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Which Carpet Cleaning Method Is Best For Your Home?

Carpet cleaning using a machine.

Your carpets are important to the overall look and feel of your home. They also tend to take a lot of abuse. Even if you vacuum often and use every DIY tip out there for keeping your carpets as clean as possible, you will eventually need to invest in a professional carpet cleaning service.

Having your carpets cleaned professionally is one of the best ways to extend the life of your carpet. Even if the methods for carpet cleaning in Lakewood, Colorado are the same as the methods professionals would use in Seattle, Washington, it’s a good idea to know ahead of time which methods are an option.

If you spend some time learning about the most popular professional carpet cleaning methods you can talk with the person you hired and make the right choice for your home.

Carpet cleaning methods can vary based on things like how long you want to wait for your carpets to dry, the pile of your carpet, or if you have concerns about the chemicals used around your pets or children. You can even discuss what type of steam cleaner you use in your home in between professional cleanings.

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Before you set up your professional cleaning, take the time to learn about what’s out there. It will make you a more informed consumer and a happier customer when the job is finished.

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What Types Of Carpet Cleaning Methods Are Available?

Vacuum cleaner

This answer can vary depending on the professional you contact. Some consider a deep wet shampoo too outdated to offer it as a service any longer, while others still think it’s a valid option. Most professional cleaners agree there are five main methods available to use for professional levels of carpet cleaning.

Hot Water Extraction Cleaning

This is also referred to as steam cleaning. It relies on cleaning the carpet by using pressurized hot water to agitate fibers, breaking up and dissolve dirt in the process. The chemicals are used to loosen dirt and then the steam cleaning is done to suck up any remaining messes.

Carpet Shampooing

This is the method you read about earlier that some professionals consider too dated. It works by soaking your carpets with a specialized shampoo. It scrubs the shampoo into a lather (much like regular hair shampoo would look) and then is left to dry on your carpet.


This method uses a detergent style foam that crystallizes as it dries and is encapsulates dirt and other impurities removed from the carpet during cleaning. After drying the encapsulated dirt can be vacuumed or swept up to leave behind a clean carpet.

Bonnet Cleaning

A method of cleaning that sort of resembles buffing a hardwood floor but in a version that works on carpeting. The carpet is vacuumed first, then a chemical solution is sprayed over the clean carpet. After it has soaked in the carpet is “buffed” with a rotary style cleaner that has absorbent pads attached. It soaks up the dirt and solution as it goes.

Dry Carpet Cleaning

This is also sometimes referred to as “compound cleaning” but they both refer to the same method. A cleaning compound or powder is scrubbed into the bottom of the carpet by a machine.

The machine is used to open up the carpet fibers and get the compound deep down into the carpet. The compound can then be easily removed for a very thorough cleaning effect.

Which Carpet Cleaning Method Is Best For You?

Vacuum cleaner on a green carpet.

Now that you know the basics of how each method works, it’s a little easier to make some decisions about which methods you’re more interested in. For instance, if waiting a long time for your carpets to dry isn’t a feasible option for you, then you’ll want to forgo having your carpets shampooed.

With the basics in mind, it’s easier to take a look at the pros and cons of each method to make an even more informed decision. Again, this is all so you can talk with your professional carpet cleaner and be comfortable with what’s going to be used in your own home.

You’ll also want to talk with your pro about things like how soon you need to be able to use your carpet again, and how often you steam clean your carpet on your own. Together with this information and the information you’ve learned here you’ll be able to make a good decision on what’s going to work for you.

When To Opt For Hot Water Extraction

Hot water extraction can be done on your own with a steam cleaner you own already or rent from the store. However, neither of those options are going to be as powerful as a professional cleaner’s tools. Even if you steam clean your carpet regularly, this method done by the pros is still going to outshine any DIY results.

You should opt for hot water extraction if you don’t mind your carpet having chemical solutions used on it. (Not all cleaning solutions are pet safe or child safe) If you have pets or children you’ll need to make arrangements to keep them out of the way until the carpets are completely dry and ready to be used as normal again.

Hot water extraction takes some time. You can plan on the cleaning itself to take around an hour for a room that is about 1500 square feet and then plan on another 2 or 3 hours for the carpet to fully dry. Unlike actual carpet shampoo, the cleaning solution will not leave any sticky residue to deal with once the cleaning is over.

This type of cleaning is great for getting out deep down dirt so if it’s been a long time since you have had a professional clean your carpet this is a great option. Just keep in mind the dry time involved and make adjustments as needed to keep your carpets a “no walk zone” until they’re completely ready to be walked all over again.

When To Opt For Carpet Shampooing

Most experts agree this version of carpet cleaning is outdated. There are few that would recommend opting for it as there are now better options available. If you just have to stick to this method you’ll want to make sure you have a professional that knows this method well.

Carpet shampooing requires extensive dry time and often leaves a sticky residue behind. You’ll want to make sure you have a pro that knows how to deal with both of those things effectively. Shampooing is not ideal for homes with pets or children because it’s unclear if the chemicals are ever fully removed from the carpet fibers.

In short, opt for this method only if you’re a die-hard carpet shampooing fan, or your carpets are too heavily soiled for more updated encapsulation method. You’ll also want to make sure you have a professional that knows this method inside and out. Otherwise, choose a different, and more updated method.

When To Opt For Encapsulation

If you’ve always been a fan of how your carpets look after being shampooed you could opt for this method instead. It’s more updated and the foam used doesn’t leave any residue behind to deal with. Since the detergents used in encapsulation crystalize as they dry you are also more likely to enjoy this final result over a traditional carpet shampooing.

The crystallized particles are easily brushed or vacuumed up by your pro carpet cleaner, and although you’re still going to be left with some dry time to deal with, it’s negligible in comparison to carpet shampooing. Encapsulation is basically considered the newer better version of shampooing a carpet.

If being more environmentally friendly is important to you when choosing a carpet cleaning method this is a great choice for you as well. This method’s solutions and the overall environmental effect are much better than other options. It uses less water, and the chemicals are not as prone to being harmful to the environment itself.

The only time encapsulation may be the wrong choice is (as you read about earlier) when your carpet has some serious dirt build up. If it’s matted with dirt that’s been left to sit for months, this method won’t work. You will likely have to opt for a traditional shampooing or hot water extraction in this case.

When To Opt For Bonnet Cleaning

This method isn’t a terrible option but there are a lot of cases where it’s just not going to work. Bonnet cleaning gets out surface dirt only, leaving any dirt under the surface fibers to continue to build up. It’s also not effective on carpets with a thicker pile. Bonnet cleaning is often used on the type of carpets you’d see in a hotel. Smoother, and more easily “buffed” clean.

You should consider bonnet cleaning only when you need a quick fix surface cleaning done, and your carpet is the appropriate type of carpet to benefit from this method. Since bonnet cleaning doesn’t get deep down dirt out you’ll have to do it more often.

If you have children or pets to worry about, keep in mind that sometimes this method can allow the chemicals used to build up. This is not the most pet or kid-friendly option for cleaning your carpets. Though it does use low moisture and dries quickly there are not many practical use cases for bonnet cleaning that are going to give you long-lasting truly clean results.

When To Opt For Dry Carpet Cleaning

There are some pretty great benefits of dry carpet cleaning. Most obviously, it doesn’t require any dry time. If you need your carpets to be cleaned and ready to go as soon as possible this is an option you’ll want to talk with the pros about for sure.

The method of dry cleaning also offers other types of benefits, especially when it comes to safety for children and pets. The carpet fibers are agitated and a cleaning product is pushed to the very base of the carpet. That product (which is biodegradable) works like tiny little sponges to absorb the dirt and other built up things in your carpet.

After the product is pushed down into the fibers it’s then removed by the cleaner before they go. There are no residue worries accompanied with this carpet cleaning method. It’s also effective for getting out built up dirt and grime, so it doesn’t have the limitations of bonneting or encapsulation.

This is the newest method of carpet cleaning out there and a lot of professionals that have been doing things their own way for decades may have doubts. If this is the method you really want to use, just be sure to explain why you want to use it. Voice your concerns about chemicals and your pets or children, or the drying time involved with the other methods.

Are There Any DIY Methods That Offer Effective Results?

Vacuum cleaner resting on a brown carpet.

It’s a complicated question. Yes, there are effective tips for cleaning your carpet using DIY methods. The thing to keep in mind is that these are meant to extend the time between your professional cleanings, not replace them entirely.

If you’re using DIY tips to clean up spills right away, get out stains, and deep clean on your own (using a rented steam cleaner) then you won’t need to have a professional cleaning quite as often. Your carpets will also benefit from this regular care in other ways, like having a longer lifespan before needing to be replaced.

DIY solutions do have their place in your routine carpet care and maintenance, but it is not the only thing you should be using. Professionals love to hear about what steps you’ve taken on your own to keep your carpet clean because it can clue them in on what to expect, but they never want to encourage someone to skip the pro cleaning altogether.


No matter which option you end up choosing a professional carpet cleaning will make a huge difference in your home. Yes, it’s time-consuming and it takes a bit of a financial investment but when you consider alternatives like having to replace the carpet too early, it’s well worth it.

Knowing about the different methods you have to choose from means you can search around for the right method and cleaning pro for your needs. Some professionals might not offer all of the methods discussed here. Keep in mind the reasons you chose the method you did, and be willing to listen to a pro if they have a reason they think another method might be better.

In the end, you’re going to end up with carpets that smell, look, and feel great. After it’s all over you won’t have to worry about doing this again for at least another 12 months (possibly up to 18 months if you care for your carpets very well). Enjoy the new look of your carpets and take some time to enjoy that well-deserved relaxation after it’s all over.

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