Which Carpet Cleaning Method Works Best Steam vs. Dry

Taking care of your carpet the right way is incredibly important. Not only is buying a new carpet a huge expense, but if the carpet in your home begins to look a dingy or dirty, it will affect the look and feel of your entire house. There are two basic methods of carpet cleaning – steam cleaning and dry cleaning. There are advantages and disadvantages to each and professional carpet cleaners have varying opinions of which method works the best. Here is some basic information about both of them.

Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning is also called ‘hot water extraction’. It uses a machine that looks a little bit like a bulky vacuum cleaner. The steam cleaning machine is slowly and gently rolled over the entire carpet. As it rolls over the carpet, one part of the machine sprays a mixture of hot water and detergent onto the carpet. This mixture foams up and lifts out deep set dirt and stains.

As the machine continues to roll across the carpet, spinning brushes agitate the carpet to loosen even more dirt and debris. Finally, the hot water is sucked back up into the machine by a powerful suction. What is left over is a slightly damp carpet that is much cleaner than it was a moment before.

Steam cleaning can be very effective because it does a great job lifting stains and dirt that have been set deep in the carpet. Even if that dirt has been in the carpet for a long time, a good quality steam cleaner can lift it back out again. However, steam cleaning machines can be quite expensive and will leave your carpet damp and unusable for short period of time after cleaning.

Dry Cleaning

The alternative to steam cleaning is called dry cleaning. Although this form of cleaning involves very little to no moisture, it usually requires pretreatment that is applied to the carpet prior to cleaning. There are three different dry methods that can be used to clean your carpet.

First, dry compounds may be brushed or rubbed into the carpet. These compounds are biodegradable and attract dirt and grime. After the compound has set for a while, it is vacuumed up and the carpet is left with a fresh smell without any use of moisture.

Second, encapsulation uses polymers that literally capture soil particles and dry them on contact. The polymers are then vacuumed up and the carpet can be used immediately.

Finally, bonnet cleaning is usually referred to as a dry cleaning method although it uses a small amount of moisture. A machine that looks like a floor buffer is used to scrub the carpet clean.


Dry cleaning is usually thought to be less effective than steam cleaning. In addition, dry cleaning usually requires the use of professional grade devices or chemicals that must be purchased separately from a cleaning machine. To figure out which is the most appropriate for your carpet, consider a few things like what material your carpet is made of and how much traffic it receives.