Pros and Cons of Common Carpet Cleaning Methods

Lauren Wellbank
Written by Lauren Wellbank
Updated October 12, 2021
Father and son play in living room on carpet
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Your home’s carpets see a lot of foot traffic, and those feet can track in all sorts of messes. Add children, pets, and the occasional houseguest, and your carpet can quickly look (and feel) a little worse for the wear. Frequent vacuuming is a great way to keep your flooring looking and smelling its best, but vacuuming alone isn’t enough to keep them spotless. 

Twice-yearly shampooing, steam cleaning, and even encapsulation are common choices when it comes to deep cleaning carpeting, and there are pros and cons to each method. This is what you should know before hiring a local carpet cleaning professional.

1. Carpet Shampooing

Shampooing carpets is a popular way to deep clean your rugs. It’s typically done using a machine that holds a tank of cleaning solution or shampoo and another tank to hold the dirty water once it’s removed. The two work together to go over small sections of your carpet, using a rolling brush to apply the mixture and then suck the dirty moisture back into the machine. 

Professional carpet shampooing costs an average of $240 when you hire a pro. You can also rent carpet shampooers from home improvement stores for an hourly or daily rate.

Pros of Carpet Shampooing

Just like washing your hair, shampooing carpet creates a lather that separates dirt molecules from the fibers, allowing the dirt to be sucked back up into the machine. The agitators on the base of the machine also work to strip embedded pet hairs from the tightly wound fibers.

Cons of Carpet Shampooing

Unlike washing your hair, there’s no real rinse cycle. Imagine how you would feel leaving the shower with a bit of shampoo left in your tresses. After time, your carpet can start to look dingy due to a buildup of shampoo molecules that haven’t been properly removed. 

Also, while the shampooer’s vacuuming function can work to remove excess moisture from your carpet, it will never get all of it. This means water may soak down into your foam padding, creating issues with moisture, icky smells, and mold down the line.

2. Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaners work by applying superheated water using a high-pressure applicator. The combination works together to help break down stuck-on dirt, bacteria, and debris. The hot water can also cause your carpet fibers to fill back out, giving your flooring a softer, cushier feel after cleaning. You can expect to spend around $300 to have your carpets steam cleaned.

Pros of Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning is believed to remove over 90% of all the dirt and bacteria from your flooring, which is perfect for removing mud stains from your carpet. It can also help to neutralize allergens like dust and pollen for allergy sufferers. 

Cons of Steam Cleaning

Like other methods that involve water, it can be hard to remove all moisture from your carpet after cleaning. This means you might be stuck with areas that need hours of downtime to dry, or flooring that develops mold or mildew issues from retained moisture.

3. Encapsulation

Carpet in modern living room
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Encapsulation became popular after its introduction in the 1970s. This process works by applying a liquid or foam detergent to your carpet that crystalizes into a vacuumable powder as it dries. 

During the drying process, dirt is lifted from the carpet fibers and encapsulated into the powder. It’s then brushed up and vacuumed for removal. Carpet cleaning professionals can sometimes charge by the square foot for encapsulation, with costs starting as low as $.20 per unit.

Pros of Encapsulation

Encapsulation is quick to dry and considered more environmentally friendly than a lot of other options. There isn’t much chemical left behind after you’ve vacuumed up the powder, and it doesn’t rely on a whole lot of other resources like water or electricity.

Cons of Encapsulation

While it does have some benefits over other methods like shampooing, it is not as effective at dealing with heavy-duty carpet messes like odors and stains that are located deep within the carpet fibers since it only offers a surface cleaning.

4. Bonnet Cleaning

Normally a popular carpet cleaning method in high-traffic commercial buildings like office structures or hotels, bonnet cleaning relies on a heavy-duty machine that has a motorized spinning pad covered in cleaning solution. This absorbs dirt and debris directly from the upper levels of carpets and rugs, and prices can start as low as $25 per room.

Pros of Bonnet Cleaning

This is a quick way to get lightly soiled carpets clean in an area where you don’t have time to wait for shampoo or encapsulation methods to dry.

Cons of Bonnet Cleaning

Because bonneting only offers a surface clean, it won’t get any deep-down stubborn dirt. The lack of a deep cleaning also means that any dirt left behind—and there will be dirt left behind—will quickly show back up on your carpet’s surfaces.

5. Dry Carpet Cleaning

Just like the name suggests, there is no water or liquid cleaner involved in a dry cleaning. Instead, carpets are cleaned using a powder compound that is applied using a machine with a motorized brush that distributes the powder deep down into the carpet fiber. 

These services normally cost around $215. The specially designed compound then works like a sponge and absorbs dirt, odors, and debris before it is sucked back up by a vacuum-like function.

Pros of Dry Carpet Cleaning

Because there is no water used, there is virtually no downtime needed with this type of cleaning method. This type of cleaning is also safe for all types of carpets, while some other methods can only be used on certain materials.

Cons of Dry Carpet Cleaning

The technology behind the compounds is newer to the market, so there isn’t enough known about them. Some carpet cleaning professionals doubt the effectiveness of these methods.

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