Which Carpet Cleaning Method Is Best?

5 Best Carpet Cleaning Methods Compared

Which Carpet Cleaning Method Is The Best?

Carpets act like dirt and allergen magnets, trapping everything we track in from outdoors. Regular cleaning is essential for cleanliness and health in our homes.

In this complete guide, we’ll walk through the pros, cons, costs, and processes behind the 5 main professional carpet cleaning methods. That way, you can make the best choice for cleaning your carpets and keeping your home fresh. Let’s begin!

Hot Water Extraction: Deep Cleaning Champ

Also known as carpet steam cleaning. It is the gold standard when it comes to intensive cleaning carpets. Here’s how it works:

First, your carpets are pre-conditioned with a cleaning solution spray. This helps break down soil and stains before cleaning.

Next, heated water is injected deep into the carpet fibers under high pressure. This water and pressure combo is powerful, it penetrates deep to lift years of accumulated filth, dust mites, bacteria and allergens to the surface of high traffic areas.

At the same time, a powerful wet vacuum extracts all that filthy water right back out. The result? Your once dirty carpets are left tidy, fresh, and dry within just a few hours.

Some companies use giant truck mounted extraction machines while others use portable units. Both work well!

It cleans carpets the deepest of any method. When done properly by a trained technician, it’s safe for all carpet types and effectively removes stains.

Let’s recap the pros of this method:

  • Gold standard cleaning that penetrates fibers
  • Lifts marks, bacteria, house mites, and allergens
  • Carpets dry relatively quickly afterwards

The cons to consider:

  • It can be loud during the cleaning process
  • High moisture if not extracted properly
  • Potential for overwetting delicate carpets
  • Longer downtime for wet carpets to dry before walking on it

Expect to pay an average of $200-300 to have your carpets professionally steam cleaned. It’s worth it for that deep clean feeling!

Dry Cleaning: Fast Drying with Lower Moisture

Dry carpet cleaning uses no water at all. Instead, an absorbent compound similar to cleaning sand or powder is applied evenly across the carpets. This compound is worked into the carpeting using rotating brushes that agitate the powder down into the carpet piles.

The compound attracts and absorbs dirt as it sits on the carpet, usually for about 10-15 minutes. It is then vacuumed up along with the dirt it has absorbed. This leaves the carpets free of excess wetness and means the carpets can be walked on immediately after the process.

Here are the pros:

  • Super fast drying time
  • No downtime – carpets can be walked on immediately
  • Uses very little dampness

Some downsides to consider:

  • It does not provide as deep or thorough of a clean compared to steam.
  • The compounds can leave a residue that builds up over time.

Overall though, this is a solid option when you need a quick refresh. Expect to pay an average of $150-200 for professional cleaning.

Bonnet Cleaning: A Swift Surface Clean

It uses an absorbent cotton pad attached to a motorised floor buffer machine to clean the very topmost layer of carpets. The cotton bonnet pad is soaked in a special cleaning agent first. As the buffer machine runs across the carpet, the bonnet pad spins and absorbs any spots from the surface. It provides a very quick and light cleaning suitable for routine maintenance of commercial carpets. However, it does not rinse below the surface at all.

Here are the main pros:

  • Extremely fast carpet cleaning
  • Perfect for routine maintenance of commercial carpets

The cons?

  • Cleans only the very surface of carpets
  • Will not remove heavy soil

This works great for light surface cleaning in between deep cleans. It’s commonly used in hotels and office buildings. Costs start at $25 per room.

Encapsulation: An Eco-Friendly Option

Encapsulation carpet cleaning involves the use of specialised crystal polymer solutions. These solutions are applied evenly across the carpet surface. As the solution dries, the polymers crystallise into a powdery residue. This powder works to encapsulate dirt particles, trapping them inside so they can be removed.

After allowing time for the solution to work, the carpets are then vacuumed, lifting all of that encapsulated build up out of the carpets. Because it uses very little moistness and leaves virtually no residues, it is considered an environmentally friendly green cleaning. However, it only cleans the surface and does not provide deep carpet washing.


  • Dries quickly, usually within an hour
  • Very low humidity method
  • Considered an eco-friendly method

Cons to note:

  • Does not deep clean carpets
  • Harsh chemical residues may be left behind over time

Encapsulation is a smart option for light carpet maintenance. Expect to pay $.20 per square foot and up.

Shampooing: Brightening Dirty Carpets

The carpet shampooing method uses foamy detergent solutions and stiff-bristled rotary machines to scrub the carpets. As the machine spins the shampoo into the carpet, the foam attracts dirt and lifts it away from the fibers. The foam is then vacuumed up. This can provide a temporary brightening effect on the carpets.

However, it does not clean nearly as deeply or thoroughly as other methods. It also leaves a sticky detergent residue which means carpets resoil more rapidly after shampooing. While shampooing may make carpets appear visibly cleaner at first, it is not an effective method.

Pros of carpet shampooing:

  • Makes carpets appear visibly brighter

Cons to be aware of:

  • Does not provide thorough cleaning
  • Can leave a sticky residue
  • Residue actually attracts dirt rapidly

While it may seem like shampooing “cleans” carpets, it’s more of a surface freshening. Expect to pay $150-200 for carpet shampooing services.

The Verdict

Choose the best carpet cleaning method

When it comes to cleaning carpets, hot water extraction is hands-down the most effective method. That heated high-pressure combo is unbeatable for blasting away years of accumulated stains, and allergens.

However, faster maintenance methods like encapsulation and bonnet certainly have their place between cleanings. They provide a quick and affordable way to lightly refresh carpets.

The best plan combines deep cleaning every 6-12 months using steam carpet extraction, plus periodic maintenance in between. That keeps carpets looking fresh and new while extending their life significantly.

Consult a professional carpet cleaner to inspect your carpeted floors and determine the right method of cleaning and frequency for your home or business. With the right approach, you’ll enjoy neat, healthy carpets for years to come.