Steam cleaning carpets vs shampooing - a person cleaning a gray carpet using a carpet shampooer

Steam cleaning carpets vs shampooing: Which one to choose?

Comparing carpet steam cleaning and shampooing based on deep cleaning, stain removal, allergen removal, and more.

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Key Facts

  • Carpet steam cleaning involves using a high-pressure steam cleaning machine to penetrate deep into carpet fibres, removing dust, dirt, and debris. 
  • Carpet shampooing involves using a chemical-based cleaning solution and a specialised machine called a carpet shampooer/ extractor to remove dirt, grime, and stains from carpets.

Carpets help keep floors warm and comfortable, but dirt, dust, and other allergens can also build up and get trapped in these floor coverings over time. You need regular carpet cleaning to maintain clean and fresh air indoors. 

Carpet cleaning goes beyond your daily vacuuming sessions. You must also do an occasional deep cleaning to ensure no dirt and grime are left behind in carpet fibres. But what carpet cleaning method is the best for deep cleaning? Is it through steam cleaning or shampooing?

Find out here in this steam cleaning carpets vs shampooing guide. 

What is carpet steam cleaning? Steam cleaning carpets vs shampooing - a person cleaning a carpet using steam

Ever wondered how to clean carpets without a carpet cleaner? The answer is simple: use a steam cleaner. 

Carpet steam cleaning involves using a steam cleaning machine that releases high-pressure jets, allowing the steam or hot water to penetrate deep into the carpet’s fibres. This helps dislodge and lift dust, dirt, and debris from the carpet. 

Remember that although some steam cleaners work well with hot water alone, others might require a specific cleaning solution. But before adding a cleaner to the steam cleaning machine, check the manufacturer’s recommendation to avoid damaging it.

Like other general household cleaning methods, carpet steam cleaning requires several steps. Here’s how to correctly steam clean a carpet:

  1. First, remove furniture and other items around the carpet to make cleaning easier. 

  2. Then, vacuum the carpet to remove surface-level dirt and debris.

  3. If the carpet has noticeable stubborn stains, pre-treat it with baking soda or white vinegar mixed with warm water. 

  4. After pre-treating the carpet, grab the steam cleaner and fill its tank with hot water. 

  5. Begin steam cleaning at the farthest corner of the room and work backwards to avoid walking on the cleaned parts of the carpet. Make sure to steam-clean carpets in overlapping strips to ensure a deep clean.

  6. Once you’re done, allow the carpet to dry completely for at least 24 hours. 

What is carpet shampooing? 

Steam cleaning carpets vs shampooing - a close-up of a carpet shampooer cleaning a carpet

Shampooing carpets involves using a specialised cleaning machine called a carpet shampooer or extractor. Unlike a steam cleaner, a carpet shampooer relies on a chemical-based cleaning solution to remove dirt, grime, stains, and odours in carpets. 

A carpet shampooer also comes with a rotating brush that is used as a scrubber. So, as the brush scrubs on the carpet, the cleaning solution will turn into foam, and this will help lift and capture the dirt deep within. 

The initial steps for shampooing carpets are similar to those for steam cleaning, as they require removing the items surrounding them first and pre-treating stains. However, the process becomes different when it comes to the actual cleaning. 

Here’s how to shampoo a carpet:

  1. First, mix the carpet cleaner with water (refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct mixture ratio). 

  2. Next, fill the carpet shampooer’s tank with the cleaning solution. 

  3. Begin shampooing at the farthest corner of the room and move the shampooer in straight parallel lines, overlapping on each pass. Don't inject too much shampoo to avoid overwetting the carpet.

  4. After shampooing, turn on the carpet shampooer’s vacuum to suck up the wastewater and remove the excess shampoo. 

  5. Then, empty your carpet shampooer’s wastewater and solution tank and fill it with clean water. Run the shampooer over the carpet again to rinse the excess shampoo.

  6. Lastly, use a vacuum to remove the remaining dust and debris. And then that’s it! Wait overnight for the carpet to dry completely. 

Carpet shampoo vs steam cleaning: Which is the better carpet cleaning method? 

Leaving your carpets dirty can lead to poor indoor air quality, causing adverse health effects. This is why thoroughly cleaning them through steam carpet cleaning and shampooing is essential. Learn more about these two carpet cleaning techniques as we compare their advantages and disadvantages. 

In terms of deep cleaning

Carpet steam cleaning provides a more effective deep clean using hot water extraction. This method involves injecting hot water into the carpet at high pressure, helping extract and dissolve the dirt deep within the carpet’s fibres. 

In contrast,  when shampooing carpets, you mostly rely on the power of the cleaning solution and the carpet shampooer machine to break down and lift off dirt. This can help remove surface-level dirt, but it doesn’t provide a comprehensive deep clean. 

Not to mention, loose particles tend to appear after shampooing. You must vacuum the carpet again to ensure no dust and dirt are left behind.

TIP: If someone throws up on the carpet, consider steam cleaning it instead of shampooing to eliminate the vomit odour

Recommendation: Choose steam cleaning carpets for a more effective deep clean. 

In terms of stain removal

Steam cleaning carpets vs shampooing - a spilled wine stain on a carpet

Most carpet shampoos are formulated with cleaning chemicals that can help remove various stains, like coffee spills or light mud footprints. But, bear in mind that some chemicals aren’t suitable for all carpets, so spot-test before shampooing a carpet. 

Steam cleaning is also an effective method to remove light carpet stains, as the high temperatures and pressurised steam can penetrate deep into the carpet. However, it’s less effective in removing stains than shampooing carpets since it doesn’t use chemical-based cleaners. 

However, for very stubborn stains like vomit or blood on your carpet, it's best to seek professional help.

Recommendation: Shampooing carpets is the best method to remove light carpet stains.

In terms of allergen removal

The effectiveness of steam cleaning and shampooing in removing allergens depends on the level of wear and the height of the carpet pile. For example, if a thick carpet is old and worn down, getting rid of the allergens stuck deep within would be more difficult. 

But between shampooing and steam cleaning, the latter is the clear winner because studies have shown that steam cleaners help reduce allergens and maintain lower fungal levels

The cleaning effectiveness of shampooing carpets is limited to removing surface-level dirt, so it’s less effective in removing allergens. Not to mention, the chemicals present in carpet shampoos can trigger asthma and allergies. 

Recommendation: It’s best to clean carpets with steam since it doesn’t use chemicals that can trigger allergies, unlike shampooing.

In terms of carpet residue

Steam cleaning carpets vs shampooing - a carpet cleaner deep cleaning a carpet

Carpet steam cleaning leaves little to no residue because the high heat helps dissolve the detergent while cleaning. On the other hand, shampooing a carpet is highly likely to leave a residue since it uses a chemical-based cleaner. If not rinsed well, carpets become very sticky, attracting more dust and dirt. 

Also, the problem with shampooing carpets is that it is sometimes difficult to tell if there’s residue left at first glance. You still have to wait a couple of hours to see if it starts to smell and confirm there’s residue left. 

Recommendation: Use a steam cleaner for carpets to ensure there’s no residue left.

In terms of drying time

One advantage of steam cleaning a rug or carpet is that it uses much less water than shampooing, so the carpet dries faster. Moreover, since it uses hot water, it evaporates fast. Usually, you only need a couple of hours or 12 hours max to wait for the carpet to dry completely. 

Meanwhile, shampooing carpets requires using a lot of water and detergent, so you may have to wait at least 24 hours before the carpet dries. This can take longer if the weather is cold and humid. 

Recommendation: Choose carpet steam cleaning to avoid long and inconvenient drying times. 

In terms of cost

Steam cleaning carpets vs shampooing - a janitor with cleaning equipment, carpet cleaner, detergents for cleaning bedroom

Shampooing is less expensive than steam carpet cleaning because the equipment has a simpler design and costs less. One reason many steam cleaners are expensive is the extra accessories that come with them. 

You can opt for renting a steam carpet cleaner to reduce costs, but it’s still best to leave the job to experts. Even if this comes with extra carpet cleaning costs, their services are worth availing of, as they can use the equipment more efficiently to clean your carpets deeply. 

Recommendation: Shampooing carpets is better to save costs.

Experience worry-free carpet cleaning with Airtasker

Although shampooing and steam cleaning can help provide a deep clean, doing them can take considerable time and effort. Let the professional cleaners at Airtasker do this tedious task for you. They have the know-how to use various carpet cleaning equipment, removing even the most stubborn stains in the carpets. 

Post a task now to find an expert carpet cleaner near you today!

Steam cleaning carpets vs shampooing

Steam Cleaning
Deep Cleaning
Provides a more effective deep clean using hot water extraction
Less comprehensive clean, as it relies on cleaning solution and machine
Stain Removal
Less effective for most stains
More effective for light stains as it uses chemical-based cleaners
Allergen Removal
More effective in reducing allergens due to high-pressure steam
Less effective and limited to surface-level dirt removal
Carpet Residue
Leaves little to no residue
Most likely to leave residue if not rinsed well
Drying Time
Dries faster due to less water usage and hot water evaporating
Longer drying time, especially in cold and humid conditions
More expensive due to machine complexity and accessories
Less expensive due to simpler machine design and lower equipment cost

FAQs on carpet steam cleaning and shampooing

Yes, professionals use steam cleaning or hot water extraction. This involves using hot water mixed with a cleaning solution injected deep into the carpet, dislodging dirt and debris. 

One particular difference between steam cleaners vs carpet cleaners is their cleaning methods. Steam cleaners are used to sanitise and disinfect surfaces using high-temperature steam. On the other hand, carpet cleaners use a chemical-based cleaner mixed with hot water to clean carpets.

No, a steam mop should not be used on carpets because it doesn’t have a suction mechanism, leaving the carpet wet. This can damage the carpet fibres deep within.

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