Carpet Cleaning Methods, Explained

As holiday season approaches, many of us are already planning to host traveling relatives or at least a get-together or two. And that means we’re scrubbing and cleaning and polishing in order to create a bright, welcoming home. When that happens, it doesn’t take long for us to cast our eyes downward to inspect our carpets. No wonder that many of these inspections lead to calls to a professional carpet cleaner. It’s a good time to get up to speed on the different types of carpet cleaning out there – and which one might be best for you.


One of the most popular methods of carpet cleaning uses the heat and pressure of steam to remove dirt, grime, and stains from carpets. In this method, a machine heats water to the water to a high temperature, and then injects it into the carpet under high pressure. The heat, pressure, and an accompanying soap or detergent work together to loosen dirt and other stain-causing agents; the heat also serves to kill germs or bacteria that may be living in the carpet. At the end of the application, an extraction machine removes the water, soap, dirt, and germs, leaving a clean carpet.

Steam cleaning can be very effective, but the heavy application of water and soap ensures that some moisture and residue will be left behind after extraction. It’s a solid option if a short drying time isn’t a requirement.

Hot Carbonation

Like steam cleaning, hot carbonated extraction uses heat and liquid to loosen dirt, grime, and stains. But instead of employing soaps, detergents, or high pressure, hot carbonated extraction relies on bubbles to work. Because high pressure isn’t required in this method, hot carbonated extraction drying times tend to be much shorter than for steam cleaning. Carpets cleaned using this method can be completely dry within a couple of hours.

Hot carbonated extraction offers other benefits as well. Because soaps aren’t used, they’re not left behind in the carpet; that’s a plus for homes with children or pets who spend more time down on the carpet. Some carpet cleaning companies, like Chem-Dry, take things a step further: They’re committed to using cleaning solutions that are kid- and pet-friendly, and completely non-toxic.


Carpeting shampooing is the oldest method of carpet cleaning. In this method, a cleaning foam is applied to the carpet, and then scrubbed in with a big, circular brush; this foam loosens and captures dirt and grime, and then quickly dries. Once dry, the foam is vacuumed away along with the dirt, grime, and other staining materials.

While its short drying times are a plus, carpet shampooing has decreased in popularity. Despite careful vacuuming, this method can be prone to leaving foam residue behind. That said, shampooing can be an effective cleaning method where carpets are particularly soiled and low-pile, which makes them easier to vacuum.

Dry Cleaning

At the other end of the carpet cleaning spectrum is dry cleaning. Here moisture is kept to an absolute minimum while soaps, detergents, or other cleaning agents are lightly sprayed into the carpet. These agents are often brushed into the carpet in order to help them penetrate more deeply. Dry cleaning agents work quickly to loosen dirt, grime, and other stains; after drying in as little as 15 minutes, the cleaning agents and the dirt can be vacuumed away.

This method of carpet cleaning isn’t labor-intensive, and can be budget-friendly as a result. While fast drying times are a clear benefit, some of the cleaning agents are not as child- or pet-friendly as other carpet cleaning methods.


The key to finding the right carpet cleaner is to understand what matters to you. Do you want the deepest-possible clean? Do you have children or pets to consider? Do you want the cleaning to dry as quickly as possible? Or do you want to save a buck? Once you understand your priorities, you’ll be well on your way to getting those carpets clean and ready for the holidays.