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What Is Low Moisture Carpet Cleaning?

what is low-volume carpet cleaning

If you need a quick and easy carpet cleaning service that won’t keep your home floors wet for hours, then you might want to try out a new method on your carpets.

Many people wonder if there is a dry way to clean carpets without the need for water or heavy machinery. Well, yes there is!

Low moisture carpet cleaning (VLM) is a method that doesn’t rely on using a lot of water to rinse out your carpets. Instead, it is more of a chemical-heavy method called dry carpet cleaning, encapsulation cleaning or bonnet cleaning.

How does very low moisture (vlm) work for carpet cleaning?

Low-moisture carpet cleaning works by spreading a specialist powder onto your carpets. Rather than breaking down the dirt and grime into a puddle of muddy water like the traditional carpet cleaning method, the dry cleaning powder traps dirt inside of it making it an easily removable contaminant that you can simply vacuum up.

Here is the basic low-volume carpet cleaning process:

  • Pre-vacuum the carpet of loose dirt and debris

  • Apply the dry cleaning powder to the entire carpet you are cleaning. Spread evenly across the area

  • Agitate the cleaning chemicals into the carpets. You can either use a pile brush or dry cleaning machine

  • Let it sit for at least 30 minutes

  • Use a wet and dry vacuum to remove the powder and all of the dirt trapped inside

Is any water used during the low moisture cleaning method?

does dry carpet cleaning use water

Yes, sometimes a little bit of water is sprayed onto the carpets or created during the agitation stage. This is to bring the dirt out to the surface, ready for extraction.

The amount of water used is extremely minimal though, you won’t even use a gallon (3.7 litres) of water on your carpets during this process.

How much water is used with traditional carpet cleaning?

With traditional shampoo carpet cleaning over 3.7 litres (one gallon) is used per minute. Let’s say you have 1000 Square feet of carpet, that means a shampoo carpet cleaner will use a Whooping 300 litres of water just to clean your carpet.

That is an insane amount compared to the very low moisture carpet cleaning method, and if a traditional carpet cleaning service is done by someone inexperienced, that amount of water can be very damaging to your carpet.

What are the benefits of low-volume carpet cleaning?

As we’ve already discussed the amount of water you need is a huge advantage of low-moisture carpet cleaning.

Here are some other great benefits of using the VLM process;

  • Low moisture carpet cleaning is the easiest way to clean carpet, anyone can give it a try and the carpets with look a lot better afterwards

  • You don’t need expensive equipment to do the job

  • Your carpet will look a lot fresher than before

  • It’s a great way to deodorize smelly carpet

How long does low-moisture carpet cleaning take to dry?

Dry cleaning and encapsulation cleaning take around 2 hours to fully dry, whereas bonnet cleaning can take 2 to 3 hours in total. This is way less than the 6-12 hours of traditional carpet cleaning methods and is the number one advantage of using the VLM method.

How effective is the VLM carpet cleaning method?

The VLM method is very effective on low to medium-soiled carpets. It can handle Most stains without the need to use water or heavy chemicals. It’s not an all-in-one solution to every carpet though as we will now discuss further, but then nothing is ever that easy is it?

Are there any disadvantages of low-moisture carpet cleaning?

While it’s a good starter way to maintain your carpets, there are a few shortcomings of the method as well;

  • A really dirty carpet won’t be cleaned

  • Deep stains require different methods

  • Spillages such as urine and drink spills won’t be removable with it

  • Pet odour is hard to remove with this method

  • The after-cleaning process is really messy

Where are the different VLM carpet cleaning methods used?

Since there are 3 different methods of low-volume carpet cleaning, it is reasonable to ask why and where are those different methods used.

Let’s take a look at each method and why they are more suitable for different scenarios.

Bonnet cleaning is best used on commercial carpet

Bonnet cleaning is a very popular low-moisture solution for cleaning commercial carpets. It’s great for busy office buildings where foot traffic is high and there is no time to stop everything just so the carpets can be cleaned.

You basically attach a few bonnet buffers to a floor-cleaning machine and buff the carpets to reduce dirt and stains. The same process applies, spread the dry cleaning powder evenly and then buff into your carpets.

Having said that, most commercial buildings will still benefit from a deep steam clean once a year on top of the bonnet cleaning.

Encapsulation cleaning is used for soiled commercial and industrial areas

The encapsulation cleaning method is used in heavily soiled parts of commercial and industrial buildings such as stairs and doorways. Again, the reason for using this method is so that you won’t need to cordon these areas off and it’s business as usual for the customer.

It’s a much more effective solution than bonnet cleaning since you are taking the time to extract the dirt with your vacuum and will be able to remove dirty stained areas quite well.

Dry carpet cleaning is used for homes

The ease of use and variety of products making it safe for pets and babies is the main reason why dry carpet cleaning is most commonly used in homes.

You can get pet deodorising cleaning powder as well as heavy traffic powder that can tackle particularly dirty carpets more effectively. This will allow the homeowners to best clean their homes based on their own specific requirements.

By contrast, encapsulation cleaning is more of a one-size-fits-all all-cleaning solution designed to tackle really dirty carpets and bonnet cleaning just is not really suitable for homes as the attachments do not account for all of the nooks and crannies within a family home.

If you want to learn more about cleaning your carpets yourself with the dry cleaning method, read our guide on 'What is dry carpet cleaning?'


Thank you for reading our guide on what low-moisture carpet cleaning actually is and in what setting it is best used. We hope that you are better informed in using this method either as a professional carpet cleaner or homeowner.

While dry carpet cleaning is a great way to freshen up a carpet, we don't recommend using it as the first clean in a year, but rather as a booster for the deep cleaning experience you can only get with a steam carpet cleaner.

For commercial buildings, this is a great way to clean a busy workplace without needing to shut up shop, but you will still need to deep clean them once in a while.

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