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Which is the Best Carpet Cleaning Method? Expert Articles by Richard Midgley
Master Cleaner
Owner, UK Carpet Cleaning™
San Diego County
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Which is the best carpet cleaning method?

You probably know that there are several methods (or processes) of carpet cleaning available for your home and office.
But is there clearly a "best" method?

Choosing the proper cleaning method is important. Some systems only clean the surface, and may leave residues which accelerate re-soiling. This defeats the whole purpose of cleaning, doesn’t it?

The most common questions I receive from concerned homeowners are:

Q: What is the best carpet cleaning method available?

Q: Will your process damage my carpet?

Q: How often should I clean my carpet?

If you want to have the deepest and most thorough carpet cleaning possible, one that prevents residue and rapid re-soiling, and you want to keep your carpet manufacturer’s warranty coverage intact, then there is a clear winner: Hot Water Extraction.
This is also the major carpet manufacturers’ preferred method of cleaning. (More on this later)

But first I'd like to briefly explain the other methods you may have heard about. Then I will explain why I have chosen Hot Water Extraction for my professional business, UK Carpet Cleaning.

There are five distinctly different methods used today by carpet cleaners with varying levels of effectiveness:

  • Shampooing
  • Encapsulation
  • Bonnet Dry Cleaning
  • Dry Powder Cleaning
  • Hot Water Extraction


The shampoo methods of cleaning were the most popular until the encapsulation method (explained next) was introduced in the 1970s. The problem with shampooing is that it leaves behind high amounts of residue, takes a long time to dry, and becomes sticky which leads to rapid re-soiling. This is the high-residue method that many companies warn you about.


This method uses the application of a foam detergent that dries and “encapsulates” loosened dirt particles that are then vacuumed up. This method is a step up from shampooing, because it uses less water during the cleaning process which results in shorter drying times and less harmful shampoo residues. But this method is also limited — it's not capable of thoroughly deep cleaning carpet.

Bonnet Dry Cleaning

This method will only produce good results on the top surface of a carpet by using a machine with a spinning pad that has been soaked in cleaning solutions to absorb dirt from the surface fibers of the carpet. Because bonneting does not deep-clean carpet, carpets are not thoroughly cleaned, and they re-soil faster as chemical residues and remaining dirt accumulate under the surface.

Dry Powder Cleaning

Certain franchises love to offer and promote this method. A dry-cleaning / low-moisture job is quick to perform, the cleaner's need very little training, and the equipment is cheap. Unfortunately, this method is only suitable for removing surface dirt, and it's not capable of deep cleaning a carpet. The main benefit is that it dries quickly - less than an hour - which makes it suitable for facilities that can't afford down-time, like commercial facilities that operate 24 hours a day, or restaurants.

My analogy is: the low-moisture processes
are like using baby wipes instead of taking a shower!
Which leads us, in my opinion,
to the best carpet cleaning method...

Hot Water Extraction

Out of all the carpet cleaning processes available, research indicates that truck-mounted hot water extraction — when performed by a a skilled and experienced technician — is the safest, and most thorough cleaning process available. This system is commonly referred to as “steam cleaning” — however, no steam is actually generated.

My complete 10-step process consists of pre-inspecting, pre-spotting, pre-spraying, and pre-grooming your carpet to prepare for a powerful rotary extraction method that uses high pressure hot water and effective cleaning agents. The water, cleaning agents, dirt and other contaminants are immediately and thoroughly "extracted” from the carpet by a very powerful, truck-mounted vacuum system, leaving your carpets deeply cleaned, soft, fresh, and free of soil-attracting residue.

Scientific cleaning principles are based on "T.A.C.T." :

  • Temperature: the proper (very hot) water temperature for maximum effectiveness
  • Agitation: the scrubbing techniques and equipment
  • Chemical: the safest and most effective cleaning solutions and the proper amount, from pre-spray and pre-spot, to deep-cleaning solutions
  • Time: (known as dwell time) depending on the cleaning needs and type of carpet, the amount of time a cleaning solution needs to help separate the soil from the carpet.

My complete 10-step Hot Water Extraction process works synergistically to maximize all of these cleaning principles, unlike all other cleaning methods. This results in the most complete soil removal possible, and leaves no soil-attracting residues.

Correctly performed, Hot Water Extraction is absolutely safe for your carpet. In fact, it's the method recommended by the top carpet manufacturers including Shaw, Mohawk, Dupont, and others. Shaw Industries is one of the world’s largest carpet manufacturers with over $4 billion in carpet sales annually — and Shaw actually requires proof of periodic Hot Water Extraction method cleaning, specifically, to maintain its new carpet warranty.

Not all hot water extraction equipment and self-proclaimed professionals are created equally.

Operator error by unskilled inexperienced technicians, perhaps by over-wetting the carpet, or failing to properly extract the water, can lead to a whole slew of problems including mold, mildew, buckling, delamination (a condition where the secondary backing of the carpet separates from the primary backing), and tuft loss. A bad cleaning job can cause the carpet tufts to pull out easily, which could even result in damage to your floor underneath.

Hot Water Extraction does take highly-trained and skilled professionals. It takes more time to clean the carpets, the state-of-the-art equipment is more expensive, and it costs more to perform the best possible job — which generally results in a higher price tag. However, the client will have a more healthy and deep-clean result that will far outlast a surface dry cleaning methods.

In addition, I tell my clients that they can’t afford cheap carpet cleaning, because the low soil-removal methods will take years off the useful life of your carpet, resulting in premature wear and costly early replacement.

A carpet generally has a life expectancy of 8 to 12 years. However, with regular Hot Water Extraction cleaning, you can more than double the useful life expectancy of the carpet whilst maintaining a high appearance level. I have many clients with 20-year-old carpet that I have cleaned every year that still has the appearance level of a 3-year-old carpet.

True professionals understand their equipment, know the proper cleaning agents for unique situations, and recognize the differences and conditions in the fibers of the carpet to be cleaned. I have been cleaning carpets for over 20 years, and I have attained the highest cleaning certification available - Master Textile Cleaner. For more about my background, please see the About Page on this website.

Deep cleaning targets the soils that accumulate and settle from oily cooking vapors, air pollution, air conditioning dust, and tracked-in dirt and allergens. The particles of oily soil deposited on carpet fibers can cause gradual and significant dulling of appearance and unhealthy conditions. Deep cleaning will remove the oily sticky soil that vacuum cleaners cannot remove, and will leave your carpet looking and feeling great!

How often to clean carpets:

It's highly recommended to get on a regular cleaning schedule. If carpet is cleaned before it becomes too unsightly, the cleaning job will be faster and more successful. Carpet in a typical household should be cleaned by Hot Water Extraction every 12 to 18 months.

Preventive Maintenance:

  • Rugs and mats near doorways prevent a majority of staining and soiling from tracked-in dirt and soil.
  • Prompt attention to spots and spills will prevent a stain from setting.
  • Vacuum regularly, especially in high-traffic areas to prevent matting and accumulation of contaminants.
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