Steam Cleaning Carpets: 8 Answers You Should Know

Cleaners Talk is reader-supported. This post contains affiliate links, we may earn a commission at no additional costs to you. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Vacuuming is essential when it comes to keeping your carpet clean and aesthetically pleasing. There is just something about having a nice clean carpet under your feet.

Unfortunately, no matter the thickness, carpeting is like a magnet for dust and dirt. Although vacuuming is a strong line of defense, there will likely come a time when you need to deep clean the carpet.

To do this, you may reach for a steam cleaner. Steam cleaning your carpet is a great way to pull dirt and dust that has settled deep into the carpeting and cannot be extracted with a vacuum. You must understand how to use a steam cleaner properly, or you could run the risk of ruining your carpet.

1. Does Steam Cleaning Leave Carpet Wet?

Steam cleaning is a preferred method of cleaning because the steam can penetrate the carpet easily and allow the dirt particles to release. But does steam cleaning leave carpet wet?

A carpet will be wet after steam cleaning for between 1 to 12 hours, sometimes even for a couple of days. There is no way to avoid having a wet carpet after a thorough steam cleaning because steam cleaners often leave moisture, especially on carpet fibers.

It is difficult to determine precisely how long the carpet will be wet because there are a lot of factors that impact the length of time it takes to dry.

  • Quality of cleaning machine: If you hire a reputable carpet cleaning company, they will extract more water than most machines purchased for home use. If you have a personal steam cleaning machine, you want to make sure it has enough suction power to remove as much water as possible from the carpet.
  • The temperature of home: The home's temperature may help indicate the length of time it will take for the carpet to dry thoroughly. Keeping the temperature between 70-72 degrees will help speed the drying process. (Source)
  • Humidity level: If the humidity level is high in the house, it will take significantly longer for your carpet to dry. This is because the air will not be able to hold any more moisture, which will make the drying process take longer.
  • Location of carpet: If the rug being steam cleaned is in the dark and closed-off area of your home, it will take longer to dry because of the limited air circulation.  

Since steam cleaning leaves moisture on the carpet, it is best to clean and vacuum beforehand. Choosing the right time would also help, for example, steam cleaning during a time of day when people are not walking by.

However, if there are going to be people anyway, you should tell them that they cannot walk on it. To reduce drying time, turn on the air conditioning or a fan. If it is warm outside, open the curtain to let warm air inside.

2. Does Steam Cleaning Damage Carpet?

Steam cleaning does not damage carpet, if it is done correctly. In fact, steam cleaning is the primary method (but not the only method) recommended by most carpet manufacturers, and most manufacturers require that their carpets receive an annual steam cleaning to maintain a valid warranty.

Steam cleaning can only damage carpet if:

  • The equipment used is faulty or low quality
  • The water pressure (psi) is too high
  • The technician uses poor technique
  • The humidity or temperature in the home is not conducive to drying carpets
  • No fans or air movers were used to help speed-dry the carpet.

Ask questions to make sure you are employing a reliable carpet cleaning service.

If you want to steam clean carpets yourself, be sure to use the right steam cleaner. Use a steam cleaner designed for carpets. If you are using a steam mop, make sure it has a carpet glider.

However, if you are not confident in steam cleaning your carpets yourself, do yourself a favor and hire a professional carpet cleaner. When you hire a carpet cleaner, ask these questions to ensure the best results:

  • What carpet cleaning method do you use? (You want steam cleaning)
  • Do you use portable or truck-mounted carpet machines? (You want a truck-mounted)
  • Do you do dry passes or dry strokes to help pull out moisture? (The answer should be yes)
  • Do you use air movers/blowers/fans to help reduce the drying time? (The answer should be yes)
  • How experienced is the technician who will be coming to my home? (Hopefully, he has at least a year of experience)

Remember, steam cleaning is an effective method to clean carpets. As long as it is done correctly by the right person, the chances that your carpet will be damaged while steam cleaning is slim to none.

3. Does Steam Cleaning Remove Odors from Carpet?

If done correctly, steam cleaning can remove odors from carpet. To remove odors from carpet, simply vacuum the carpet first, then use a cloth over the floor tool on the steam cleaner to insulate and catch all of the dirt, grease, and stains on the cloth.

Because steam cleaners can use as little as 5% water in hot jets of steam, the steam dries quickly, which prevents the growth of odor-causing mold and mildew, while removing odors from slow-drying areas such as furniture, carpets, and other upholstered places.

Steam cleaners disinfect and kill mold, spores, bed bugs, and dust mites without needing the additional use of detergents, so it is a safe, environmentally friendly, and efficient way to clean carpets.

However, remember to pre-treat the stain and odor first if you are trying to remove pet urine odors. Otherwise, the heat of the steam will set the odor into the carpet, and you will be unable to remove it.

If you are trying to remove pet urine odors, you can learn how right here.

4. Does Steam Cleaning Remove Carpet Dents (Furniture Marks)?

You have likely seen dents and divots that are left behind by heavy pieces of furniture. This unsightly problem is normally caused by a chair leg, a table leg or a sofa resting on the carpet for a long period of time. Simply vacuuming over the dents is not likely to remove them, so that you may be looking for other alternatives. 

Steam cleaning your carpet removes carpet dents and indentations with little effort.

All you need is a household steamer, a tooth brush, and a little patience. Place the steamer gently onto the dented carpet for approximately 10 seconds, then brush the carpet until the dent has lifted. Keep brushing for longer periods if needed as the carpet cools for the best results. Leave for 15 minutes then vacuum.

As you can see in the video above, removing carpet dents (furniture marks) takes less than a minute to see the results. Using a simple steam cleaner is effective in removing carpet dents in no time at all.

5. Does Steam Cleaning Sanitize Carpet?

Carpet not only holds dirt and dust, but it can also hold a lot of germs. Because of this, many people will rely on steam cleaning to help sanitize the carpeting. If you are relying on steam cleaning to sanitize your carpeting, you need to keep things in mind.

The simple act of steam cleaning does not fully sanitize a carpet. To sanitize your carpet with a steam cleaner, you will likely need to use a cleaning agent in the steam.

When choosing to use cleaning agents with a steam cleaner, you need to understand the different options you will have. There are natural and chemical options to choose from. 

Natural Sanitizing Options

Always make sure natural options are safe for your carpet.

You can do this by spot testing an inconspicuous area or even with a remnant of carpet. Unfortunately, just because a method is successful for some, it may not work for everyone. 

  1. Vinegar: One of the most tried and true methods of naturally sanitizing your carpet is by using vinegar rinse. When choosing to use vinegar to sanitize, you need to mix it equally with water. The acidic nature of the vinegar could hurt the carpet otherwise. (Source: Bob Vila)
  2. Essential Oil: Some essential oils are helpful when it comes to sanitizing carpets. However, if you choose to use essential oils, you need to make sure they are properly mixed with water to avoid damage. Here are some of the top oils for sanitizing.
  • Tea tree
  • Lemon
  • Peppermint
  • Eucalyptus

You may also find combinations of oils that would work well for sanitizing the carpet as well. As always, spot check before applying to the entire floor. Also, apply it on the carpet and do not put it inside your steamer.

Chemical Sanitizing

If you prefer to go the chemical route, you will be able to find many different options on the market. If you choose to use a chemical option, be sure that you properly ventilate the area you are cleaning and make sure it won't harm your carpet by spot-checking. 

Because there are so many chemical sanitizing options on the market, with some being stronger than others, it would be wise to seek advice if you are uncertain about the type to get. If you want to have your carpet sanitized with a commercial-grade sanitizer, you may wish to have a professional company do the job.

6. Does Steam Cleaning Shrink Carpets?

You have likely experienced or know that hot water tends to shrink the fabric. This may leave you wondering if steam cleaning will have the same effect on your carpet.

Steam cleaning does not usually cause your carpet to shrink, but there are some cases where a shrunken carpet has resulted from steam cleaning. Letting too much water into the carpet without enough suction to get it out can cause shrinkage, as well as using water that is too hot.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when steam cleaning carpet to prevent shrinkage:

1. Excessively hot water

Cleaning anything with excessively hot water can cause damage, but this is especially true when it comes to carpets. Using too hot water will cause the fibers to break down and cause the carpet to shrink as it dries. 

2. The type of carpet fiber

Depending on the fiber your carpet, it may be more susceptible to shrinking. Most are manufactured fibers that tolerate heat and steam cleaning well, but there are carpets that are made of natural fibers.

Natural fiber carpets tend to shrink when exposed to high water temperatures. Unless the carpet you are cleaning is very old, you will likely not need to worry about this.

3. Excess water

Over-wetting is the most common problem when steam cleaning carpets. If you are steam cleaning and completely drench your carpet, you could run the risk of shrinking. Because it is challenging to remove an excess amount of water from the carpet quickly, the laying water could cause the carpet to begin to shrink. 

While shrinking is uncommon for steam cleaning, it could happen if you aren't cautious. If you are working with older flooring, it would be best to ask an expert opinion before you begin the process of steam cleaning. An experienced carpet repair person may be able to repair the carpet if necessary. (Source)

7. Does Steam Cleaning Fluff up Carpet (Raise Carpet Pile)

Over time, you have likely noticed the pile of your carpet seems to flatten, especially in high-traffic areas. Vacuuming will help raise the pile for a short time, but what about steam cleaning?

Steam cleaning doesn’t exactly raise the pile of your carpet, but it does clean away dirt and grime that could be pushing it down. When you steam clean your carpet, you are going deep to get dirt that has been grounded into the carpet. Sometimes, doing this, it will allow your carpet to spring back to life.

Unfortunately, if the carpet you are cleaning is old and worn, the spring won't last for very long. You will need to consider a replacement if you want a fluffy carpet at a certain point.

8. Does Steam Cleaning Make the Carpet Crunchy?

If you have ever walked over a spot of carpet that has recently dried, you likely noticed a texture difference. This difference may leave you wondering if you should steam clean your entire carpet and run the risk of a crunchy result. So, does steam cleaning make a carpet "crunchy"?

The type of water you use and the minerals that are present may cause the carpet to be rough or crunchy after being steam cleaned. For best results, use filtered water when steam cleaning.

The extra minerals present in the water can be deposited back onto the carpet during the steam cleaning. Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of the extra minerals is by vacuuming. While it may take time to remove the minerals, it can be done. (Source)

Should You Steam Clean on Your Own?

Sometimes, getting a reliable carpet cleaning company to do the job ensures the best results.

After seeing all of the situations that can arise when you begin to steam clean the carpet, you may be wondering if this is even a task worth taking on independently. If you are questioning your ability to do this, you need to consider these things.

Cost: The budget you have set for yourself will likely have a significant impact on your decision when it comes to steam cleaning. You can purchase a nice at-home steam cleaner for $149 - $1500. It is likely that the more expensive machine will have a variety of features, some of which you may not need to use. 

On the other hand, if you purchase the least expensive steam cleaner on the market, you may find that it is not as durable as other models. If you plan to do light cleaning, a less expensive model may be best. 

Time: Steam cleaning is something that you need to take your time to do. You could damage your carpet or even leave dirt behind if you rush through the process. You also have to factor in the amount of time it takes for the carpet to dry. Even with a professional cleaner, you will need to understand dry time. 

Flooring Condition: The condition of the carpet you are trying to clean will play a part in your ability to take on the task yourself. If you are dealing with significant stains and odors, you will likely want to enlist the help of a professional, so you don’t cause further damage. 

Final Thoughts

Steam cleaning is not one of the most challenging tasks to accomplish, but if you are questioning your ability to complete the task, you should seek the advice of a steam cleaning professional.

It is always okay to ask questions when you prepare to clean your carpets to avoid unnecessary damage that could be caused by improper steam cleaning.

Related articles: