dirty red carpet

Encapsulation Carpet Cleaning vs Steam Cleaning: Which Is Better in 2024?

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It can be quite confusing trying to figure out which is the better carpet cleaning method between encapsulation and steam cleaning.

Well, encapsulation is great for day-to-day carpet cleaning but steam cleaning is better overall if you’re looking for a long-term carpet cleaning solution.

Still, how do the two compare in their process and what are their pros and cons?

Let’s take a dive below and find out!

Related Post: Is Steam Cleaning Bad for Carpets [Dos & Don’ts]

What Is Encapsulation Carpet Cleaning?

Encapsu… what? 

No wonder it’s more widely known as encap, so let’s just call it that.

Anyhow, it’s one of those cleaning methods that aim at giving you the best results with the least water used.

However, it uses a chemical polymer that’s sprayed onto your carpet fibers to crystallize dirt and soil particles so that it’s easier to vacuum them later on.

This method is mostly used for daily carpet cleaning in schools and business areas and involves 3 main factors:

1. Carpet agitator machine

This is a type of bonnet carrying either two or three brushes that counter-rotate to lift and spray the polymer solution inside the carpet fibers. Now, cheaper encapsulation machines come with a detached chemical tank while the pricier ones come with the tank mounted on the machine.

2. Cleaning chemistry

This is the chemical solution required to perform crystallization. If the formula is not right, it can leave a not-so-nice sticky residue that will only attract more dirt and require you to clean more frequently.

Another concern is that if the correct formula is not used, you may end up destroying the color and luster of your carpet.

3. Vacuuming

This is the last step and it involves passing a vacuum cleaner over the carpet to suck off all the soil and dirt trapped inside the polymer crystallizer.


  • Great for commercial, everyday cleaning
  • Effective at removing soils from carpets
  • Can walk on the carpet immediately after cleaning
  • Uses less water compared to steam cleaners
  • Excellent for cleaning enormous surfaces


  • Tedious 
  • Uses chemicals that may irritate children or pets
  • Relies heavily on multiple types of machinery
  • Not the best for stain removal
  • Doesn’t always remove all the residue
  • Brushes can damage delicate carpets

Carpet Steam Cleaning

No thingamajigs of ANY kind in steam cleaning. Only steam!

Steam cleaning uses jets of extremely heated water vapor to clean carpets and other surfaces. This steam is usually heated to temperatures exceeding 200 degrees Fahrenheit and is also released under very high pressure.

This method is very effective in breaking and lifting away dirt, grime, and other debris from your carpet.

Now, what continues to make steam cleaning shine above all the other carpet cleaning methods is its efficiency in killing germs and removing odors as well as tough stains. The high temperatures also kill pests living in your carpet and simultaneously destroy their eggs.

As you’ve seen, there’s no use of chemicals in steam cleaning and there’s only one device needed to get the job done. This means it’s easy to carry out and leaves your household safe for kids and pets alike.


  • Great as a one-off (or occasional) carpet cleaning solution
  • Effective against pests and their eggs
  • Equally fast
  • Not as tedious
  • Great for germ removal
  • Best for homes with kids/pets as it doesn’t use chemicals
  • Super versatile: can clean anything from tile grout to upholstery, kitchen sinks, toilet bowls, clothes


  • Not ideal for everyday use
  • Uses slightly more water than the encapsulation process

From the comparison above, you can also see why steam cleaning continues to rank higher than dry cleaning.

Things to Look Out for When Getting a Steam Cleaner

steam cleaning house

So, what do you think you should look out for when getting a steam cleaner?

1. Amount of work needed

It is very important to consider the amount of workload that you have at hand. Are you looking forward to a light clean-up or are you dealing with a bigger problem involving tough stains?

For lighter cleaning duties, you can get a smaller and highly portable steam cleaner. Most of these are hand-held and work well when cleaning far and hidden spaces like corners and crevices.

Professional-grade steam cleaners work best for heavier cleaning duties. They have longer cords and higher cleaning power than the smaller models.

2. Type of carpet

Lighter carpets most of the time DON’T need lots of pressure and steaming power as the heavier, rugged counterparts. As they are thinner, most steam cleaners will work through them just fine, depending on the level of dirt it’s carrying.

Heavier and rugged carpets will require you to go all-out and get bigger steam cleaning guns. They need a bit more oomph that can only be found in the higher-powered big steam cleaners.

You should also reconsider other options if your carpet’s made from materials like nylon that can be affected by extreme temperatures.

3. Size of the carpet

The bigger the carpet is, the larger a steam cleaner you’ll require and vice versa.

Larger steam cleaners are a great fit when cleaning bigger carpets as they have a bigger water reservoir. This enables you to clean for longer periods and more effectively without needing refills in between.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use tap water in my steam cleaner?

You can use tap water in your steam cleaner although it’s not always advisable. The thing is, some tap water contains traces of salinity that may crystalize and clog your steam cleaner’s tubing after a while.

That is why it’s always recommended that you use distilled water instead as it is easier to vaporize and doesn’t come with a crystallizing risk from prolonged use.

Which is better at removing pests between encapsulation vs steam cleaning?

Steam cleaning gives you a better deal of removing pests from your carpets than encapsulation.

This is because when steam cleaning, the hot, pressurized water vapor not only removes pests but also kills their eggs in the process. In doing so, it prevents future infestations and keeps your living room free from vermin longer.

And while encapsulation may also kill pests, it’s not as effective in killing pest eggs situated deep in your carpet’s pile. This means that you’re likely to have a re-infestation sooner than you’d fear.

Which is more cost-effective between steam cleaning vs encapsulation?

This highly depends on whether you want to use it commercially or in your home.

For commercial spaces, encapsulation offers a cheaper option for property managers as it uses less water considering you have to clean the premises every day.

On the other hand, steam cleaning is more cost-effective if you want to pull a once-in-a-while thorough cleaning of your carpet at home! You will get to save on electricity and water bills that are accompanied by the daily use of an encapsulating machine.

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