What is the Best Carpet Cleaning Method?

May 8, 2024

If you're shopping around for carpet cleaning services, you've likely seen professional cleaners advertising different methods, like carpet shampooing and dry carpet cleaning. Researching each of these methods to decide which is right for you can be time-consuming, so your Hydro Clean carpet experts are here to help. In this blog, we'll explain the 5 main methods of professional carpet cleaning with the advantages and disadvantages of each.

If you're looking for a quick answer to "What is the best carpet cleaning method?," we recommend steam cleaning, also known as hot water extraction. Most carpet manufacturers recommend this method of cleaning for the longest carpet life. It also removes bacteria, dirt, and allergens more effectively than the other methods listed below. Keep reading to learn more about steam cleaning and when you might want to choose a different method.

Types of Carpet Cleaning

There are five main types of carpet cleaning used by carpet cleaning professionals, not counting dry vacuuming and spot stain removal, which you should do in between professional cleanings. They are:

  • Carpet shampooing
  • Bonnet cleaning
  • Encapsulation
  • Dry carpet cleaning
  • And, of course, steam cleaning

We'll explain what each of these entail in the sections below.

Carpet Shampooing

Carpet shampooing is the oldest form of professional carpet cleaning. Shampoo and water are applied to your carpets using a rotary brush and then removed using a wet vac. The detergent and rotary brush used in carpet shampooing allow for a deep clean, separating dirt and pet hair from your carpet fibers.

One disadvantage of carpet shampooing is that it can leave a potential sticky residue that causes your carpets to re-soil more quickly. The rotary brushes can also be rough on delicate carpets and rugs. Carpet shampooing is best for high-traffic areas that need to be cleaned frequently anyway, like a business setting.

Bonnet Carpet Cleaning

Bonnet cleaning is similar to carpet shampooing, but instead of a rotary brush, a cotton or synthetic pad is used. The cleaning solution is applied to the carpet and then removed with the pad.

This type of carpet cleaning can provide quick results for light soil levels on carpets. Since it doesn't provide a deep clean, however, dirt and debris can resurface quickly. This is another good method for commercial settings since it can keep your carpets looking fresh in between shampooing or steam cleaning.

Dry Carpet Cleaning

Dry carpet cleaning uses a dry powder that absorbs dirt and other debris from your carpets. The powder is worked into the carpet fibers using brushes to attract dirt. Then, your carpet cleaner will use a high-powered vacuum to suck up the powder along with the dirt.

This method is attractive for many business owners because you do not have to wait for carpets to dry before returning to work. Over time, however, the cleaning compounds can build up in your carpet and trigger allergies. Depending on the cleaning compound, dry cleaning can also leave a pungent odor, so make sure to ventilate if you use this method.


Encapsulation uses a special kind of foam or liquid detergent that attracts dirt and crystalizes around it as it dries. The dried foam can then be vacuumed up along with the dirt, similar to dry carpet cleaning.

Encapsulation is great for removing light dirt residue from carpets and can be used to extend the life of carpets between steam cleanings. It also dries quickly, so there is minimal downtime. One other benefit of encapsulation is that it has a smaller environmental impact than shampooing or steam cleaning because it conserves water and energy.

Encapsulation provides a deeper clean than the bonnet or dry methods but still doesn't remove deep stains or odors as effectively as shampooing or steam cleaning.

Water Extraction (Steam Cleaning)

Steam cleaning will remove deep stains and dirt, including pet hair and odors.

Water extraction, often referred to as steam cleaning, is the most effective and safest way to deep clean your carpets. Hot water and detergent are injected into the carpet fibers at high pressure and then extracted with a powerful vacuum. The best carpet cleaners will use a truck mount system to remove as much dirt and moisture as possible.

This method allows for maximum soil removal from deeply embedded dirt, stains, and odors. Hot water extraction typically uses less detergent and rarely leaves a sticky residue. Steam cleaning is also gentler on carpet fibers than shampooing.

Additionally, steam cleaning can help extend your carpets' life by removing potential allergens and reducing wear and tear. Some carpet manufacturers even require steam cleaning every 12-18 months to keep your carpet under warranty.

The main disadvantage of steam cleaning your carpets is that you will need to wait for them to dry before resuming normal activities, which can disrupt your daily life.

What is the Best Way to Clean Carpets Professionally?

Out of all the methods listed, steam cleaning is the most effective way to clean carpets professionally. It uses hot water and detergent to remove stubborn dirt, stains, and odors while preserving your carpet's fibers. There's also no sticky residue, so your carpets will look and feel clean longer.

It can take some time for carpets to dry after steam cleaning, but it offers unparalleled results. If you want to ensure your carpets look, feel, and smell their best, steam cleaning is the way to go.

Whether you opt for bonnet, dry or encapsulation cleaning, or water extraction (steam cleaning), make sure you find a reputable carpet cleaner who is licensed and certified to perform the job. They should use quality equipment and cleaning products designed specifically for carpets, as well as the right techniques to avoid damaging your carpets.

If you'd like to book a steam cleaning with the IICRC-certified technicians at Hydro Clean, contact us today.