A vacuum cleaner is the most indispensable tool in your cleaning arsenal.
That’s because this nifty machine is capable of cleaning up the dirt, dander, and other debris on both your carpeting and your hardwood floors.
You can also use an attachment and vacuum your couch and other upholstered items, or even get the dust that’s clinging onto the top of your fans and in the ceiling’s upper corners.
However, while there’s no doubting the usefulness of a vacuum, there are times when this piece of equipment won’t be up to snuff.
There are instances when you have a stubborn stain, a lingering smell, or dirt smudges that your vacuum cleaner cannot get out.
For such situations, what you need is a specialized tool, and that tool is a steam cleaner.
The basics of how steam cleaning works
The term “steam cleaning” is a process of using water to sterilize various surfaces from tile, fabric, and, in this case, carpets.
Still, it’s not the water that’s cleaning the surface – which can be confusing if it’s your first time using a steam cleaner.
As the water heats up to the proper temperature, the machine will emit steam from the main nozzle, which disinfects the surface.
It can be effective at cleaning certain types of stains, but not all. Most steam cleaners I see only rely on water. Look for something with a floor nozzle and pad, which is usable on the carpet.
Also, check with the carpet’s manufacturer if the fibers can handle the heat. Most synthetic carpets can take it, but certain types like wool may not, so it’s best to check first.
The Important Steps of Deep Cleaning Carpet With Steam Cleaner
Here the basics of properly using a steam cleaner to disinfect the carpet.
Step 1: Open the Windows
Since you’ll be working with heat, open the windows and doors for the air to circulate and prevent moisture from building up underneath the carpet.
Step 2: Clear and Vacuum
One misconception people make when using a steam cleaner is they think it’s a vacuum cleaner or some deep cleaning machine.
Do not do this. Carpet steamers cannot suck up and clear away dirt or clumps of pet hair. Instead, these tools use steam from the water to kill bacteria and germs on the carpet.
Some even suggest using it for cleaning stains, which is possible with certain types of blemishes. However, this isn’t the primary purpose of a steam cleaner – you’ll need a carpet cleaning machine.
Also, some stains like blood coagulate with heat, which makes the stains bond more with the fabric.
If you need to clean stains from your carpet, please check our in-depth guide discussing steps for specific spots.
Thus, it’s vital to extract loose debris and vacuum or otherwise prepare the areas you want to steam clean.
Do so by ensuring you complete the following:
- Pick up all items, such as toys and loose pens, from the carpet.
- Where possible, remove furniture from the room so you can clean as much of the carpeting as possible in one run.
- Dust and run a damp rag across all of your baseboards. This step prevents any contaminants from falling and being dragged across the carpet in succeeding stages.
- Use an appropriate vacuum attachment to vacuum around, and as far underneath any furniture, you weren’t able to move out of the room.
- Vacuum your carpet first in one direction and then again at a 90-degree angle from that first direction, i.e., if you vacuumed north to south, then return and sweep again east to west.
Step 6 is crucial as too often; people only vacuum in one direction, and thus not picking every bit of debris. Cleaning in both directions ensures all sides are free from dirt.
Step 3: Pretreat Stains
Check the carpet for any blemishes. Pretreat any stains you see with a carpet cleaning product for such.
Check the instructions for the proper waiting period. Certain types of stains like blood don’t react well to heat, so make sure to address these first before running the steam cleaner.
Step 4: Add Water and Recommended Cleaner (If Applicable)
Most steam cleaners only require water. But to be sure, check the manual if they recommend using a cleaning solution.
Add water to the tank and wait several minutes for it to heat up to the proper temperature. For the waiting time, please check the steam cleaner’s handbook.
If it recommends using a cleaning solution, ensure to fill the reservoir with the correct amount of soap. Some models have separate containers for water and soap.
Fill it up to the proper levels. Use too little soap, and you won’t have a properly cleaned carpet, while too much soap can damage the steam cleaner itself as well as your carpeting.
Step 5: Start in a Corner And Stay Focused
Don’t be reckless when using a steam cleaner. For the best results, it’s best to plan a route and be methodical about the task.
We recommend choosing one corner of the room, preferably the one that is furthest away from the primary entrance to that room. And then select a wall to go along in a deliberate, even strokes across until you hit the other corner.
Using this type of method to complete straight lines ensures that you won’t miss any spots and will help prevent you from accidentally stepping on clean portions of carpet.
Step 6: Work Slowly
Avoid running the steam cleaner too fast. Give time for the steam to permeate through carpet fibers and kill bacteria.
Step 7: Go in Sections
Another tip to increase efficiency would be cleaning the area in sections and go in overlapping passes to make sure everything is covered.
Step 8: Dry the Carpet Thoroughly
Again, steam cleaners don’t have the capacity of drying carpets. Its purpose is to apply heat on the carpet for sanitation purposes.
To speed up the process, block off the room you’ve just cleaned from foot traffic. Tell your family member – the area is off-limits by blocking it physically.
How long is the waiting period? It will depend on several factors, like humidity and weather conditions outdoors. But you can speed up the process by opening the windows (if possible) and doors.
Place a massive industrial fan can also help in the drying process. For people living in a humid climate like Florida, using a dehumidifier can expedite the process as it absorbs excess moisture, preventing mold and mildew from forming.
Can you walk on carpet after steam cleaning?
Avoid walking on carpet if it’s still damp. If you don’t and someone or some pet steps on the carpet before it’s thoroughly dried, then you risk dirt and other stains settling in as merging with the carpet fibers, so as can be incredibly challenging to clean the next time.
Another issue is our foot contains bacteria, and combine it with a damp environment which is conducive for such.
Can you clean carpets with a steam cleaner?
Yes, steam cleaners can clean carpets. It does so utilizing steam from the hot water inside its reservoir. You’ll need a machine with a nozzle (with a brush) and a tube to use it on carpets. Also, look for a model with a microfiber attachment to apply steam evenly.
Note: Steam cleaners are different from carpet cleaners. The latter have a sprayer for dispensing carpet cleaning solution and roller brushes for agitation. It also can suck up most of the excess water on the carpet.
Steam cleaners don’t have this capacity. These machines consist of a water tank (plus a heating element) and varying accessories to administer steam.
Don’t confuse steam cleaners with a hot carpet water extractor professionals use. These machines have heating elements to heat water, dispense it on the carpet, then extract.
Is it better to shampoo or steam clean carpets?
The answer will depend on what needs to be done. If you’re looking to remove stains and filth, using a carpet shampooer is a better option. Steam cleaning carpet is applicable if you want to disinfect or remove small blotches of stain from carpets.
How often should you steam clean your carpets?
It would depend on several factors like if you have children, pets, and the number of accumulated stains. Experts recommend deep cleaning carpet at least twice a year. Yes, this includes steam cleaning carpet. If you’re dealing with a high number of spots and the carpet is filthy, then calling in a professional hot water extraction service would be a more sensible option.
Otherwise, using a steam cleaner on a well-maintained carpet is ideal.
Can you steam clean carpets without a steam cleaner?
Yes, that is possible. You’ll just have to find ingredients to replace steam. Some of these include items available in your pantry like vinegar and baking soda. Check the link for more details about the steps.