How To Clean Carpet On Stairs [With Machine and By Hand]

Do you live in a multi-story home with carpeted stairs or a staircase runner? Have you ever wondered about how dirty the material gets? The carpet on your stairs requires regular cleaning due to the natural accumulation of dust and dirt. Vacuuming alone is not enough to tackle the mess. Learn how to clean carpet on stairs the easy way, with or without machines.

The best way to clean carpeted stairs involves a vacuum and carpet cleaner, like a Rug Doctor. The process cleans a dirty staircase in a short time. However, there are ways to clean carpet steps without the machines. The right choice for you depends on your flooring.

Let’s explore the step-by-step instructions in more detail and explore the alternative machines and cleaners you could use.

How to clean carpet on stairs

What is the Best Way to Clean Carpeted Stairs?

There are many ways to clean carpeting, especially on the stairs. The steps you take to clean the carpet on your stairs may depend on the machines you have available as well as the type of flooring in your home.

If you have a staircase runner, cleaning the material may be as easy as throwing the runner in the washing machine. Carpeting installed on the stairs is another matter. For this type of thorough cleaning, your options include:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Commercial stairs cleaning machine
  • By hand

Using a vacuum and carpet cleaner is the most efficient and quickest way to get the job done. However, not everyone has a carpet cleaning machine available. Experts could take care of the work, but you may not always hire a pro.

The good news is that the products you need to clean your carpeted stairs properly are not expensive. You might be able to use some of the material you have at home, such as your vacuum (via the hose attachment).

If you don’t already have a carpet cleaner, you can buy or rent a commercial-grade machine or scrub the staircase by hand with a bit of extra elbow power. Cleaning without a machine takes longer. But it’s perfect for spot cleaning or people who don’t have access to a carpet cleaner.

How to Clean Carpet on Stairs with Machine

Depending on how dirty this high-traffic area is and how frequently you clean the stairs, your carpet may require deep cleaning versus quick maintenance. A vacuum might suffice for a single dirty spot, but huge messes might need more. The best way to thoroughly clean the carpet on stairs is to use a vacuum and carpet cleaner.

Stairs Cleaning Machine

Machines help us get more work done in a shorter period, and they continue to do just that when it comes to carpet cleaning. We’ll explore the steps to clean carpeted stairs. First, let’s delve into two of the best machines for your cleaning journey.

When it comes to selecting a carpet cleaning machine you can use for stairs, safety is everything. Look for a lightweight or small device. Some have specific attachments for cleaning stairs that are suitable.

Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3

Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 Commercial Carpet Cleaner – Large Red Pet Pack, Includes 48 oz. Pet Carpet Cleaner Solution, Commercial Carpet Cleaning Machine, Powerful One Pass Cleaning SystemRug Doctor is a well-known carpet cleaner brand, and their Mighty Pro X3 model is sufficient for cleaning the carpeted stairs. It’s only around 40 pounds, making the machine more usable on the stairs. And the cleaning system is ideal for pet messes and odors. This Rug Doctor even has an attachment you can use for upholstery.

Learning how to clean your stairs with Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 is a breeze. It’s similar to most household carpet cleaners in that you fill the machine with water and the cleaning solution.

Once you have the tank in place, connect the hand tool and power on the device. The handheld trigger makes cleaning a snap.

Vacuum Cleaner

Before you can use the carpet cleaner, you need to pick up any debris. A vacuum cleaner is ideal for capturing the dirt you miss. It’s also handy if you clean the material by hand, depending on the process you choose.

No matter which method you choose, a lightweight vacuum or a machine with an extension hose helps due to the size. Lugging around a colossal vacuum can become dangerous. Cordless or long power cords are also preferable.

Finally, some people prefer a wet/dry vacuum for carpet cleaning because it helps dry the stairs. Absorbent towels or allowing your newly clean carpets to air out overnight is another option to soak up the wetness. But using a vacuum is less time-consuming.

Dyson V11 Torque Drive Cordless Vacuum Cleaner

Dyson V11 Torque Drive Cordless Vacuum Cleaner, BlueThe Dyson V11 Torque Drive Cordless Vacuum is another excellent choice for stairs. It’s battery-powered and cordless, so you don’t need to worry about the cord setting you up for a nasty fall. Plus, Dyson is an industry leader. Their technology is powerful enough to deep cleans homes, whether you have hardwood or carpet floors.

Watch how the Dyson V11 Torque Drive Cordless Vacuum Cleaner lifts grass, soil, and pet hair without any trouble, thanks to the sensor-driven head. The mini motorized attachment is perfect for cleaning stairs (and any other surface). Charge the vacuum and lift the lightweight model into place whenever you need it. It’s that easy.

Step 1: Check the Filter

Start by checking the vacuum’s dust filter. Replace or empty the contents of the filter as needed. Make sure you always check the filter before using the machine for the best results.

Step 2: Pick Up Large Objects

Move any large objects from the stairs before vacuuming. Pick up anything that could get stuck in the machine, like toys, strings, paper scraps, or other debris.

Step 3: Scrub with a Stiff Brush

A stiff brush comes in handy for hardened dirt and debris on carpeted stairs. Remove any stubborn messes from the carpet that regular vacuuming won’t get rid of right away. The stiff bristle brush or a vacuum cleaner attachment for removing ground-in dirt works well. If your staircase isn’t this dirty, you can skip this step.

Work from the top stair to the bottom, scrubbing each step to loosen the dirt. Sweep the excess down the stairs to vacuum it up in the next step.

Step 4: Vacuum the Steps

How to clean carpeted stairs

Take the vacuum to the top of the steps. You’ll want to start vacuuming from top to bottom, so double-check that you have enough cord slack and move carefully. If you have a cordless vacuum, grab your machine and get started.

After you reach the bottom step:

  1. Place the brush attachment on the extension hose and head back to the top.
  2. Vacuum the steps again.
  3. Use the brush tool to cover the steps from the left to the right, focusing on the corners and stains.

Step 5: Run the Carpet Cleaner

Next, get the carpet cleaner ready. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to add the cleaning solution and water to the tank. Most devices come with carpet shampoo unless you rent. If that’s the case for you, you’ll probably need to purchase carpet shampoo or make your own (more on making homemade cleaners below).

Begin at the top of the stairs again, working the carpet cleaner across each step slowly. Run the cleaner back and forth from left to right, going over every section a few times.

Step 6: Dry Each Stair

After shampooing the stairs, the carpet will hold lots of excess water unless your carpet cleaner has a drying feature. The steps need at least 20 to 30 minutes of dry time before traffic can flow across the staircase again. If your machine sucks up water as it cleans, you may not have to wait as long.

To help the stairs dry naturally, you have a few options. You could use absorbent towels or fans to remove the moisture before mold and bacteria grow in your carpet, which only takes between 24 and 48 hours. A wet/dry vacuum is ideal for this step because it takes less time.

Step 7: Vacuuming Stairs a Final Time

After you have removed all the water you can from the carpet, leave the stairs to dry the rest of the way overnight or for at least 12 hours. Vacuum the stairs a final time when they’re dry to ensure the carpet is free from any debris from the cleaning process.

Bonus Step: Steam the Carpet for Heavy-Duty Cleaning

For filthy stairs, try steam cleaning the carpet to dislodge the dirt particles. Steam machines use hot water to force dirt and stains from the material. Cleaning this way also helps eliminate mold or mildew spores in your carpet.

You can buy a steam cleaner from your local hardware store or rent the machine from any home improvement store. The device may come with varying functions, like collecting stains, pet hair, or embedded dirt.

Although steam cleaning carpeted stairs may not remove every stain type, the method is useful for heavy-duty cleaning jobs. Steam cleaning is also an alternative to using a regular vacuum cleaner in weekly cleaning maintenance. They dry the excess water the machine produces, leaving the area only mildly damp, so you don’t need to worry about dry times.

How to Clean Carpeted Stairs by Hand (without Machine)

Cleaning stairs

Sometimes cleaning by hand is better. People without carpet cleaners or those with delicate stair runners may opt for an old-school clean. If you don’t have a machine available, you can clean the carpet on your stairs by hand using the following methods:

  • Carpet shampoo
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda solution
  • Laundry detergent solution

Try Carpet Shampoo

Is your carpet cleaner broken, or do you have some carpet shampoo lying around the house from the last time you rented a machine? You can use store-bought carpet shampoo to scrub your steps by hand. However, this option requires tons of hard work.

Mix the carpet shampoo with a bucket of warm water. Use a carpet brush or a scrub brush with tough bristles to remove soil, dust, and pollutants from your steps. Run the vacuum over each stair to pick up debris a final time.

Clean Carpeted Stairs with Vinegar

If you don’t have carpet shampoo or a machine, you can still get carpeted stairs clean using white vinegar. Add ¼ cup of vinegar and warm water to a bucket and use a scrub brush to remove stains and slime. Dip the cleaning brush in the bucket and scrub each stair with the mixture.

Next, empty the bucket and refill it with clean water. Use a towel to scrub the carpet once more. After you complete a second pass over the carpet with water, allow the stairs to dry.

Clean Stairs with a Baking Soda Solution

Baking soda is excellent for removing foul odors from your carpet and extremely inexpensive. The best part about this option is that the carpet doesn’t get soaking wet, but you need at least a vacuum cleaner.

Spread a generous amount of baking soda around your carpeted stairs or directly over a stain. Then, use a spray bottle with hot water to mist the baking soda. Allow the solution to sit for three hours to soak up lingering dirt and brighten the carpet.

Allow the area to dry for around 30 minutes to an hour before using the stairs. Once the baking soda and water solution is dry, vacuum what remains. The machine should pull odors and dirt along with the baking soda.

How to Clean Carpet on Stairs with Laundry Detergent

Are you running low on cleaners with no time to run to the store? Clean carpeted stairs with laundry detergent. The product works as well as carpet cleaners because both work on fibers.

Place ¼ cup of liquid laundry detergent with a gallon of warm water in a bucket. Dip a stiff cleaning brush into the mixture and scrub the steps from top to bottom, working the solution into the carpet in a circular motion to remove tough stains and hidden dirt.

Repeat until you reach the last step, then replace the solution in your bucket with cool water. Start scrubbing the stairs from top-down once more, dipping a towel into the bucket to remove the detergent from your carpet. Allow the area to dry.

How to Make Homemade Carpet Cleaner

No carpet cleaner? No problem. When you’re cleaning carpeted stairs or rugs for stairs by hand, you can make a homemade, all-natural carpet cleaner for the carpet on your stairs. There are two main ingredient options:

  • Vinegar, salt, essential oil
  • Baking soda and vinegar

Cleaning Stairs with Vinegar, Salt, and Essential Oils

Vinegar mixed with salt and essential oils is a great way to clean and deodorize the carpet.

You may want to go with this cleaning process if you are cleaning stair runners or area rugs from your staircase by hand. Some rugs are safe for the washing machine, but others are too delicate. Adding a tablespoon or two of table salt creates friction that may help loosen dirt. But you’ll need a vacuum to remove the salt once it’s dry.

Mix one-part white vinegar with two parts water, adding the mixture to a spray bottle. Combine around five drops of your favorite essential oil and a teaspoon of table salt for every cup of vinegar water you make.

Spray the solution onto the carpet and scrub the area with a clean cloth. Next, go over the stairs with water only and allow them to dry.

Making Baking Soda and Vinegar Stair Carpet Cleaner

Baking soda and vinegar come together for one of the best homemade cleaning solutions. Mix around a cup of vinegar with equal parts water, adding a tablespoon of baking soda last. Stir the mixture, then pour it into a spray bottle. Spritz stubborn stains and allow the mixture to sit on your carpet for about an hour. Wipe the area with a damp, clean towel and leave the stairs to dry.

Other Carpet Cleaners for Stairs

There are many other carpet cleaners and vacuums ideal for stairs on the market. Portable, low-weight machines are easier for cleaning staircases as well as cordless models. Those with cleaning attachments for carpet are also beneficial.

Bissell Pro Heat Portable

Bissell SpotClean ProHeat Portable Spot and Stain Carpet Cleaner, 2694, BlueThe Bissell Pro Heat Portable is a go-to for spot cleaning or combating carpet stains.

The machine is only about two pounds, so it’s lightweight enough to move around the house when you need it.

Bissell’s heatwave technology keeps the water warm as you clean, and it comes with tools for cleaning stairs.


Hoover Power Scrub

Hoover PowerScrub Deluxe Carpet Cleaner Machine, for Carpet and Upholstery, Deep Cleaning Carpet Shampooer, Carpet Deodorizer and Pet Stain Remover, FH50150NC, RedThe Hoober Power Scrub Deluxe is another cordless carpet cleaner with fantastic cleaning results.

The 360-degree brushes scrub your carpet to produce a deep clean every time, and the heat force technology comes in after the clean for faster dry times.

This carpet cleaner is only 19 pounds so that you can pick it up with ease. Plus, the Hoover has an 8-inch hose for hard-to-reach crevices.

How Often Should You Clean Carpeted Stairs?

The frequency you clean carpeted stairs tends to depend on your family. A study on dirty floors with consideration of cleaning suggests both daily and full cleaning is best for a well-maintained home. But the amount of traffic particularly comes into play with how often you need to clean the carpet.

It’s best to vacuum the area at least once per week and shampoo the carpet once every three months or so. Deep cleans for stains or odors should take place at least every six months.

You may increase the number of deep cleans for your carpeted stairs if they dirty faster. Small children, athletic kids, or pets may require you to clean your floors more often. If you notice visible stains or notice strong odors, it’s probably time to scrub the high traffic area.


Knowing how to maintain carpeted stairs helps keep your home fresh and clean. A vacuum and carpet cleaner make the process go smoothly, but you don’t necessarily need machines to clean carpet on stairs. The right method may depend on how dirty the staircase gets, your flooring, or what materials you have available.

Did you enjoy learning how to clean carpet stairs? If this guide is helpful in your cleaning process, let us know in the comments. Share our stair cleaning tips with your friends and family.


Written By: Yevgen

YevgenI'm a DIY nut, and the founder and chief editor here at Weekend Builds.
This site is a result of my DIY passion, and to share the joys I have experienced fixing, building, and creating things over the years.

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