Carpet Cleaning Methods (Dry Cleaning vs Steam Cleaning)

There’s allot of confusion surrounding which way is the best way to clean your carpets, and even more-so about what is actualy involved with the different methods.

As a senior technitian for Go Clean carpet cleaning in Adelaide, I’d like to take this opportunity to educate, and clear up some of the common misconceptions and un-truths that are commonly spread.

Unfortunateley, a large number of carpet cleaners only possess the skills, or equipment, to provide one type of clean, and not surprisingly, this is the method of cleaning they reccommend (as its all they know).
The fact remains, that both steam and dry cleaning have thier merrits and pitfalls, and the ideal clean depends on a huge number of factors, including the type of carpet, the age, the type of spills/marks/stains, the type of cleaning agents that are going to be used to clean the carpet, the frequency of cleaning, the type of underlay and more!

Your carpet cleaning technitian is the ideal person to ask which method they reccomend for you, but only if they offer more than one type of clean (to avoid bias).

Powder down and vacuum off. Not a method we reccommend for proffessional cleaning, but can be handy for a home DIY clean if its not a regular occurance. It works by absorbing greasy substances into the powdery crystals allowing them to be vacuumed out.
PROS, quick, cheap, easy..
CONS, if your vacuum isn’t up to the task (and most aren’t), your adding additional substances to your floor that are likeley to sit there permanantly which can become problematic later by wearing away your fibres faster like sandpaper, or other problems when spills occur later.

Dry foam shampoos. Not 100% dry but still considered a dry clean as it uses a limited amount of water. This is a method normaly reccomended by vacuum cleaner manufacturers which offer DYI washing attatchments. It normaly involves using a cleaning solution that is foamed up and spread accross the carpet using one of your vacuum attatchments. Some will have some type of scrubbing attatchment and a dirty foam collection tray to clean bristles as it scrubs (kirby and older electrolux vacuum cleaners are famous for this). Once the foam drys, it crystalyzes and from here acts like the dry powder method above, and just requires a vacuum later.
PROS, this offers a more thourough clean than the dry powder method due to the scrubbing action and the use of a little moisture enables a better adhesion of greases to the resulting crystaline powder that is formed, as such is a great DIY option.
CONS, most DIY-ers over wet the carpet doing more harm than good, this is also a time consuming process, and as such is not one commonly used by experianced professionals. Additionaly use of a high powered vacuum is required to remove particulate matter before the cleaning, and the subsequent crystaline powder on completion to get the best results.

Steam Cleaning. Ironicaly, steam cleaning does not use steam to clean the carpet at all, but infact uses preasurised water that is blasted into the carpet and then vacummed out using a wet dry vacuum cleaner. This method relies primarily on dirt/greases being suspended in the water which is prayed into the carpet before it is then sucked out by a powerfull machine. A pre spray or spotting chemicals may be used first to increase the removability of some marks or traffic areas. Although there are many wet dry vacuums available on the market (think vax/britex/rug doctor) most lack the strength to remove an appropriate ammount of water, and we there for recommend this type of clean as a professional clean only.
A professional steam cleaner should be using a high powered vacuum or truckmount unit, as the more moisture there is left in your carpet, the greater the potential for post-cleaning problems, such as wicking (resoiling from below), mouldy carpet, discolouration and bleeding etc.
PROS, great for removing exotic or damaging chemicals that may be neccessary for specialised spot treatment, it can get deep into the fibre, can vacuum out wet spills, and can be performed by the careful and dilligent DIYer.
CONS, Dry time is significantly greater than the other methods, overwetting is very, very bad for carpets, re-appearance of stains is more common with this method, carpet should not be walked on after this type of clean untill it is completeley dry.
Some cleaners may try to speed drying by using powders/chemicals, these MUST be vacuumed afterwards using a high powered vacuum for best results

Bonnett dry cleaning. This is the typical Dry clean professional carpet dry cleaners use, and not a common DIY method. It normaly involves the use of a cleaning solution being applied directly to the carpet or cleaning ‘pad’ which is used to scrub the floor. The increase in agitation helps part matter and staining from the carpet fiber, when it is then either transferred directly to the pad or encaptulated in a crystaline powder enabeling it to be vacummed out later (a combo of both provides the best result). When performed correctly, this method results in a very high level of stain removal compareable to spotting each carpet fibre by hand with a cloth, and is one of the reccomended proffessional methods for allot of common carpets.
PROS, carpet can normaly be walked on immediatley, high level of stain removal, minimal interuption and moisture usage.

CONS, not for the DIYer unless you already have the equipment, fragile/damaged areas must be avoided, exotic chemicals may still require an extraction if unable to be neutralised chemicaly, use of a powerfull vacuum is required prior (and ideally afterwards also) to remove deep particulate matter and sand.

In Summary, Dry Cleaning is absoluteley perfect for top-soiled staining, its rareley 100% dry (unless your just looking for a vacuum), but in most cases will allow you to walk on the carpet immediateley, or very shortly after completion of the clean. Steam cleaning is great where extraction of chemicals or spills is required, but you wont be able to use your carpet untill its dry, and can be prone to other issues if not performed by an experianced professional. There are many cases where both are suitable, and just as many more where one will be reccomended over the other…. What to remember though is theres no hard and fast rule that determines which method you should use, as every home, carpet and stain/soilage situation is unique, so ask a professional that offers both methods for thier reccomendation.

The single best thing you can do for carpet, is vacuum it regularly with a quality vacuum, attend to spills as they happen, avoid throwing chemical cocktails on stained flooring unless you know what your doing, and if you dont, CALL A PROFESSIONAL!


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