In the dry carpet cleaning vs. steam cleaning debate, it’s important to clear up the myth that steam is actually used to clean your carpets. While home and commercial machines use hot water, which gives off steam, the steam itself does not clean carpet.
Instead, the machine sprays detergent onto your carpet. Hot water activates the detergent on the carpet fibers — alkaline for synthetic carpets and acidic for wool or natural fiber carpets. A wet-vac is then used to suck up the bulk of the water on the floor.
Some people opt for steam carpet cleaning because they have concerns about dry cleaning chemicals affecting their health and the environment. Technically speaking, the only way to clean a carpet without chemicals is to just vacuum it, since even plain water is a chemical compound.
What most people mean when they ask, “Can you clean my carpet without chemicals?” is, “Can you clean my carpets safely?” For most carpet cleaning services, the answer is yes, and it’s likely your carpet cleaner will be able to use a cleaning solution that will clean your carpet without causing harm.
The hot water extraction rinse used by a steam cleaner or carpet shampooer is also typically enough to remove any cleaning solution and should leave little residue behind in the carpet. For customers with health concerns such as allergies and ashtma, cleaning solutions that are non-toxic or hypo-allergenic and free of dyes and perfumes are also available.