Dry Cleaning VS Steam Cleaning Your Carpets [Which is Best]

The carpets can become a massive mess quickly, and it’s often a pain to try and clean. This is usually where the question of should you be steam cleaning or dry cleaning your carpet comes in, what’s the difference and which method is better?

So dry cleaning or steam cleaning carpets, which should you choose. Well, both can be effective carpet cleaning methods, but dry cleaning uses minimal water (hence the name carpet dry cleaning) meaning your carpets will be dry within the hour.

Although steam cleaning will take several hours more to dry, this method is recommended to remove tough stains and all-over fresher carpets after using its hot steam.


It’s a topic that is often debated, and it can also depend on the model you are using as well as the carpet you have installed. However, with us here to guide you through the process we know that you’ll find the perfect cleaning method for your carpets to really shine.

Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning can also be referred to as hot water extraction, and the former tends to be used as a blanket term that covers a range of carpet cleaning methods that include heat. 

It should also be noted that not every steam cleaner can be used for steam cleaning carpets, you need a carpet glider attachment for it to be considered safe for use. This is because the steam produces a lot of moisture which over-soaks the carpet fibres and can soak them, causing mould and mildew. 

Hot water extraction, although a form of steam cleaning, uses a professional machine that can be filled with a mixture of hot water and detergent. This is scrubbed into the carpet and then extracted – alongside the water and all that dirt and grime. The carpet then needs to dry. 

The drying process can take several hours, or even need to be left overnight. Some models come with a heated setting that will dry the carpets as you wash them for faster drying times. A dry carpet is a healthy carpet, something that is important to remember with this technique.

Pros & Cons of Steam Cleaning


  • It comes highly recommended by top cleaning professionals and carpet manufacturers. You just need to ensure you follow the care guide for your carpet and the instructions provided with your cleaner.
  • It doesn’t leave any residue behind after cleaning, which leaves your carpet nice and fluffy. This is because the water levels are higher than the detergent so that your carpet gets cleaned without leaving gunk in the fibres.
  • This carpet cleaner method has the ability to get deep into the carpet fibres and really drag up embedded dirt and hair from the root of the material.
  • The hot water also dissolves dirt, making it easier to collect.  
  • They have been specially designed to remove stains for a more powerful effect. However, they aren’t just good for stain removal – they are the perfect carpet refresher too. 


  • It cannot be used on more delicate materials such as natural fibres, Jute, hessian & seagrass. As a result, it is essential that you always check the label first to ensure they are compatible with this method. 
  • It takes a long time to dry, anywhere from 6-7 hours all the way to 12 hours.
  • If carpets left wet for too long you risk mould and mildew growth in your carpet which often results in it needing to be torn up and replaced. 
  • The carpet cleaner used for this form of cleaning can also be quite bulky, heavy, and noisy.
  • It is not always the easiest appliance to operate and can become frustrating to push around if you hire a commercial or professional model.

Carpet Dry Cleaning

This method is primarily used for delicate materials where the steam techniques would be too harsh on the material in question. It is a gentler cleaning technique and one that still uses strong detergents that will kill bacteria and remove dirt, but not so strong that it damages the material. 

There are many different detergents available, and the application process is usually performed by a professional despite its simplicity. They will apply the detergent to the affected area and then spray with water to help loosen the stain and get things working. 

Once this is done and the detergent has reacted appropriately with the stain, the material is vacuumed to remove all of the debris and dirt from the area. You can use the carpet right away, no need to wait for drying times.

Pros & Cons of Dry Carpet Cleaning


  • There is no drying time required from dry cleaning – you can go straight back to using your carpet without the worry of fungal or bacterial growth in your carpets. 
  • There is no risk of damaging delicate materials, and it can even be used on the more durable ones.
  • It’s a huge relief for expensive materials, and it doesn’t take a great deal of time for the actual carpet dry cleaning to be completed.


  • There are times when a little residue gets left behind after dry carpet cleaning. When this happens, it can be incredibly difficult to remove and is part of the reason why professional dry cleaners tend to take on the task. 
  • Carpet dry cleaning is not the most effective method for stain removal, and you need to be careful with regards to which detergent is used on which material as some can be too harsh.

What Else Should You Know About Carpet Cleaning?

You need to choose the carpet cleaning method that is right for you and the type of carpet that you own. Is dry carpet cleaning the way to go or are you more into the steam carpet cleaning method? Here’s a quick comparison to help you weigh up the pros and cons concisely.

FeaturesSteam CleaningDry Cleaning
Drying Time3-12 Hours Almost Instant
Fabric TypeSynthetic and WoolDelicate Materials (Jute, Sea Grass etc)
Stain RemovalHighly EffectiveLittle Effect
Water UseUses Large Amounts (Especially During Rinse)Little Water Used

The most important thing to remember is that when tacking stains, you should do so as soon as possible to avoid it soaking into the fibres and becoming a more permanent fixture. 

Older stains are harder to remove, even with these methods, but we do have several great stain removal guides you can check out. 

If you ever find yourself completely stuck or unsure, there is no need to panic or worry. Professional cleaners are always on hand to help you, and they know what they’re doing with cases like this. Sometimes a little outside help is the best way to get our carpet clean again.


Does steam cleaning carpet remove odour?

Yes, steam cleaning carpet does remove odours. It permeates deep into the fibres of the carpet and lifts the gunk and grime that causes carpets to smell bad in the first place. You can also sprinkle baking soda on the carpet and suck it up with the vacuum to neutralise odour.

Why does my carpet smell after steam cleaning?

If your carpet smells after steam cleaning, it is because you have not given your carpets time to dry or they have not been able to dry thoroughly. This can lead to mould and mildew growth which causes unpleasant odour after steam cleaning carpet cleaning.

Do you clean carpet until water is clean?

Yes and no. It all depends on the state of your carpet beforehand as you don’t want to oversoak the fibres. You may need to go through the carpet cleaning process for a few days before the water becomes clean, or it could happen in less than an hour. Just don’t over soak the carpet.

How often should you be steam cleaning your carpet?

Every couple of months is great for steam cleaning your carpets. It allows you to remove all the dirt and grime without over-cleaning the carpets so that the fibres can retain a soft and fluffy feeling. A home with very high pet and child traffic, however, may need to do this monthly.

Final Thoughts

Dry clean, hot water and steam, it’s a lot to process and think about so that you make the right choice for your carpet. Hopefully, this guide has made it simpler for you and showed you the difference between these carpet cleaning methods so that you can make the best choice. 

A clean carpet is a happy carpet, and whether you choose steam cleaning or dry cleaning we know you’ll find a great solution. If you do go ahead with either of these methods, we would love to hear how you got on as well as any tips and tricks you think we might like to hear. Leave us a comment!

Last Updated on March 4, 2021 by Gemma Tyler

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