Which Carpet Cleaning Method is the Best

Helpful Guide and Comparison of Top 3 Methods

Which Carpet Cleaning Method is the Best

Your carpet is one of the most used parts of your home. With all that foot traffic, spills, pet accidents, and tracked-in dirt and grime, it’s no wonder your carpet can start looking dull and dirty. But how do you know which carpet cleaning method is the best for floor covers to look fresh and new again?

In this article, we’ll explore the most popular methods to clean carpeted floors and weigh the pros and cons of each. This will help you decide which method is best for your home and needs. And when to hire professional cleaners.

Hot Water Extraction (HWE)

Cost: $30-50 per room

Also known as steam cleaning or hot water extraction, this method uses hot water under high pressure to loosen and lift dirt from the carpet fibres. A vacuum is used at the same time to suck up the soiled water, leaving your carpet clean.

Steam extraction is one of the most effective ways to get your carpet clean. The hot water is able to penetrate deep into the carpet pile to remove the ground-in dirt and grime that vacuuming simply can’t get. The high pressure helps to agitate the carpet fibres, loosening the debris so it can be rinsed away.


  • Deep cleans carpet by flushing away soiling and grime
  • Lifts stains by soaking and rinsing the carpet fibres
  • Removes trapped allergens
  • Can cover large areas quickly
  • No detergents left behind

Potential Drawbacks

  • Requires heavy equipment that must be operated by a professional
  • Long drying time – carpets remain damp for 6-12 hours
  • Not ideal for frequent cleaning as it can damage fibres in the long run
  • May overwet carpets if not done properly

Best for

Using steam is ideal for deep cleaning carpets that haven’t been cleaned in over a year. The high pressure and hot water can give heavily soiled carpets a much-needed deep clean. Just make sure your carpet is dry completely before walking on it to prevent mould or mildew.

Dry Carpet Cleaning

Cost: $100-150 for a 3-bedroom home

Dry carpet or very low moisture (VLM) cleaning methods don’t rely on liquids or steam. Instead, they use chemical cleansing agents or absorbent compounds to lift dirt to the surface. They’re then vacuumed away. The most common dry extraction methods are:

Dry Powder Cleaning

A cleaning powder containing detergents and solvents is sprinkled over the carpet. As you vacuum, the powder works with the suction to remove mud and dust from the surface. No rinsing is required.

Best for: Lightly soiled, low-traffic areas. Safe for carpets prone to shrinkage.

Bonnet Cleaning

A cotton bonnet or absorbent pad is soaked in cleaning solutions. Then it’s rotated across the carpet surface. Dirt transfers from the carpet to the bonnet. The carpet is left dry after a service.

Best for: Surface cleaning lightly soiled carpets. Cannot remove deep stains.

Dry Foam Cleaning

A foam shampoo is whipped into damp foam and worked into the carpet without adding excess moisture. It encapsulates soiling so it can be vacuumed away after drying.

Best for: Heavily soiled high-traffic areas. Helps prevent resoiling.


  • Leaves carpet immediately dry after it’s cleaned
  • Dries quickly
  • Safe for carpets prone to shrinkage
  • Encapsulates dust and grime so it can be removed
  • Lifts surface dirt without heavy equipment

Potential Drawbacks

  • Do not deep clean or rinse carpets thoroughly
  • May leave detergent residue that attracts soiling
  • Rotating bonnets can abrade carpet fibres
  • May not remove stubborn or set-in stains
  • Requires more frequent sessions

Best for

The main advantage of low-moisture methods is the fast dry time. There is no wet carpet waiting to dry, so the area can be used right away after cleaning. This makes dry methods ideal for commercial spaces that can’t have any downtime. However, a dry clean is not as deep or thorough as steam extraction.

DIY Carpet Cleaning

Cost: $50-80 for a whole house

Many homeowners opt to rent carpet cleaning machines and tackle the job themselves. DIY can provide an effective deep clean when done properly.

Some common DIY methods include:

  • Rental steam cleaners – These machines are a smaller version of the professional hot water extractors. Rent these from grocery stores, home improvement stores, and even some retail stores.
  • Shampooers – Use rotary brushes to work carpet shampoo into the fibres, which then must be rinsed out.
  • Cleaning sprays – Apply spray solutions and scrub them into the carpet. Rinse the carpet thoroughly with clean water.
  • DIY dry carpet cleaners – Powders and absorbent sponges allow a DIY dry carpet cleaning option.


  • More affordable than hiring a professional
  • Can clean on your own schedule
  • Rental machines provide good thorough cleansing power
  • Removes stains, debris, allergens from carpets

Potential Drawbacks

  • Must move your own furniture
  • Long drying times if using liquid cleaners
  • Possibility of overwetting or damaging carpets
  • Takes more physical effort than professional services
  • May fail to completely remove stains or residues

Best for

DIY best suits carpets that just need a surface clean, not a heavy-duty restoration. The methods work well if you need to clean just one or two isolated spots or stains. They can also be good for cleaning high-traffic areas more frequently. However, you should leave heavily soiled carpets to professional cleaners. They have the proper equipment to clean carpets thoroughly.

There is also more labour involved if you clean carpets yourself. If rental units aren’t used properly, you also risk damaging carpets with excess water or failing to get them completely clean.

What is the Best Carpet Cleaning Method?

Dry or Steam Carpet Cleaning

So when it comes to choosing the best techniques to clean carpeting for your home, there are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Level of soiling – Heavily soiled carpets will require a deeper clean. Dry cleaning alone often fails to get carpets clean that haven’t been cleaned for over a year.
  • Type of carpet fibres – Synthetic carpets like nylon can handle hot water extraction well. More delicate carpets like wool may require a gentler method.
  • Access to equipment – If getting professional equipment into your home is difficult, DIY options may be better suited.
  • Time constraints – Low-moisture extraction allows faster use of the carpets after cleaning, while wet methods require 6-12 hours to dry.
  • Sensitivities to residues – Dry extraction can leave detergent residues behind. HWE provides a more thorough rinse.

Using steam is generally the most effective and thorough method to freshen covered floors. But dry solution does have its merits for situations when fast drying is imperative.

The bottom line is that any professional carpet cleaning is better than letting carpets become dangerously full of dirt, dust mites, and allergens.

How Often Should You Have Carpets Professionally Cleaned?

The Carpet and Rug Institute recommends professionally deep cleaning carpets every 12-18 months. You have to clean high-traffic areas more often. Carpeted floors in rarely used rooms can go longer between cleanings.

Regardless of which method you choose, following a regular professional cleaning schedule helps preserve your carpet’s appearance and prolong its usable life. Proper maintenance keeps carpets from becoming irreversibly damaged by the ground-in dirt that vacuuming misses.

In addition to regular expert care, you can practice good maintenance habits at home:

  • Vacuum at least once weekly to prevent buildup
  • Clean spills immediately to prevent staining
  • Use carpet-safe cleaners to spot clean when needed
  • Pretreat stains to improve chances of removal
  • Consider shoe-free zones to cut down on tracked-in dirt

Are Carpet Cleaning Chemicals Safe for Kids and Pets?

You may wonder if carpet cleaning is safe for your family since some products will be used. When it comes to chemical residues, the hot water method provides the most thorough clean and rinse of carpets. With dry cleaning methods, trace amounts of detergents likely remain behind.

The small amounts of residue left by professional carpet cleaners are not harmful to humans or animals. However, persons with sensitivities may wish to discuss chemical sensitivities with a technician beforehand.

It’s possible to have carpets cleaned without any chemicals at all. Ask your professional carpet care expert about green options using only water, non-toxic detergents, and eco-friendly spot treatments when needed.


What exactly is encapsulation carpet cleaning?

Encapsulation uses crystallising shampoo polymers and detergents to encapsulate dirt so it can be removed from carpets. The process doesn’t require vacuuming up excess water. This makes it a popular low-moisture cleaning option.

Are at-home carpet cleaning machines effective?

When used properly, rental carpet cleaners can offer an affordable and effective clean. However, they require more physical effort, and improper use risks leaving carpets too wet.

Does carpet cleaning remove allergens?

Yes. Carpeting deep cleaned with hot water removes dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and other allergens trapped deep in the fibres. A dry clean may fail to remove all of them.

How long does it take carpets to dry after cleaning?

Expect 6-12 hours of drying time required after a steam clean. With dry methods, you can walk on carpets immediately.

The Takeaway

Schedule a service if it’s been over a year since your last professional carpet cleaning. Steam extraction provides a thorough deep clean for heavily soiled carpets, while dry extraction offers a faster turnaround time.

Discuss your specific needs with professional carpet cleaners to determine the best method for your home. And be sure to continue regular maintenance between professional cleanings.

With the right techniques and regular care, your carpets can stay looking fresh, extend their lifespan, and keep your indoor air fresh and breathable. Don’t let the stains and dust win.