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Is It Better To Shampoo Or Steam Clean Carpets?

Published February 26, 2024 by Green Kleaning Services, LLC

shampooing and hot water extraction of rug

Why Clean Your Carpet?

Clean carpets are not just a matter of aesthetics—they are also important for maintaining a healthy living environment. Carpets can harbor dust, allergens, and bacteria, which can affect indoor air quality and lead to health problems.

With two prominent carpet cleaning methods available, shampooing and steam cleaning, homeowners and businesses often find themselves at a crossroads when deciding the best way to care for their carpets.

Shampooing employs thick foam and powerful agitation to dislodge dirt and stains, making it a favored choice for carpets laden with heavy soils and high traffic areas. On the other hand, steam cleaning, also known as hot water extraction, uses high temperatures and water vapor to penetrate deep into the carpet fibers, removing dirt and allergens while also minimizing drying time and the use of harsh chemicals.

Shampooing carpets

Shampooing carpets is a method that has been used for decades, offering a deep clean that targets heavy dirt, stains, and the buildup of surface dirt.

This method involves the application of a detergent-based solution, often combined with a shampoo solution, that is agitated into the carpet fibers using a carpet shampooing machine or a carpet shampooer.

The action of the brushes, combined with the cleaning agents, helps to dislodge dirt and debris from the carpet fibers, making it extremely effective for carpets that have accumulated significant soil, especially in high traffic areas.

Carpet Shampooing Pros

Effective in Removing Heavy Stains and Dirt

Shampooing is particularly adept at tackling heavy stains, thick foam generated by the shampoo binds with the dirt, making it easier to remove. This makes it an ideal choice for carpets that have been neglected or are subject to frequent foot traffic.

Deep Cleans Carpet Fibers

The mechanical action of the agitation brushes helps to ensure that the shampoo solution penetrates deep into the carpet, providing a thorough clean that reaches deep into the carpet fibers. This method is particularly beneficial for carpets with long fibers where dirt and debris tend to accumulate.

Affordable and DIY-friendly

Carpet shampooing machines are readily available for rent or purchase, making this method a cost-effective option for those looking to clean their carpets without professional assistance. Additionally, the process of shampooing carpets can be done at one's own pace, allowing for detailed attention to heavily soiled or stained areas.

Cons Of Carpet Shampooing

Extended Drying Time

One of the significant drawbacks of carpet shampooing is the amount of moisture it introduces into the carpets. The excess moisture can increase drying times substantially, which can be inconvenient and also promote the growth of mold and mildew if the carpets do not dry properly.

Potential for Damage and Irritation

The chemicals used in some carpet shampooing solutions can be harsh, potentially damaging delicate carpet fibers or leading to color fading. Additionally, these chemicals can irritate allergies in some individuals, posing a health risk to those with sensitive respiratory systems.

Residue Can Attract More Dirt

If not thoroughly rinsed, the shampoo solution can leave a residue in the carpet fibers. This sticky residue can attract dirt and dust more quickly than clean fibers, leading to carpets that become soiled again soon after cleaning, necessitating more frequent cleaning sessions.

Steam Cleaning Carpets

Steam cleaning, or hot water extraction, stands out as a modern, efficient method for carpet maintenance, championed for its deep cleaning capabilities and environmental friendliness. This process involves the application of hot water and steam at high pressure into the carpet fibres, effectively breaking down dirt, bacteria, and allergens.

The powerful vacuum then extracts the hot water, along with the dislodged dirt and debris, leaving the carpet clean and fresh. Unlike traditional shampooing, steam cleaning minimizes the use of chemicals and relies on high temperatures to sanitize and clean carpets.

portable steam cleaning machine

Pros Of Steam Cleaning Carpets

Deeper Clean and Disinfection

The combination of hot water extraction and high temperatures allows steam cleaning to penetrate deep into the carpet fibers, removing more than just surface dirt. This method is exceptionally effective at eliminating bacteria and allergens, providing a healthier living environment.

Eco-friendly Cleaning Solution

Steam cleaning uses minimal water compared to traditional carpet shampooers, and its reliance on high temperatures rather than chemicals for cleaning makes it an environmentally friendly choice. This aspect is particularly appealing for allergy sufferers or those seeking a greener cleaning option.

Faster Drying Time

As steam cleaning uses less water and the extraction process is highly efficient, carpets tend to dry much quicker than with shampooing. This reduces the risk of mold growth and makes it a more convenient option for busy households or commercial spaces that cannot afford long drying periods.

Cons Of Steam Cleaning Carpets

Less Effective on Heavily Soiled Carpets

While steam cleaning is highly effective for general dirt and stains, it may struggle with carpets that are heavily soiled or have deep, stubborn stains. In such cases, pre-treatment with a safe cleaning solution may be necessary to achieve optimal results.

Professional Equipment Required

To perform steam cleaning effectively, professional-grade equipment is needed. This can be a barrier for DIY enthusiasts, as renting or purchasing such equipment can be costly compared to more accessible shampooing machines.

Potential Water Marks on Certain Carpets

On some types of carpets, especially those with natural fibers, steam cleaning can leave water marks. These are usually not permanent but can be concerning for owners of high-end or delicate carpets.

Comparing and Contrasting Shampooing and Carpet Steam Cleaning

When deciding between shampooing and steam cleaning, various factors such as cleaning effectiveness, drying time, cost, environmental impact, and suitability for different carpet types and stains come into play. Below is a comparison of key points to consider when choosing the best carpet cleaning method for your needs.

Cleaning Effectiveness

  • Shampooing: Highly effective for removing surface dirt and heavy stains, especially in high traffic areas. The mechanical action of brushes ensures that the cleaning solution reaches deep into the fibers.

  • Steam Cleaning: Offers a thorough clean by using hot water and steam to penetrate deep into the carpet, removing dirt and allergens. It's particularly effective for sanitizing carpets and eliminating dust mites and bacteria.

Drying Time

  • Shampooing: Requires a longer drying time due to the significant amount of moisture involved. This can be a drawback in humid conditions or for those needing quick turnaround times.

  • Steam Cleaning: Tends to have a shorter drying time compared to shampooing, as the equipment used extracts most of the water during the cleaning process.


  • Shampooing: Generally more affordable and can be a DIY project with rental machines. However, frequent cleanings may be required due to quicker re-soiling from residue left in the carpet.

  • Steam Cleaning: May involve higher upfront costs, especially if professional services are employed. However, it might offer better long-term value by extending the life of the carpet and requiring less frequent cleanings.

Environmental Impact

  • Shampooing: Uses chemicals that can be harsh on the environment and indoor air quality. Choosing eco-friendly shampoos can mitigate this issue.

  • Steam Cleaning: More environmentally friendly, as it primarily uses water and heat for cleaning, minimizing chemical use and waste.

Suitability for Carpet Types and Stains

  • Shampooing: Suitable for carpets with heavy soiling and stains but can be harsh on delicate fibers. The technique is not recommended for carpets that can be damaged by excessive moisture.

  • Steam Cleaning: Effective for most carpet types, including delicate fibers, as it uses gentle cleaning processes. However, it may not remove all types of stains, especially those that are particularly greasy or deeply embedded.

Additional Considerations and Carpet Cleaning Methods

Beyond shampooing and steam cleaning, there are other methods like dry cleaning or bonnet cleaning, which may be suitable for specific needs or carpet types. Pre-treating stains should be immediate, regardless of the cleaning method chosen, to ensure the best possible outcome. For carpets that are heavily soiled or made of delicate fibers, consulting with a professional carpet cleaner is advisable to prevent damage.

So, Shampoo Carpets Or Professional Steam Cleaning?

man cleaning carpet

Choosing between shampooing and steam cleaning depends on various factors, including the type of carpet, the nature of the stains, budget, and environmental concerns. While shampooing offers a robust solution for heavily soiled carpets, steam cleaning provides a gentler, more environmentally friendly option that may be better suited for regular maintenance and sensitive areas.

Ultimately, the best method is the one that meets your specific needs, taking into consideration the longevity of your carpet, health concerns, and the desired outcome. Engaging in frequent carpet cleaning, including regular vacuuming and immediate stain treatment, will complement either cleaning method and help prolong the life and appearance of your carpet.

If you are in need of help with options for your carpet give Green Kleaning Services, LLC a call for fast and reliable service.


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