steam cleaner on a carpet, learn how to clean a carpet without a machine. Or, better yet, consider a dedicated carpet cleaner like the Shark CarpetXpert - which we awarded 5 stars.

Dan Fauzi
Home Tech Editor

Dan is the Home Tech Editor for Homes & Gardens, covering all things cleaning, smart home, sound and automation across the Solved section. Having worked for Future PLC since July 2023, Dan was previously the Features Editor for Top Ten Reviews and looked after the wide variety of home and outdoor content across the site, but their writing about homes, gardens, tech and products started back in 2021 on brands like BBC Science Focus, YourHomeStyle, Homes & Antiques and Gardens Illustrated.

Dan is based in Bristol, UK with a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Magazine Journalism. Outside of work, you'll find them at gigs and art galleries, cycling somewhere scenic, or cooking up something good in the kitchen.