What are the different carpet cleaning methods?

Michael Mckenzie
November 7, 2023
 10 mins read
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What are the different carpet cleaning methods?

What are the different carpet cleaning methods?


So, you know you want to have your carpets cleaned, but after looking online, you may be confused about which method is best to use to clean your carpets. There are several different methods a professional can use to clean a carpet and achieve a visually similar finish.


The method a professional will choose depends on a few factors such as carpet type, fibre, location, setting, staining etc. Once a professional has assessed these factors, he will decide which cleaning method is best to use. The different types of cleaning a professional can use are Very Low Moisture (VLM), Low Moisture (LM) and Hot Water Extraction (HWE) commonly referred to as steam cleaning.


So, what is the difference between these methods?


Very Low Moisture (VLM)


Dry compound cleaning is a method of cleaning that involves the use of dry, absorbent materials to remove dirt, dust, and stains from carpets. This technique is an alternative to traditional wet cleaning methods, such as steam cleaning or hot water extraction. Dry compound cleaning is used on fibres that cannot be wet cleaned, such as jute, sisal, seagrass etc.


The key components of dry compound cleaning include:


  1. Absorbent Compound: An absorbent compound, often made of natural materials like sawdust or corn-starch, is applied to the soiled area. This compound is designed to attract and absorb dirt and stains.
  2. Agitation: After applying the dry compound, it is usually agitated into the carpet using a machine with rotating brushes. This helps the compound penetrate the fibres and absorbs contaminants from the carpet.
  3. Dwell Time: The compound is left to sit for a time allowing it to effectively absorb dirt and stains from the carpet.
  4. Vacuuming: Once the dwell time has passed, the area is thoroughly vacuumed to remove the dry compound along with the dirt and stains it has absorbed.


Dry compound cleaning has several advantages ove wet cleaning, including:


  • Faster drying times: Since no water is used in the process, there is no need for lengthy drying periods, reducing the risk of mould or mildew growth.
  • Minimal risk of over-wetting: Wet cleaning methods can sometimes over-wet the carpet or upholstery, potentially causing damage or colour bleeding. Dry     compound cleaning avoids this risk.
  • Less disruption: Dry compound cleaning is often less disruptive to daily activities because it doesn't require the same drying time as wet cleaning methods.
  • Environmentally friendly: This method typically uses biodegradable and eco-friendly compounds, making it a greener cleaning option.

However, dry compound cleaning may not be as effective at deep cleaning heavily soiled or stained surfaces compared hot water extraction. It is best suited for regular maintenance and light cleaning of carpets.

VLM Cleaning
Very Low Moisture (VLM)



Low Moisture (LM)


Encap' cleaning, short for encapsulation cleaning, is a method of cleaning carpets or other textile surfaces. It is commonly used in commercial and residential properties to remove dirt, stains, and contaminants from carpets.


The process typically involves the following steps:


  1. Pre-vacuuming: The carpet is thoroughly vacuumed to remove loose dirt and debris.
  2. Pre-spray: A cleaning solution is applied to the carpet. This solution contains a mixture of detergents and encapsulating agents.
  3. Agitation: A machine with brushes or pads is used to agitate the cleaning solution into the carpet fibres. This helps break up dirt and stains.
  4. Drying: The encapsulating agent in the cleaning solution surrounds and encapsulates the dirt and stains, forming into small, crystalline particles. These particles are left to dry, usually for a relatively short period, often no longer than 30 minutes.
  5. Vacuuming again: Once the encapsulated dirt and stains have dried, they can be easily removed through post-vacuuming. The vacuum cleaner collects the     crystalised particles, leaving the carpet looking cleaner.


Encap' cleaning is favoured for its relatively quick drying time, making it suitable for high-traffic areas that need to be back in use promptly. It can be a cost-effective and efficient method for maintaining the appearance of carpets between more extensive deep cleaning methods. However, it may not be as effective for heavily soiled or deeply embedded stains, which may require other cleaning techniques like hot water extraction.

Low Moisture (LM) 
Low Moisture (LM) 


Hot Water Extraction (HWE)


Hot water extraction is the cleaning method most used to remove dirt, stains, and contaminants from carpets, upholstery, and hard floors. This method is sometimes referred to as "steam cleaning" although it doesn't use steam, rather as the name suggests, hot water.


The hot water extraction process typically involves the following steps:


  1. Thorough Vacuum: The area is first vacuumed to remove as much dry soiling as possible. This will make the subsequent cleaning process more effective.
  1. Pre-Treatment: A cleaning solution is applied to the carpet to help break down stains and loosen dirt.
  1. Agitation: The carpet to be cleaned is agitated with a hand brush, a Counter Rotating Brush (CRB) or a rotary machine with either a brush or a pad. This helps to further loosen the dirt.
  1. Hot Water Extraction: A machine with a powerful vacuum is used to simultaneously spray hot water onto the surface and immediately extract it out along with the dislodged dirt and cleaning solution. This process removes the dirt, cleaning agents, and most of the moisture from the surface.
  1. Drying: After extraction, the cleaned carpet is left to dry. This may require several hours, and the drying time can vary depending on the type of material and the environmental conditions. Most cleaners will have drying equipment that will speed up the drying process.


Hot water extraction is particularly effective for cleaning carpets because it can reach deep into the carpet fibres, removing embedded dirt, allergens, and stains. It's also a more environmentally friendly method compared to some chemical-heavy cleaning processes.


It's important to note that hot water extraction is not suitable for all types of surfaces and materials. Some delicate or water-sensitive materials may be damaged by this method, so it's essential to consult with a professional cleaner to determine the best cleaning approach for your specific needs.

Hot Water Extraction (HWE)
Hot Water Extraction (HWE)



Our carpet cleaning customers love our most popular method of Hot Water Extraction to clean carpets. This method is the most thorough method at removing general soils, stains, bacteria, and dirt from your carpets.

Check out our explainer video here showing the different processes!


If you have any questions, get in touch with us here.


Michael Mckenzie
Owner, Paramount Cleaning Company
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