Carpet cleaning methods

At a simple search on the internet, you will notice that there are so many carpet cleaning companies available on the market that it might be hard for you to decide which one to choose. The good news is that today is so much easier to find out more about a business and make an informed decision. By simply checking their social media accounts or read their reviews, you can easily decide which company is best for you.

In terms of carpet cleaning is important to understand the different cleaning methods and choose the one most suitable for you and your carpet. While there is no perfect cleaning process, that suits all types of carpets and rugs, depending on your needs one might be better than another. 

Consider a few advantages and disadvantages of the most popular carpet cleaning methods so you can better decide on the right choice for your home.

Hot water extraction method

hot water extraction

There is no “perfect carpet cleaning method” that suits all types of rugs and that addresses all forms of dirt and stains, however, the hot water extraction method, also known as steam cleaning, is considered the best option when comes to carpet cleaning. The great advantage of this method is that reaches deep inside the fibres, dissolving thick dirt, mud, dust, and other debris, and then extracts them easily. Steam also kills bacteria, germs, mould, mildew, and other irritants, make it an excellent choice for those with allergies or sensitivities to detergents and shampoos.

How does this method actually work? Hot water extraction cleaning typically involves application of cleaning agent on soiled surface, agitation of carpet with brush and followed by rinsing. After the detergent settles in for a short duration, the carpet will be agitated using high pressured hot water. Finally, a high-powered vacuum extracts the water, detergent and soil from of the carpet.  Steam also “fluffs up” matted carpet fibres so that your carpeting looks fresher and feels softer underfoot.


  • Highly effective in removing the built up of dirt, dust and other debris from deep within the fibres. The best method for removing pet urine and hair.
  • Best option for those struggling with watery eyes, itchy skin, sneezing or other allergen induced diseases, as it removes the bacteria and germs from your carpets.
  • Uses heat for increased cleaning effectiveness, which means your carpet will not only look fresh, but will also be sanitised.
  • Increases your carpeting’s life span.
  • Manufacturer-endorsed and most common method to keep your warranty in effect.
  • Very gentle on fibres and can be used on nearly all carpet types, including wool.
  • The ability to use the widest array of stain treatments to give the best final appearance.
  • Your carpets will stay clean for longest time. Depending on the traffic, experts recommend having your floors professionally cleaned at least once per year.


  • It might be challenging to remove all traces of water after a carpet steam clean, so carpeting may not be ready for foot traffic for several hours after cleaning (average drying time is 4 to 6 hours).
  • Requires an experienced operator with extensive knowledge in the field. Happy Clean uses this method for both carpet and upholstery cleaning, as well as mattress cleaning. All our agents are trained and know how to deal with high levels of dirt and most stubborn stains.
  • In the hands of someone inexperienced, carpet can be left over-wet which can cause wrinkling and odour issues.

Carpet shampooing

carpet shampooing

Do you know what shampooing your hair and shampooing your carpet have in common? Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, which is the main ingredient for your shampoo and one of the chemicals used in carpet shampooing. This method usually involves a rotary floor machine that scrubs the shampoo into your carpet and help loosen dirt and debris. Clean water is used to extract the shampoo, until the carpets are clean and free of residues. It is very effective in removing stubborn stains, however requires thorough, proper extraction. Otherwise, the sticky detergent residues left behind will trap and lock more dust and dirt, so your rugs might look dirty very soon after cleaning.

In the past, shampooing resulted in carpeting that got dirty much faster because it left behind a good deal of that shampoo in the fibres. It just wasn’t rinsed out at all. Today, when done properly, shampooing can be effective as a pre-conditioning step to break down heavy soils in carpeting and area rugs. Then it should be followed by a second method, like hot water extraction, to remove residues and soils.

This type of carpet cleaning is used in commercial applications that get very heavy traffic like restaurants, hotels and car dealerships.


  • Helps to break down heavy, ground-in soils and stains.
  • It’s relatively fast and many square feet can be cleaned quickly.
  • Though it uses water as part of the cleaning agent, it dries pretty quickly – in most cases, under an hour.


  • It doesn’t remove any residues from carpeting. All soils and spills are just pushed deeper into the back of the fibres where they’re less likely to be seen.
  • Not suitable for any delicate carpets as the mechanical agitation can untwist fibres, causing damage to the texture.
  • Most manufacturers exclude this method from their recommendations due to the potential for damage from the aggressive brushes and the weight of the machines.
  • Inexperienced operators often fail to rinse excess detergents from fibres, causing rapid re-soiling and discoloration.

Foam cleaning

foam cleaning

The low-moisture encapsulation method is a variation of the old “shampoo method”. The carpet is scrubbed with a rotary machine, cylindrical brush machine, or a 3-headed scrubber, and during this process the soil that was attached to the fibre is released into the encapsulation solution.

Today, this carpet cleaning method involves the use of a synthetic detergent as a base, that will crystallize into powder when dries. All the loosened dirt particles will be encapsulated into the powder and finally vacuumed or brushed. Comparing with carpet shampooing, the foam encapsulation cleaning technique uses less water, therefore the drying time is shorter. Also, there aren’t many chemical residues left behind, which makes this method more environmentally friendly.

Even though foam cleaning has shown good results, the technology has its limitation. When used on heavily soiled carpets, it needs to be followed by a second carpet cleaning method, such as hot water extraction, which will remove all the foam and trapped dirt.


  • Quick cleaning process. Cleaning rates of 2,000-3,000 sq. ft. per hour can be achieved with this method.
  • Dries quickly;
  • Encapsulation makes it simple to maintain commercial carpets and keep them looking cleaner over an extended period of time;
  • Environmentally friendly as there’s minimal water being consumed, and there is no discharge of water;
  • No residue;
  • Economical;


  • Not very effective on heavily soiled carpets;
  • Does not remove as much soil as extraction;
  • A second method of cleaning must be used for total dirt and allergens removal;

Bonnet cleaning

bonnet cleaning

This method is not suitable for deep cleaning, as it only removes surface dirt. The cleaning process involves the usage of a machine with a type of thick towel or bonnet over the front. This bonnet rubs rug shampoo along the surface of carpet fibres, and then it’s extracted along with trapped dirt and debris.

Bonneting is popular in hotels, as it is fast, it dries quickly and without much moisture. However, because this method does not deep clean the carpet, all the dust and dirt within the fibres will emerge back to the surface in no time.  Also tends to cause accumulation of chemical residue as the pressure from the heavy machine on the spinning pad pushes the applied chemical and remaining dirt into the carpet.

You should consider bonnet cleaning if your carpets are not that filthy or matted down. If you need light carpet cleaning on a consistent yet affordable basis, this is a great option.


  • Very rapid cleaning;
  • Rapid drying (usually dry in 30 minutes);
  • Affordable;


  • Only the surface is cleaned – deep down dirt is not removed;
  • Bonnet cleaning pushes a lot of soil further into the carpet’s pile and leaves detergent residue behind that leads to re-soiling;
  • Detergent and soil build-up;
  • Resoiling due to sticky residue;
  • Nearly all carpet and fibre manufacturers recommend against using the bonnet method on cut-pile carpet;

Dry cleaning

Dry cleaning is a relatively new technique compering to other conventional wet carpet cleaning methods.  It involves the use of a special powder detergent or similar chemicals, applied with a small amount of water. A rotating brush pushes the powder into the fibres and an extraction tool removes the detergent along with the trapped dirt. This method is preferred for offices or busy homes with families, as it does not require drying time. However, proper ventilation is vital because of the chemicals used in the process. If you are struggling with allergies or breathing difficulties, you should consider a different carpet cleaning method.


  • Carpets will be dry within a very short duration of time.
  • Great options for hotels, offices and busy work environments;
  • Suitable for all types of carpet including silk and oriental rugs;


  • Not powerful enough to revitalize and disinfect a carpet;
  • Residue built up left behind; more likely to collect dust;
  • Not suitable for those struggling with allergies or breathing difficulties;
  • Not effective for houses with pets;

Most common DIY methods

Whether it’s an errant cup of coffee, a magic marker mishap, or muddy paw prints, carpets and rugs are magnets for accidents. The best way to get rid of nasty stains is to have them clean by a professional carpet cleaning company as soon as possible, as time is the main difference between a spill and a permanent stain. However, there are a few things you could yourself at home. Using few ingredients, you probably already have on hand, you can DIY your own carpet cleaner to tackle any stain. Either you use liquid dishwasher detergent, vinegar or ammonia make sure you first determine whether your carpet is made of synthetic or natural fibres. It is very important to avoid the urge to scrub, as this will only make things worse. The moment the accident happens, blot the excess up with paper towels or a microfiber cloth. Once the excess is removed, dip a white cloth into your DIY carpet cleaner and apply to the stain. Never pour the solutions directly onto carpeting. For natural fibre carpets, put the cleaning solutions in spray bottles and mist them lightly onto the stain.

  • Detergent carpet cleaner

For synthetic carpets: Mix ¼ teaspoon of a translucent liquid dishwashing detergent, into one cup of lukewarm water.

For natural fibre carpets: Mix one teaspoon of translucent liquid dishwashing detergent, into 1 cup of lukewarm water.

  • Vinegar carpet cleaner

For synthetic carpets: Mix one cup of white vinegar with two cups of water.

For natural fibre carpets: Mix ¼ cup of white vinegar with ¼ cup of water.

  • Ammonia carpet cleaner

For natural fibre carpets only: Mix one tablespoon of clear household ammonia with ½ cup of lukewarm water.

To find out more about how to get rid of the most common stains on carpet using DIY methods, read our next article.

Stain guard

Stain guard is a process that is used on carpets or upholstery to protect it from staining. It also helps keep dirt and grime from attaching themselves to the fabric, by acting as a protective seal. Applying the protector after carpet or sofa cleaning will prolong the benefits of either of these services.

The reason why carpet cleaners suggest stainguarding as an immediate follow up to carpet or furniture cleaning is because it helps to prolong the “freshly cleaned” look everyone loves. More than that, it also helps protect your items and extend their life span, as nothing harmful will be able to dig itself down into the fibres. Although you will have great peace of mind with protected carpets and upholstery, they will not be bulletproof. If there is a spill, you will have a much better chance of clearing it up as the liquid should bead on top of your sofa or rug. It will give Enough time to grab some kitchen roll and dab up the spill.  If you had no protector applied, the spill will simply soak straight into the carpet or suite.

Stain guar works really well on wool or other natural fibres. The carpet will not look or feel any different once protected, and the flame retardancy of the wool fibres will not be compromised. Man-made fibres, such as Polypropylene don’t really need to be stain guarded as they are naturally stained resistant.

How long will your protector last for? It really depends on the traffic. Very busy areas will definitely benefit from a yearly clean and stain guard top up every 12 months.