2 Ways To Deep Clean Car Carpets Without an Extractor

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dirty car trunk carpet, how to deep clean car carpets without an extractor

I know this thing bothers many people, so I decided to write about it. Today I’m gonna show you how you can easily deep clean car carpets without an extractor. 

I assume that some of you don’t have any equipment, and some of you have only basic equipment, so I’ll show you 2 ways (with and without any special equipment).

I still don’t own an extractor because I’m not doing this professionally. I only do mine and my friend’s cars. However, when I need one, I borrow it from my mather-in-law.

If you’re interested in buying a car carpet extractor, check my recommendations here.

If I can do it, trust me, anybody can.

Deep cleaning carpets isn’t rocket science, you only need to know the right way to do it, and in this article, you’re going to learn that.

RELATED: Best Car Detailing Vacuums Under $100 in 2021 – Buyer’s Guide

Prepare The Car For Deep Cleaning

Before we can dive into the exact steps, you have to prepare your car for deep cleaning. 

Usually, I’d put this step into the guide too, but I’m writing 2 ways, and this step is the same in both ways.

Clean All The Trash From The Car

Take one trash bag, and throw away everything you don’t need in the car. 

Before vacuuming, it’s important to throw away things such as empty cigarette packs, coins, and everything that’s too big for a vacuum hose.

It’ll make the vacuuming job much easier.

Vacuum The Car

Now, thoroughly vacuum the whole car. It’ll take no more than 10-15 minutes, but will make carpet cleaning much easier.

If you don’t vacuum your car before carpet cleaning, you won’t get good results, and you’ll be brushing all the dirt, grime, and sand from the carpets.

Even though you could vacuum only carpets, it’s better if you do the whole car.

For instance, if you leave seats dirty, some of that dirt may end up on your carpet while cleaning.

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Method 1: If you don’t have any special equipment

This method is for those who don’t have any special equipment such as wet/dry vac or drill.

What You’ll Need For This:

#1 – Spray the cleaning solution onto the carpet

Dilute the carpet cleaning solution into your spray bottle. You should use distilled water, but tap water will be fine too. Also, don’t forget to use warm water.

Since every cleaning solution is different, follow the instructions on the bottle and dilute the solution according to them.

Spray the solution onto the carpet, make sure to cover the whole area you’re working on.

It’s important that you don’t put too much solution, remember, you don’t have an extractor and it may take too much time for it to dry.

Make sure to work in a smaller area. For instance, work only on the carpet at the driver’s seat, then go to other ones.

#2 – Agitate the carpet with a brush

hand brush for car carpet cleaning
I bought this brush for $2 at a local store.

After you spray the solution onto the carpet, wait 1-2 minutes for it to take effect on all the dirt in the carpet.

Now it’s time for your brush. You need to break down those specks of dirt and make them get out of the carpet.

Gently agitate the area with a brush, make sure to thoroughly brush it.

It’s important not to skip any places, also, make a few passes to the same area.

If there are some tough stains, agitate those areas a bit more.

#3 – Wipe the area with a microfiber towel

After you have agitated the carpet, now it’s time to clean all that dirt that’s on the surface.

You’re going to do this by wiping the whole area with a clean dry microfiber towel.

Be sure to add some pressure when you’re wiping the area, so you pick up all the dirt and any residue that’s still on the carpet.

When wiping the carpet, you should dry it as much as possible.

#4 – Repeat the process if needed

Probably you’ll have to repeat the process in some areas.

Don’t worry, you’re not doing anything wrong. It’s completely normal for some areas to be very dirty.

Those areas will need more attention, and just repeat the process on those extra dirty areas.

#5 – Let the carpets dry out

After you cleaned all the carpets and wiped them off with a microfiber towel, it’s time for them to dry.

Open all doors and wait for it to dry.

On a sunny day, 1-2 hours should be more than enough for carpets to completely dry out.

However, the times may vary depending on the time of the year, climate, and weather conditions.

Also, if you sprayed too much of the cleaning solution, it could result in longer drying time as well.

Method 2: If you have wet/dry vac and a drill

If you have a wet/dry vac and a drill, this method is for you!

This method is much easier, but it requires more equipment. If you do have the equipment listed above, I recommend you try out this method.

You’ll get better results in a shorter period of time. Also, you won’t be as tired as with method #1 since you will use the drill for agitating the carpet.

What you’ll need for this method:

#1 – Spray the cleaning solution on the carpet

Just as in method #1, dilute cleaning solution according to the instructions on the bottle. Use warm water to get the best results.

Thoroughly spray the solution onto the carpet. In this method, you can use a bit more solution since you’ll vacuum it.

Let it sit for a minute or two, it takes a bit for it to start working.

#2 – Agitate the carpet with a drill brush attachment

drill brush attachment for car carpet cleaning
This is the brush attachment I use. It’s not too soft, but it’s not too hard to damage the carpets.

It’s time to use a drill brush attachment now.

Attach the brush to your drill and thoroughly agitate the whole area. You don’t have to press it too hard, always be gentle.

Make a few passes until you see that dirt is coming up to the surface.

#3 – Use a hand brush for hard-to-reach areas

Sometimes it’s hard to agitate the corners with the drill brush attachment.

For me, one of the hardest areas to reach is the one behind the pedals, I think that there’s no way to reach them with a drill brush attachment.

That’s why I recommend you also use a hand brush.

#4 – Vacuum the carpet

Now you’re going to suck up all the dirt and carpet cleaning solution residue from the carpets.

Use your wet and dry vac to vacuum the carpet.

Try to vacuum the carpet as much as possible. This will shorten the drying time.

Since standard vacuum hoses aren’t the best for vacuuming carpets after deep clean, I suggest you buy carpet extractor attachment for wet and dry vac.

Related: How To Turn Shop-Vac into a Carpet Extractor

I was amazed by the results after I bought myself an extractor attachment and installed it on my shop vac.

#5 – Repeat the process on very dirty areas

If there are some very dirty areas, repeat the process and make a few more passes over there.

Spray cleaning solution, agitate with the drill brush attachment, vacuum it up until it’s perfectly clean.

Sometimes I had to make 4-5 passes in the same area because it’s very dirty.

Just repeat the process and the stain will go away.

#6 – Dry the carpets

After you finished with cleaning and vacuuming, it’s time for carpets to dry out.

Leave it out on fresh air, open all the doors, and wait an hour or two until it’s completely dry.

Congrats, you have learned how to deep clean car carpets without an extractor. It’s not so hard, right?

Having Problems With Tough Stains: Use Resolve

As I said earlier, there might be some tough stains that you will have to pay more attention to. Coffee, oil, makeup, tint, blood – those are very tough stains, especially if they are there for a long time.

First, try repeating the whole process 3-4 times on those stains, it should clean them.

However, if the stain is very old, it’ll probably be very hard to clean it. In this case, I recommend you use a Resolve.

Resolve is one of the best stain removers out there, and it will help you to clean the toughest stains from your carpet. Check the price of Resolve on Amazon now.

Just spray a bit of the solution to the carpet, wait 30 sec, agitate with the brush (or drill brush attachment), and then wipe off with a clean microfiber towel.

BONUS TIP: Don’t forget to protect the carpet

After you have successfully cleaned car carpets, it would be a shame not to protect them.

As you know, the fabric is very easy to stain, and that’s why you should always protect it after cleaning.

The best way to protect the fabric is to use the fabric protector.

Fabric protectors form a hydrophobic layer over the fabric, which will prevent it from soaking up the liquid and make it harder to become dirty again.

Here’s a great video on How To Apply Fabric Protectant Coating on Carpet. Be sure to check it out.

So, if you protect the carpets, next time you’ll be deep cleaning them, it will be much easier.

Can You Get Better Results Than With an Extractor?

If you could get better results, then no one would even invent an extractor. We can agree with that, right?

You know, I’ve tried deep cleaning both with and without an extractor, and I can tell you that there’s no such a thing that could replace an extractor.

However, I was amazed at the results I can get with the 2 methods shown above.

90% of us don’t need an extractor because we’re not professional car detailers.

If your car isn’t dirty as f***, you’ll easily clean it without an extractor. And you can accomplish that by regular maintenance of your vehicle.

Owning an extractor is a great thing, and if you can, I recommend you buy it. Deep cleaning/extraction jobs will become much more efficient with the extractor.

How Long Does It Take To Deep Clean Car Carpets Without an Extractor?

In my experience, cleaning car carpets without an extractor could take you around 30-60 minutes (all the carpets, including the trunk), depending on your skills and on the dirtiness of the carpets.

As a complete beginner, it could take you an hour or two, but the most important thing is not to rush.

After you do it a few times, your time will improve a lot. At least that happened to me.

The Most Important Thing: High-quality cleaner and your patience

You know, when I just started doing deep cleaning cars, I thought I wasn’t doing something right. I always had problems with some tough stains, etc.

What I learned is that in order to get the best results, you need to have a high-quality carpet cleaning solution.

In the beginning, I would go to home depot store and buy some house carpet cleaner. Even with that cheap cleaner, I would get nice results, but I was always expecting more.

When I first bought Chemical Guys Fabric Clean, I realized that if you want to clean carpets the right way, you should have the best cleaning solution.

My results after transferring to more quality products are much better.

BE PATIENT, that’s my second key to success. Don’t rush! You have all the time in this world.

For some stains, you’ll just have to spend a few more minutes, and maybe repeat the process 3-5 times. 


Deep cleaning car carpets without an extractor isn’t the easiest job out there. In fact, extractors were made to make the cleaning done much easier and faster.

If you want to buy an extractor, it can cost you anywhere from $100 up to $1000. I know it’s not a small investment, and that’s the reason why I wrote this article.

We all love car detailing, even though detailing our car can be irritating sometimes, especially when it comes to carpet cleaning.

They tend to be very dirty, and it may take time to clean them properly.

I’m personally using the two methods that I explained above (I use 2nd actually), and I’m happy with the results so far. So, why wouldn’t you be?

final result of cleaning the car carpet without an extractor

Remember the first image in the article? It was a very dirty trunk carpet, and here’s the final result after cleaning it. I think it’s good enough. 

I know it’s not the best out there, but I wanted to show you a real-life example of deep cleaning without an extractor, so you have realistic expectations.

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