Homeowners often don't realize that there are many carpet cleaning methods available to them, all of which have their pros and cons, but not all of which are right for your home's carpeting! Understanding a bit more about each of these options before you even call a cleaning company can ensure you opt for the best choice for your home's floors, and avoid causing damage to carpets while trying to get them clean.
Most residential carpets are best cleaned with a simple steam extraction, although dry cleaning or foam cleaning, both done with minimal water, can be recommended in humid areas where carpets might otherwise take far too long to dry.
While a carpet care expert can explain various carpet cleaning services in detail and also offer personalized recommendations for your home, you might also note some important factors about conventional methods of cleaning residential carpeting. You can then better evaluate your options and know which is the right choice for your home!
Shampooing is Not Necessarily the Best Carpet Cleaner
Shampooing a home's carpeting is one of the most popular methods of cleaning those carpets, but it can also be one of the least effective, especially against deep, ground-in dirt and grime. When carpets are shampooed, a cleanser is applied to carpeting, perhaps given a slight scrub or just allowed to sit, and then extracted or vacuumed.
While this method might sound very effective, the shampoo used during this process doesn't always penetrate thick or tall carpet fibers. Carpet shampoo is also a bit lightweight, meaning that it cannot remove ground-in dirt, packed dirt or mud, layers of dust, pet hair and dander, and other such debris. Also, if a homeowner shampoos a carpet themselves, they may not extract all of that detergent; shampoo residue is sticky and can attract and lock in more dirt, so carpets look dirtier faster than before you shampooed them!
Shampooing has its drawbacks, but this method of cleaning might be a good choice for homes with light foot traffic. Carpet shampooing can also be sufficient if you have those carpets cleaned on a consistent basis, so that dirt and dust have not had a chance to build up. Shampooing is also one of the more affordable carpet cleaning services, so opting for this method means you won't need to forego having your home's carpeting cleaned even if your budget is a bit tight!
Steam Cleaning, the Best Carpet Cleaning Solution for Allergies
Steam cleaning a carpet, also called hot water extraction, may use only a small amount of detergent or cleanser if any at all. Instead, hot steam is slowly applied to the carpet and then extracted after the water cools. Steam cleaning has many advantages, with a few drawbacks as well:
- Carpet shampoos can trigger allergies, asthmas, and other sensitivities in some people. The deodorizers used in carpet shampoos can also be a nuisance to some people. Steam cleaning can be the least bothersome method of carpet cleaning for people with such sensitivities.
- Steam can penetrate very tall and thick carpet fibers, as well as layers of dirt and dust. Steam works by loosening those thick layers of debris, so everything is then easily removed with that water.
- Steam cleaning can penetrate the padding under carpets, removing mold, mildew, and other residues that may be missed by shampoos and detergents.
- As steam penetrates carpet fibers, that material gets "fluffed up," so that carpeting can seem fuller softer underfoot.
- Steam cleaning can be recommended for carpets that might get damaged by shampoos and detergents, or by harsh scrubbing. Delicate silk carpets or those with a custom dye might be better candidates for steam cleaning versus shampooing.
The main drawback to steam cleaning is that it does tend to leave carpets very wet so that you typically cannot walk on your home's floors for several hours after cleaning. If your home is in a very humid environment, or you have your carpets steam cleaned during humid summer months, this can add to the time needed for those carpets to dry, so steam cleaning may not be the best carpet cleaning solution for your home in these cases.
Dry Cleaning and Foam Carpet Cleaning
Clothes are dry cleaned with the use of chemicals that are added to the fabric and then extracted, taking dirt and stains with them. This process is also how carpets are dry cleaned; a particular chemical is added to the carpet fibers and then extracted. These chemicals are different than carpet shampoos, as they may penetrate fibers more thoroughly and also reach deep layers of dirt and dust than shampoo can address.
Foam carpet cleaning, as the name implies, uses a type of foam or carbonated cleaner that is applied to carpets and then allowed to expand, much like hair mousse! This foam traps dirt, dust, and other debris and brings them the surface of carpets as it expands, so all that residue can be extracted easily.
Dry cleaning and foam professional carpet cleaning use very little, if any, water, so carpets are dry and ready for foot traffic relatively quickly. Both methods are recommended for very filthy carpets, while foam cleaning is especially recommended for dull and flat carpeting that has suffered lots of foot traffic.
Bonnet cleaning involves adding a type of chemical cleanser to the surface of carpet fibers and then using a rotary brush, covered with a cloth or "bonnet," to scrub and remove this cleanser. Bonnet cleaning doesn't penetrate thick or tall carpet fibers, but only removes surface dirt.
Some forms of bonnet cleaning are suitable for quick and gentle cleaning of residential carpeting. However, other types of bonnet cleaning are designed for offices and locations that have durable, high-traffic carpeting with a thick, low nap. A denser carpet nap doesn't allow dirt and debris to penetrate those fibers, so a surface cleaning is all that's needed.Industrial or commercial bonnet cleaning can be too rough on residential carpets, as the scrub brush used for this process can cause some delicate carpet fibers to become threadbare and worn. If you need a light cleaning of your home's carpeting, ask your professional carpet cleaning expert if bonnet cleaning is right for you, and consider this option carefully for silk blends, plush carpeting, and other such delicate materials.
Dry Cleaning Versus Steam Cleaning
Now that you know a bit more about various methods of carpet shampooing and cleaning, note some additional pros and cons and factors to consider about all these different methods, so you know what to discuss with your homecare expert:
- Consider the condition of your home's carpets. If there are no children in the home, or if everyone in the family is well-trained in removing their shoes when entering the house, your carpets may not need a deep cleaning. On the other hand, don't assume a simple shampooing will restore the nap and color of very filthy carpets, as you might need to invest in a deep cleaning to remove layers of ground-in dirt.
- Note that some types of dirt and debris are not always noticeable; pet hair and dander, for example, can get ground into the base of carpet fibers and may need an intense cleaning to be removed. Pollen and other allergens may not make a carpet look dirty, but they may also require a deep cleaning for thorough removal.
- While deodorizers can be useful for creating a pleasing smell in the home, you want to ensure you're removing the source of carpet odors rather than covering them over. If your carpet has pet stains, food stains, mildew, or other such contaminants, invest in a deep cleaning rather than opting for a simple deodorizer to hide bothersome smells.
Carpet Shampooing is Not a DIY Job!
Homeowners often assume they can rent a carpet cleaning machine and shampoo or steam clean their carpets as efficiently as a professional. This just is not the case! Consider why homeowners often don’t know how to clean a carpet as well as professionals:
- Even professional carpet cleaners can sometimes fail to extract all traces of shampoos and cleansers used for cleaning carpets, leaving behind a sticky, messy residue. Homeowners also might tend to leave behind some layers of shampoo or detergent, which will then attract more debris and make carpets look dirtier than before.
- Machines that you might rent from a hardware or home improvement store are often underpowered, so they will not extract as much dirt, dust, and other debris as the equipment used by carpet care professionals.
- Carpet cleaning machines can be cumbersome and downright dangerous. Hot steam can easily injure your skin, sinuses, and eyes, and shampoos or cleansers used on carpets can irritate your sinus cavities. Machines full of dirty water are also quite heavy, and a homeowner can risk straining their back to pick up and empty those machines.
Because DIY carpet cleaning is often more difficult and detailed than you might realize, it's best to leave this work to the pros. A trained technician can help you decide the right cleaning method for you, and also ensure the job gets done correctly and thoroughly.