5 tried and tested carpet cleaning hacks that actually work

Grubby carpets, be gone

A person sprinkling baking powder on a carpet stain.
(Image credit: Getty)

Personally, I’m all about hardwood floors. They’re SO much easier to keep clean than carpets. But, unfortunately, my new rental is 80% carpet, which means I’ve had to really up my carpet cleaning skills.

The issue with a stained carpet is that it instantly puts a damper on the carefully curated aesthetic of your home. And don’t even get me started on a smelly carpet. Yuck. As a pet parent, I am a little too familiar with stains (and smells) that manage to stick to carpeted areas, so knowing how to clean the carpets in my rental — which are annoyingly light-colored — has become a serious priority. 

When it comes to dealing with grubby and grimy carpets, it’s easy to assume that the only answer is to hire a professional carpet cleaning service to revive them, but that isn’t the case. I know firsthand that, with the right approach, it is possible to get your carpet looking like new again, quickly, easily, and with minimal effort. 

In case you’re in the same boat as I am, I’ve rounded up a selection of all my favorite carpet cleaning hacks that actually work. 

What are the best carpet cleaning hacks?

1. Refresh with baking soda

If your carpet has developed a stinky odor and needs a little refresh, then this hack is honestly a life-saver. It’s quick and easy, and ultra-affordable, too. All you need to do is sprinkle your carpet with a dusting of baking soda (Arm & Hammer from Amazon is always our fave) and gently work it into the area. I personally like to use a scrubbing brush for this, then leave it for around 30 minutes before vacuuming it up. For dealing with mild pet smells, this hack works like a charm. 

2. Blot don’t rub

Not technically a hack, more of an instruction but still a must-try. For dealing with a water-soluble stain (think: mud, blood, or coffee), the best approach that you can take is to blot the mark with a clean cloth using tepid water which you've added several drops of white vinegar to. FYI, the multi-purpose cleaning vinegar from Heinz is our go-to and you can get it from Amazon. Just remember, whatever you do, don’t rub it as this will transfer it deeper into the carpet fibers. Instead, gently press the stain, working slowly from the outside to the center. 

3. Easily remove wax with an iron

The Everest of carpet cleaning, removing candle wax from your carpet can seem like a mammoth task. It’s the kind of cleanup that seems almost impossible. When I accidentally knocked over a candle onto a warm radiator (and didn’t notice that the wax melted, dripped through the radiator, and spilled onto the carpet) I freaked out. I was certain I wouldn’t be getting my security deposit back. Luckily, a friend knew a hack for getting wax out of a carpet that, would you believe, actually worked.

All you need to do is let the wax harden — whatever you do, don’t attempt to remove it while it’s warm or you’ll just spread the oils further. Then, once it’s hardened, cover it with a piece of kitchen towel and use an iron set to a low heat to run over it. The wax should transfer onto the kitchen towel, leaving your carpet wax free. It’s that simple. 

4. Deodorize your carpet with a steam cleaner

Ever since I purchased my first multi-purpose steam cleaner (it's old now, but it was very similar to this PurSteam one from Amazon), I've been totally obsessed with steam cleaning. It’s quick, easy, and the steam kills 99.9% of bacteria and has some serious odor-killing powers, too. For deodorizing smelly carpets, this is a real winner — especially since it takes the same amount of time as vacuuming, and it’s just as easy. (FYI: If you do buy a steam cleaner, make sure it's carpet cleaning compatible as not all models are designed for that.)

5. Remove nail polish with rubbing alcohol

Dropped an open bottle of nail polish on the carpet? I feel your pain. This happened to me when I was in college, and I had to pay for a carpet replacement for my dorm. Now, your first thought is probably that the carpet’s ruined. But, with a little dabbing and a small amount of rubbing alcohol (like Amazon's own brand) you might just be able to save it — a hack I really wish I'd known back in college. Let the polish dry, chip off as much as possible, and then douse a paper towel in rubbing alcohol and gently blot the stain with it. This should dissolve the polish and lift the stain. 

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.