How to Clean a Carpet with Vinegar
Step by Step!

Does it really work? And if so, when? What should you do when it doesn't? Can it ruin your carpet? Uncover all the secrets on white vinegar for carpet cleaning.

How to Clean a Carpet with Vinegar. Step by Step! Thumbnail

Table of contents

Introduction

Oh no!! Your carpet just got a big ugly stain. Quick! Google how clean carpet with vinegar!

Nice! Your searching skills are off the charts! You just found the best online resource on how to clean a carpet with vinegar. On this post we'll answer some of the most important questions such as whether or not it's safe, how to use it, when will it work (and when it wont) and much more!

Long story short, YES! You can use vinegar to clean your carpet. But it's not always effective and you could sometimes even make the stain worse if you're not doing it correctly.

General carpet & vinegar tips

The first and most important question is if you should be using vinegar as a carpet cleaner. Because... you know... vinegar isn't meant for carpet cleaning.

But it actually works and! It's safe to use.

There are, however, a few things that you should take into account. Most of these come from other readers (like you) who've asked us very specific questions through our Ask an expert section:

1. It's the safest method. Some people are afraid to use vinegar to clean stains. But they use far more harmful DIY (or store bought) products. Vinegar might not be safe on 100% of the carpets (although I would say is 99.99% safe), but vinegar sure is the safest DIY carpet cleaner. And trust me, I've tested over a dozen in almost every type of stain.

2. Clean your stain right away! The most important piece of advice I could ever give you is... Clean the stain right away! Vinegar will only work as long as the stain is fresh. It will very hardly remove a stain that has been sitting for a weeks.

3. Vinegar doesn't substitute your carpet maintenance. The IICRC (The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) is a non-profit insitution that sets the carpet cleaning standards for the whole carpet industry. These are how long they say you should be cleaning your carpet depending on how much it's being used (although you might want to check out this post we wrote about it:

IICRC Cleaning Standards Carpet

So... you can use vinegar to clean a certain stain, but that doesn't exempt you from actually cleaning your whole carpet when you must.

Will it work? When will it not?

This is what most people want to know. And believe it or not... there's no easy way to answer this question. But! I'll give you an answer that I think will satisfy your curiosity.

Cleaning your carpet with vinegar does work. Vinegar typically contains 5-20% acetic acid. This means that the acid can (and will) break the molecules that attach the stain to your carpet. So yes! It will clean some (if not all) of the stain. That being said... is it the best cleaning solution? No! There might be a better DIY solution depending on the type of stain. But to be fair... there's no such thing as a perfect homemade cleaning solution. And if you have no idea, vinegar is always a good option as a go-to cleaning solution.

So...

- Does it work? Yes.

- Does it clean every stain? No.

- Is there a better DIY method? Maybe. Depending on the Stain. We created an Ultimate Carpet Stain Cleaning Guide, where we recommend a different method for each type of stain. We tested 8 methods on 28 different types of stains! So be sure to check it out! This is a screenshot of that post:

Carpet Stain Removing Guide

How to use vinegar to clean a carpet?

This is probably what you we looking for. So, we are going to make it easy for you:

1. If you want to clean a stain: click here

2. If you want to use it as a cleaning solution in your steam cleaner: click here

3. If you want to use it as a carpet deodorizer: click here

How to clean a Stain with vinegar

Let's look at the step by step solution on how to clean your carpet with vinegar.

Carpet Stain

Step 1: Blot the stain

The first step is quite simple, but we have to include it because so many people mess up on such a simple thing.

The first thing you're going to do is remove as much of the stain as possible without using any carpet cleaner. Sometimes that will mean that you'll have to start with a butter knife to remove the top layer of the stain (with a ketchup stain for example).

Once you've removed as much as possible with a butter knife (if this is even possible), you want to remove as much as possible with a white paper towel. Blot the stain! Don't rub or scrub or you could spread the stain.

You want to blot the stain as many times as you need. Use fresh towels to make sure that you're not cleaning a stain with an already stained towel.

Blot the stain

Step 2: Apply the vinegar

Once you've removed as much of the stain as possible, it's time to apply the white vinegar to the stain:

Carpet Cleaning Vinegar

Caution!

Use white vinegar only!

There are many types of vinegars out there. The rule is simple... don't use any type of vinegar to clean a stain unless you know for a fact that the vinegar you're using is white vinegar. If not, the stain you might cause might be even harder to remove than the stain you had on the first place.

Pro-tip

What to do if you don't have a spray bottle

If you don't have a spray bottle... I would tell you to get one, because it's so much better. But if you really can't get a spray bottle, pour the vinegar on the outside of the stain and move inward from there. That way you won't spread the stain. But whatever you do... please don't pour too much. It will make the whole cleaning process a lot harder.

Once you've applied the vinegar, you're going to let it sit for a couple of minutes (2-3 minutes should do), and the blot the stain again:

Caution!

Don't use too much vinegar!

If you use too much vinegar you could risk staining the carpet because of what's called carpet browning. We wrote an article about it (check it out here). But long story short, don't use too much vinegar!

Do this as many times as you seem necessary until the stain is completely gone. As we said in the beginning of the guide, depending on the type of stain this might work 100% of the times. So, this is what you should do after repeating step 2 a couple of times:

If the stain seems to be gone: Step 3 (Option A)

If the stain isn't completely be gone: Step 3 (Option B)

Step 3 (Option A): Blot with water

Congrats! The vinegar worked and you're almost finished cleaning your carpet.

Once you're done and the stain is clean, it's time to rinse up with water. Repeat the spray bottle and water process just like you previously did with the vinegar (simply use water this time)

This is just to make sure that we've removed all the vinegar from the carpet.

Blot the stain

Let it dry... and that's it! Your stain is clean!

Step 3 (Option B): Use baking soda

That awful stain doesn't seem to want to go away. But don't worry! We have another trick up our sleeves.

We're going to use baking soda with the vinegar to clean what's left of the stain.

What you want to do is to apply a little bit of vinegar on top of the stain with your spray bottle. Just like you did earlier.

We're then going to apply the baking soda on top of the stain. That's when you should see the vinegar interact with the baking soda. It makes a funny bubble sound. That means that you're doing it right!

Baking soda on stain

You want to apply enough baking soda so that it interacts with all the vinegar, but not more than that. I would say to apply almost double the amount of vinegar you applied. So, not a lot.

This works because when the vinegar interacts with the baking soda, the hydrogen ions in the vinegar react with the dosium and bicarboneate ions in the baking soda. The results are two chemicals (carbonic acid or "those tiny bubbles", and socium acetate). And both are great breaking the organic bonds of the stain.

Once you're done applying the vinegar, simply let it sit for 24 hours and vacuum. And that's it! Your stain should be gone!

How to use vinegar with your steam cleaning machine

First of all, let me start by saying...

Congrats!

Owning a carpet steam cleaner is one of the most important things when it comes to keeping your carpet clean. If someone owns a carpet steam cleaner, it usually means that their carpet is clean. If they don't, it usually means it's not as clean as it could be.

If you don't yet own a carpet steam cleaner, check out our post on the best carpet steam cleaners of 2020. You won't regret it!

Anyway, let's get started with the step by step process on how to clean your carpet with vinegar and your carpet steam cleaner (instead of those chemical based cleaners).

Step 1: Clean all the stains

This is actually more like a "step 0".

Before steam cleaning your carpet, you might want to look for stains and clean them individually before you clean all the carpet.

Sure, steam cleaning should help remove the stains, but it will be even more effective if you've tried to clean every stain the way it's supposed to.

Step 2: Create the solution

You'll have to read the steam cleaners instructions in the manual.

Some steam cleaners recommend diluting the cleaning solution (white vinegar in our case) with water. Some others ask you to pour the solution on the tank directly. Just do what the manual says and you should be alright!

Carpet Cleaner with vinegar

Step 3: Steam clean and wait

When you start steam cleaning you'll get a very strong smell. I honestly hate it! But the smell will way away as the carpet dries. So you'll be fine!

Carpet Steam Cleaner

BTW, if you're in the market for a new steam cleaner, you should check out the one on the picture! It's quite impressive for such a price! You can check it on Amazon here. Or simply click the image below:

How to use vinegar to remove odors

Last but not least, you might want to use vinegar to remove bad odors.

This solution works great as long as you're using it right away. It will work if the solution has been siting in your cleaning closet for a couple of days, but I would recommend doing the mix every time you want to use it for optimal results.

Step 1: Create the solution

Ingredients:

- 1 teaspoon of baking soda

- 1 teaspoon of vinegar

- 2 cups of warm water

Mix! And you're done!

You'll notice that it will start to bubble once you mix everything the vinegar with the baking soda. Just wait for the fizz to stop completely before you apply the mix to your carpet.

clean carpet with vinegar

Step 2: Spray and wait

You can use it to spray a certain area that smells worse (most of the time because of pets), or just as a general deodorizer for any type of stain.

It will smell right after you spray it on the carpet, but the odor should banish as the carpet dries.

If you're unhappy with the results, repeat until satisfied!

Conclusion

Thank you very much for reading! I'm sure you've fallen in love with vinegar as we did when we tested it! It's a great cleaning tool and you can save a lot of money too!

Although it might not work all the time, it's very useful to have some around. And if you still want (or need) a stain remover, check our Best Carpet Stain Removers Guide for more information.

We tested almost every product out there to get you the best bang for your buck. Although none of them are as unexpensive as vinegar!

Cheers,

Tony Gonzalez Picture

By Tony Gonzalez

Carpet Cleaning and Installation

I'm Tony and I consider myself a carpet cleaning expert! I've tried the 5 most common professional cleaning methods myself, and I've reviewed thousands of carpet cleaning & installation companies. I'm currently exploring the DIY Cleaning and Installation world. It's not that hard and it's a lot of fun!

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Tony Gonzalez Picture

Tony Gonzalez

Carpet Cleaning and Installation

I'm Tony and I consider myself a carpet cleaning expert! I've tried the 5 most common professional cleaning methods myself, and I've reviewed thousands of carpet cleaning & installation companies. I'm currently exploring the DIY Cleaning and Installation world. It's not that hard and it's a lot of fun!

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