Dry carpet cleaning or hot water extraction cleaning, which is best? To understand the answer to this question, we must firstly establish the advantages and drawbacks of each method. We must also be aware of what type of carpet we are dealing with, and how soiled it actually is. Additionally, would there be time available to wait for the carpet to dry out, or would you need to use it straight away?

What is dry carpet cleaning?

There are two forms of dry carpet cleaning: CRB cleaning and Encapsulation cleaning. Different equipment, detergents and cleaning techniques are required to pull each one off. The two methods are widely used, but in recent years counter-rotating brush machines have become more popular. We will now go over how each method works, and when it should be used.

Dry carpet cleaning vs hot water extraction

How does crb carpet cleaning work?

CRB machines have two counter-rotating brushes, which rotate counterclockwise of each other, trapping dirt, debris and hair.

To perform this method of carpet cleaning, you must have:

  • a counter-rotating brush machine
  • cleaning powder
  • a pre-treatment cleaning solution
  • a hoover

And here is how the method is performed:

  1. The carpet is firstly hoovered to remove the built-up dirt and dust.
  2. A pre-spray cleaning product is applied which breaks down dirt particles and tougher stains.
  3. The cleaning powder is evenly sprinkled over the area to be cleaned.
  4. The CRB machine is used to thoroughly clean the carpeted area.
  5. The carpet is hoovered once again, this time to take out the cleaning powder.
Cleaning carpets

What are the benefits of CRB carpet cleaning?

  • The most obvious advantage of this method is the ability to use the carpet straight after the cleaning takes place. This can be especially important if cleaning in a working environment, a school or simply a crowded home.
  • The method is suitable for essentially all types of carpet fibres. As a minimal amount of moisture is used during the cleaning, the method can be used on natural and synthetic carpets alike.
  • The CRB machines are much lighter than commercial steam carpet cleaning equipment. This in turn makes cleaning of high floor flats and offices more feasible. Additionally, CRB machines are generally easier to use than industrial steamers.

What are the downsides of CRB carpet cleaning?

  • CRB carpet cleaning involves the use of mild detergents which may not be able to deal with all possible unpleasant odours. This is especially true if the smell has been there for weeks and even months.
  • The method is not nearly as effective in removing stubborn stains. Counter rotating brushes do an excellent job in trapping and removing dirt from carpets. Old and tough stains, however, can often withstand said cleaning technique. This is indeed a major downside, as one of the main reasons people clean carpets is to remove stains.

Read also: How to Eliminate Offensive Odour from the Carpet

What steam machines do professionals use

How does encapsulation carpet cleaning work?

The method is extremely similar to CRB carpet cleaning. However, instead of brushes, a three discs counter rotate to clean the carpet. Additionally, a brush accessory can be attached onto each disk for carpets which are particularly soiled. The detergents needed for this method are selected based on the carpet type and degree of pollution.

To perform this method of carpet cleaning, you must have:

  • an encapsulation carpet cleaning machine
  • cleaning chemicals
  • a hoover

And here is how the method is performed:

  1. Pre-hoovering of the carpet to remove the surface layer of debris.
  2. Filling the machine with the adequate cleaning product.
  3. Cleaning of the carpet with the encapsulation machine
  4. Cleaning of the carpet with a vacuum cleaner once again to remove the encapsulated debris.

What are the benefits of encapsulation carpet cleaning?

  • The cleaning takes very little time to perform, with a minimal drying time as well. It's estimated that in one hour, up to 250 sq/m of carpet can be cleaned efficiently. Drying on the other hand, takes no more than 30-60 minutes with good aeration.
  • Akin to CRB cleaning, encapsulation carpet cleaning is perfectly suitable for nearly all carpet types. However, the method makes use of slightly more moisture than CRB machines, so it may not be suitable for some natural materials.
  • Encapsulation machines can also effectively clean hard floors, and also polish them. That makes the investment in such a machine well worth it, especially for buildings with large amounts of carpets and tiles/ wood flooring.

What are the downsides of encapsulation carpet cleaning?

  • A proper encapsulation carpet cleaning machine costs roughly the same amount as an industrial hot water extraction machine. And as we will soon find out, steam extraction cleaning is more versatile and efficient in stain and smell removal.
  • Low quality detergents will not break down the soil quite as good as high quality cleaning products. This can make the whole cleaning session a complete waste of time.

Check also: Carpet Cleaning Ideas Given By Professional Cleaners

Carpet steam cleaning

What is hot water extraction carpet cleaning?

Hot water extraction is the most widely used professional carpet cleaning method of the 21st century. Even without the use of chemicals, the method guarantees removal of 99.9% of all germs and bacteria. With the use of cleaning products, however, it becomes the best odour and stain removal method on the market.

Important note: Hot water extraction cleaning should not be confused with steam cleaning. Steam cleaning is essentially cleaning with steam, which is only efficient in sanitizing the items' surface. On the other hand, hot water extraction machines penetrate in between the carpet fibres, which cleanses the items of stains, odours and bacteria.

To perform this method of carpet cleaning, you must have:

  • a hot water extraction machine
  • cleaning chemicals
  • a hoover

And here is how the method is performed:

  1. Hoovering of the carpets to remove the surface dirt and dust.
  2. Pre-treatment to allow for better stain removal results.
  3. Water sprayed into carpet under high pressure, which is then immediately extracted into the machine's dirty tank.
  4. Further treatment by hand with a soft brush of any remaining visible issues.
  5. Deodorizing.

What are the benefits of hot water extraction carpet cleaning?

  • This deep cleaning method leaves the carpets fully sanitized and bacteria-free.
  • Industrial machines are able to dissolve even older stains and marks, regardless if they're caused by: red wine, coffee, tea or mould.
  • This method cleans the carpet from deep inside, which in turn allows for easier odour removal as well.
  • Commercial machines have extensions for carpet and upholstery cleaning. This allows you to have your sofas, rugs, carpets and mattresses cleaned professionally all in one go. That in turn will permit you to receive a special bundle offer from your local experts.

What are the downsides of encapsulation carpet cleaning?

  • The only other real downside would be how heavy an industrial machine is. This can be a problem for flats or offices situated on a second or above floor with no lift.
  • The only significant downside to the hot water extraction method is the drying time. As it's a water based method, the moisture has to dry out naturally, which generally takes 2-4 hours. In case the carpet is not dry after said time frame, you may need to switch on the heating. The only other reasons why carpets may need more time to dry are if they were particularly soiled or done with an unprofessional machine.

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Home cleaning 2


Apart from being more popular, especially in the UK, hot water extraction cleaning is also more efficient in removing stains, odours and bacteria. Still, it's a method which leaves the carpets damp, so it's best to plan out when exactly it should take place.

On the other hand, dry carpet cleaning services are more suitable for office environments, as there's no downtime in terms of drying. Said cleaning methods are also suitable for a larger amount of carpet types.

It's important to note as well, that no carpet cleaning method guarantees the removal of all stains and smells. Some stains, even when cleaned with a commercial steam cleaner, may not fully come out from the cleaning session. As experienced carpet cleaners, we advise dealing with a stain as soon as it happens. Do not use anything harsh to try and deal with it yourself - simply wipe it over and leave it to the experts.