Do a quick online search for carpet cleaning and you’ll find a variety of different methods. The two most common are hot water extraction — mostly known as steam cleaning — and hot carbonation, often referred to as dry chemical techniques.

So how do you decide which method is best? To start, check the paperwork that came with your carpet, with the carpet manufacturer themselves or with a reputable carpet cleaning company. The most widely accepted cleaning method is hot water extraction.

“The high temperature of the water kills bacteria and extracts the dirt out of the carpet,” said Tony Solis of All Points Carpet Care in Mooresville, N.C. “It’s a very deep cleaning compared to dry cleaning.”

Solis uses truck-mounted equipment that injects water heated between 180 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit into the carpet under pressure and then rinses out a pretreated solution he sprays onto the carpet. Steam cleaning removes bacteria, dust mites and odors. The most common drawback is a long dry time. Done well, carpet should dry in just a few hours.

“Drying time on a carpet should be four hours, not 44 hours,” Solis added.

If inferior equipment is used for steam cleaning, dry times can take more than a day — resulting in a mildewy smell — and soap can be left behind, attracting more dirt.

“The way soap works is, it attracts itself to dirt,” said Gil Patterson of A-1 Chem Dry in metro Kansas City, Mo. “If you don’t rinse it, it will stay in the carpet and continue to attract soil.”

Patterson’s company uses a hot carbonation cleaning process that requires about one-fifth the amount of water as steam cleaning.

“A big, big difference with our process is we don’t have any soap or detergent in our solutions,” Patterson said.

Though most carpet types can withstand both methods, always follow the cleaning recommendations of your carpet manufacturer to ensure you don’t void the carpet’s warranty.

Some companies charge by the room, others by the foot. However a company charges, you should know what the fee will be before the technicians begin the work. Most carpet cleaning jobs start at about $79 to $99 for one or two rooms and go up from there.

A common complaint, according to Angie’s List reports, is companies that offer a discount and then try to up-sell for additional services not covered in the discount once they get in the door.

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