Carpet cleaning: Pros and cons of different carpet cleaning methods

Carpet cleaners will employ different cleaning methods, each of which has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. (Photo by Patrick Dennison)

Carpet cleaners will employ different cleaning methods, each of which has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. (Photo by Patrick Dennison)

Professional carpet cleaning companies use several carpet cleaning methods to clean a home’s carpets. Each cleaning method has its own particular advantages and disadvantages. But how do you choose between them? Review these pros and cons before deciding which method you would like to be used to clean your carpet.

Basically, carpet cleaning methods may be placed in one of two categories: wet cleaning or dry cleaning. Wet cleaning includes hot water extraction and can include cleaning with an absorbent pad. Dry carpet cleaning involves the use of chemical powders or foams applied by special machines with counter rotating brushes, pads or cylinders.

1. Wet cleaning

How it works

Also known as hot water extraction or steam cleaning, the carpet is first pre-conditioned with a chemical reagent that liquefies soils and oil-based substances which may be present in the carpet fibers. Water is heated to a temperature near its boiling point and pressurized, then injected into the carpet. After about 10 to 15 minutes, the solution is extracted with a vacuum.

Pros

  • Gets out soiling from deep down in the carpet
  • Allows the use of high temperatures, pressures and chemical concentrates
  • Permits extended dwell times for reaction of cleaning solvents
  • Chemical reactivity facilitated by agitation with grooming tool or extraction wand
  • Most  widely used method
  • Recommended by carpet manufacturers and industry cleaning experts and professionals

Cons

  • Relatively long drying time, but this can be reduced with the use of powerful equipment by competent technicians
  • Expensive equipment usually required for maximum efficiency
  • Relatively high cost factors

2. Cleaning with an absorbent pad

How it works

This carpet cleaning method is also commonly known as bonnet cleaning and is most often used for routine light maintenance. It can also be used for regular carpet cleaning. The carpet is first vacuumed, and then a chemical solution is sprayed unto it with a hand pump or electric sprayer. The solution is allowed to stay on the carpet for a suitable dwell or reaction time.

The absorbent pad or bonnet, which looks like a towel, is placed on the drive block of a rotary floor machine and spun over the carpet surface at 100 to 300 rpm. This action serves to impregnate the carpet fibers with the chemical solution and then pick it up with the soils afterwards.

Pros

  • Fast, simple and inexpensive
  • Excellent results with lightly soiled carpets

Cons

  • Only cleans the top one-third of carpet fibers, incapable of reaching deeper down
  • Leaves dirt and chemicals to accumulate at the bottom of the carpet fibers

3. Dry cleaning with an absorbent compound

How it works

A powder that has been mixed with special solvents and cleaning agents is spread over the carpet, and then worked into the carpet fibers with a machine fitted with counter-rotating brushes. The powder absorbs soils in the carpet fibers. After it’s allowed to set on the carpet for 10 to 15 minutes, it’s vacuumed up.

Pros

  • Very simple system with no special technical training required
  • Very fast drying, it typically only takes about 20 minutes before the carpet can be back in service

Cons

  • Powder may be trapped in plush pile carpets and left to build up over time
  • Can cause excessive dust build-up in the home
  • Unable to clean deep down into the carpet

4. Dry foam or rotary shampoo method

How it works

A cleaning agent is applied to the carpet to help suspend dirt and debris in the carpet, which is then whipped into foam and worked into the carpet fibers with the rotating brushes of a special machine. After a short dwell time, the foam is extracted with a vacuum.

Pros

  • Fast, simple to apply and inexpensive
  • Rotating brushes provide excellent agitation
  • Small amount of moisture allows fast drying of carpet

Cons

  • Unable to achieve thorough soil extraction below the surface of the carpet
  • High temperatures usually not achieved
  • Excessive wetting possible with equipment malfunction

About this Angie's List Expert: Victor Nugent is owner and president of AJS Carpet Cleaning, an Orem, Utah-based carpet cleaning service with more than 11 years of experience.

As of Feb. 13, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


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