A Cleaning Comparison

People often ask me to compare our cleaning techniques to those of our competitors, or to compare our service to those of our competitors (both of which are excellent questions because of course I am thrilled to tell you why we are the best.) This has prompted me to write down the different techniques for you – in hopes that by putting it all in one place, I allow my customers to make educated/informed decisions on their own. While gathering this information I could not help but interject my own opinions, but feel free to ignore them if you would like a non-biased view so that you may, in fact, make up your own mind. They are marked IMO and in italics.

There are three main types of cleaning used today which I describe first, and a couple side notes on additional methods less known.

Dry Cleaning:



  • Less labor intense than wet methods
  • Faster Process wet methods
  • Relies on chemical compounds to release dirt from carpet fibers which are then vacuumed or otherwise absorbed
  • Water saving
  • Is never fully rinsed
  • Powder may be trapped in plush pile carpets and left to build up over time.
  • Can cause excessive dust build-up in the home.
  • Unable to clean deep down into the carpet.

Dry Compound – an absorbent (usually organic) cleaning compound is sprayed over carpet and then a specially designed brushing system is used to brush and suction the residue off the carpet. Carpet never gets wet so is immediately dry.

Encapsulation – polymers are brushed onto the carpet using rotary brushes. The chemicals dry and crystalize soil compounds on contact. They are then vacuumed up immediately.

IMO: This is perhaps a way to maintain carpets between cleanings, provided you are vacuuming regularly, but to me it sounds disgusting. How exactly does this process in fact remove the chemicals completely from your carpet? It’s like washing your hair with Dry Shampoo. If you have ever used this, you know it’s good in a pinch, but you eventually still need to wash your hair.

Very Low Moisture/Bonnet Cleaning:



  • Fast, simple and inexpensive.
  • Excellent results with lightly soiled carpets.
  • Only cleans the top one-third of carpet fibers, incapable of reaching deeper down.
  • Leaves dirt and chemicals to accumulate at the bottom of the carpet fibers.

Cleaning product/solution is deposited onto the surface as mist, then scrubbed with a round buffer in a rotating method. This works like a hard wood floor buffer and does use some water. The absorbent pad that is removing the dirt and solution is replaced as it gets dirty. The bonnet method involves a short drying time. This method is cleaning the top of the carpet but does not penetrate deep into the fiber.

IMO: Sounds like when you spill coffee in your car. You grab some paper towels, frantically wipe it all up, and a bunch of stuff comes up on your towel and you can’t see anything on the car now. What you can’t see won’t hurt you, right? If you have a wet wipe on hand, even better! Never mind that it will be a little sticky and might smell like coffee for a while.

Hot Water Extraction: (aka Steam Cleaning)

Uses a pre-spray of detergent to loosen soils in carpet fibers and lift deeper dirt to the surface. This pre-spray is typically allowed to penetrate the carpet for a period of time (dwell time) and often is assisted with agitation to ensure even coverage. This is then followed by the addition of hot water to flush out the dirt and is immediately “extracted” from the carpet using a pressurized wand or rotary machine with powerful suction. This rinses out all residue from carpet.



  • Gets out soiling from deep down in the carpet
  • Allows use of hot water to clean (more effective than cold methods)
  • Permits extended dwell times for reaction of cleaning solvents
  • Recommended by carpet manufacturers and industry cleaning experts and professionals
  • Uses a lot of water and leaves Carpet Wet
  • Can take a long time to dry
  • Improper extraction can lead to damage from mildew
  • Improper rinsing can leave a lot of dirty water in the carpet

IMO: Despite the fact that not all of the water can be pulled out of the carpet, it is by far the most widely recognized and effective method for cleaning carpets. Technology is always changing, so while this process started in the late 70s, continual improvements in the cleansers and machinery still make it the method that gets carpet the cleanest. Just be careful that you choose a company that is up front about their experience, equipment and methods to be sure they are not still using outdated stuff.

Steam Cleaning:

The term steam cleaning has become synonymous with hot water extraction due to the steam that rises when the water is sprayed from the machine at a temperature that is warmer than the air it is released to. It is not actually cleaning with steam. Cleaning with only steam is not a commonly used technique. Heating water to a temperature hot enough to push out just gas is damaging to carpet fibers, however; it may be used by restoration companies to kill mold or mildew after flood damage.


No plusses or minuses here since it is not really in use today.

Wet shampoo cleaning and wet vacuuming, was most popular in the 70s. Shampoos were formulated from coconut oil soaps – so residues could be foamy or sticky. Since no rinse is performed, the powerful residue can continue to collect dirt after cleaning, leading to the current misconception that carpet cleaning can lead to the carpet getting “dirtier faster” after the cleaning.  Because these shampoos are actually very poor detergents and basically simply bury the dirt, they frequently also contain high levels of optical brighteners which make the carpet appear cleaner and brighter than it really is, for a while. It will eventually give the carpet a permanent yellow cast.

IMO: This sounds like the equivalent of washing your hair, not rinsing well, and then using a leave in conditioner. Makes your hair look clean, soft and luscious, but will attract more dirt and eventually make your hair look flat and even duller.

In Conclusion:

You are now up to speed on the various professional carpet cleaning methods available. Each cleaner has their favorites, and there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there as to which is best. At Mother Nature’s Cleaning, we are dedicated to furthering our education, tapping our resources, and attending as many events as we can to ensure we are offering the best options and techniques we can. There is a proper time for the various methods, but overall, the steam cleaning still remains the most effective way to clean your carpets and furniture, which is why we offer it. Nothing beats regular vacuuming, and maintenance between deep cleanings. For any of these methods, the less you vacuum, the less effective they are.


  1. http://www.baneclene.com/articles/methods.html
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpet_cleaning
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_carpet_cleaning
  4. https://www.angieslist.com/articles/4-carpet-cleaning-methods-pros-and-cons.htm

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