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  • Writer's pictureMcCartin's Services

What is Steam Cleaning, and why is it so effective?

A thorough professional carpet cleaning helps eliminate dust mites, microscopic organisms, and bacteria that aggravate allergies and spread common colds and other illnesses. Regular professional carpet cleaning will also improve the appearance and even extend the life of your carpet.

Most people agree that a regular, thorough carpet cleaning is important, if not for the above-mentioned reasons, then for the sheer esthetic bonus of keeping the home looking great. When looking for a professional to clean their carpets, most people will inquire about steam cleaning. They know that it is the method they want but have no idea what steam cleaning is or why they should have it done. So let's unpack this topic in a way that everyone, not just the professionals, can understand.

In order to appreciate why hot water extraction/steam cleaning is the preferred cleaning method, it helps to understand some other popular methods of carpet cleaning. So, let's dive into the various carpet cleaning methods.

Absorbent Compound Cleaning

Absorbent Compound Cleaning is more ordinarily known as "dry carpet cleaning ". Before we dive into the minutia of how dry carpet cleaning works, let's look at some of the reasons why you would use this type of carpet cleaning method. The dry cleaning or absorbent compound method has advantages in certain applications where keeping moisture to a minimum is required, for example, on delicate textiles, as a precious silk Persian rug, or for an emergency spot cleaning job in an office during working hours, or for homeowners that like to do it themselves.

Dry Carpet Cleaning works by utilizing dry compound cleaning agents to pre-treat fibers and break down dirt prior to vacuuming. The cleaning agents are brushed or buffed into the carpet and then are removed during the vacuum cleaning taking soil with it.

The downside of dry carpet cleaning is that it can inject chemicals that leave residues on carpet fibers or scents that trigger allergies in some homeowners, and it's just another thing to consider if you have toddlers or babies who spend a lot of time on the carpet. Residue buildup can actually age a carpet over time, as it's more likely to collect dust than an untreated carpet.


Carpet Shampooing was the go-to carpet cleaning method for a long time. Today, carpet shampooing conjures up visions of the DIY rentals. Today shampooing includes a sudsing substance that is applied and worked into the carpet with a brush machine. Wet-vacuuming is then performed to remove the cleanser and the dirt. This method is less popular today because it does leave the carpet considerably wet, and dry times can be extensive, which, as we discussed earlier, can be problematic for a carpet.


This procedure sounds like a complicated science project, and to some extent, that's true. Encapsulation cleaning utilizes engineered cleansers that are worked into a froth as they are worked into the carpets through a brush machine. The froth solidifies into a powder. As it dries, it encases the soil. The powder is then vacuumed up, with the dirt encased in it. Which is where the term encapsulate comes. Encapsulation is frequently preferred over carpet shampooing because it leaves no buildup, sets aside less effort to dry, and uses less water. This method is most often used in commercial applications such as when cleaning carpets in high-rise hotels and offices where truck-mounted hot water extraction hoses cannot reach.

All of these carpet cleaning systems work, but when you're in need of deep cleaning or revitalization of high traffic wear, most of these processes are not powerful enough to disinfect a carpet and lift matted pile the way hot water extraction does. So let’s now dive into Steam Cleaning!

Hot Water Extraction or Steam Cleaning

The premium carpet cleaning method is hot water extraction, better known as "steam cleaning." The common misconception of a lot of homeowners is that this method does not actually wet the carpet. This is, in fact, false. In order to clean a carpet thoroughly, water is needed. Hot water extraction is effectively the most widely recognized and proficient carpet cleaning procedure. It works by utilizing boiling water that is introduced into the carpet at such a high stream that is able to enter into carpet strands, separating the soil and microorganisms. The high temp water is then extracted through a powerful suction vacuum that leaves the carpet only slightly damp. This is potentially where the term steam cleaning came from. This is extremely important because this method, in particular, leaves very little water in the rug, allowing it to dry quickly thoroughly. The dry time is important; you do not want to leave a rug too wet for too long. This produces a comfy environment for mold and mildew to grow. With this method of cleaning, the chance that the rug will be left too wet is minimized. However, it is not impossible. That is why it is extremely important to hire a seasoned professional to clean your rugs.

For individuals and families who struggle with allergies or sensitivities to scents, steam cleaning can be the best way to deep clean or spot clean carpets in the home. The water vapor produced contains no smell, and it's an effective way to kill bacteria and lift dirt that contributes to other bothersome scents. Unlike sprays and dry cleansers, steam cleaning a carpet won't inject substances that would leave residue on the carpet fibers.

Steam cleaning is also preferred because it is a very effective and efficient way to not only lift buildup from the carpet fibers, including mold and pet scents, but it is also effective at improving the appearance of carpets that have been neglected over time. The restorative effects can almost always be seen in high traffic areas, such as on hallway carpets on which foot traffic creates a compressed "path" over time.

Now that you are armed with knowledge you can feel confident that you are hiring the right carpet cleaning professional for your carpets.

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