Skip to Content

How To Easily Clean Carpet On Stairs

Are you looking for DIY ways to get your home clean? One of the places that can be forgotten, but really shouldn’t is your staircase. This post will give you DIY methods and options to make cleaning your carpeted stairs much easier than you may have imagined. 

beige carpet on stairs with white molding and neutral walls.

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Read our full privacy policy.

Carpets notoriously hold onto dust, dander, pet hair, and allergens. Carpeted stairs collect all that and more. It may have been a long time since you really tackled a deep clean of your wall-to-wall carpeted stairs or staircase runner.

Easy Steps To Clean Carpets

Cleaning carpeted stairs can be easily tackled if you follow some easy steps. You will find that whether you have a commercial carpet cleaner, a home model such as Rug Doctor, Shark or Bissel Carpet Steamer, or if you will be cleaning your stair carpet by hand, the steps can be achieved easily.

These are the basic guidelines to keep in mind to save you time and energy.

Regardless Of Equipment

  • Address stubborn carpet stains first.
  • Use carpet cleaning detergents or make your own with all-natural ingredients to get rid of stubborn stains.

Homemade Spot Cleaning Solutions

Before using any DIY cleaning solution or store-bought, test the mixture in a spot that you do not easily see. Remember we are sharing methods that have worked for us with our experience and it is up to any DIY’er to test things out for themselves first.

Options For Synthetic Carpet Homemade Cleaner

Note: that each bullet is a separate homemade cleaning solution.

  • ¼ tsp clear dishwashing liquid (Dawn, Joy), 1 C warm water
  • A pinch of Tide powder laundry detergent, a pinch of Borax in a spray bottle of warm water
  • 1 C white vinegar, 2 C warm water 
  • 3% hydrogen peroxide

Options For Natural Fiber Carpet Homemade Cleaner 

  • 1 tsp clear dishwashing liquid, 1 C warm water
  • ¼ C white vinegar, ¼ C water
  • 1T clear household ammonia, ½ C warm water

When spot-treating a stain, be sure to use a clean cloth, a white dry towel, or a non-patterned paper towel. You do not want to leave any color residue on your carpet.

How To Spot Clean Carpets

Before You Begin

Mix one type of homemade cleaner listed above. Remember to spot-check before starting.

spray bottle adding homemade cleaner to patterned carpet stairs.
  1. Soak the stain with your solution for 15 minutes before rinsing with warm water.
  2. A scrub brush or toothbrush can be used to work the dirt out of the carpet fibers. A stiff brush should be used for especially stubborn stains, but be careful not to work too hard and damage the carpet fibers.
  3. Blot the stain with clean cold water and a clean towel. Press to soak up any extra water. 
  4. Blot with an absorbent towel and let dry for at least an hour. A floor fan can help speed up drying time. Repeat this process until the stain is gone.  

Optional: If your carpet is extra soapy, you can try using vinegar after using a soapy detergent. This helps to lift any residual soap from your carpets.

How To Get Rid Of Odors

In addition to stubborn stains, you may find that there are unpleasant odors left on your carpets. Baking soda can be used to pick up many odors.

How To Use Baking Soda On Carpet

  1. Simply sprinkle the baking soda generously on the stair carpet and follow with a spray of clean water.
  2. Work the solution into your carpet with a scrubbing brush and allow it to air dry. 
  3. Vacuum up the loose soil and odor for fresher smelling carpet.
vacuum picking baking soda off of carpet.

Optional: Hydrogen peroxide sprayed on the carpet can also alleviate odors but be sure to rinse the area quickly to avoid any possible discoloration. Again, make sure you test this in an area first to make sure it is suitable for your carpet.

After Spot Cleaning

After tackling the stains and odors, the next step in cleaning carpeted steps would be to dry vacuum your stairs. Use a lightweight vacuum or a hand-held device to remove loose carpet fibers, light dirt, pet hair, dust, and dander.

This should be done prior to applying an overall carpet shampoo. There are many lightweight vacuums and handheld vacuums on the market.

Best Vacuum For Stairs

Choose one that works best for your purposes. If you have small children and pets, then your stairs are going to need more regular cleaning. 

Finding a cordless stick-vac will be much easier to maneuver on a regular basis. We have a Dyson V8 Absolute vacuum and love it.

carpet attachement on handheld Dyson vacuum on steps.

It comes with different attachments so we can clean our carpet and hardwood floors easily. It is so nice not to have to worry about the cords when vacuuming steps.

Regardless of the equipment, here are some steps to keep in mind while tackling the cleaning of your carpeted stairs.  

Dry Vacuum Method

Before You Begin

  • Remove any items on the staircase. 
  • Always start at the top of the stairs.
  • Determine the cord length and the position of your vacuum, depending on if you are using a hose attachment or not.

Tip For Vacuuming Steps

  • Dry vacuum across each step, from left to right, as you work your way down the steps. This can be done with the vacuum or hose attachment and brush attachment.
  • Don’t forget to vacuum the risers under each step to pick up more dust and hair.
  • Again, be very mindful of the cord so that it does not become a tripping hazard.
  • Work your way to the bottom of the stairs. It is often recommended to repeat this process again to pick up dust particles kicked up in the process. 
  • Follow these steps on a regular basis to keep the dust particles to a minimum.
  • Use attachments to get those hard-to-reach places.
hand held vacuum with narrow attachment in corner of steps.
We were shocked when we looked closely at the dust that had accumulated in the corners.

How to Clean Carpet on Stairs with Machine

When you are ready to deep clean your carpets using a machine, a hose and brush attachment can make the job much easier. If that is not available, just be mindful of the weight and size of the carpet cleaning machine and the length of the cord.

Again, you will start at the top of the stairs and work your way down to the bottom of the stairs.  

steam cleaner at the top of stairway.

In this step, you may have to stop and change the dirty water depending on the amount of soil your carpet cleaner is picking up. Rinse and repeat as directed until the water in the machine is clean. 

Using clean water with no detergent is recommended as a final step so there is no residue remaining on the carpet. 

woman using Bissel carpet cleaner on carpeted steps.

Drying Carpet

It may take a long time before your steps are dry. Using a floor fan or regular oscillating fan can help speed up the drying process. You can also press absorbent towels into each step starting again at the top of the stairs and working your way to the bottom of the stairs. 

Steam Cleaners

Using a steam cleaner can help freshen up your home. You should use the manufacturer’s directions. These also may come with a hose attachment and brush attachment. As previously mentioned, make sure to always start at the top of the stairs and work your way down to the bottom of the stairs

upright Bissel Steam cleaner on steps with hose attachment.
Our upright cleaner just fit on the steps, but I was also right there to make sure it did not fall.

You also need to account for excess moisture and a longer drying process before you begin using a steam cleaner. 

How to Clean Carpeted Stairs by Hand (without Machine)

There are different methods for cleaning your stairs by hand. You might also find that doing this on the stair carpet is safer and easier than maneuvering heavy equipment.

Most commercial cleaners are not built for stairs. Depending on the amount of heavy foot traffic and the number of stairs in your home, you may want to have knee pads to make your work easier. 

Natural Carpet Cleaner Solution Without A Machine

  • 1 C white vinegar
  • 2 C hot water
  • 2 tsp table salt
  • 15 drops lavender essential oil (optional)

How To Use

  1. Add this to a spray bottle and spray the carpeted stairs liberally. 
  2. Let it soak in while using a scrub brush in a circular motion.
  3. Allow this to dry, then follow up by vacuuming to remove any residue. 
  4. With this method, it is not necessary to rinse with clean water. 

To help speed up drying time, we also blotted our stairs with an old towel. We were shocked at how much dirt the towel was able to pick up after scrubbing.

patterned carpeted stairs being cleaned and image of towel after.

Use Carpet Shampoo Without A Machine

Pro Tip: If you are going to use carpet shampoo on your stairs, make sure you have a separate clean bucket of water and a clean absorbent towel to rinse the detergent from the carpet as you go.

How To Use

  1. Scrub with a stiff brush then rinse with clean water and your clean towel. You may have to repeat this process twice.
  2. Make sure the carpet is wet but not saturated so you don’t damage the carpet pad beneath. This will also speed up the drying process.
  3. Let the carpet dry. Again, a floor fan at the bottom of the stairs will help speed up the drying process. 

Different Types Of Carpets May Need Different Cleaning Methods

Cleaning by hand worked well on our patterned basement carpet because it does have a very low pile with tightly looped fibers. Scrubbing into the carpet with a homemade cleaner worked really well.

On our upstairs steps, we knew brushing our carpet with a homemade cleaner could have damaged the carpet fibers. We have found that using our Bissel carpet cleaner after a good vacuum worked best for that carpet.

cleaned carpet on stairway.

Cleaning FAQs

What if I have a carpet runner on wood stairs?

If you have wooden stairs and a carpeted stair runner, make sure to keep the wood area dry. Always have an absorbent clean towel handy to keep the area clean and dry. 

How often should you clean your carpet?

Regular cleaning and weekly vacuuming of stair carpet will help in maintaining this high-traffic area in your home and result in an overall cleaner environment. 

How can I help speed up carpet drying time?

It may take a long time before your steps are dry. Using a floor fan can help speed up the drying process. You can also press absorbent towels into each step starting again at the top of the stairs and working your way to the bottom of the stairs. 

More DIY Cleaning Ideas

You have just read about many different methods of cleaning your carpet and your stairs. Specifically cleaning your stair carpet does take some hard work. However, I hope that the next time you take on this task, you’ll find that it is well worth the effort. 

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.