Steam Carpet Cleaning vs Shampooing

Getting your carpets professionally cleaned every once in a while is an important part of keeping your home looking great and maintaining its value. But as with any home improvement task, there are several different ways to go about it.

Two of the most common and popular carpet cleaning methods are steam cleaning and shampooing.

While they have their similarities, they also have some key differences that homeowners should understand before deciding which method is right for them.

To help you decide, we’ve put together a guide to help you compare steam cleaning vs shampooing.

We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each method, so you can make an informed decision.

Steam Carpet Cleaning Vs Shampooing

What Is Steam Cleaning?

What Is Steam Cleaning

The term “steam cleaning” refers to a method for cleaning carpets that uses warm to hot water rather than steam. This method is also known as the hot-water extraction method.

In steam cleaning, the carpet is first vacuumed or pre-treated with a cleaning solution. Hot water is then mixed with a cleaning solution and applied to the carpets using a pressurized sprayer.

The mixture helps penetrate deep into the carpets and loosen dirt, debris, and other contaminants.

Hot water is forced into the carpet at high pressure to break the fiber’s tenacious bonding and dissolve the soil and dust.

After that, the pollutants are sucked out of the carpet by a vacuum, leaving the carpet looking and feeling clean.

Steam cleaning is ideal for carpets that are heavily soiled, as the hot water is able to remove deep-down dirt and grime.

In addition, steam cleaning helps kill germs and bacteria that can cause odors and leave carpets looking dull.

Pros of Steam Cleaning

Steam Carpet cleaning process comes with several benefits, such as:

  • Highly effective at removing dirt and grime from carpets
  • Helps kill bacteria and germs that can cause odors
  • Reduces allergens in carpets
  • Can help restore the original color of carpets
  • Suitable for heavily soiled carpets

Cons of Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning also has some drawbacks, such as:

  • Longer drying time – typically between 6 to 12 hours
  • Expensive compared to other cleaning methods
  • Hot water may shrink or damage some carpets

What is Carpet Shampooing?

What is Carpet Shampooing

Shampooing carpets is a much more traditional method of carpet cleaning. It involves using a specially formulated, foamy shampoo to clean carpets.

Carpet shampooing works by breaking up dirt and soil particles that have become embedded in the carpets.

When mixed with water, the shampoo solution creates an abrasive foam, which helps scrub away dirt and debris from the carpets.

After the shampoo is applied to the carpets, it is agitated using a machine or brush to help loosen and remove the dirt.

Once this process is complete, a wet vacuum is then used to suction away dirt, debris, and shampoo residue.

Once that’s done, the carpet is left to dry for several hours until it is completely dry.

Carpet shampooing is an ideal option for carpets that are not heavily soiled, as the shampoo does not penetrate deep into the fibers like steam cleaning does.

Pros of Shampooing

Shampooing carpets comes with several benefits, such as:

  • Inexpensive  compared to other cleaning methods
  • Less time-consuming – typically takes 2 to 6 hours for carpets to dry
  • It can help remove surface dirt and debris
  • It helps deodorize carpets, leaving them smelling fresh.
  • Safe for most carpets, though some may require a special shampoo

Cons of Shampooing

Carpet shampooing also has some drawbacks, including:

  • Does not remove deep-seated dirt and debris
  • May not kill bacteria or viruses in carpets
  • Can leave residue on carpets, leading to discoloration or fading over time

What Are The Differences Between Steam Cleaning and Shampooing Carpets?

Now that you know the basics of steam cleaning and shampooing, let’s look at the main differences between these two carpet-cleaning methods.

1. Use of Chemicals

Steam cleaning typically uses a combination of detergents and hot water to remove dirt, debris, and other contaminants from carpets.

The detergents used in steam cleaning help break down stubborn dirt particles that can be difficult to remove otherwise.

On the other hand, carpet shampooing uses a specialized foam shampoo that is designed specifically for carpet cleaning.

Shampoo is a gentler chemical than detergent and is not as effective at removing deep-seated dirt and grime.

Shampoo also does not contain any harsh chemicals that may damage or discolor carpets over time.

It is important to note that many shampoos are available on the market today, and each has different ingredients and strengths that can affect how well they clean carpets.

2. Time to Dry

Time to Dry

Another major difference between steam cleaning and shampooing is how long it takes for carpets to dry after each method.

Steam cleaning requires more time for drying, typically between 6 to 12 hours, while shampooing takes significantly less time, with most carpets drying in 2-6 hours, depending on the type of shampoo used.

Steam cleaning also leaves carpets damp for longer because of the high-pressure water applied during the process.

This could potentially lead to mold or mildew growth if the carpet isn’t dried off properly after treatment.

Shampooing, on the other hand, leaves carpets feeling soft and dry much faster because of the low-pressure foam being applied.

3. Effectiveness at Removing Dirt

Effectiveness at Removing Dirt

Another difference between steam cleaning and shampooing is their effectiveness in removing dirt from carpets.

Steam cleaning penetrates deep into the fibers of carpets, breaking up tough stains and loosening embedded dirt particles that would otherwise be difficult to remove with just vacuuming alone.

This makes steam cleaning a much more effective way of removing stubborn dirt and grime from carpets.

By contrast, shampooing works best on surface-level dirt particles. Still, it does not penetrate deep enough into the carpet’s fibers to be effective against stubborn stains or deeply embedded dirt particles like steam cleaning is capable of doing.

In terms of overall effectiveness, steam cleaning is the preferred method for deep-cleaning carpets and will leave them looking new again.

While shampooing is better suited to quickly remove surface dirt, it is not as effective at removing deep-seated dirt and grime.

4. Cost


Cost is another crucial factor to consider when deciding between steam cleaning and shampooing carpets.

Steam cleaning generally requires more expensive equipment than carpet shampooing does, and it can be costly to hire a professional for the job.

According to Home Advisor, steam cleaning can range in cost from $100 to $400, depending on the size of the area being cleaned.

Shampooing is a much more affordable option as the process only requires simple equipment that can be easily purchased or rented at most stores and hardware outlets.

Home Advisor estimates the cost of carpet shampooing to be around $100-$300, depending on how many rooms need to be shampooed.

Overall, steam cleaning is the more expensive option and is recommended for those who want to deep clean their carpets and remove stubborn dirt, debris, and stains.

Shampooing is a more affordable option for those who need to clean their carpets on a regular basis and want to save money in the process.

5. Carpet Compatibility

Carpet Compatibility

The last factor to consider when deciding between steam cleaning and shampooing is the carpet’s compatibility with each process.

Steam cleaning uses hot water that can potentially discolor or damage carpets if not done properly.

This means that carpets made out of sensitive fabrics, such as wool, may not be suitable for steam cleaning.

It is important to check with the manufacturer of the carpet before attempting to steam clean it.

On the other hand, shampooing does not use hot water and is generally considered safe for most carpets as long as a mild detergent is used.

Wool carpets are especially compatible with shampooing because of their delicate fibers.

If you have a carpet that is sensitive to hot water, shampooing would be the better choice as it is less likely to cause any damage.

When Should You Use Steam Cleaning vs Shampooing?

Now that we have discussed the differences between steam cleaning and shampooing, it is important to consider when each option should be used.

As a general rule, steam cleaning is best suited for deep-cleaning carpets and removing stubborn stains or dirt that regular vacuuming cannot reach.

This makes steam cleaning the best choice for carpets that have not been cleaned in a long time and are covered in deep-seated dirt and grime.

Shampooing, on the other hand, is better suited for regular carpet maintenance and quickly removing surface-level dirt particles.

It does not penetrate into the fibers of the carpet like steam cleaning does and is, therefore, not as effective for deep-cleaning carpets.

Wrapping Up

When choosing between steam cleaning and shampooing carpets, there are many factors to consider, such as cost, effectiveness at removing dirt, drying time, and carpet compatibility.

Ultimately, the decision will come down to personal preference and the type of carpet you have.

If you’re looking for a deep clean or want to remove stubborn stains, steam cleaning is recommended. However, if you need an affordable option suitable for most carpets, shampooing is the way to go.


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