How to Clean Carpet on Stairs

As you're running up and down the stairs throughout the day, it's easy to overlook how quickly the carpet becomes matted with dirt, oils and dust. But given the concentrated traffic pattern, the carpet on your staircase requires cleaning as frequently, if not more often than the carpet in your living room. A thorough vacuuming followed by methodical shampooing or steaming will restore your carpet to like-new condition. Start this project first thing in the morning before you head out for the day to give the carpet ample time to dry.


Cleaning and Pretreating

Secure a brush attachment to your vacuum cleaner if you have loop-pile carpet or a beater bar attachment if you have cut-pile carpet. Vacuum the stairs thoroughly, working from the top down, cleaning the rise and the tread. Don't make quick passes; move slowly and deliberately, and go over each section at least twice.

Outfit your vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool and vacuum along the perimeter of each step, working your way back up the stairs.

Apply a stain pretreatment product to any noticeable marks, especially along stair nosings and treads because they are more prone to stains. If you don't have a pretreatment product, mix carpet shampoo or mild dishwashing detergent with water -- about one to two drops per spray bottle -- and spritz this on stains.

Steam Cleaning

Rent a steam cleaner or get out your carpet steamer or shampooer. While steam cleaners are more effective, you can mimic the benefits with a shampooer by filling the tank with very hot water.

Fill the steamer or shampooer according to manufacturer directions and secure a handheld shampooing attachment to the hose.

Move to the top of the stairs and position the shampooer behind you, either on the landing or directly on the stairs. For the latter option, have a friend or family member stand on the stairs and hold the unit to keep it steady if it's too wide to sit on the tread securely.

Start on the uppermost stair and apply the soap and water mixture to the tread, making one pass. Release the button that engages the shampoo, if applicable, and make several passes over the same section to suck away the water. Remove as much moisture as possible, as it quickens the drying process and prevents mold, mildew and damage to the carpet fibers and pad.

Move to the next section and repeat until the entire stair, including the tread and rise, is clean and as dry as possible. Move down to the next stair and continue working your way down the staircase.

Open windows and set box fans up at the base and top of the stairs. Refrain from walking on the stairs until the carpet is completely dry -- between four and 12 hours.

Regular Maintenance

Vacuum the stairs thoroughly at least once a week, but preferably every day or every other day. Due to the staircase's constant use, carpeted stairways require frequent cleaning.

Steam clean or shampoo the carpet once a year or as needed.

Hire a professional carpet cleaning company for a deep extraction every two to three years. They utilize commercial-grade equipment capable of cleaning carpet thoroughly while drying it quickly, and can often remove stains more effectively than residential steamers and shampooers.