How’s a consumer to know whether hot water extraction, bonnet, or “dry” carbonation techniques are best? A reputable carpet cleaner can break it all down for you and help you make the right choice, and you will find great guidance from your carpet manufacturer. But here’s a quick translation of some of the most commonly bandied about terms.
Hot water extraction, or steam cleaning, is the most universally used carpet cleaning technique. This process typically involves spraying a solution of warm or hot water and a cleaning agent into the carpet, then extracting it all with a powerful vacuum. This can be a truck-mounted system or a portable unit. The truck mounted system ensures the dirt is removed outside the home.
“Hot water extraction is what (many of the major) carpet manufacturers recommend just because it gets rid of everything,” said Tony Taylor of PGF Carpet Care, Inc. in Camby. “I vacuum if needed; do a pre-spray to break up some of the dirt and then come right behind that with the hot water extraction. All of the dirt and water is being sucked out of your home, right into my truck.”
A downside to hot water extraction cleaning is a long dry time, which typically ranges from four to 10 hours, Taylor said, depending on the carpet type and the humidity level in the home.
Randy Carter, owner of Eco Carpet Cleaning, LLC in Indianapolis, offers both steam cleaning and “bonnet” — or low moisture — cleaning methods. He prefers the low-moisture approach.
“With low-moisture cleaning, there is less of a chance for mold and mildew,” Carter said. “When carpets get soaking wet, if moisture stays behind, let’s say, in a corner where there’s not good ventilation, it could create mold spores.”
The bonnet method consists of a round cleaning pad that fits like a cap over a rotary brush to help loosen dirt from the carpet. The method works particularly well in homes with pets, Carter said. Carter’s company uses plant and vegetable based cleaners, which are safe for children and pets, he said.
Kevin Jones, owner of ChemDry by Kevin Jones in Indianapolis, prefers his eco-friendly hot carbonating extraction method. It uses carbonation to create effervescent bubbles, which lift dirt from the carpet before extracting it with a strong vacuum. Though frequently referred to as a “dry” method, it actually does use water, but requires just a fifth of the water needed for traditional steam cleaning, Jones said.
“We heat our solution up before we apply it to the carpet, which gives it more reaction to the carpet versus using just plain water,” Jones said. “That gives us another edge in cleaning.”
While most carpet types can withstand any of these cleaning methods, it’s important to follow your carpet manufacturer’s recommended method. Some manufacturers will not honor the carpet’s warranty to cover damage if their specified method is not followed.
To keep your carpets cleaner longer, vacuum them regularly yourself with a good, household vacuum cleaner and have them professionally cleaned by a qualified and reputable company at least once a year and in accordance with your manufacturer’s instructions. Clean more often if you have pets or heavy foot traffic.
Professional cleaning costs typically start at around $79 for a small area and go up from there, depending on the size of your home and the type of cleaning you choose. According to Angie’s List reports for the past year in the Indianapolis area, the average carpet cleaning job costs about $400. This investment will pay off in the long-term by extending the useful life of your carpets. Avoid the temptation of offers from companies offering super-cheap cleanings: for example, a $49 whole-house cleaning. Generally speaking, these deals are too good to be true.
“They’re either going to cut costs in cleaning agents and just spray water, or they’re going to try to upgrade you on a bait and switch once they get into your home,” Taylor cautioned.