Things You'll Need
You may need to repeat the cleaning process on heavily soiled high-traffic areas. Air freshener may be helpful if you dislike the smell of vinegar. You may also wish to open your home's windows to air out the area during the steam cleaning process. The smell of vinegar will dissipate once the carpet dries.
If you like to use carpet shampoo, you can use white vinegar as a carpet cleaning booster. Add a cup of vinegar to the reservoir containing carpet cleaning solution and water to improve its efficacy.
Carpet shampoo solutions can be quite expensive, and, if you're renting a carpet steam cleaning machine, you could end up spending a couple hundred dollars to clean your home's carpeting. One easy solution involves making a homemade steam cleaning solution that's inexpensive and effective. You can steam clean carpets using white vinegar, which has been used as a cleaner for generations. You can even use vinegar to create a pre-treatment scrub for heavy traffic areas or carpet stains.
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Apply a pre-treatment to high traffic areas and carpet stains by sprinkling baking soda evenly over the carpet; apply enough baking soda so the powder is just visible on the carpet surface. Then saturate the carpet using a spray bottle containing 50 percent white vinegar and 50 percent water.
Work the pre-treatment (the consistency of a paste) into the carpet using a scrub brush. Rub in a circular motion to work the solution into the carpet and leave it in place until dry.
Vacuum the area that was pre-treated to collect the dried paste before steam cleaning.
Move all furniture out of the room. If space is limited, you can move all furniture to one side of the room, steam clean one side of the room and allow it to dry, then move the furniture to the clean side and repeat.
Remove the reservoir that holds the carpet cleaning solution. The reservoir is a clear plastic container, usually located on the upright portion of the steam cleaner below the handle. This is usually clearly labeled on steam cleaning machine rentals.
Fill the reservoir with a mixture of 50 percent white vinegar and 50 percent hot water. Once the cap is in place on the reservoir tank, flip it a few times to mix the solution before placing it back onto the steam cleaning machine.
Steam clean the carpet by depressing the trigger on the handle to dispense the solution over a 3 x 3-foot area. Slowly move the steam cleaner over the carpet as you would a vacuum cleaner, with each stroke overlapping 50 percent of the previous stroke.
Suck up the moisture (and dirt, which will be removed as the solution is sucked up) by passing the steam cleaner over the 3 by 3-foot area, again using slow, overlapping strokes. Do not depress the trigger to dispense solution, as you want to collect the moisture. Go over the section until moisture is no longer being collected by the steam cleaner. You will hear the solution getting sucked up by the steam cleaner. In many models, the steam cleaner is clear so you can also see the solution getting sucked up into the dirty water collection reservoir.
Move on to another 3 by 3-foot section of carpeting once the first section is complete. Continue this process until the carpet cleaning solution reservoir is empty. You'll know it's empty because you'll no longer see the lines of moisture that are deposited on the carpet. Most reservoirs are also clear, so you can see when the tank is empty.
Remove the dirty water collection tank and dump it into the toilet. The collection tank is typically located on the top of the horizontal head of the steam cleaner. Plastic clips usually hold it in place. The collection tank is usually labeled quite clearly, especially in rental machines. In most models, the collection tank holds approximately the same amount of fluid as the tank that holds the cleaning solution, so empty the dirty water collection tank each time you refill the cleaning solution tank.
Refill the cleaning solution tank per Step 5 and repeat the process until the entire carpet has been cleaned.
Avoid walking on the carpet with shoes until it's dry (about 12 hours after you've finished steam cleaning).
Mia Carter is a CBS News Radio broadcast editor and script writer in Boston. She has more than 10 years experience as a newspaper editor, print journalist, broadcast journalist and Web writer. She is an online editor of mind and soul topics and a seasoned artist specializing in painting, pottery, sculpting, furniture and metal casting. Carter holds a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and communications.