Vinegar is an excellent addition to your carpet-cleaning supply list, whether you want to get rid of a wet-dog odor or simply don't want to clean with harsh chemicals. Mix water and vinegar in various ratios to make everything from steam-cleaner fluid to a simple spot cleaner or stain remover.
Whether cleaning the entire carpet or simply spot cleaning a stain or pet's favorite area, a few pre-cleanup methods help ensure the carpet really gets clean. If cleaning the entire floor and not dealing with stains, sprinkle baking soda over the carpet, let it sit for a minimum of 30 minutes, then vacuum. Vacuuming removes loose dirt and residue, making the carpet fibers more accessible for steam cleaning.
If dealing with a fresh spill that could stain the fibers, first blot up any moisture with an absorbent white rag or folded paper towels. Wipe excess liquids from the outside of the spill towards the inside; otherwise, the spot can spread. Keep blotting and wiping until the spot is mostly dry.
Make your own vinegar-based stain remover and spot cleaner by mixing one part vinegar with two parts lukewarm water in a spray bottle. Spritz the affected area with the solution, allow it to sit for several minutes, then blot the spot with a clean, white, lint-free rag. For a more stubborn stain, pour the liquid onto a white rag, then blot the spot, wiping from the outside of the stain towards the center. Repeat until the stain ultimately vanishes. This works on pet stains, as well as some stains caused by coffee, tea or ink. Feel free to double the amount of vinegar for a stubborn stain, first testing it on an inconspicuous area, such as in a closet, to ensure it doesn't affect the color of the carpet.
If a stain seems like it requires a little scrubbing, make a paste from equal parts vinegar and salt or vinegar and cornstarch. Rub the paste over the stain, working from the outside towards the center. Leave the paste in place overnight, vacuum it up, then treat again by spraying with equal parts water and vinegar. Blot up the moisture after 30 minutes.
All-Around Carpet Cleaner
Make your own cleaning solution for a carpet steamer or liquid-based cleaning machine by mixing one part vinegar with one to two parts hot water in a bucket, then pour the solution into the device's liquid reservoir. The more vinegar in the water, the more strongly the carpet will smell of vinegar as you work, but the odor dissipates quickly. Add a few drops of a citrus essential oil if you wish to mask the scent a bit. Clean the carpet following the steamer manufacturer's instructions.
Vinegar is great at removing odors from the air, carpets and rugs, and fabric upholstery. Mix equal parts vinegar and cool water in a spray bottle, then spray the entire carpet with just enough to make the fibers damp. Allow the carpet to air dry. Do this with the windows open to help speed up drying time.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.