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How to Make Homemade Carpet Cleaner

After working as a chemist at a biotechnology company, I enjoy writing about pet care, science, travel, and gardening.

Make a simple, effective carpet shampoo at home and save money!

Make a simple, effective carpet shampoo at home and save money!

Best Homemade Carpet Cleaners

Carpet cleaning is a costly chore, with most commercial cleaning preparations priced at approximately $0.30 per ounce. Homemade carpet shampoos are much cheaper than the store-bought counterpart, costing as little as $0.05 per ounce.*

The do-it-yourself versions are better for the environment, as they usually contain all-natural ingredients, whereas commercial concentrates are generally made with citric acid and a combination of detergents. In addition, there is no plastic bottle to throw away: each batch of cleaner is made as it is needed.

Of course, many people wonder if the homemade versions work. As the mother of two young sons and a muddy Golden Retriever, I put the homemade solutions to the test on our family room carpet. All of the cleaning recipes worked for spilled juice stains, mud, and pet stains. Rust and ink stains were not removed with the steam cleaner recipes: these types of stains respond to other stain removal methods (see the Carpet Stain Removal table below).

There are several tips to keep in mind when treating stains:

  1. Remember to blot, and never rub, a stain. Rubbing in a stain often grinds the stain deeper into the carpet and may spread the stain to other carpet fibers.
  2. Treat stains as they happen, as the stain is easier to remove when it is fresh.
  3. Use the right type of cleaning agent for specific stains. Ink stains require alcohol for removal, for example, while typical foot traffic will come clean with any of the general carpet cleaner recipes below.

*Cost for vinegar and liquid dish soap carpet shampoo solution.

DIY Carpet Steam Cleaner Recipes

Commercial cleaning solutions are often very expensive, and a typical homeowner will go through a bottle of cleaner very quickly if carpets are in a high-traffic area of the house. A homemade cleaning solution is not only cheaper but also avoids some of the harsh chemicals in the commercial preparations.

Recipe #1

The first recipe is simple and often produces results:

  • 1/2 cup ammonia
  • 3 teaspoons dishwashing soap
  • 1 gallon hot water

There are many scented ammonia products available on the market, so feel free to use a lemon-scented or "rain" scented ammonia to leave carpets with a fresh smell after the cleaning is complete.

An alternative recipe is nearly identical to the one above, but uses vinegar rather than ammonia:

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons dishwashing soap
  • 1 gallon hot water

Recipe #2

This recipe is great for deodorizing carpets that see heavy pet traffic:

  • 1 cup Oxyclean
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 gallon hot water

Recipe #3

This recipe is safe for carpets treated with Scotchgard™:

  • 1 cup Oxyclean
  • 1 gallon hot water

Carpet Stain Removal: Specific Situations

StainCleaning SolutionStainCleaning Solution


Lemon juice, followed by a general carpet shampoo recipe.


Blot stain, then spray with a vinegar solution. Use COLD water and continue to blot until the stain is removed.


Rubbing alcohol.


Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.


Club soda.


Blot up vomit, then sprinkle salt on the stain. Wait 10 minutes and use a general carpet cleaner.


Saturate the glue with rubbing alcohol and gently wipe until it is clean.


Place a paper towel over the wax. Set an iron to warm and place it on top of the towel. The wax will melt and stick to the paper towel.


Freeze the gum with ice and use a hammer (or other blunt object) to break the gum into pieces. Vacuum before the gum becomes sticky again.

Nail Polish

Apply nail polish remover to a rag. Gently blot the area until it is clean.

Alternative Solutions for Carpet Steamers

Many people have reported success with using the following solutions in their carpet cleaner for a fraction of the cost of commercial steam concentrates:

  • Use a solution of 50% Windex and 50% water.
  • Mix liquid laundry detergent or laundry soap with water and use it in a steam cleaner.
  • Use homemade laundry soap.

General Spot Cleaning Recipes

Treating a small stain or spill is easy with these homemade recipes. The ingredients are easy to find around the house—if you don't have Borax, try checking the laundry detergent aisle at your local grocery store.

Spot Cleaner Recipe #1:
The first recipe is a dry powder recipe, and it is useful immediately after a spill has occurred. Use a towel to blot the stain dry, then apply a mixture of the following:

  • 1/4 cup Borax
  • 1/2 cup Baking Soda

This recipe often works on fresh stains, but older stains generally require a liquid spray.

Spot Cleaner Recipe #2:

This recipe can be made in advance and stored in a spray bottle.

  • 6 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon washing soda
  • 2 cups water

Spray on the stain and allow the cleaner to sit for 10 minutes. If the stain is tough to remove, try using a scrubbing brush to work the cleaner into the stain. Blot dry.

Carpet Stain Poll

What Is in Commercial Steam Cleaner Recipes?

What is in commercial carpet steam cleaner concentrates*? A combination of detergents and citric acid are the active ingredients, including:

  • Citric Acid (sequestering agent)
  • Tetrasodium EDTA (sequestering agent)
  • C12-16 Alcohols Ethoxylated 7EO (surfactant)
  • Sodium Alkyl Napthalene Sulfonate (surfactant)
  • Sodium Laurel Sulfate (surfactant)
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (surfactant)

The inactive ingredients are added to make the product smell better or to act as filler:

  • Fragrance
  • Acrylate copolymer
  • Inert filler
  • Zinc Oxide (colorant)
  • Dimethicone (cosmetic)
  • Benzisothiazolinone (preservative)
  • Methylisothiazolinone (preservative)

*Ingredients in Resolve™ Steam Concentrate

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the recipe for the spot cleaner with Dawn dish washing detergent, baking soda, and H2O2? How much water is added?

Answer: You can mix one tablespoon of Dawn dishwashing liquid, two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide, and one tablespoon of baking soda to make a strong spot cleaner. You can increase the volume as needed. Apply the spot cleaner and blot the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse the area with water. You can run your carpet cleaner after the spot treatment is applied and rinsed to clean the entire carpet area.

© 2013 Leah Lefler


Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on May 03, 2013:

Some people don't like the smell of vinegar, rajan jolly, but the smell dissipates quickly (once the carpet is dry) and vinegar is a great cleanser/deodorizer. I like using natural ingredients when possible, as my children play on our carpets and I don't want them exposed to too many chemicals.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 03, 2013:

Very interesting to learn about these natural carpet cleaners. Apart from saving money it is a healthy option.

Thanks for sharing. Voted up and useful.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on February 05, 2013:

I hate cleaning my carpets, too, Arielqiao. I will throw a party the day we get wood floors! At least I don't have to spend a fortune to clean my carpets with the homemade cleaner!

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on January 23, 2013:

We really try to use as many natural cleaners as possible, Hyphenbird. Vinegar is a great deodorizer as well as a disinfectant. I really can't wait to get rid of our carpet, but at least I have ways to clean it with natural ingredients!

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on January 23, 2013:

Any home made chemical free cleaner makes me excited. We do not have any carpet in our home but I will use your vinegar recipe on my car upholstery. Thanks for the great idea.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on January 22, 2013:

I dream of the day when we can get rid of our carpet. We had carpet and wallpaper EVERYWHERE when we moved into this house, teaches12345. We have put tile down in one entryway and have tiled the bathrooms, but I am anxious to rip up the rest of it so I can lay down solid flooring. In the meantime, I will keep shampooing the carpet on a regular basis - at least I can save money with the DIY cleaner!

Dianna Mendez on January 21, 2013:

I don't have carpets in my current home, but this would have come in really handy for those I had in the past. Love natural home cleaners because they are better for your health. Voted up!

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on January 21, 2013:

Om, we have a "no shoes" rule, too - of course, it doesn't help with a muddy dog - but it does help with foot traffic! Our carpet is over 25 years old and is horrid. We can't get out all of the stains, no matter what we do. I will throw a party when we get new floors!

Om Paramapoonya on January 21, 2013:

Nice hub! Our carpet is pretty clean. We have no kids or pets. Plus, we don't wear shoes in the house. But it's always good to know some good carpet cleaner recipes just in case! I really like your "specific situations" chart. We're hosting a party in a couple weeks so people might spill some food or drink on the carpet, but hopefully, there will be no vomit on my floor! lol

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on January 21, 2013:

They work pretty well, Lipnancy! Of course, for certain stains you might need a commercial preparation, but it's always worth trying a cheap homemade cleaner first. I use the homemade solution for "everyday" cleaning, since we go through a LOT of carpet shampoo. One of these days, we'll be able to afford wood floors!

Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on January 21, 2013:

I have never tried homemade solutions for cleaning a carpet.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on January 19, 2013:

I hope it works well for your pet stains, Nan - we have a cat and a Golden Retriever. Our cat sometimes has accidents inside and I blot up the urine with a dry towel and then sprinkle baking soda on top of the area. I let that sit for about 10-15 minutes, then use the homemade vinegar carpet cleaner in my steam cleaner or the oxyclean solution - both usually work well to clean up the mess and odor.

Nan Mynatt on January 19, 2013:

Great hub, I have a pet dog and this is very helpful. She sometimes has accidents, and I can use your suggestions without spending a fortune.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on January 19, 2013:

Thanks, Carol! I love saving money, particularly since I have to clean my carpets on a regular basis. We live in the country and with clay soil, frequent precipitation, and a dog... our carpet is under constant attack! One of these days, we will get wood floors - a girl can dream!

carol stanley from Arizona on January 19, 2013:

I love homemade money and avoid toxic fumes. Thanks for sharing these. Going to pin in my cleaning department on pinterest.