How to Disinfect Carpet


Tina asked: How do I disinfect our carpet? I recently found out that my dog has worms (because she was doing the bum-slide on the my carpet). I have a 7 month old who is rolling and crawling on that same carpet. How do I disinfect the carpet so my baby doesn’t get sick.

If you have a carpet mess that needs to be not only cleaned, but disinfected, white vinegar does the job. Eco-friendly and non-toxic, it’s a great solution for busy households in need of a quick fix. Best of all, it’s completely safe for both kids and pets, safe to pour down the drain, and inexpensive to use.

You Will Need:

  • Steam cleaner
  • White vinegar
  • Hot water

Steps to Disinfect the Carpet:

  1. Mix a solution of vinegar and water. If no ratios are given for the machine, you can use one part vinegar to one part water. For severe cases, use full strength vinegar. If soap-to-water ratios are given, replace the portion of soap with vinegar.
  2. Fill the detergent vessel of the steam cleaner with the solution. Do not overfill.
  3. Run the steam cleaner over the carpets, following directions for the machine.
  4. Allow the carpet to dry before use and traffic resumes. It works well to clean the carpets in the evening before going to bed so they can dry through the night. The vinegar smell will dissipate once the carpet dries.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Before you begin, spot test the carpet with the vinegar. Allow the vinegar to sit in a hidden spot (closet?) for several minutes, then blot the area with a clean cloth while it’s still wet. If the color does not wash out or transfer to the cloth, wait 24 hours and inspect the carpet for damage. If none is visible, the carpet can be considered safe to clean with vinegar.
  • Wet carpets attract a great deal of dirt, so if it’s not possible to avoid walking on the carpet until it’s dry, lay some heavy duty towels down, especially in high traffic areas.  Be sure to remove the towels when the room is not in use so the carpet will dry more quickly.
  • If the vinegar smell sticks around after the carpet has dried, sprinkle the carpet with baking soda and allow it to sit for several minutes to an hour before vacuuming it up. Make sure the carpet is completely dry before sprinkling the baking soda on it or it will react with the moist vinegar and you will end up with a gunky mess.
  • Steam mops also work well to disinfect carpet. Many come with a carpet attachment that will move across the carpet fibers. It will not clean it like a carpet steam cleaner, but the heat from the steam will kill any bacteria that may be present.
  • If you don’t like the smell of vinegar, look for commercial cleaners that will disinfect as they clean. They are available in the same areas where carpet steamers and vacuums are sold.


  1. John says:

    Currently, there are no approved methods to disinfect three dimensional surfaces, like carpet and fabrics, only sanitize these surfaces. Sanitization refers to the reduction of bacteria present, while disinfection refers to killing all organisms on a surface.

    A disinfectant, is a chemical that completely destroys all organisms. The organisms it kills are disease-causing bacteria and pathogens.

    From a legal standpoint, disinfectants must reduce the level of pathogenic bacteria by 99.9%, during a time frame of greater than 5 minutes but less than 10 minutes.

    A sanitizer, in contrast, is a chemical that reduces the number of micro-organisms to a safe level. It does not need to eliminate 100% of all organisms to be effective.

    Sanitizers do not kill viruses and fungi. In a food service situation, the sanitizer must also reduce the bacteria count by 99.9% and are required to kill infectious organisms within 30 seconds.

  2. Jeff says:

    Vinegar never has, or ever will, disinfect a surface!

    Yes, CLEANING will reduce the number of germs. CLEANING will reduce the amount of smell. “Steaming” it with a steamer is also a joke! You can only kill what the steam can reach. It takes approximately 20 seconds of continuous steam to sanitize (not disinfect) a hard surface… and longer (if not impossible) to sanitize a three dimensional surface. A little 10 second swipe will REDUCE germs, but not disinfect. It is unlikely that anyone will spend 30 plus seconds on every square inch of their carpet with a steamer. The REAL problem is likely below the surface where steam does not penetrate anyway.

    John above has it correct! An EPA Certified Sanitizer, correctly applied, it the only PROVEN way to sanitize carpet.

  3. Qudsia says:

    Harsh chemicals that kill germs also have detrimental effects on human health, as we’re also living beings. I think besides steam cleaning with vinegar, the carpet can be let dry for a few days. In complete absence of moisture, germs tend to die in a few days. I’d suggest turning up the heat if it’s winter or using a dehumidifier with air conditioning in summer. I would check with a germs expert to see how long of a dry spell it would take for particular types of germs to die.

    Just wondering though, even without the worm disease, how clean can a carpet be where a dog, having peed and pooped outside comes and sits around everyday with the same unwashed behind.

  4. Baby Spike says:

    Steam clean with Odoban. 😉 It is an amazing, concentrated cleaner you can pick up in bulk at Sam’s Club or Home Depot.

  5. Tony says:

    My neighbor’s toilet overflowed and the water came through the wall and into my closet carpet. I sprayed some cleaner and poured some alcohol into the water and we sucked most of the water out with a wet vac. I’m worried about the bacteria in the carpet, so now I sprayed some bleach water on the baseboards. I feel like I’m breathing a toxic soup. Tomorrow, the management is going to shampoo the carpet. From what I’ve read above, if there are any fecal bacteria in the carpet, the best thing to do is to make sure the space is absolutely dry and they will die. Eww, I have to sleep in there tonight.

  6. Lea says:

    I realize that vinegar is not strong enough to do much sanitizing of bacteria and viruses, but wouldn’t it work for getting rid of fungi?

  7. Judy says:

    We are moving into a home where the carpets don’t appear to need cleaning, but outside shoes have been worn inside and I want to sanitize the carpet for my grandson to crawl on. Is there something I can use to do this without actually steam cleaning the carpet?

  8. dan says:

    Tina needs to get rid of the doggy so that the baby doesn’t roll around in carpet dog crap. What is wrong with people? Nasty dog; irresponsible owner.

  9. Melanie says:

    If the room has ample sunshine, you may not need to disinfect at all – just open the shades and allow the sunlight to disinfect the carpet.
    You could also try a powder disinfectant – just sprinkle it on your carpet and then vacuum it up. Baking soda is an antiseptic with disinfecting properties, and would be safe to use for your grandson. If you choose a commercial carpet powder, you will want to research the ingredients to ensure it will be safe for children. A pet carpet cleaner may be a good option.
    Then again, if you’re going to purchase a powdered cleaner and put in the work vacuuming, you might as well just steam clean instead, which is definitely the healthiest option. Since the carpet’s not actually dirty, don’t go through an expensive cleaning company – many grocery stores will rent a steam cleaner by the hour or day.

    Source: Wikipedia – Sodium Bicarbonate
    Source: Rent the Rug Doctor

  10. Anna says:

    How can you clean the toilet water off rug without a steam cleaner?

  11. lngdl says:

    Are you nuts? In this situation, you would immediately take your baby to a hospital or doctor that will treat him/her and make sure they are in good health first. Then, you would notify a vet of the issue, a vet that has a sanitary pickup service, as no one needs to touch the dog until the problem is corrected without using proper methods, unless you want to re-introduce these worms to your baby again. Then, you’re going to have to either have the carpet removed and the floor disinfected making sure you use a product that will kill everything the dog may have had, or if you live in an apartment, you’re going to HAVE to tell the landlord what happened and that the carpet will have to go with the floors disinfected. If this can’t/won’t be done immediately, MOVE and file complaints to make sure your landlord has to fix this. This is why animals should be left outside!!!!! May not sound like that big of a deal, but it is to your baby. People should have sense to leave their animals outside where they belong!

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