Dry Carpet Cleaning vs. Steam Cleaning

eco-friendly logoDry carpet cleaning is a process that uses very-low-moisture and physical contact to remove soil from carpet, rug, and upholstery fibers. The most common method of dry carpet cleaning is the spin-bonnet method, which uses a buffer type machine that spins around on top of your carpet. Angel Dry does not use this method.

We use a unique Austrian method which uses counter-rotating-brush actions on our Austrian-made machines to physically remove soil particles, sort of like a toothbrush.

However, with hot water extraction, clean water is carried from your kitchen sink to a van in your driveway, where the water is heated up, before it is carried to a pressure washing and vacuum system. Your carpet, rugs, and upholstery are cleaned with water jets and chemicals, as the metal steam cleaning wand passes back and forth on each section of the carpet, rug, or upholstered furniture.

Each pass of the wand takes around 2-3 seconds. On the first pass, the water jets forcibly remove most of the dirt from your carpet fibers in a downward direction. As the dirt is released from the carpet fibers, it mixes with the water. Downward pressure and gravity carry much of this dirty water deep down into your floor or into your furniture’s cushioning.

The dirty water mixture is absorbed into your carpet pad and in most cases down into your wooden or concrete sub-floor. This is the problem with this method of cleaning!

After the first 2-3 second pass, otherwise known as the pressure-washing pass, the dirty water mixture is out of reach. The second pass of the steam cleaning wand goes back over the section to vacuum out any liquefied dirt that can be sucked up into the vacuum system.

This process happens so quickly, typically both passes of the steam cleaning wand in under five seconds. But it does not matter because the water jets are so powerful, combined with gravity, the dirt and water mixture is almost immediately carried deep down into the carpet backing and underlayment pad.

At this point, the dirt is out of reach for even the most powerful vacuum system.

All of that dirty water just sits there, out of sight, which looks good to the customer, at least temporarily. Then, after the process is complete, the evaporation process begins, which often requiring several days. In fact, it can take up to a week to completely dry out all of the moisture that rests under the carpet and in the sub-floor.

The same is true for upholstered furniture. The fabric may dry out in less than a day. But the foam, feathers, fiber fill, wood, and metal components can remain exposed to moisture for several days.

This causes damage to your valuable upholstery and furnishings in several unpleasant ways. The moisture is now mixed with all kinds of dirt, including oils, dead skin cells, microbial waste, and even living microorganisms.

This situation also creates the ultimate breeding ground for many types of bacteria, fungi, mold, mildew, viruses, and dust mites, creating a cesspool of microbes in the very items that you wanted to be clean.

Steam cleaning (hot water extraction) your carpet, rugs and upholstery makes about as much sense as washing 1,000 lbs. of clothes in a giant washing machine for 3-5 seconds. No rinse cycle. No spin cycle.

Then, spread the soaking wet clothes all over your home and attempt to vacuum up the dirty water and detergent, much of which would have immediately drained down or would be trapped in the absorbent clothing fibers.

NO sign over a wet-vac cleaner on dirty carpet

Steam cleaning is actually a pressure washing system, by which jets of water and detergents forcibly remove soil particles from fibers.

First, dirty water is forced deep down into the piling. Just a second later, the vacuum wand attempts to remove as much of this dirty water as possible. The dirty water, which has been forced down by pressure and gravity, is absorbed into the materials.

At this point, as we mentioned above, it is out of reach from the powerful vacuum. It is equivalent to trying to remove dirt from a wet rag with a wet/dry vac. You could try for hours, but the rag will still be wet, with the dirt still trapped in the fibers.

Furthermore, liquefied dirt and detergent will drain down into wet carpet, rugs, and upholstery. Not all types of microbes emit an identifiable odor, but common sense is screaming at us – don’t leave wet things laying around the house!

It just doesn’t make any sense, yet millions of people do it every day. They know that wet clothes should be put in the drier right away. Floor spills should be mopped up right away. Rooms with excessive humidity or sub-floor moisture should be force-dried with fans and dehumidifiers.

When fibers, fabrics, and absorbent materials take on moisture, this creates a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew, and dust mites. These microbes and pathogens reproduce quickly, creating large quantities of biological waste, contaminants, and allergens that can quickly spread.

This whole process rapidly creates unsanitary surfaces and poor indoor air quality.

One reason that consumers put off having their carpet, area rugs, and upholstery cleaned is the inconvenience of waiting for wet materials to completely dry out.

Consumers are intuitively aware that excess moisture is not conducive to a healthy and sanitary environment.
Wet clothes should be put in the drier immediately.
Floor spills should be mopped up right away.
Rooms with excessive humidity or sub-floor moisture should be force dried and dehumidified.

When fibers, fabrics, and permeable materials absorb moisture, this creates a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew, and dust mites.

These microbes and pathogens reproduce quickly, creating large quantities of biological waste and contaminants that can quickly spread throughout an interior environment. These particles create unsanitary soft surfaces, as well as poor indoor air quality conditions, including airborne allergens.

Anyone who has ever done a load of laundry and left clothes in the machine for a few hours can relate to this – otherwise “clean” clothing would have a pungent mildew odor.

Unfortunately, many microorganisms and their biological contaminants are undetectable. It is for this reason that consumers should always weigh the risk of introducing excessive amounts of moisture into a home or office environment without force-drying after pressure washing and wet vacuuming your soft surfaces, as steam cleaners do.

Steam cleaning companies may claim to offer a “dry” or “fast-drying” service, but unfortunately this is rarely the case. Steam cleaning, in fact, does not use steam at all.

Technically, steam cleaners use a process called hot-water-extraction (HWE), which transfers hot water through hoses to a metal wand. The wand literally pressure washes your carpet with high-powered water jets. The jets, aided by chemicals and detergents, remove soil from carpet fibers, rug yarns, or upholstery fabric.

When a steam cleaning technician operates his wand, he makes two very important passes on top of the soiled carpet.

On the first pass, hot water is forced downward with intense pressure, removing “stuck on” soil from the carpet fibers. This first pass removes some of the now-liquefied soil, as it is simultaneously vacuumed up by the wand.

But as a result of the intense pressure from the water jets, gravity carries much of this dirty water deep down into the carpet backing, into the underlayment pad, and ultimately down to the concrete or wooden sub-floor.

On the second pass of the wand, only the vacuum on the wand is operated, removing any liquid that has not absorbed into the yarns or fiber. Picture using a wet / dry vacuum to remove water from wet clothes – it’s virtually impossible because the moisture has been absorbed. Likewise, any dirty water that is trapped in the carpet, rug, or upholstery will remain.

Fortunately, for aesthetic purposes, much of the soil has been forced deep into the carpet where it is no longer an eye-sore.

On the other hand, as all of the deep down moisture evaporates over a period of several days, tiny droplets of water will “wick back” up each fiber. The droplets carry tiny soil particles and chemical residue with them, all the way back to the surface of the carpet. The water will eventually evaporate, breaking apart into oxygen and hydrogen gas, leaving behind dried soil.

In the carpet cleaning industry, we refer to this phenomenon as “wick back,” when stains reappear days or weeks after a carpet cleaning service. Suffice it to say, your carpet is not nearly as clean as it looks initially. And the truth will, quite literally, rise to the surface eventually.

kitten of fluffy clean carpet wtih white couch in backgroundIf you happen to have a wooden sub-floor (usually plywood or OSB) under your carpet, such as most 2nd floors in residential homes, you should be careful to prevent excess moisture from permeating beneath your carpet.

As microorganisms thrive in a protected habitat such as wet carpet, they generate biological contaminants that quickly spread. This is sometimes noticeable by a pungent odor, such as the gases released by fungi and mildew. Other times, the airborne microbes are virtually undetectable.

That being said, for a healthy and sanitary living environment, it is critically important to quickly and completely dry out your cleaned carpet, rugs, and upholstery. This is typically done with professional air movers, dehumidifiers, and most preferably, with the use of heat sources.

This process is not typically offered by steam cleaning companies. However, as consumers have become more aware of the dangers of moisture in an interior environment, many carpet cleaning companies have started offering forced drying services as an add-on service for preventative and sanitary purposes. as dry as possible living environments, reducing indoor air quality.

As we mentioned, stains, spots, and residue often “wick back” during the evaporation process. The sticky residue left behind is like a magnet for new soil, making it difficult to vacuum due to the soil particles become stuck to the carpet fibers.

The same is true for upholstery and area rug cleaning. Imagine doing a 1,000 lb. load of laundry without a rinse or spin cycle and spreading all of the clean wet clothing across your floor to air dry without a disinfecting heat source.

Your entire home would begin to smell like mildew within a few hours- just one of many symptoms of a microbiological population explosion!

Many types of microbes, airborne pathogens, and dust mites thrive in densely protected yet breathable environments, particularly when excess moisture is introduced. It should be noted that the majority of microbial pathogens are moisture-loving, rapidly spreading in wet environments, even after a thorough cleaning.

Skeptical? Try doing a load of laundry and leave your wet post-spin-cycle clothes in the washing machine for a few hours. You will smell the effects of how pervasive microscopic pathogens can be. And it’s not just mildew.

Of course, with steam cleaning, there is no rinse cycle or spin cycle, just a couple of passes of the magic wand, first forcing liquefied soil downward, then vacuuming up only a fraction of it. This leaves behind a temporary illusion of clean carpet. Micro-life always finds a way to thrive in wet environments.