Carpet Cleaning Methods

Carpet Cleaning – Is Wetter Really Better?

There are some carpet cleaning methods that have become widely accepted but when broken down, just don’t make sense. Carpet cleaning, in my opinion, is one of them. Carpet is a difficult surface to keep clean. It is very dynamic and is actually an air filter for most buildings, capturing and holding a lot of microscopic debris from the air. It is estimated that the average carpet will double in weight over its lifetime because of accumulated soils. This makes all aspects of keeping it clean very important, but with the true nature of how carpet is made, we struggle to understand what is really going on when carpet is cleaned. In my last post, I discussed carpet cleaning chemicals and why more is really not better. With the chemicals being addressed, now lets take a look at one of the most common methods of carpet cleaning, wet extraction.

Wet Carpet Cleaning Methods

Wet extraction. This is the most popular of carpet cleaning methods. It has the least short-term cost. It can be done with relative ease and there are hundreds of models and styles of wet carpet cleaners available ranging from small spotters to large heated units that are mounted in trailers and vans. This is viewed as the standard in carpet cleaning.

It works like this, water is pumped into the carpet and then, once the dirt has become suspended in the solution, it is vacuumed up. In most cases a detergent is used to aid in loosening the soils and often the water is heated which helps break down any grease. This basic methodology is standard in the majority of carpet cleaning equipment, big and small. Once the dirt is vacuumed up, any remaining moisture is left to evaporate.

This way of cleaning carpet, while accepted throughout the industry, has several major issues that are commonly overlooked or unknown.

Why Wetter Is Not Better.

The first issue with the wet extraction carpet cleaning method is that carpet is not intended to ever be wet. It is a horizontal platform with millions of vertical surfaces intertwined that kind of forms a mesh. This mesh catches and holds dust and dirt particles. When they are dry, they can be removed easily with regular vacuuming. When they get wet, these light-weight specs become saturated, clump up and follow gravity with the water to the bottom of the carpet, instantly. Then, an extractor vacuum attempts to pull the dirt and water mixture back through this wet mesh of carpet fibers.

Anyone who has ever cleaned carpet knows that when the carpet cleaning machine is done, the carpet is still wet, and expected to air dry. The carpet may appear to be clean, but what has really happened is the dirt, that was visible on the surface, has been pushed and packed down deep in the carpet by the water. As the water evaporates, it draws or wicks some of the dirt back up to the surface. This can take days depending on the humidity level and how fast the moisture in the air can escape the room.

Ever have a spot in your carpet disappear when cleaning, only to have it return the next day? This is why that happens.

Unfortunately there have not been any front-runners that have broken through with alternative carpet cleaning methods  although there are several that are making a dent in the perception vs. reality when it comes to maintaining carpeted surfaces. If you know of or have used an alternative  method of carpet cleaning, I would love to hear about your results in the comments below.

11 replies
  1. Gary Fage
    Gary Fage says:

    Another excellent Blog, thank you.

    I have to say I do agree with a lot of what you say; an extraction machine in the wrong hands can cause all sorts of problems. I have even seen cases of trained professional with many years’ experience make a complete hash of it.

    One of the major problems has to be over wetting, under these circumstances and without proper ventilation carpets can remain damp for weeks.

    After cleaning, carpets can appear to be spotless but as you have indicated most of the dirt ends up at the base of the pile. The carpet then dries from the base up and brings the dirt with it. Carpets that initially looked good after cleaning can develop dark patches after a few days, this is often referred to as “wick back” and can be a major problem.

    I have always been a fan of rotary shampooing, although this system has been around for over 60 years I still think it’s one of the most effective.

    Your blog got me thinking and I decided to write one of my own outlining the four most commonly used methods of carpet cleaning in the UK. Your feedback and that of your readers would be much appreciated, please see

    Thanks again.

    Gary Fage

  2. Love's Dry Carpet Cleaning
    Love's Dry Carpet Cleaning says:

    Your blog is really very good. By which every individual user can visit your site and come to know about your services. I will also share this with my friends.

  3. Matthew Chalifour
    Matthew Chalifour says:

    Hi Brent,
    Couldn’t agree more with your views/facts about water/hot water injection carpet cleaning.
    We use a machine with twin in-line rotating brushes that is fitted with a steaming unit providing minimal saturation of which is extracted via brushes to twin conveyor belts feeding a recovery tank, stains are obviously treated with more water, the brushes open carpet fibres and retrieves dirt from as deep as matting, it seems to work well.
    I tested this by cleaning a carpet that had already been cleaned by a truck mounted hot water extraction unit and was amazed at the dirt I still recovered.
    Find link to best video I could find on machine, although this portrays machine working on hard floors, it only requires a change of brushes and height to clean carpet floors of all kinds.

    Cheers mate.
    Matthew Chalifour


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