What’s the Best Way to Clean Carpet?
Carpet Cleaning is a very subjective subject, so the best way to clean your carpet is the way that best matches your level of cleanliness, budget, and environmental concern. Carpet flooring is one of the most expensive investments in our homes, and at the end of the day, we all want the same end result: Great looking, fresh-smelling, soft, stain-free carpets that last for years.
There’s something strangely unique feeling about a home with brand-new carpet installed. It is a comforting satisfaction beneath your toes and a gentle ambiance of “fresh” fragrance in the air. As the kids say: “It’s a VIBE!” But after a few months to years, that new carpet smell and soft, luxurious pile become a hot spot for dust, allergens, and bacteria. Of course, vacuuming your home does help, but if you really want to eliminate pet dander, stains, oils, and dirt and extend the life of your carpets, nothing compares to professional cleaning.
You can do many tips and tricks on your own to maintain your carpet’s fresh smell and appearance, and you might even attempt to tackle individual carpet spills on your own immediately. But a yearly professional carpet cleaning service is totally worth the extra investment to ensure that the more challenging problems, such as odors from pet urine, bacteria, and mold growth, are correctly handled. Let the experts work their magic; that’s what we’re here for.
How often should I clean my carpets?
It’s recommended that you clean your carpet a minimum of once per year. However, you may want to do this more often if you have pets or small children. You will know that you’re due for a cleaning sooner if your carpet feels rough to the touch, appears discolored, or has a bad odor. If you’ve just purchased a home or signed a new lease and there is existing carpet, it’s essential to get the whole place professionally cleaned (including the stairs), before moving in. You never know what the previous inhabitants left behind.
What’s the Best Way to Clean Carpet?
There are two primary methods that professional carpet cleaners may use: wet or dry. It’s important to note that while both methods use water, as the name suggests, wet uses more water. “Wet carpet cleaning” requires roughly 20 – 25 gallons for an average size house, while “dry cleaning” only uses about 2 – 3 gallons. Also, each of these methods can be further subdivided into two niches. Confused? Let’s dive deeper.
Wet Carpet Cleaning Methods
All carpet cleaning techniques and methods involve the use of water one way or another, but there are two common methods that we’ll refer to as “wet.” Wet methods require a high amount of water saturation in the carpet fibers and take more time to dry on average. Consumers can typically find rentable extractors and steam cleaners available in their local grocery stores, but without the proper training and understanding of carpet cleaning fundamentals, DIYers run the risk of soaking the carpet and creating a breeding ground for mold in their homes. In the wet category of professional carpet cleaning, there are two primary buckets:
Wet Carpet Cleaning Method 1: Hot Water Extraction
Hot water extraction uses pressure and hot water to help release stains and debris (not always seen by the naked eye) from your carpet. This method requires trucks that are outfitted with large storage tanks that contain treated water and powerful vacuums.
The hot water extraction process involves several steps. First, the technician will apply a hot water-based solution of chemicals to the carpets, which dissolves as much dirt and soils as possible. Second, the carpets are passed over several times with a special vacuum to rinse and extract the dirty solution. The dirt, stains, and smells are sucked back out and into the truck’s storage container. This leftover wastewater must eventually be discarded and can become an environmental concern if disposed of inappropriately into storm sewers, streets septic systems, or directly into the ground. Finally, the carpet is left to dry which can typically require an average of 8 – 12 hours or up to 24 hours (depending on the humidity, time of the year, and technician’s level of skill).
Wet Carpet Cleaning Method 2: Steam Cleaning
Steam cleaning refers to a specific type of truck-mounted system that is basically a higher-temperature version of hot water extraction. Here, the water is heated up to 215 degrees and pressurized before becoming steam that is injected into the fibers of your carpet. The steam vapor helps to loosen dirt away from where it is trapped within the carpet fibers. Like hot water extraction, the resulting water is then vacuumed up along with all the yuckies.
Pros of Wet Carpet Cleaning
- Can be effective for removing stains and spills such as pet urine and hair
- Rinses and removes contamination
- Gentle on fibers and can be used on almost all carpet types
Cons of Wet Carpet Cleaning
- Requires a highly experienced operator
- More costly due to the higher expense of machinery
- Long dry time (can take up to 24 hours)
- Inexperienced users can over-wet the carpet leaving it wrinkled and smelly
- High possibility of creating mold due to operator error
Dry Carpet Cleaning Methods
Within the dry method of professional carpet cleaning there are two very different approaches:
- Dry foam encapsulation
- Carpet shampooing
Dry Carpet Cleaning Method 1: Dry Foam Encapsulation
The first step for carpet cleaning that uses dry foam encapsulation is to loosen particles by agitating the carpet with a nylon pile brush. Then, the technician will carefully dry vacuum your carpet with a high-powered machine, before applying a pre-treatment solution that contains all-natural enzymes (different cleaners will use different solutions, so make to ask if you are specifically seeking a natural solution).
The natural enzyme-based solution will organically digest dirt and oils. This will effectively break the bond between fats, proteins, and any other residues trapped in the carpet fibers. Whatever remains, becomes encapsulated, and will be easily removed with normal cleanings.
At this stage, a disinfectant and, or deodorizer can be applied. The deodorizer is a versatile product for use in unlimited applications as it destroys odor-causing bacteria on contact. The deodorizer also retards the growth of mildew while destroying the odors of human and animal residue/contamination.
The carpet is then clean with a safe cleaning agent, or shampoo using a rotary scrubbing brush with minimal moisture. This is then followed by final grooming to give the carpet back its original luster and fluffiness. Your carpet should be dry within 2 -4 hours with this process.
Pros of Dry Foam Encapsulation
- Cost-effective solution
- Fast drying time
- Low environmental impact with fewer chemicals used
- Safe for family and pets
Cons of Dry Foam Encapsulation
- Hard to do yourself
- Requires specific enzymatic solution (for an all-natural approach)
- Not always the best solution for excessively soiled carpets
While you won’t find many people shampooing their carpets these days, it is still an option. It works just like you would expect for any other cleaning solution. You put it into your carpet, where it becomes a wet foam. From there, you rinse out the carpet, and you’re done!
Uses a soap (aka, lauryl sulfate or meryl sulfate, a known irritant), to loosen trapped dirt. Typically, a chemical solution is added to a rotary machine, or a store-rented machine, followed by a good old fashion scrubbing. An extraction can also be performed, although this is not common. This form of “dry” carpet cleaning almost always leaves a large amount of residue. The residue is bad because it attracts dust and dirt causing your carpets to re-soil much, much quicker.
Pros of Carpet Shampooing
- Fast application process
- Can be done yourself
Cons of Carpet Shampooing
- A lot of work involved in cleaning
- Can leave behind a residue
- Re-soils quickly
So, what is the Best Method of Cleaning Carpets?
Both professional wet and dry methods offer a deeper level of cleaning than just your typical vacuuming. It basically comes down to budget and time. The wet method can be highly effective for removing stains, pet urine, and odors, however, it takes much longer to dry due to the amount of water used in the process (increasing the chance of mold growth).
While the dry method, cuts drying time significantly, you can walk on your carpet almost immediately after service, it requires a lot more elbow grease (from the technician) to ensure the dirt and odors are adequately removed, but it’s a great option for those seeking an effective cleaning method without chemicals.
In the end, it is a personal choice based on how dirty your carpets are, how much you want to spend, how much time you have, and what you want your environmental impact to be. The best advice we can offer is to talk to your carpet cleaning professional. Ask questions about the specific method they will use and find out exactly what is included in your initial package. Once the technician is at your home, they will be able to assess your carpets and upholstery and provide you with a tailored option that fits your needs.
There are several add-ons worth considering such as a deodorizer and protector that will help maintain your carpets longer. Stairs and area rugs are also an option but are an additional cost, so make sure you speak to your technician before any work is done.