How does steam cleaning carpet work?

Image showing a steam cleaner, cleaning carpet.

Steam cleaning a carpet works by using hot steam to loosen all the dirt and grime, that has built up in your carpet. All the dirt can be then easily removed by a vacuum cleaner or a carpet cleaner. What’s important, it should not be confused with ‘hot water extraction’, that is used mainly in carpet cleaners.

Hot water extraction is a different process, that injects hot water with cleaning agents, at high pressure, into the carpet. At the same time, all the dirty water gets sucked back into the special water tank in the carpet shampooer. This draws the point, that hot water extraction is more of an all-in-one solution.

Steam cleaners heat up water past 212 degrees Fahrenheit, releasing a high-heat vapor through a brush or a nozzle. The steam penetrates the carpet, allowing for not only removing the most stubborn stains, but also killing dust mites, bed bugs, viruses, and bacteria. The high temperature of vapor disinfects the carpet in an eco-friendly way, without the need for chemicals.

Steam cleaners also don’t need any suction opposed to carpet cleaners. This is because hot steam evaporates instantly after coming out of the nozzle. Nonetheless, it will still leave your carpet a little wet.

Is steam cleaning the best way to clean the carpet?

Carpets can be cleaned in many different ways, and each one has different benefits. Steam cleaning is best for people who don’t want to use extra chemicals due to various allergies, or their eco-friendly way of life. That being said, it’s probably not the most efficient way to remove all the dirt and stains from the carpet. Steam cleaning requires additional work to truly deep clean the carpet, as it only loosens up the dirt and grime. Those have to be later picked up by another cleaning device or by hand.

If you are looking for the quickest and most effective way to clean your carpet, we would advise you to invest in a carpet cleaner. They utilize the hot water extraction method, that works by injecting hot water into the carpet fibers at high pressure. This dirty water is then sucked back into the special water tank. You don’t have to wait for the carpet to dry, neither you have to do anything else to finish deep cleaning. It’s a simple all-in-one solution.

Benefits of steam cleaning your carpet

This way of cleaning is quite unique and therefore comes with a set of uncommon benefits. We will break down all of them one-by-one below.

Eco-friendly way of life

The main benefit of steam cleaning a carpet probably is the eco-friendly aspect. You can quickly disinfect the area without any chemicals needed which could be important for people with allergies. What’s more, you don’t have to spend additional money on various detergents.

Remove bacteria and viruses

Steam cleaning helps you maintain a clean and fresh carpet with no more bacteria, viruses, germs, and even bed bugs. It can also remove many types of mold and mildew, allowing for healthier air in your household.

Get rid of dust mites

Dust mites can cause many allergies, therefore, steam cleaning a carpet noticeably helps with sneezing. If you constantly have a runny nose, steam cleaning a carpet is definitely something to try out.

Longer livability

This brings us to another point which is the longer livability of your carpet. Many pests can actually damage the fibers, causing the carpet to look old and run down.

How to steam clean your carpet?

To steam clean your carpet we recommend following our short guide below. Be sure to read the user’s manual of your steam cleaner before you start.


Firstly, try to move any furniture that are covering your carpet, in order to get a better reach around the cleaning area. Then, you should remove any surface dirt and grime, that are inside your carpet. Pet hair can get easily entangled in the nozzle during the cleaning process, therefore try to get rid of any that you find. It doesn’t matter whether you do this process by vacuuming or hand cleaning.

After regular carpet cleaning, you can pre-treat any stubborn stains with a cleaning solution. However, be sure to spray the stain removal on a small, invisible area first, so you know it doesn’t damage the carpet fibres.

Now you have to get your steam cleaner ready by filling the tank with water. There should be a line indicating how much water is preferred for this model. Attach a clean nozzle that fits your floor and set the appropriate mode. Then bring the steam cleaner to full heat, reaching around 230 degrees Fahrenheit.

After those steps, you are ready to start steam cleaning your carpet. We would also strongly advise you to keep pets out of the cleaning area.

Steam cleaning the carpet

Steam clean the carpet from the furthest point of the door. Slowly work your way to the exit, so you won’t walk on wet carpet.

When steam cleaning carpet, be sure to not soak the fabric in steam excessively but move the machine fast. Spots with stubborn stains can be an exception to this rule. Try to move the steam cleaner in straight lines thoroughly through the whole carpet, so you don’t miss any spots. The whole process is rather quick and shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes.

Drying the carpet

It’s important to let the carpet dry, as vacuuming straight away may cause water to get inside the vacuum cleaner. This can lead to permanent damage in your vacuum, or potentially cause life-threatening scenarios in your household.

The drying process shouldn’t take more than 3-8 hours, as steam cleaner uses high-temperature vapor.

Top 6 best carpet steam cleaning tips

The steam cleaning method can be a time-consuming challenge for beginners, although, the process is rather simple. Here are five tips which can make your cleaning easier:

  1. Choose a day, that will allow you to easily and quickly dry the carpet. Sunny and warm weather will be a great opportunity to speed up the cleaning process. Alternatively, you can move the carpet to the area with the least foot traffic.
  2. Spray (correct amount) of cleaning solution on carpet stains, to make the steam cleaning process more effective.
  3. Increase the ventilation in the room to avoid moisture build-up. Usually opening windows is enough to get a nice airflow in the household.
  4. Use distilled water if you have an option. This can prevent mineral build-up in your steam cleaner.
  5. You can place towels under your cleaning area, in order to prevent steam from condensing into liquid water.
  6. Put plastic bags over your shoes to keep debris off the wet carpet.

What are the best steam cleaners for carpet cleaning?

If you are browsing steam cleaners to pick one just for cleaning the carpet, we would recommend considering a carpet cleaner. Those machines can do this job much quicker, leaving you with just as clean a carpet. That being said, steam cleaners have more flexibility in terms of maintaining a clean household.

In our opinion, the best option would be to pick a good overall steam cleaner. Some of the models, that are worth recommending:

  • Pure Enrichment – Pure Clean Steam Cleaner
  • PurSteam – Steam mop 10-in-1
  • PurSteam – Handheld steam cleaner


Does carpet steam cleaning work?

Steam cleaning really works, and in fact, is much more effective compared to standard vacuuming or mopping. Studies from 2019 show, that steam cleaning was not only just as effective, but also cheaper, than two-step cleaning using water with detergent, and disinfecting.

Environmental cleaning with steam technology was found to be as effective against MDR microorganisms as a two-step cleaning process (water/detergent and disinfecting).

Comparison of steam technology and a two-step cleaning (water/detergent) and disinfecting (1,000 resp. 5,000 ppm hypochlorite) method using microfiber cloth for environmental control of multidrug-resistant organisms in an intensive care unit

Based on those studies, we can undoubtedly assume, that carpet steam cleaning also works. It’s also important to admit, that hot steam disinfects the area removing mold, mildew, bacteria, germs, dust mites, and deeply embedded debris. Regular vacuuming can only pick up loose dirt or pet hair and doesn’t even compare to steam clean carpets.

Where does the dirt go after steam cleaning?

The dirt and debris don’t go anywhere. However, now, it’s loosened up and you can easily pick it up by vacuuming or cleaning it by hand. Additionally, there are no bacteria or viruses left in the cleaning area.

What is the carpet drying time after steam cleaning?

Since carpet steam cleaning relies on hot vapor, the dry time is fairly short. You can walk on the carpet 3-8 hours after the whole process. Alternatively, using a carpet shampooer can easily prolong drying time up to 14 hours.

How long does the steam cleaning process take?

Steam cleaning alone is a fairly short process, that won’t take more than 30 minutes. However, firstly you should remove dirt, dust, and debris from your floors or carpets. To thoroughly steam clean your carpet, be sure to vacuum it after it has dried.

What are the disadvantages of a steam cleaner?

Deep cleaning usually takes more time, as you need to remove excess moisture from the carpet. That being said, most steam cleaners don’t use chemicals which can be dangerous to you or your pets.

Is dry cleaning the same as steaming?

They are not the same thing. Dry cleaning is a process, that uses chemical solvents with little to no water. Meanwhile steaming is based purely on water, that creates a vapor which penetrates fibers. Dry cleaning can prevent shrinkage or stretching. Steam clean carpets are usually as good if not better than dry-cleaned ones.

We hope, that after this quick guide, you will be left with a clean carpet.