Difference Between Steam Cleaning and Hot Water Extraction

Professional Carpet Cleaning

The terms steam cleaning and hot water extraction are often used interchangeably these days, but the truth is that they’re two different carpet and/or upholstery cleaning processes. The two methods use different water temperatures and different cleaning solutions depending on the process. Before having your carpets or rugs cleaned professionally, it’s a good idea to understand the difference between steam cleaning and hot water extraction cleaning.


The main difference between steam cleaning and hot water extraction is the temperature used during the process. Steam cleaning uses actual steam and requires heating water to a high enough temperature to convert it from liquid to gas. Applying straight steam to carpets isn’t overly effective because there’s no rinsing of the fibers so while it may help kill germs and reduce allergens, it’s not the best way to remove stains and soil.

Hot water extraction requires water hot enough to clean effectively and deeply but not hot enough that it converts to steam. There’s usually visible steam during hot water extraction cleaning, but it’s just very hot water and not pure steam.


Carpet manufacturers usually recommend cleaning their products with hot water extraction for effective stain removal. Cleaning natural fiber carpets and rugs requires a lower temperature to avoid shrinking and other damage. Hot water extraction treats and removes stains whereas steam cleaning can actually cause stains to set in permanently.


During the hot water extraction method, professionals usually apply a cleaning solution first to loosen and break up soil. Then they spray hot water onto the carpet fibers and extract it immediately to flush the fibers clean and remove soil and stains. Although there are steam cleaners and extractors available for rental or purchase, doing the job yourself might not be the best idea as these types of cleaners can soak the carpet, leave detergent residue and lead to mold without proper ventilation for drying. Professional cleaners follow a process that prevents leaving detergent residue behind as that reside can attract dirt and lead to dirty carpets faster. Professional carpet cleaners remove as much of the water as possible and ensure that the carpets dry quickly.

Hot water extraction better choice

The terms steam cleaning and hot water extraction have become jumbled, which makes it more confusing when you’re trying to make the best choice. Hot water extraction is the better choice for cleaning, and this is the method used by most professional carpet cleaners, even those that refer to their cleaning as “steam cleaning.” As steam cleaning doesn’t rinse the fibers, it’s important to ask the cleaners to explain their cleaning method in detail.

When you’re ready to have your carpets cleaned with the hot water extraction method to remove winter residue in preparation for spring, contact Embassy Cleaners for an efficient, experienced and professional cleaning every time.

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