Out of all the carpet cleaning methods, Steam Cleaning is the most common. But what exactly is “steam cleaning”? Most people don’t realize that steam carpet cleaning doesn’t actually use pure steam to clean. In fact, the technical term for this method is called hot water extraction. This is because hot water is used to clean the carpet fibers, not steam. The problem with the idea of using actual steam to clean is that there is no rinsing of the fibers, which is crucial for removing soil. Also, the heat from pure steam can be enough to damage certain types of fibers. In particular, berber carpet fibers are easily melted. So really using steam to clean is not the best idea.
Whats the difference?
The difference really just comes down to water temperature. Using the hot water extraction method allows a “flushing” action that cannot be attained using just steam. While its true that a certain amount of steam is produced with hot water extraction due to the high water temperatures, the steam is not whats cleaning the fibers. Keep in mind that most carpet cleaners first apply an emulsifier to break up the dirt deep in the fibers. Its important that these cleaning detergents are removed using a clean rinse step.
Some additional info on the difference between steam cleaning and hot water extraction taken from a carpet cleaning blog:
Most carpet manufacturers recommend that their products be cleaned with hot water extraction. Natural fibers are cleaned with hot water extraction to prevent shrinkage, as is upholstery. It can be used to treat stains as well, unlike steam cleaning, which is avoided because it can actually set stains permanently. Steam cleaning is often used with synthetic carpet, and some people believe the higher level of heat will improve the cleanliness of their carpet.
However, homeowners should beware of renting or buying products like extractors and steamers to use at home. Inexperience and subpar equipment could lead to soaking of your carpet and a large amount of detergent residue, while inadequate ventilation could cause mold growth.
If you use a professional cleaner, the hot water extraction method will work well if they avoid high levels of detergent and detergent residue, which attracts dirt and can quickly make your carpet dirty again. This is ideal if you or your family are concerned about exposure to volatile chemical compounds. Professionals will also make sure that most of the water sprayed on the carpet is removed. The process doesn’t take long and usually involves four simple steps. They’ll start with an inspection of the area, then they’ll apply an emulsifier or detergent, next they will rinse the carpet clean with water, and finally they will vacuum out nearly all of the water. Within a couple of hours, your carpet will be dry again and ready for use. – Taken from the article Hot Water Extraction Vs Steam Cleaning