Carpet Steam Cleaning vs Dry Cleaning

Carpet Steam Cleaning vs Dry Cleaning

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So you’ve heard that carpet steam cleaning is a better option than dry cleaning, but your friend told you the opposite.

Which one should you choose?

The answer may depend on what type of carpets and fabrics are in your home, as well as how much time and effort you want to spend on housekeeping.

Let’s take a closer look at each method so that you can make an informed decision!

Related post: Steam Cleaning vs Chemical Cleaning Carpets (Which is Better?)

Steam Cleaning Carpets

Steam cleaning a carpet

Steam cleaning carpets involves using a pressurized jet of steam to remove dirt, oils, and other debris from the pile of your carpet. The steam loosens these particles so that they can be pulled up or vacuumed away more easily.

Inside the steam cleaning machine, the temperature of water is raised to 200 degrees Fahrenheit or more. It exits via a nozzle that is directed at the surface to be cleaned.

There are a bunch of pros and cons to steam cleaning carpets:


  • It’s a healthier way to clean carpets, as it kills most bacteria and dust mites with the most ingenious substance there ever was or will be – your humble hot water. No chemicals around the house, in your lungs, and environment!
  • Can reduce allergens in your home by up to 97%! (This can help those who suffer from asthma.)
  • It can penetrate and clean deep within your carpet pile.


  • Steam cleaning can be messy because of the moisture that is left behind on your carpet after you’re done. Indeed, your carpets may not be dry for two days after steam cleaning!
  • The cost of steam cleaners varies widely depending on which type you choose, but they are generally more expensive than dry cleaning machines.
  • Though not always necessary, if there is a high level of soiling, then pre-treatment of the carpet may be necessary to achieve a good clean. Eg. Steam cleaning won’t remove spots caused by oil stains (such as motor oil) unless these are first removed beforehand with an appropriate solvent cleaner.
  • If you have wool or silk carpets in your home, they may shrink when steam cleaned, which could cause damage over time.

Dry Cleaning Carpets

Dry cleaning carpet at home

Dry cleaning uses chemicals to remove stains or dirt from fabrics, including carpets. People often resort to this method when they can’t remove the soiling by vacuuming, such as with oil or gum stains.

Carpet Dry Cleaning Steps

  1. A pre-treatment using powerful vacuum equipment removes dry soil.
  2. A dry-cleaning solution is applied, usually consisting of dry-cleaning solvents in water.
  3. The dry-cleaning solution dissolves oily residue on the carpet fibers. Removing the oil removes the “stickiness”, thereby helping to remove trapped dirt.
  4. Using a rotary machine, warm, wet cotton pads are circulated on the carpet, trapping released dirt.

Dry cleaning has advantages over steam cleaning in that the carpet dries quickly afterwards and leaves no moisture residue on the surface of your carpets to attract more dust or bacteria.

However, dry cleaners are usually less effective at removing high levels of soiling from deep within the pile than steam cleaners – especially for ground-in spills like mud or grease.

There is also an environmental benefit to steam cleaning, as dry cleaners can release toxic fumes into the air and produce hazardous byproducts, such as perchloroethylene.

In other words, the planet WANTS you to choose a steamer over the dry cleaner.

Commercial vs Domestic Carpet Cleaning

Whether you choose steam or dry cleaning for your carpets, you also need to decide whether to hire a professional, or do-it-yourself.

Some people may prefer to hire a professional carpet cleaner. They’ll usually have the tools and know-how needed to do a thorough job, not to mention that they can handle large jobs with ease.

A male professional cleaner using a steam cleaner to clean carpet

Professional cleaners are also insured in case something goes wrong while they’re at your property – an important consideration when you’ve got expensive flooring on display!

On the other hand, if you like taking care of things yourself but want some help along the way (or just don’t like spending money), then it’s worth considering DIY options.

The great news is that there are now a number of high-performance domestic steam cleaners available at affordable prices. There are far fewer options for DIY dry cleaning of carpets due to the specialized equipment and chemicals.

If you decide to go with a professional cleaner, a third option you may want to consider is Chem-Dry. They call their process Hot Carbonation Extraction, which is different to the methods described above. You can read more about it in our article on steam cleaning carpet vs Chem-Dry.

Dry Steam vs Wet Steam Cleaning

Black and grey steam cleaner used for carpets

You may have also heard of dry steam vs wet steam cleaning.

(Yes, there are MANY variations!)

Dry steam cleaning is a type of steam cleaning that uses hotter steam under more pressure. Dry steam has lower water content and as such, surfaces are generally left dry to the touch.

Dry steam cleaning has important applications in disinfecting a wide range of surfaces, and steam is effective at killing virus particles. So it’s only natural that it has stirred a lot of interest during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wet steam cleaning uses a lower temperature steam with a higher moisture content. This makes it effective for “flushing” dirt and grime out of carpets.

Which Is Better: Steam Cleaning Or Dry Cleaning Carpets?

Steam cleaning is a great way to clean carpets, but there are times when dry carpet cleaning will be more effective.

Steam cleaning carpets is a great option if you have a pets, because it’s better at cleaning pet stains. It also works wonders for odors and is gentler on fabrics than dry cleaners.

However, if you want to clean your carpet quickly or need to cover up light-colored carpets with dark colors (think red wine), then using a dry cleaner will be more effective.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does steam cleaning ruin carpets?

For the vast majority of carpets, steam cleaning is safe and will not ruin carpets.

If you have a more expensive rug with silk sewn in the fabric, be sure to do your research and spot test before going ahead with steam cleaning. The hot steam may shrink these delicate fabrics which would leave them looking worn down and less attractive over time.

Does steam cleaning kill pests that live in carpets?

When used correctly, steam cleaners are very effective at killing pests that live in carpets, such as dust mites and fleas. Steaming cleaning can also be used to kill bed bugs in mattresses!

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