What is Steam Cleaning?

Steam cleaning, also known as hot water extraction cleaning, is a carpet extraction method that effectively removes at least 97% of dirt and bacteria buildup from carpets. This process involves using a significant amount of hot water to provide thorough cleaning by reaching the deepest layer of the carpet, known as the pile layer.

Steam cleaning is an ideal choice for tackling stubborn stains, spills, and ground-in spots. It enables a complete flushing extraction process, effectively eliminating all accumulated contamination from the carpet.

How Does Hot Water Extraction (HWE) Cleaning Work?

To perform steam cleaning, specialized equipment such as a truck mount or portable extractor is required. Carpet contractors begin by spraying a mixture of carpet-cleaning detergent and hot water onto the carpet. They then use the truck mount or portable extractor to rinse and extract the dirty water. In the case of a truck mount, commercial carpet-cleaning chemicals can be applied either as a pre-spray or in the rinse water as an extraction detergent. The truck-mount method utilizes a powerful vacuum to remove excess moisture and chemicals as it works its way through the carpet, providing a thorough deep clean. This method is particularly effective for large surface areas and heavy-duty cleaning.

Portable extraction follows a similar process to the truck mount method but is more portable, cost-effective for business start-ups, and easier to maintain. However, the production rate of a portable extractor is not as advanced as that of a truck mount machine.

Benefits of HWE Cleaning

The combination of hot water and chemicals used in steam cleaning allows for deep penetration into the carpet fibers, effectively removing stains, dirt, and debris while loosening stubborn particles. Steam cleaning is an excellent solution when other cleaning methods fail.

One significant advantage of steam cleaning is that it completely rinses out the carpet fibers, leaving no cleaning residue behind. This means there won’t be any lingering smells or residues that could trigger allergies or sensitivities in individuals or families. Furthermore, steam cleaning effectively eliminates pet dander odors that may be trapped in the carpet fibers.

Disadvantages of “Steam” Extraction Cleaning

One of the downsides of steam cleaning is the drying time required. Due to the excess moisture left behind, carpets may take anywhere from 4 to 16 hours to dry completely. Technicians may need to perform multiple dry wand passes or use fans to expedite the drying process.

What is Low Moisture Encapsulation Cleaning?

Low Moisture Encapsulation cleaning, also known as dry cleaning, VLM (Very Low Moisture) cleaning, Encap cleaning, or Bonnet cleaning, involves the use of encapsulation chemical solutions to remove dirt from carpets. This method utilizes “dry” shampoos and significantly less water compared to steam cleaning. It offers deep-cleaning power by employing a compound cleaning agent that pretreats the carpet fibers, breaks the bond between soil and carpet, and encapsulates the dirt, preventing it from reattaching to the carpet. Low Moisture Encapsulation cleaning is particularly effective for spot treatment and provides a quicker and more affordable option for specific cleaning situations.

How Does Encapsulation Work?

Encapsulation cleaning encompasses various methods for carpets and stains. Chemical solutions are applied to the carpet and agitated using either a rotating brush or a bonnet machine to remove stains and bacteria. One method involves using a dry foam where the technician applies shampoo and allows it to dry. Once dried, the technician can vacuum up the crystallized shampoo. Bonnet pads work similarly to dry foam, but as the machine moves over the carpet, the damp bonnet lifts and absorbs the shampoo-dirt residue.

Two other dry-cleaning methods are oscillating pads and dry compounds. In the case of oscillating pads, a balanced pH solution is sprayed onto the carpet and left to dry. This solution reacts by loosening dirt,

then an oscillating machine is used to deep-clean the carpet. Dry compounds involve spreading biodegradable materials over the carpet, which absorb the dirt before being vacuumed up to remove the debris.

Benefits of Encapsulation Cleaning

As mentioned earlier, encapsulation cleaning offers various methods suitable for different cleaning purposes. It works exceptionally well for clients in need of spot treatment, quick drying times, and those on a budget. Some cleaning chemicals used in encapsulation cleaning also protect the carpet fibers, preventing unexpected stains in the future.

Furthermore, due to the lower moisture levels involved, encapsulation cleaning requires less drying time. After the treatment, the carpet typically dries within 30 to 60 minutes, making it an excellent option for routine maintenance services.

Disadvantages of Low Moisture Cleaning

One notable drawback of low moisture cleaning is the potential residue it can leave behind without proper flushing. To minimize buildup in the carpet fibers, it is highly recommended to include at least one hot water extraction cleaning for every three to four encapsulation cleanings.

Final Thoughts

The choice between hot water extraction (steam cleaning) and encapsulation cleaning depends on the specific needs of the client. Hot water extraction is suitable for deep-cleaning an entire carpet, addressing stains, spills, pet accidents, and more. On the other hand, encapsulation cleaning is ideal for spot treatments, clients with budget constraints, or those seeking routine maintenance cleaning. Before scheduling an appointment, technicians should conduct a walkthrough with the client to better understand their requirements and ensure they bring the appropriate equipment for the job.