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 fibers, removing dust, dirt, and debris. 
  • Carpet shampooing involves using a chemical-based cleaning solution and a specialized machine called a carpet shampooer/ extractor to remove dirt, grime, and stains from carpets. 

Do your carpets look filthy even after vacuuming them? This is a sign that you must deep clean them using a steam cleaner or carpet shampooer. If you’re unsure and need help determining which carpet cleaning method is better, read through this steam cleaning carpets vs. shampooing guide to make an informed decision. 

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 fibers. This helps dislodge and lift dust, dirt, and pet hair 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 specialized 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 odors 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 which carpet cleaning method is best by comparing them to different factors.

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 fibers. 

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 cleaning it with a steam cleaner instead of shampooing to eliminate vomit odor. 

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 various 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 pressurized 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 a steam cleaner 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

It’s best to steam clean rugs and carpets for faster drying time because it uses much less water than shampooing. Plus, the hot water 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 require 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 time. 

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 deeply clean your carpets. 

Recommendation: Shampooing carpets is better to save costs.

Experience worry-free carpet cleaning with Airtasker

Keeping carpets clean can make them look fresher and help them last longer. However, this can be a hassle, especially if you have large carpets at home. Consider hiring professional cleaners for this tedious cleaning task! They have all the tools and experience to provide efficient carpet cleaning services, so don’t hesitate to post a task now to connect with Taskers near you. 

Steam cleaning carpets vs. shampooing

Steam Cleaning
Deep Cleaning
Provides a more effective deep clean using hot water extraction
Less comprehensive cleaning 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

You can use a commercial pretreatment solution or a natural cleaner of equal parts white vinegar and warm water. Both can help break down stains, making steam cleaning the carpets easier.

Choosing between a carpet cleaner and a steam cleaner depends on your cleaning needs. If you need to remove heavy stains, a carpet cleaner would be a better choice because it uses a chemical-based cleaning solution to break down stains. Meanwhile, a carpet steamer is best used for sanitising carpets and removing allergens.

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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