DIY Carpet Steam Cleaning: Pros and Cons of Hot Water Extraction

DIY Carpet Steam Cleaning: Pros and Cons
Contrary to popular belief, you can get as good results from a DIY steam cleaning job as you can from the pros. But you need to know what you’re doing.

Whether your carpets came with your home or you took the trouble to pick them out and have them installed yourself, if you want them to last as long as possible, you’re going to want to clean them with some degree of frequency. Our experience in the industry, however, has shown us that most homeowners either clean their carpets multiple times a year (typically those with personal carpet cleaners or with the means to hire professionals) or never do it…ever.Today we’ll talk about how often carpets should be cleaned and whether to do it yourself or call in the pros.

How often do carpets need to be cleaned to maintain them?

While it’s possible to get away with only cleaning your carpets whenever you find an obvious stain or soiling event, if you want to keep your carpet in tip top condition for years to come, you’ll want to develop a cleaning schedule and stick to it. Typically, manufacturers urge carpet owners to clean them at least every 12 to 18 months. If you have more foot traffic at home, you’ll naturally want to clean more frequently. It’s worth noting, too, that many carpet warranties require a similar degree of cleaning to be able to claim warranty coverage later on if something goes wrong.

Nylon carpets are just one of several carpet fiber types that benefit from regular cleaning. Nylon in particular is a polymer whose resiliency is tied to frequent cleaning schedules, as cleaning nylon fibers stimulates hydrogen atoms inside it to restore the “bounce” in the carpeting. Whether you use synthetic or natural fibers, the more you properly clean them, the less they’ll stain, soil, or risk developing mold and mildew.

Which options do homeowners have for steam cleaning?

When it comes to steam cleaning, homeowners can choose between hiring professional cleaners or doing the job themselves via DIY steam cleaners. If you choose the professional route, you’ll pay more but you’ll get better results than if you use most budget carpet cleaners. Professional cleaners will use portable or truck-mounted units; the truck units give more power and efficiency while the portable units can be carried into condominiums and apartments.

The DIY route grows each year as homeowners become more emboldened by home improvement programs and the ever-increasing prices of professional services. In the right hands, a quality carpet cleaner can rival the best professional services. Even if you don’t clean carpets for a living, if you take the time to learn what you’re doing, you can easily learn to care for spills and accidents around the home, and even venture into cleaning all of your carpets. We’ll share recommendations for quality carpet cleaners at the end of this article.

What is hot water extraction?

Most carpet manufacturers specify that their products should be cleaned by hot water extraction. While it’s slightly different from classic steam cleaning, the processes are similar enough that the terms can be and are used interchangeably.

In hot water extraction, your carpet cleaner acts as a small washing machine; it sprays a mixture of warm (or hot, depending on your settings) water and a cleaning solution into your carpet and then vacuums it back at high speed; the process releases and removes dirt embedded in your carpeting.

Are there any risks to steam cleaning your carpets on your own?

The main risks involved with steam cleaning carpets on your own involve using too much water and not drying your carpets thoroughly. If you’ve properly steam cleaned a carpet, it should only have a slight amount of moisture on it; if you place a sheet of paper on the carpet and press on it with your hand, it shouldn’t fall apart or drip once you lift it from the carpet.

A wet carpet means one of two things: either your carpet cleaner wasn’t strong enough to do a good job of drying your carpet, or that you didn’t use it properly. If you do have a wet carpet once you’ve cleaned it, you’ll want to open windows and use fans–both ceiling-based and portable–to dry your carpet as quickly as possible. The longer a carpet stays wet, the greater the risk of mold and mildew, buckling and rippling, and, in the case of fibers like wool, shrinkage.

How can you save money with professional carpet cleaning services?

If you’re short on funds and want a professional cleaning job done, a good idea is to only request cleaning of traffic areas. In other words, the cleaners will simply clean around your furniture pieces (e.g., your sofas and beds) instead of needing to move them. This makes sense for multiple reasons.

First, you never see these pieces of carpet anyway, since they’re beneath large pieces of furniture. Second, the lack of exposure to foot traffic and sunlight means these pieces of carpet are going to wear much more slowly than the parts of your carpet that are actually used, which means they don’t need cleaning nearly as often.

Which carpet cleaners do you recommend for DIY carpet cleaning?

DIY Carpet Steam Cleaning: Pros and Cons
The Bissell Big Green is our top choice for cleaning your carpets on your own.

If you’re going to clean your carpets on your own, the best machine you can buy for the job on a reasonable budget is the Bissell 86T3 Big Green. It’s a perennial best seller because it cleans as well as just about any hot water extractor under the $1,000 price mark, and it’s reliable enough to work for as long as you own your home. We’ve reviewed it here and here and can’t say enough good things about it; there’s a reason you’ll see it over and over again as a rental cleaner and as a portable cleaner of choice for many professional carpet cleaners: it gets the job done and under budget.

DIY Carpet Steam Cleaning: Pros and Cons
To keep your carpets in good day-to-day shape, you’ll want to vacuum them frequently with a machine like the Miele Cat & Dog.

For vacuuming, which we recommend doing for day-to-day maintenance of your carpets, we suggest either the Miele Complete C3 Cat & Dog or the Miele Compact C2 Electro+.  Both are high-end, buy-it-for-life machines that will likely be passed down to your children as long as you remember to change their filters periodically. Between the two, we prefer the Cat & Dog (as noted in our reviews and guides here, here, and here), but the Electro+ (which we’ve reviewed here and here) works excellently as a lower-cost alternative.

You can buy the Bissell 85T3 Big Green carpet cleaner here on Amazon. You can buy the Miele Complete C3 Cat & Dog here or buy the Miele Compact C2 Electro+ here.

Canadians can buy the Miele C3 Cat & Dog here, the Compact Electro+ here, and the Bissell Big Green here.

If you find our research on PMC helpful, you can follow our efforts to keep maniacally reviewing home cleaning tools by shopping through our links above. We promise to keep fighting the good fight against every horror children, animals, and grown, yet messy humans can inflict upon a clean home.

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