Absolutely Essential Tips for Using Your Carpet Steam Cleaner

Absolutely Essential Tips for Using Your Carpet Steam Cleaner

It seems it is that time of year again. We always dread it. It's time to clean the carpeting. Well, I have a few tips for you that will hopefully make your carpet cleaning chores a little less of a head ache.

The first thing is to gather all the chemicals tools and equipment you may need. Here's a list of the things I gather to get the job done as easy as possible.


  • A carpet steam cleaner
  • Carpet cleaning chemicals and shampoos
  • A small hand held scrub brush
  • A pail and sponge
  • Gloves and a respirator


A carpet steam cleaner

Getting a good quality carpet steam cleaner is essential to the cleaning process. Make sure you have one that is of good construction. It is very frustrating to keep fixing a machine that keeps breaking down throughout the process of trying to get the carpets clean.

A good carpet steam cleaner should also provide enough suction to pick up most of the water put down in the process. Your carpeting should be damp, not wet when the entire cleaning process is done. If your carpets are wet it will take a very long time to dry and it is also an indicator that the carpeting is not as clean as it could probably be.

The last thing to look at is the scrubbing action. Most new models of a carpet steam cleaner either use a rotating roller scrub brush or spinning scrubbers. I believe either is good, but I prefer the spinning brushes, because they seem a little easier to remove for cleaning. If you have pets that shed, you will probably be cleaning them several times throughout the project.

Carpet cleaning chemicals and shampoos

There are several good shampoos on the market, depending on the type of carpeting and how dirty it is. There are many different brands and options out there, so I really can't give a good recommendation as to which one is best, but I would start by reading customer reviews.

There are some things to consider that is being considered more and more in the cleaning industry and that is the harmful chemicals that are used many of the traditional carpet steam cleaner shampoos.

The two main ones to be conscious of are Perchlorethylene (PERC for short) and Naphthalene. PERC as a popular solvent used in carpet cleaning solutions and in larger exposure amounts can cause dizziness and nausea, can lead to kidney and liver damage, and is possibly linked to cancer. Naphthalene is also commonly found in carpet cleaners and has been known to harm the kidneys and liver as well as the central nervous system. Both of these chemicals are harmful if the fumes are inhaled; not to mention bad for the environment.

Becoming very popular on the market are nontoxic alternatives that do not contain these chemicals. Make sure you know what is in the products you are buying if you are concerned about possible health problems through exposure to these chemicals.

I would also recommend a good spot cleaner in a spray bottle to help remove stubborn stains.

A small hand held scrub brush

The small scrub brush is to help loosen stubborn stains that the machine has a hard time tackling. I would definitely recommend going over the entire area with the machine before determining the need for scrubbing. Getting on your hands and knees to scrub out a stain is not much fun, so I would avoid it if at all possible.

A pail and sponge

A pail and sponge is usually necessary to clean up small spills and messes.

Gloves and a respirator

If you do decide to use traditional carpet cleaning chemicals, a pair of rubber gloves and a respirator should be used to protect you as much as possible from exposure.

Getting Started

You should start by retreating any areas that you think will be a problem. Coffee or juice spills, heavy traffic areas, or pet mess areas are all potential areas for pretreatment.

One thing to note about pet messes; there are many good enzyme based cleaners that can be purchased at your local pet store that are great to clean pet messes. This usually involves cleaning the area several days or even weeks ahead of time to allow the enzyme formula to work. This schedule should be planned around the date you need to clean the carpet by.

If you really think some areas may be a problem, a little scrubbing with the brush to help release some stains would not hurt.

Be sure and read the mixing direction on the back of the product you purchase. A solution that is too diluted will not clean, and too much soap will leave your carpeting full of suds and will not extract properly.

The nice thing about many new carpet steam cleaner machines on the market is their ability to mix the correct amount of soap right onboard the machine, so you don't have to worry about measuring.

Cleaning furniture and small rugs

I would recommend cleaning furniture, drapes, and small area rugs first. Any over spray from cleaning these will end up on the carpeting and will be extracted later anyways.

Always check labeling before cleaning furniture to make sure that it can be cleaned with water. Also steer clear of soaking down furniture too much with the solution. Because furniture is contoured and uneven it is difficult to create a good seal on the extraction wand which can limit the water removal.

Be prepared, furniture can seem to take quite a while to dry.

Cleaning carpeting

Most carpet cleaners on the market today require a two step process to the cleaning action. Since the solution sprayers are located behind the agitating brush and the extraction head, the solution needs to be laid down first in a forward sweeping motion. Pushing down slightly and squeezing the dispensing lever, dispense the solution along the desired path you wish to clean. Then, following the same path in the return stroke, release the solution dispensing lever and pull the machine back to the point to where you first started the stroke.

The extraction head is in front of the agitator, so on the return stroke the fibers in the carpet are being scrubbed, then the excess water is being sucked up by the extraction head.

Many carpet cleaners intentionally make the front of the extraction tool clear so you can view how mush dirt you are pulling out of your carpeting.

Some people believe it is necessary to clean the carpet in two different directions to make sure that the carpet fibers are being scrubbed from various directions to insure to extract as much dirt from the carpeting as possible. That is really up to you how clean you really will need your carpet.

Reading next

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