How to Clean Carpet on Stairs

In most multi-level homes, you’ll find families running up and down the stairs multiple times a day. You can clean these affected carpets by hand, by machine, or by contacting a professional carpet cleaning company.

With shoes, slippers, and socks that pick up everything from hair to dirt, cleaning your stairs is a must on a weekly to monthly basis. Below we’ll discuss all three options for how to clean your carpeted stairs, as well as the materials you’ll need to do so.

By Hand

If your stairs are located far from the nearest outlet, have delicate stair runners, or need a good scrub-down during your free time, you’ll want to clean your carpeted stairs by hand. This method may take some elbow grease, but you’ll be sure to get the spots out and leave the stairs looking the way you want them to.

For this method, you can use various cleaning solutions, including:

  • Carpet shampoo
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Laundry detergent
  • Or homemade carpet cleaner

No matter which solution you use, you’ll need a:

  • Carpet brush or scrub brush
  • Bucket with warm water
  • Towel or multifiber cloths
  • Spray bottle

With each hand-cleaning option, you’ll want to start at the top of the stairs and work your way down. Then, finish the process by giving each step a final wipe-down with your towel or cloths, including around any handrails.

Carpet shampoo

Whether you have leftover carpet shampoo from another instance or buy some at your local store, this shampoo is made specifically for cleaning your carpeted stairs. You can also create your own carpet shampoo with vinegar, salt, and essential oils, or with baking soda and vinegar.

You’ll first want to mix the shampoo with the warm water in your bucket. Then, wet each stair with the solution. You want a clean carpet, not one with excess water, so make sure you’re only moistening the stair and not drenching it in solution.

Then, use your carpet or scrub brush to scrub your stairs one by one, removing the dirt, dust, and stains from the carpet fibers.


Add ¼ cup of white vinegar for every ¼ cup of warm water in your bucket. Dip your brush into the bucket and scrub each stair with the vinegar solution. You can also use a spray bottle to lightly spray the solution on each stair. Do not dump this solution directly onto your stairs, as too much of it will leave a strong odor.

When you’ve worked your way down all of the stairs, dump out the solution and replace it with clean water. Use your towel or cloths to dip into the clean water and pass over each stair again, from top to bottom.

When you’re done, allow the stairs to dry before stepping on them.

Baking Soda

Baking soda has long been used to remove foul odors from carpets and fabrics. It’s an economical alternative to store-bought carpet shampoo, but it will require a vacuum cleaner to finalize the cleaning process. A bonus of this method is that it does not require you to soak your stairs.

Spread a generous amount of the baking soda directly on your stairs. Then, fill your spray bottle with hot water. Spray a mist of this water over the baking soda. Let this solution sit for about three hours, allowing enough time for the baking soda to soak up the dirt and pull pollution from the carpet fibers.

After the solution has dried, vacuum the stairs to remove the solution and dirt.

Laundry Detergent

Since laundry detergent is also made for cleaning fabric fibers, it can be used to replace carpet shampoo. Mix ¼ cup of detergent for every gallon of warm water in your bucket.

Dip your brush into the solution and scrub your steps, starting at the top. Scrub in a circular motion for best results.

Once you’ve reached the bottom, dump out the solution and replace it with cool water. Repeat the scrubbing process from the top down, this time dipping your towel or cloth into the clean water and removing the detergent from your stairs one at a time.

Allow the steps to dry before use.

By Machine

Vacuums and steam cleaners are excellent ways to clean carpet on stairs. For steps that need a general clean-up, this method can also be quick and easy.


You’ll want to use a lightweight vacuum or a larger one with an extension hose to clean your stairs. Clean out the filter for your vacuum, ensure the extension cord reaches your nearest plug, and remove any large items from the stairs before starting.

If using an extension hose, start from left to right in the top corner to remove all debris that has gotten trapped in the carpet’s fibers.

While a vacuum may get out the general dirt and grime, if you’re looking for a deeper clean you may have to pair it with either a carpet cleaner machine or a hand-cleaning method. You can also scrub your stairs with a dry brush before vacuuming to loosen any ingrained dirt within the carpet.

Carpet Cleaner

Carpet cleaners are typically steam cleaners that must be filled with water and a cleaning solution before use. Follow all manufacturer instructions before beginning.

Once you’re ready, start at the top of the stairs and work the cleaner across each step. Go over each section multiple times to ensure a deep clean.

Some carpet cleaners absorb back the water as they clean. If not, your carpet will hold excess water which requires at least thirty minutes of drying time before anyone should step on the stairs.

To speed up the drying process, we recommend using absorbent towels or cloths to soak up some of the moisture. If you can, avoid this entire process by simply using a wet/dry vacuum or carpet cleaning machine from the get-go.

By a Professional

The best way to deep-clean carpet is no doubt by a carpet cleaning professional. These companies bring their equipment and experience and give you the gift of time.

While it may be one of the more expensive carpet cleaning methods, you’ll be able to sit back and relax while a professional leaves your stairs looking like new.

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