Older carpets can devalue a rental property if they look work out and covered in stains. Looking new requires maintenance and deep cleaning.

The problem is carpet fibers seem to suck in and hold onto dirt and odors. There could be dust, animal fur, dirt, spills, soil, and even stains from furniture placement. These can make a carpet look like it needs to be replaced. Luckily, there are tools to deep clean rental property carpets that otherwise are going to the trash.

Carpets are the go-to flooring option for any landlord seeking to create and lease a warm, cozy, and homey feeling for their rental property. Incredibly versatile in design, textures, colors, and quality ensures that there are carpeting options to suit all types of tastes. Comparing carpet vs vinyl flooring, carpets are a cost-effective flooring solution for rental properties.

When to hire a professional cleaning company?

As a rental landlord, you probably experience high anxiety levels every time your rental units are empty. When an old tenant leaves, their security deposit is often not enough to cover significant renovations. If your apartment is beautifully maintained, your turnaround time between tenants should be low, thus ensuring you receive an income from your real estate investment.

A big part of taking responsibility for maintaining an apartment is ensuring that your rental unit is clean and in good condition. Without furniture in the unit, a potential renter may focus on the walls and floors, looking for any flaw or damages to bargain and bring down the price. There may be a small carpet stain, for example.

Choosing to clean the carpet is a solution any landlord can offer. However, a professional cleaning company should be the go-to option between tenants. These companies have the tools and know-how to deep clean and remove stains in the shortest possible time and safely without any damage to the carpet.

Deep clean rental property carpets

deep clean rental property carpet machine

There are three main ways to go about cleaning the carpet in a rental unit, all of which use the method of extracting dirt from the carpet with suction. A landlord's preferred option will be based on various factors, including their budget, the carpets’ age, type of carpet stain, environmental concerns, and more. Look at these three examples and choose the one that suits you best.

Commercial grade carpet cleaners:

  1. Hot Water Extraction – The JaniLink portable carpet extractor machine is a potent tool to use when you want a deep clean carpet and get rid of debris, dust, and dirt. Hot water is an environmentally friendly option, and you can choose whether or not you want to add in any cleaning agents or chemicals. Water is pushed into the carpet at high pressure dislodging dirt, and then sucked back out with a strong vacuum. The final result is a reduction in odors  and residue-free carpeting.  The only downside, of course, is the price.

    PRO TIP – Don't confuse hot water extraction and utilizing a steam cleaner. Though they are similar, hot water extraction uses less water and offers excellent results. It also reduces shrinkage or visible damage to the carpet.
  2. Cold Water Extraction – When a rental landlord chooses to deep clean carpets themselves, cold water extraction is a safe and effective option. One tool that always gets the job done is the CleanFreak ® Non-Heated Rug & Carpet Cleaning Machine. From a health perspective, there is no need to worry about inhaling chemicals, since there is no steam. Furthermore, drying time is cut down significantly, allowing the carpet to revert to its natural dry state faster.  They use less power, making them more cost-effective too. A cold water extraction is a fantastic option if a quick turnaround time between tenants is needed.

    PRO TIP – There is one primary instance when cold water extraction may be ineffective, and that is if there is a high soil load on the carpet. Cold water extraction is better suited to cleaning rather than deep stain removal.
  3. Dry Extraction – Sometimes, you do not need to do a deep clean on the entire carpet. When focusing on just one small area, then dry extraction is ideal. With dry extraction, a chemical-based cleaner in dry or crystal form is sprinkled over the area that you want to clean. It acts by absorbing grime, grease, and dirt. After a set time, these crystals are vacuumed, and all the dirt is extracted. The Von Schrader LMX Low Moisture Soil Extraction System an excellent heavy-duty option, ideal for large spaces. It's also the most expensive on this list.

Affordable cleaning options

Preventative care should always be your first line of defense against new stains. The second step is finding products and tools to remove stains. Removing carpet stains requires stain removal solutions that can permeate through dirt and eliminate it.

I personally own all the following tools I am going to recommend, and they do wonders for the numerous carpets and rugs I’ve maintained over the years. If you do any cleaning yourself, or hire your own cleaning crew, these items are a must.

Rental property carpet cleaning tools
  1. Stain Protector - Scotchgard Rug & Carpet Protector should be the first level of defense for any spills or stains on carpets. It protects carpets or rugs by creating an invisible layer of protection - making it easier to clean any spills when they happen. It can also be used together with Scotchgard Fabric Water Shield on expensive furniture, couches, curtains, and pillows. These two items are a must-have for costly carpets or furniture in your common areas.

  2. Vinegar and Water – Putting together one-part white vinegar and two parts water creates a fantastic cleaning solution. The vinegar causes a natural chemical reaction that draws out dirt from the carpet's fibers. It is best applied using a spray bottle to direct the solution towards the stained area. Once you spray onto the carpet, leave it for thirty seconds to one minute. Combined with hot water extraction, this solution can eliminate even the most stubborn stains, including a red wine stain.

  3. Vacuum - For common areas or units less than 4,500 sq feat, I use the Dyson Cyclone V10 cordless vacuum. It lasts at least 45 minutes on a single charge and cleans exceptionally well. The best part is - it's cordless. Convenience makes it much easier to clean small messes more often. The Dyson may be overkill, but I highly recommend a cordless vacuum, at least for your common areas.

    PRO TIP - Buy the extended warranty or insurance protection from Amazon, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Costco, or anywhere else with excellent protection or return policies. We've had to replace it once for a faulty battery after two years.

  4. Carpet wash cleaner - Instead of hiring a costly carpet cleaning company, you can try doing it yourself. An affodable carpet cleaning machine will thoroughly clean your carpets with a combination of water and soap. Use the Hoover AH30925 Paws & Claws Deep Cleaning Carpet Shampoo with the Hoover FH52000 Smartwash carpet cleaner for great results. Other great options are any of these upright carpet cleaners reviewed by Wirecutter, mostly for residential use.

How to remove smells from carpet

smell and odor removal from carpets

Pungent smells can be a real turn-off for any tenant, leading to discomfort and, in rare cases, illness. When carrying out a deep clean, begin the process by making use of baking soda. Sprinkle the baking soda over the entire carpet and lightly brush it into the carpet using a brush or broom. Once it's spread, allow the baking soda to stay in place for at least 36 hours. Finish off the process by vacuuming up the baking soda and finishing off with cold or hot extraction.

This solution should work well with most odors, though sometimes, a faint hint of the smell still lingers. For a total deep odor extraction, create a solution that includes one part isopropyl alcohol, one part vinegar, and one part carpet shampoo. Top up this mix with water and use it with a hot water extractor or carpet steamer.

PRO TIP – Add a few drops of essential oils into your deep odor extraction mixture, and in addition to getting rid of an offensive odor, you will introduce a calming or fresh scent to the carpets. Excellent options are orange, lemon, or lavender essential oils. You can also try an ozone generator which is an all-purpose mold and odor removal tool I personally use. Just make sure to vacate the area during and after the machine is on.

Buying vs. Renting a Carpet Cleaning Machine

Finding ways to save is always top of mind for the landlord or property manager.

Buying a carpet cleaning machine allows you to get the job done yourself, saving you thousands of dollars in the long term. Although it takes time away from you or your staff, it's an excellent option for cleaning rental property carpets in multiple units. Expect to spend up to $3,000 on a top-of-the-line carpet cleaner. This usually makes sense if you have the time, and the cleaning machine will be used regularly by you or your staff.

Renting, on the other hand, allows you to get the very best carpet cleaner whenever needed. It's more affordable in the short run, but it most likely will be more expensive in the long run, depending on how often you need it. The primary benefit is - you never need to worry about the machine breaking since you can always rent another one.

Another great option is to rent different carpet cleaning machines a few times and then buy your favorite one now that you've compared all the options.


The decision is ultimately yours – whether you choose to do it yourself and buy or rent your carpet cleaners or hire a professional cleaning company, it all comes down to 3 factors:

  1. Time
  2. Money
  3. Convenience

If you're cleaning carpets weekly in your rental properties, you may want to invest in a good carpet cleaner and train your staff how to use it. Otherwise, it may be best to bring in a pro every once in a while and not have to deal with it.

Either way, regular maintenance and upkeep could extend the life of your carpets and keep them looking new for longer.

You also want to make sure your next tenant has no complaints or negotiating leverage because of a stained carpet.

Before taking in your next tenant, you should conduct detailed tenant screening with background checks to ensure that they hopefully won't cause any trouble or damages to your beautifully cleaned carpets! And if they do, you might be able to charge them for cleaning or damages.

David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his three children, he's writing articles here!