Dry Carpet Cleaning vs. Steam Cleaning

Your carpet is the foundation of your home, office, or any other space, and it’s important to keep it clean.

While vacuuming your carpets every few days is a good start, getting them professionally cleaned a few times per year is even more important.

When it comes time to choose the right cleaning method, you have two main options: dry carpet cleaning and steam cleaning.

Both have their own benefits and drawbacks that need to be taken into consideration before you decide which one is right for you.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at each method to help you decide which one to choose.

What Is Dry Carpet Cleaning?

Dry carpet cleaning is a method that uses a compound of detergents, solvents, and other chemicals to clean carpets without the use of water.

It involves spreading the compounds over the surface of the carpet, which then penetrates deep into the fibers and breaks down dirt, dust, and debris.

The advantage of this method is that it’s quick and easy — the compounds can be applied, brushed into the carpet, and then vacuumed away in a single step.

It’s also safe for all types of carpets, including wool rugs, as it doesn’t involve using any hot water or steam.

Some of the most common ways to dry clean carpets include:

The Dry Foam Method

The Dry Foam Method

The dry foam method involves spreading a foam detergent over the surface of the carpet and then agitating it with a motorized brush or bonnet. The foam absorbs dirt, dust, and other debris, which is then vacuumed away.

As the name indicates, this method is completely dry and requires little to no moisture, making it ideal for busy homes or offices.

Bonnet Pads Method

Bonnet Pads Method

The bonnet pad method begins the same as the dry foam method, but it differs in that it equips your cleaning machine with a specialized pad known as a bonnet.

When you run your machine over your carpet, the wet bonnet will pick up dirt and shampoo residue and absorb it as it moves across the surface.

Because the bonnet pads are absorbent, they can be reused multiple times.

Pros of Dry Carpet Cleaning

Dry carpet cleaning is ideal for busy spaces because it can be done quickly and without any drying time. Here are some of its main advantages:

  • No need to wait for carpets to dry before use
  • Safe for all types of carpets, including wool rugs
  • Can be done without the use of hot water or steam
  • Requires little to no moisture, making it perfect for busy homes and offices
  • Can be done in a single step

Cons of Dry Carpet Cleaning

The main drawback of dry carpet cleaning is that it doesn’t provide the same deep clean as steam cleaning.

Here are some of its other disadvantages:

  • It can be more expensive than other methods
  • Not ideal for heavily soiled carpets, as it doesn’t provide a deep clean

What Is Steam Cleaning?

Steam cleaning is a method that uses hot water and detergents to clean carpets deeply.

It involves heating up your machine’s water tank, which then produces high-pressure steam that penetrates deep into the carpet fibers, breaking down dirt and debris.

The steam cleaning process usually involves pre-treating the area to be cleaned with a cleaning solution and then using a steam cleaner to agitate the carpet fibers.

This agitation helps remove dirt particles, pet dander, and other allergens from deep within your carpets.

There are two main ways to go about steam cleaning carpets:

Truck Mount Method

Truck Mount Method

In this method, a chemical carpet cleaner is mixed with pressurized hot water, and the resulting mixture is then applied to your carpet by a machine.

During operation, the machine removes extra moisture and chemicals from the environment, just like a vacuum would.

The advantage of this method is that it provides a deep clean, but the disadvantage is that it can be time-consuming and expensive.

Portable Extraction Method

Portable Extraction Method

This method is quite similar to the truck mount, with the exception that it is used in an industrial setting.

The portable extraction method requires the use of a steam cleaner, which is essentially a machine with an attached hand-held cleaning tool.

This machine uses pressurized hot water and detergents to deep-clean the carpets.

The advantage of this method is that it’s much quicker than the truck mount method, but it doesn’t provide as deep a clean.

Pros of Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning provides a more thorough clean, making it ideal for heavily soiled carpets. Here are some of its main advantages:

  • Deep and thorough clean
  • It can remove allergens and pet dander
  • Better for heavily soiled carpets
  • Cost-effective in the long run as it requires less frequent cleaning
  • Removes mold growth and prevents future mold growth

Cons of Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning does have some drawbacks, however. Here are some of the cons:

  • Longer drying times
  • It may not be safe for all fabrics

What Are The Differences Between Dry Carpet Cleaning and Steam Cleaning?

Dry carpet cleaning and steam cleaning differ in several ways, from drying time and cost to effectiveness and compatibility.

Here’s a closer look at the main differences between the two methods:

Drying Time

Drying Time

One of the most important factors to consider when hiring professional carpet cleaners is the drying time.

Traditional steam cleaning can take up to 24 hours or more for your carpets to dry, making it an inconvenient and sometimes impractical choice.

This is because the process involves drenching your carpets in hot water and detergent and then extracting the dirty water.

By contrast, dry carpet cleaning uses special dry compounds that are applied directly to your carpets.

As a result, there is no need for the carpets to be rinsed or extracted with any liquid; they are left to dry in a few hours.



Cost is also a major factor when it comes to choosing the best carpet cleaning service.

Generally, dry carpet cleaning is more cost-effective compared to steam cleaning due to its shorter drying time and no need for special equipment or detergents.

Dry carpet cleaning only requires the use of dry compounds, which are much cheaper than traditional steam cleaning detergents and equipment.

According to Shiny Carpet Cleaning, dry carpet cleaning can cost anywhere from $75 to $300.

On the other hand, steam cleaning can cost anywhere from $100 to $500. Though not a major difference, the cost savings can be worth considering.



When it comes to effectiveness, both dry carpet cleaning and steam cleaning can remove dirt and grime from carpets.

However, steam cleaning is a multi-step process where the carpets are first vacuumed, pre-treated, and then cleaned with pressurized hot water and detergent.

This makes it more effective at removing deep-set dirt, as well as killing most germs and bacteria.

Dry carpet cleaning is not suitable for heavy-duty cleaning or stubborn stains, as this method relies on using dry compounds that are simply brushed into the carpet.

So, if you have heavily soiled carpets or pet stains that need to be eliminated, steam cleaning may be the better option.



It’s also important to consider whether your carpets are compatible with a particular cleaning method.

For example, some carpets may not be suitable for steam cleaning due to their delicate fabric and design.

This is because steam cleaning could cause the fabrics to shrink or fade. If you have an antique or delicate rug, dry carpet cleaning is usually the better option.

Similarly, if you have certain types of stain-resistant carpet, dry carpet cleaning may be the only suitable choice.

Which Method Should You Choose to Take?

If your carpets are really dirty and you have some extra time, steam cleaning is most likely the method that you should opt for.

This is because, despite the higher cost, steam cleaning is more effective and can kill germs that may be trapped deep in your carpets.

On the other hand, if your carpets have minimal soiling or need re-freshening, dry carpet cleaning is the most cost-effective and quickest option.

Since the carpet can be walked on immediately after the cleaning process, this is also a good choice if you don’t have the luxury of waiting for your carpets to dry.

You can also consider a combination of both methods – first, dry clean to remove light soiling, followed by steam cleaning for more intensive deep-set dirt.

Of course, this will cost you more, but it’ll also provide a more thorough cleaning, which will reduce the frequency of cleaning in the future.

Dry Cleaning Vs. Steam Cleaning

Final Thoughts

Both dry carpet cleaning and steam cleaning can be effective methods of keeping your carpets looking good, so it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each method before you decide.

By weighing up all the factors, such as drying time, cost, effectiveness, and compatibility, you can ensure that you are choosing the right method for your carpets. 

For more information on how to keep your carpets clean and looking great, consult with a professional carpet cleaner who can offer tips and advice tailored to your individual needs.


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