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Steam Cleaning Carpets Vs Shampooing: Which Is Best?

steam cleaning vs shampooing

We all want clean carpets and many of us naturally wonder, which method is the best and safest way to clean carpets?

Shampoo carpet cleaning has been around the longest. It’s a tried and tested method which gives great consistent results.

Having said that, it has it’s drawbacks as well. Steam cleaning is the newest form of carpet cleaning to grace the market and it got us wondering, isotherm really a difference?

In this blog post, we will compare steam cleaning carpets vs shampooing.

Steam carpet cleaning pros and cons

This has become the most popular form of carpet cleaning over the years and for very good reason.

The advantages of steam carpet cleaning:

  • Faster drying times

  • Highly effective in cleaning carpets and upholstery

  • Fewer chemicals needed

  • Sticky stains Don’t require an extra step

Disadvantages of steam carpet cleaning:

  • Expensive equipment is needed

  • It’s a cumbersome job with a lot going into cleaning the carpets

  • Sometimes chemicals are needed as well

Shampoo carpet cleaning pros and cons

Shampoo carpet cleaning is the older and more time-tested method of carpet cleaning.

Advantages of shampoo carpet cleaning:

  • Provides a deep clean of your carpets

  • Best solution for a variety of stains

  • Less expensive than steam carpet cleaning

  • Time tested method

Disadvantages of shampoo cleaning:

  • Drying times can be up to 24 hours

  • Sometimes chemicals aren’t rinsed out of the carpet

  • Just as cumbersome as steam carpet cleaning

  • Not as effective as cleaning badly soiled carpet

  • Takes more passes to fully clean carpet

  • Doesn’t sanitize and kill dust mites

Which method is best for carpet cleaning?

shampoo carpet cleaning

We personally think that steam cleaning is a better option overall. This is because it is a more effective way of cleaning your carpets and ensures that they are fully sanitized.

You can offer more services such as bed bug removal and dust mite removals. You can also kill mould in carpets much more effectively than with a shampoo carpet cleaning solution only.

Do I have to choose?

The great thing is that you don’t have to choose between the 2 anyway! Having a steam carpet cleaner doesn’t stop you from using the cleaning chemicals that are on offer, in fact, it makes them much more effective.

Most professional carpet cleaners will have a hot water extraction carpet cleaner these days anyway.

If not, you can purchase an inline heater that will heat up your water manually before extracting it.

What if the cleaning company only offers the shampoo method?

If your local carpet cleaner doesn’t offer a hot water extraction cleaning method, I certainly wouldn’t worry too much about that.

More often than not those guys have been in the business the longest and have simply mastered their craft so much that there’s been no need for them to offer a steam cleaning service.

The only things you should be concerned about when deciding on a carpet cleaning company are:

  • Company reviews across the board

  • Insurance guarantees

  • Reliability

  • Location of the company

As long as all of these boxes are ticked, you can be sure that the company you choose is right for you.

Can these methods be used on upholstery?

Well, it depends. Mostly the answer is yes, but there are some materials where it’s not recommended or possible to clean upholstery with these methods.

Rather than list all of the types of upholstery you can use these methods on, we will tell you which materials you will not be able to use.

Suede upholstery

This is a big no, no. Suede is a very fragile material and needs to be treated with care. Part of caring for suede is to use a low-volume method of cleaning when maintaining them.

If you were to use a carpet cleaner on this material you would instantly regret it.

Methods for suede upholstery cleaning:

Rather than using a high volume water method to clean your suede, try these instead:

  • Actual steam cleaning: that is with a handheld steamer and not a hot water extraction carpet cleaning method

  • Hand washing: you can use a drill brush attachment instead of hand scrubbing with a suitable cleaner to care for your suede upholstery

  • Dry carpet cleaning: this is an excellent method for cleaning your suede upholstery. It’s basically similar to hand washing but with stronger chemicals

  • Encapsulation cleaning: like dry carpet cleaning, Encapsulation cleaning is a spray, agitate and vacuum away solution. The product attaches itself to the product rather than breaks it down making it easy to vacuum away

Memory foam mattresses

Memory foam is a very fragile material in need of a specialist cleaning method. Using excessive water and heat is the fastest way to destroy your mattress's properties, removing its ability to self-mould and causing issues such as mould and mildew inside.

Rather than using these methods, we have written this blog on ‘how to clean a memory foam mattress safely.

The basic methods are as follows:

  • Hand scrubbing or drill brush

  • Dry cleaning

  • Low-volume water steam cleaning (only advisable for trained technicians)

Silk or Persian rugs

Not many of us have the luxury of possessing these rugs but those who do won’t want to ruin them with a hot water extraction method.

You can easily run the dye on these rugs causing them to discolour and lose their charm. It’s also possible that you could shrink the material if your water is too hot.

For these types of upholstery don’t mess about. We won’t even name any methods because it’s too specialised, take it to the professionals!

Can you use steam carpet cleaning or shampooing on wool?

Yes, you can. It's very important to be extra careful though and never use a cheap rented carpet cleaner to do it.

The key to using wool is the less water the better. It needs a low volume of water and wool-safe products to clean them properly.

Steam cleaning is the best option here as you can get away with using less water on the wool carpets or rugs. Have a look at our blog on 'can you steam clean wool carpets and rugs' for more information on how to do it.

For steam carpet cleaning follow these steps:

  • Pre-spray: Use a wool-safe product and spray a thin layer on evenly. Don’t overdo it on this step, less is better

  • Agitation: To prevent the wool from shedding, use a softer bristle brush in your crb machine or pile brush. Work the spray in and leave for 10 minutes

  • Extraction: as we explained steam is better because less water going into the carpets. Set your carpet cleaner to no more than 100 psi and clean in sections

  • Drying: it’s essential that you dry the wool as fast as possible. Do plenty of dry passes and place floor fanon the carpet to help dry faster


In this blog post, we have discussed which method is best when it comes to carpet cleaning. We hope that you understand that it is more about the skill of our carpet cleaner rather than the method used.

Some stains are best removed with hot water whereas others a best tackled with cold water as discussed in our 'what temperature water should be in my carpet cleaner' guide.

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog today, we hope you found it informative. Please, don't hesitate to browse our website for more essential carpet cleaning information.

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