steam cleaner vs hot water extraxtor

In recent years, carpet cleaning has become one of our most in-demand services. This makes sense considering the numerous benefits professional carpet cleaning brings to the table.

However, we’ve noticed a tendency I want to address in this article. Many people tend to order steam carpet cleaning when in fact they mean hot water extraction.

The confusion is understandable since the methods seem close. In fact, even in professional circles, the two terms are often used interchangeably. But they’re not the same.

Let’s clear up the difference between steam carpet cleaning and hot water extraction, and which is the right for you.

In this article:

  • What is hot water extraction?
    • Does HWE leave the carpet wet?
  • What is steam carpet cleaning?
    • Does steam carpet cleaning leave the carpet wet?
  • Which one is the better choice for you?
  • Conclusion

What is hot water extraction?

Hot Water Extraction Cleaning

Calling hot water extraction a carpet cleaning method is like calling Big Ben a large clock. It doesn’t quite cut it.

HWE is the carpet cleaning method. The one carpet manufacturers recommend. And the one cleaning technicians find to be the most effective.

Hot water extraction has two stages. The pre-treatment and the actual treatment.

The pre-treatment stage is rather simple. Carpet cleaning technicians apply cleaning products to your floor coverings. These products loosen any dirt or stains they come in contact with. The technicians let them sit for a while, setting the stage for the second act.

Once the cleaning products have had the chance to work their magic, cleaning technicians whip out a large, heavy, powerful machine called an extractor.

The extractor treats the carpet with hot water and immediately sucks it away. Remember the first stage? The cleaning products and the hot water do short work of any dirt, stains, or even allergens.

It’s a high-powered carpet cleaning method that can deal with almost anything. Furthermore, it goes into the depth of the carpet and cleans and freshens it up to its core.

Does HWE leave the carpet wet?

Since hot water extraction uses hot water, you may be wondering if it leaves your carpet wet. This is a valid concern. In fact, it’s one of the biggest drawbacks of HWE treatment. And the answer is: it depends.

If your carpet is treated by a real technician with professional equipment, then your carpet will be left slightly damp. It will dry out in a few hours and the floor covering will be as close to “good as new” as humanly possible.

However, if you decide to save a few bucks and hire a self-employed cleaner, things might turn out a little different.  Some self-employed cleaners invest a lot in proper training and professional equipment. But they tend to charge more.

If you’re hiring someone based on price alone, you might be tempted to hire the lowest bidder without realising they’re the lowest bidder for a reason.

They’ve usually bought their extractor on Amazon for a few hundred pounds. The problem is, those things aren’t nearly powerful enough to do a professional job (professional machines cost 10 times more for a reason).

As a result, amateurs with questionable equipment leave your carpet wet. This dampness can damage your floors, damage your carpet, or even enable mould in your home. So stick with the professionals.

What is steam carpet cleaning?

Steam Cleaning

Steam carpet cleaning, as the name suggests, is a carpet cleaning method that uses actual steam. At a high enough temperature, water gets vapourised and shot onto your carpet.

Steam cleaning is a lot faster than hot water extraction. It rarely involves other products other than good ol’ steam. However, this means it’s great for removing stains.

Indeed, steam carpet cleaning is mostly used for fighting allergens and germs than actual cleaning. Vapour is hot enough to kill many of the pesky microbes that hide in your carpets.

Does steam carpet cleaning leave the carpet wet?

While steam cleaning doesn’t use water (at least not in its liquid state), it will still leave your carpets slightly damp. This is caused by the condensation of the vapour into water.

As a result, there’s less dampness left in the carpet after steam cleaning so the drying process is much faster.

Which one is the better choice for you?

While both methods have their pros and cons, the “better choice” will depend on your needs. If you’re looking to kill some germs without investing in a professional carpet cleaning service, then go with steam carpet cleaning. At your own risk.

If you’re looking for a thorough carpet cleaning that will restore your carpets to their former glory, remove dirt, grime, stains, and germs, then go with hot water extraction.


Hot water extraction and steam carpet cleaning are often used as synonyms. However, there are subtle, yet important differences between these two methods that you should know about before you can make an informed decision. I hope this article has helped clear things out. And, as always, if you have any questions or want to book a service, don’t hesitate to call.

Samyx Cleaning - Branding Consultant, Author - Atanas
Author: Atanas Dzhingarov

Hi, I’m Atanas - brand consultant and writer. I’m helping Samyx Cleaning create the best cleaning company blog on the Internet. Join us on our journey and learn how to live a cleaner, healthier, happier life in the process.