deep carpet cleaning

Steam Cleaning vs Hot water extraction - what’s the difference and which one is better?


Carpet and upholstery cleaning may seem totally impossible without modern day conveniences such as steam cleaning machines. There’s a myriad of products and tools which promise impeccable cleaning results, but none of them are as efficient and eco-friendly as the process of steam cleaning.

A great misconception that most people hold is that steam cleaning and carpet cleaning are synonyms, even though they do entail different characteristics, which occasionally overlap.

If you continue reading this article, you’ll learn about the meaning and application of two different carpet cleaning methods, their differences and consequently find out how to take full advantage of their benefits.

What is steam cleaning?

Steam cleaning is an effective method for eliminating all build up grime through the use of steam, which can easily help dissolve embedded dirt from floors, countertops and even glass. This type of treatment is carried out with the help of a steam cleaning machine, which is designed to heat up water really fast and consequently turn into steam. The hot steam is able to drive out the dirt from its designated spots on any surface and that’s how the forced out moisty grime is easier to clean with a mop or piece of cloth. It is also the most effective and eco-friendly deep cleaning method, which eliminates bacteria and allergens.

Most surfaces are prone to collecting filth of diverse origin and therefore simply vacuuming or wiping them away isn’t enough to ensure full sanitation. Dirt and bacteria can settle really deep into all types of materials. Unless you clean your home properly, there will be a constant layer of filth on all frequently used surfaces like floors. That’s when steam cleaning comes to the rescue - in some cases it is the only proper way to deep clean certain surfaces and materials.

It is important to note that steam cleaning could be performed not only on soft surfaces made out of textile materials. This cleaning approach is most effective when sanitising tiles, laminate flooring and even linoleum. But there are many instances in which steam cleaning isn’t appropriate due to the production of moisture, which could be detrimental for the joints of some flooring types like vinyl and badly sealed hardwood floors. Any surface, which has gaps in it isn’t suitable for such treatment, because it will cause more harm than good.

Pros of Steam cleaning

*The following examples of steam cleaning benefits are only valid when the treatment is carried out properly with a reliable steam cleaning machine.

  • No chemicals are needed to ensure the effective sanitation of the surface - the high temperature of the steam is key to breaking down build up filth.
  • When a certain object or surface is team cleaned, it rejuvenates it’s appeal and removes unpleasant odours.
  • Airborne allergens like pollen are best eliminated through steam cleaning.
  • Infectious bacteria and viruses get killed when the hot steam starts penetrating them.
  • Everyone can work with a steam cleaning machine - all you need to know is how to adjust the settings, pour water into the tank and you’re ready to clean.
  • The steam cleaning method is very convenient for the sanitation of different surfaces and materials - from floors to curtains and pillows.
professional carpet steam cleaning

Cons of Steam cleaning

  • The hot steam may damage certain fabrics, which cannot withstand high temperatures.
  • Steam cleaning isn’t suitable for any unsealed cork or hardwood floors and unglazed tiles.
  • Upholstery and dense floor coverings can start collecting mould after steam cleaning, when not dried out completely.
  • When this method is performed in colder indoor spaces, the drastic change in temperatures caused by the steam can make glass windows crack.
  • A quality steam cleaning machine can be very expensive and thus out of the budget for many families.

What is hot water extraction?

Hot water extraction is a cleaning method, which consists of injecting a mixture of hot water and detergent straight into the surface and then immediately vacuuming away all the broken down grime. This high pressure cleaning method is performed with a special industrial hot water extraction machine. Although many mistakenly believe that this technique is the same as steam cleaning, it is apparent that it is an advanced version of the latter.

The hot water extraction treatment works as follows:

  • Both water and a suitable detergent are poured inside the water tank of the machine.
  • When heated to the right temperature level the mixture is inserted into the carpet or rug pile.
  • After the build up grime is disintegrated from the fibres, the machine ejects all the dirt away.

The hot water extraction approach is preferred by professional carpet, rug and upholstery cleaners, because it ensures a much more efficient deep cleaning results and leaves much less moisture in comparison to traditional steam cleaning.

Don’t be misled by the information cleaning service companies provide on their personal websites, because steam cleaning is indeed mentioned a lot in their articles, but most often they use it as a synonym for hot water extraction. That’s why it’s best to know the difference between the two methods and when booking a service to always double check what type of treatment your carpets will receive.

Here you can read more about our carpet hot water extraction services in London.

Pros of Hot water extraction

  • No fancy detergents are needed for regular cleaning purposes.
  • The method is perfect for indoor spaces where there are people suffering from allergies because it uses only water.
  • Thanks to the immediate withdrawal of the dirt and most moisture, no mould would appear after the cleaning.
  • The carpet pile restores its fluffiness and colour vibrancy.
  • No detergent residue is left on the surface.

Cons of Hot water extraction

  • When operating with a less reliable or low quality machine overwetting could occur.
  • After the treatment is completed, the cleaned surface will be slightly damp.
  • If denser carpets or upholstered furniture pieces aren’t dried additionally, the leftover moisture could cause mould.
  • The hot water extraction machine is far from affordable and will require more experience for amateurs to operate with it properly.

What’s the difference between Steam cleaning and Hot water extraction?

These two cleaning approaches are performed differently, depending on the way they exploit the properties of the water.

The steam cleaning method is based on the use of actual steam, which means that the machine has to heat up the water up to 100𝇈 C, so that the liquid turns into steam. And the hot water extraction process requires the water to only be hot enough to unlock its ability to force grime out of the surface.

With that being said, the main difference between these methods is that steam cleaning incorporates the use of steam without ejecting the leftover moisture, whereas hot water extraction uses hot water and vacuums away the vapour.

When to use Steam cleaning or Hot water extraction?

Steam cleaning is best used when sanitising ceramic tiles, curtains, sealed and well varnished wood flooring, countertops, glass surfaces and sinks.

Hot water extraction is recommended when treating carpets and rugs with denser piles, upholstered furniture, car seats and fabrics prone to collecting mould.

Bottom line

Both steam cleaning and the hot water extraction method take advantage of water’s special properties. Steam has been used to disinfect medical tools for centuries and has consequently been exploited for the development of numerous technological advances. Cleaning with the power of steam is the most natural and effective way to improve the health environment inside any home. That’s why it shouldn’t surprise us how much cleaning machinery has improved.

In our opinion both cleaning methods are essential for the deep cleaning of any indoor space. Each serves the best result when exploited on the suitable surface. However, making mistakes is inevitable when working with such tools. That’s why it’s always recommended to take advice from a professional and to even hire professional carpet or rug cleaners, who are trained do the job seamlessly and will give guidance concerning further maintenance tasks.