What is Dry Carpet Cleaning?


illustration of dry carpet cleaning equipment and text reading "carpet dry cleaning"

A dry carpet cleaning process uses chemicals and steam to clean a carpet. It is considered to be a no-moisture or very low moisture treatment for carpets. Dry cleaning removes dirt and grime by physically scrubbing or brushing the carpet fibers while removing the loosened dirt via extraction with a vacuum system.

The dry cleaning method can be combined with other methods such as shampooing to remove soil that cannot be removed by dry cleaning alone.

A common misconception among consumers is that steam cleaners are synonymous with carpets cleaned with the “dry” procedure. This could not be further from the truth! The term “steam cleaner” does not relate to any one particular method used for cleaning carpets, upholstery, or tile floors but instead refers to equipment designed to deliver condensed vapor that may or may not be used in combination with liquid cleaning solutions.

The dry method is considered one of the most effective methods for carpet cleaning because it can deeply penetrate a carpet fiber, loosening soil and allowing it to be removed more easily than with other methods. But despite its effectiveness, the dry process has limitations; for example, it will not clean heavily soiled areas such as those made by pets without pre-treatment using specially designed pet hair shampoos and spot treatments. In addition, it is ineffective in soiled areas caused by water damage and biological fluids.

Dry carpet cleaning machines are smaller than steam cleaners but offer a powerful suction capability that pulls dirt from deep within the fibers of carpets. However, excessive suction is not recommended, as it can result in the creation of small “tubes” within the carpet if the soil is not loosened sufficiently. For this reason, those with allergies to dust mites and other allergens are advised to have carpets cleaned regularly.

Although dry cleaning offers clear benefits over steam cleaning (it is faster, cheaper, does not require professional training or certification, and will not damage delicate surfaces), it cannot be used effectively in all situations.

For example, because dry cleaning works by pulling dirt from deep within the fibers, it often fails to remove surface soil on top of these fibers. However, when only light soiling is present and has been adequately pre-treated using a shampoo designed for pet hair removal, surface soil can be removed using the dry method.

In addition, the process of dry cleaning makes carpets vulnerable to soil redeposition (the placement of new soil into a cleaned carpet) if not properly executed. For example, excessive agitation or heavy suction during removal will move contaminants from surface areas back deep into the pile where they are difficult to remove.

In many cases, this will result in re-soiling after only a short time. For these reasons, those who choose this method must ensure that their cleaner uses proven methods for protecting cleanliness throughout every step of the process.