Steam cleaning is a common method for professional carpet cleaning, but the name is somewhat misleading. Steam-cleaning services use machines that utilize hot (but not boiling) water in combination with a vacuum. The water is heated inside the machine and sometimes mixed with detergent before being sprayed directly onto the carpet. At the same time, a vacuum sucks up the water almost immediately after hitting the fabric. The hot water extracts far more dirt and stains than would be possible by hand.
Cleaning machines using hot water extraction can be purchased or rented for home use, but they aren’t always as powerful as what professional cleaning services use. Improperly drying the carpet may also cause bacteria or mold growth. Professional cleaners also employ a number of other methods to pre-treat the carpet and ensure adequate drying. For these reasons, professional carpet cleaning may be preferable to do-it-yourself methods.
Carpets or rugs can also be thoroughly cleaned using a dry-cleaning method. As the name suggests, there is much less water involved in dry cleaning, which means the carpet can be ready to use in less time. Using powerful solvents to break down dirt and stains, dry cleaning puts less physical stress on the carpet, and thus might be better in the long run. However, dry cleaning is usually more expensive than hot-water cleaning services. In addition, the chemicals used to dry clean carpets might irritate pets, people with sensitive skin, or anyone sensitive to strong odors.