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What is the Best Carpet Cleaning Method?

There are many misconceptions about carpet cleaning. One of them has to do with carpet cleaning methods. What is the best method? That depends. You have probably heard the terms “dry” or “steam”. These are general terms that hint at different methods, but both terms incomplete and inaccurate terms. Neither are technical terms that properly describe carpet cleaning methods. 

There are 4 methods of carpet cleaning approved by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restorations Certification (IIRC), the world’s most recognized body of certification for carpet upholstery cleaners.

Method #1: Hot Water Extraction 

Otherwise known as ‘’steam cleaning”, hot water extraction is the process that most are probably familiar with. Hot water extraction is the correct technical term, not steam cleaning. Actual steam is not used at all. A hot water solution is produced and immediately recovered, creating a “flushing” action on the carpet. There are many variations of hot water extraction. From the most powerful truck-mounted machine down to the small portable machine rented from a grocery store. What’s the difference, mainly the pressure in which the water is produced and the recovery capability. 

However the biggest and most important difference is in the person cleaning the carpet. A trained technician will know what pressure to use, what cleaning products to use, and how to get maximum soil removal and maximum spot removal without over-wetting the carpet or leaving sticky residue behind. Carpet being wet for days is due to operator error, not because “steam” or “hot water” caused it.

Hot Water Extraction done properly will remove more soil than any other method. Further, anything that has seeped into the backing such as urine, coffee, beverages or something can be flushed out with hot water extraction. 

Method #2 Absorbent Pad 

Also know as bonnet cleaning, this method consists of a round pad that spins across the surface of the carpet, absorbing the soil. A solution is applied to the carpet or the pad to aid in releasing the soil from the carpet fibers. This is a method that some may classify as “dry cleaning” although water based products are used in almost all “dry cleaning” systems. Absorbent pad cleaning is not a deep cleaning method. It should only be used in lightly soiled and maintenance situations.

Method #3 Dry Compound 

This method uses a powder that has been treated with detergents, water and solvents. The powder compound is sprinkled onto the carpet and a brush with cylindrical brushes is used to work the powder into the carpet pile. The solution that is in the powder releases the soil. The soil is then absorbed into the powder and vacuumed up. This method should only be use in lightly soiled and maintenance situations.

Method #4 Shampoo or Dry Foam 

In this method, a shampoo or foam is generated and worked into the carpet with a rotary brush or cylindrical brush machine. The shampoo or foam releases the soil. The soil is then vacuumed with the machine or allowed to dry and remove with a conventional vacuum cleaner. This method should be used in only lightly soiled situations and maintenance cleaning. When using shampoo, great care should be taken to avoid leaving a sticky residue on the carpet.