How to clean carpet on stairs — 3 simple steps to a spruced up staircase

Once you learn how to clean carpet on stairs, your front entryway will never look more impressive

Light gray carpet on wooden stairs
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing how to clean carpet on stairs is crucial to ensuring it maintains its splendor, especially given the high-traffic nature of this hub in the home.

The carpet on your stairs can easily accumulate dirt and stains from the constant scurrying of feet — and even paws. Our cleaning pros share their simple three-step (no pun intended) process to sprucing it up without too much elbow grease.

Getting your staircase gleaming is a vital cog when cleaning a house so let's get started with the key steps, useful products, and things to avoid. 

Clean carpet on stairs like a pro

Much like cleaning carpet elsewhere in the home, tackling the one on yours stairs doesn’t have to be complicated once you know how.

Where our experts have suggested products, our expert shoppers have curated highly-rated products and trusted retailers.

Prices were correct at the time this article was published.

1. Prepare your stairs

Carpeted staircase in a Regency townhouse

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

Before diving into deep cleaning the carpet, prepare your stairs. 

Cleaning expert Will Cotter, of HappyCleans, says, “Preparation is key to a great staircase clean. Begin by clearing any clothes or clutter, then vacuum thoroughly with a brush attachment to remove any dirt. Consider sprinkling baking soda on the carpet before vacuuming to neutralize odors and freshen the fibers.”

Cleaning with baking soda is a great, budget-friendly solution to many household jobs. We recommend the 2.7lb bag of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda from Amazon

Start at the top of the stairs and work your way down, vacuuming each step and paying extra attention to the corners and edges where dirt and debris tend to accumulate. Choose a high-quality vacuum with a brush attachment to agitate the fibers and loosen embedded dirt.

Will adds, “You’ll also want to remove any spot stains before the deep clean begins. After vacuuming as much dirt as you can, mix warm water with mild detergent (such as Dawn dish soap, available at Target) and gently scrub the stains with a soft-bristled brush, working from outside in. You can then blot the area with a clean, damp cloth to remove the cleaning solution.

For those with four-legged friends, a few extra steps can help to eliminate any extra hair and mess.

Will says, “A pet hair scraper (Real Homes editor Punteha van Terheyden swears by these for dealing with pet hair, try the Diafline pet hair remover at Amazon) dream to ensure no hairs are left behind. For pet stains, including urine, blot them with a paper towel or white cloth then apply a pet-specific enzyme cleaner such as the Rocco & Roxie Enzymatic Cleaner from Target.”

A further stain remover our experts recommend is the Woolite Carpet & Rug Cleaner from Target, which comes with a scrubbing brush attached to get deep into caked-on debris.

Will Cotter, COO of HappyCleans, standing in sunshine in front of San Francisco Bridge.
Will Cotter

Will Cotter is Chief Operating Officer at the fast-growing professional home cleaning service HappyCleans. Its list of territories includes Oklahoma, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Louisville, Jacksonville, Columbus, Detroit, and Cleveland.

2. Hand clean

White hallway with table, jute runner stairs and white paneling on neutral walls

(Image credit: @dreah.home)

Cleaning the carpet on stairs by hand can be a cheap and effective way to revive one of the busiest parts of your home.

Wells Ye, founder of Fresh Tech Maids, says, “After a thorough vacuum, apply a mixture of soapy water or a carpet shampoo recommended for hand cleaning. Test any new product on an inconspicuous area first.

“Scrub with a brush or clean cloth, being careful not to oversaturate the carpet, then rinse with a damp cloth to remove any soapy residue. Finally, blot with dry towels to absorb the moisture and let the stairs air-dry completely.”

When cleaning carpets by hand, a soft-bristled brush or scrubbing pad can be effective to gently agitate the cleaning solution into the carpet fibers. Our experts recommend the PHYEX Cleaning Brushes from Amazon or this Scotch-Brite Utility Brush from Target

Avoid scrubbing too vigorously, as this can damage the carpet pile.

Profile photo of Fresh Tech Maids founder Wells Ye
Wells Ye

Wells Ye is the founder and president of, Fresh Tech Maids, a professional cleaning service based in Chicago. 

3. Steam clean

Also known as hot water extraction, steam cleaning is fast growing in popularity as an alternative way to the traditional hand-based methods of cleaning carpet on stairs.

There are many tips and tricks to making the most of your steam cleaner, but it’s important to select the right one for the task. Of the steam cleaners suitable for carpet on stairs, we gave a 4/5 star rating when we reviewed the Bissell Little Green HydroSteam, available at Best Buy.

Before you begin, ensure the stairs are vacuumed and your machine is prepared according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This will likely include filling the reservoir with clean water and adding any recommended cleaning solution, such as the Bissell Deep Clean & Refresh solution from Amazon, or Rug Doctor's Triple-Action Oxy Carpet Cleaner, also from Amazon.

Starting at the top of the stairs, slowly guide the steam cleaner across each step, applying even pressure to ensure thorough cleaning. Pay close attention to heavily soiled areas and take your time to allow the steam to penetrate the carpet fibers.

Angela Rubin, a home-cleaning expert at Hellamaid, says, “Ensure thorough extraction of water to prevent over-wetting the carpet — this can lead to mold and mildew growth or damage to the underlying padding. Open windows to increase ventilation and allow the stairs to dry naturally. 

“Additionally, I recommend applying a carpet protector after cleaning to help repel future stains and extend the life of the carpet.”

Angela Rubin, cleaning expert at HellaMaid
Angela Rubin

Angela Rubin is a cleaning specialist at Hellamaid, a top-rated cleaning company in Canada. Hellamaid are industry experts specializing in residential and commercial cleaning services.

So there you have it — follow these simple steps and your sparkling, carpeted stairs will thank you for it. 

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Andy van Terheyden
Freelance Writer

I'm a senior writer with an English degree and NCJ qualification, plus years of experience writing news, lifestyle and consumer articles for the national and international press. I'm also a copywriter, working on a breadth of consumer and corporate projects, and a private education consultant. I live in the quiet of the countryside and spend my weekends mooching around homeware shops, completing DIY tasks to breathe life into my small, newly-built home.