Get Your Carpets Looking Brand New with a Steam Cleaner

Do Your Carpets Need a Deep Clean?

Professional carpet cleaning services generally use only a few different pieces of equipment to serve their customers. Nevertheless, these items must be chosen with care to ensure the quality of the work. Like commercial washers, carpet cleaning machines go through heavy use and need to be of high quality to weather the wear.

How Steam Carpet Cleaners Work

Steam carpet cleaning is based on the principle of high-pressure hot water extraction. This essentially means that concentrations of hot water are blasted into your carpet fibers at extremely high pressures, which in turn loosen, trap and rinse away dirt, dust, stains and residues which have built up in the carpet fibers over time. While some operate on steam alone, others combine steam with alkaline substances and micro-applied detergents to enhance their effectiveness.

After using carpet steamers, you will have to avoid walking on the treated surface until it dries, which can take up to an hour or more. The drying process can be hastened by using fans to circulate air and promote the evaporation of the moisture trapped in the carpet fibers.

Buy a Steam Cleaner

There are two basic types of steam cleaners designed for home use:

  • Hot and dry steam carpet cleaners. This type of steam carpet cleaner heats evaporated water to an extremely high temperature, then applies it in highly pressurized blasts into carpet fibers. The end result is carpet cleaning that is as easy and effective as it is dry -- these systems greatly reduce or even eliminate the usual drying times associated with steam carpet cleaning.
  • Cool and humid steam carpet cleaners. These steam cleaners don't create steam that's nearly as hot, creating a gentler cleansing action which works nicely on thick, luxurious or delicate fabrics but requires drying time. Another disadvantage of cool and humid steam cleaners is that the drying action releases moisture into the air, which can raise indoor humidity levels and worsen the symptoms of any allergy sufferers in the household.

You can also get handheld steam carpet cleaners designed for spot use. These are perfect for cleaning your car's carpeting, and can also come in handy if you need to mop up a stain or spill promptly in a localized area of your carpet.

Carpet Extractors

Carpet cleaners also use machines known as extractors. Extractors pull dirt from carpets before washing the debris off the rollers. This introduces much less water into the carpeting, which means drying takes much less time. Extractors vary in the size of their tanks, hose lengths and the amount of pressure they exert for the extraction. Some units also have heated tanks. Small units are often used for auto detailing. Prices range from $800 to nearly $2,000.

Carpet Dryers

Drying carpets after cleaning is accomplished with fans. Dryers are among the least expensive pieces of carpet cleaning equipment, ranging in price from about $100 to $500. Most units blow air across the carpet surface, carrying moisture away. Better models can be placed in multiple positions while in operation, or stacked for superior air movement. One newer design draws air from above and distributes it in an aggressive and powerful 360 degree stream.

How to Choose Your Carpet Cleaning Equipment

Steam cleaners come in various sizes, so you'll want to be sure you get the right size to make the job quick and efficient. First, estimate the area you will need to clean. Multiply length by width for an approximate square footage. Then, look over the shape of the area. If you have wide open spaces, you may want a carpet machine that has a wider track to cover more floor in a shorter period of time. However, these can be hard on the shoulders, so make sure you can handle the extra width and weight.

Next, decide if you are doing stairs. There is often a separate attachment for stairs and other hard-to-clean places. Also consider getting the extra attachments for upholstery. These make cleaning your couches and chairs much easier than trying to spot clean with products off the supermarket shelf.

Finally, remember that portable steam cleaners can be heavy. Make sure you are physically able to handle the equipment before you sign the rental agreement.

Chemicals for Your Carpet Cleaner

Steam cleaner rentals often do not include cleaning chemicals. Most often, you will need to purchase carpet cleaning products in addition to your rental. These include shampoo, a foam reducer (which prevents foam from backing up into the carpet cleaner's mechanisms) and perhaps spot removers or enzymes. Many companies offer environmentally friendly options, as well as pet-friendly and cruelty-free products for steam floor cleaners.

If you prefer a natural alternative, some people have found that carpets respond well to vinegar-and-water mixes. (Note: Always check to see if the portable steam cleaners you are interested in can handle vinegar before you try this on your carpets.) You might also consider an after-shampoo rinse with just water to remove any chemical residue.

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