Employee removing dirt with steam cleaner from commercial carpet

The Four Most Common Carpet Cleaning Methods

So you have a beautiful front-of-house, gorgeous decor, a sparkling kitchen… but dirty carpet. That’s a problem.

Carpets are one of the dirtiest things in restaurants and any public space, for that matter – they get stepped on by hundreds of shoes, spilled on, and badly worn. When dirt or other messy things get tracked in, it’s the carpet that takes the mess.

Dirty carpets look filthy, smell bad, and ruin what would be a lovely dining room. Make sure to clean your carpet regularly! We recommend a solid deep clean once a month with regular vacuuming and spot cleaning, as needed during a daily janitorial or nightly janitorial service.

Here are four main methods for carpet cleaning used by business owners and cleaners around the world. Give them a try, find what works for you, and keep your carpets clean!

1. Encapsulation

Encapsulation cleaning is one of the newer commonly-used methods, and needs no water to work.

The carpet is vacuumed thoroughly, the chemical is sprayed onto the carpet, and then massaged into the carpet with a rotary brush or bonnet. The movement of the brush disturbs and breaks the dirt particles, where the chemical then surroundings the particles and crystallizes to isolate the dirt.

After crystallization, a vacuum is used once again on the carpet to clean up the chemical and dirt, possibly twice. Encapsulation cleaning should be periodically followed (every 2-3 cleanings) by thorough hot water extraction.

Encapsulation carpet cleaning is desired for multiple reasons: it’s proven to keep carpets looking cleaner longer, drying and cleaning times are very fast (20 min), overhead costs are low, and there is no residue.

However, encapsulation isn’t the best method for grease-heavy cleans, so consider an alternative method if you have lots of grease on your carpet that needs to be cleaned up.

2. Steam cleaning

Steam cleaning (or hot water extraction) is a very common method of cleaning carpets.

The carpet is pre-conditioned with a chemical that liquefies the soils and oil-based substances often found in carpet fibers due to shoes and other sources. Hot water is heated to boiling and the steam is then injected into the carpet fibers with pressure.

The hot water loosens the dirt, kills any bugs, and then is simultaneously vacuumed up, along with any dislodged and dissolved dirt. In cases of particularly dirty carpets, a detergent is used.

This is a highly recommended method of deep carpet cleaning. Steam cleaning is highly effective in removing odors, deep cleaning, and killing bacteria and dust mites.

There are drawbacks to this method, including drying time, high costs, and expensive equipment, but the method is crucial for deep cleaning your carpet. Make the time to steam clean carpet at least a couple times a year.

3. Carpet dry cleaning

The dry-cleaning method uses virtually no water, which means no drying time.

A small amount of powder, mixed with special solvents and cleaning agents, targets a specific carpet or issue (sisal carpets, greasy film, etc.).

The mixture is sprinkled over the carpet and a mechanized brush is used to work it through the carpet, dissolving soil. After sitting on the carpet for about fifteen minutes, a vacuum is used to clean up the soil and residue.

The dry-cleaning method dries carpet more quickly than any other cleaning method and is much easier-going on natural carpets that damage easily. Anyone can execute this method – it’s very easy to do and require no special training.

However, due to the powder format of the cleaning agent, one should consider not using this method on shag or plush pile carpets. This method can cause a dust buildup in the home if not cleaned up properly and is not a deep-clean method, so carpet dry cleaning should be most often used as more of a surface-clean, cosmetic method.

4. Bonnet cleaning

Bonnet cleaning is most often used for light-cleaning maintenance, however it can also be used for regular carpet cleaning.

The carpet is first vacuumed, and then a mist of cleaning product mixed with carbonated water, is sprayed over the surface of the carpet with a hand pump or electric sprayer.

A circular rotating buffer or “bonnet” with an absorbent covering is rubbed over the carpet at about 100 to 300 rpm. When the covering becomes fully used, it is replaced with a clean one and the action is repeated.

Once the bonnet is fully used it will not hold any more dirt, so it is important to regularly replace the bonnet or else the dirt will just get moved around on the carpet. This method takes about thirty minutes to complete.

Bonnet cleaning is fast and inexpensive, producing excellent results for carpets that are only slightly dirty.

However, bonnet cleaning should only be viewed as a lighter clean because only the top third of the carpet is cleaned and leaves dirt and chemicals at the root of the carpet.


There are other methods available to clean your carpet, not just these four, but these are the most common and easy to accomplish. Remember, reliable cleaning services are also always available to help you out. Get your carpet looking spiffy!

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