Steam Clean vs Shampoo Carpet – Which One Is Better?

Everyone wants to keep a clean and happy home. Some might have more things to clean than others, but it is still important to focus on a spot-free home. So we can ask, should you steam clean vs. shampoo carpet?

Generally speaking, carpet shampooing is best for stains or heavy dirt, whereas steam cleaning is ideal when the carpet is dirty but doesn’t have major stains. Steam cleaning uses pressurized water vapor at high temperatures to break down dirt. Carpet shampooing is done with soaps and detergents, taking longer for the carpet to dry. Simply put, shampoos involve the use of chemicals while steam uses water and less harsh disinfectants.

However, carpets can be one of the toughest to keep clean. They can be kept clean by regular maintenance with steam cleaners, carpet shampooing, and routine vacuuming. The rest of the article will explain in detail.

What Is Steam Cleaning?

The term steam cleaning incorporates different types of machinery that are steam-powered. Steam cleaning is a method that uses the power of hot water to extract dirt from the carpet. The water or steam ranges from 150 degrees to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using a high-pressure system and the heat from the water, you can clean by extracting dirt from the carpet. Steam cleaning can help kill living organisms in carpets that make people ill. This allows for a deep clean past the top level of dirt to the under layers that need focusing.

It is a highly effective and quick solution to filthy carpets. Steam cleaners are suitable for commercial cleaning or occasional cleaning in a home as it does typically require more experience.

What Is Shampooing?

Carpet shampooing utilizes solutions or chemical cleaning agents on the carpet to clean. The solutions are applied to the carpet with a round brush until it foams. It is left to dry and then absorbed by a vacuum cleaner.

It is effective for removing deep soil from the carpet. This method is used with a cylindrical foam shampoo machine or rotary shampoo machine. The cylindrical foam shampoo machine uses an air compressor, dry foam, and a cylindrical brush to comb the carpet.

The rotary shampoo machine uses a revolving cleaning head to dispense foam and clean the carpet. It can require spot cleaning to get more heavily soiled areas clean. This is common for at-home usage but can be seen in commercial settings as well.

What Are the Differences Between Steam Cleaning and Shampooing?

Focus on Sanitation

Shampooing focuses on removing dirt and grime from a carpet. Steam cleaning focuses on dirt and germs that are embedded in the carpet. It has been tested that steam cleaning removes 99.9% of bacteria in carpets. It can help those that struggle with particles in the fibers that might affect asthma.


The steam cleaning method does not use chemicals, whereas the shampooing method does use chemicals. Not all shampoo solutions work with all shampoo machines.

Steam cleaners rely on water and heat to create the steam that does the cleaning. The shampoo and the method used to clean the carpet can cause the carpet’s fibers to break down.

Dry Time

Cleaning carpet with shampoo can take up to 24 hours. Steam cleaning takes much less time and takes around six hours. Shampooing takes longer to dry than steam cleaning. Shampooed carpets take anywhere from two hours to 24 hours to dry. Steam cleaned carpets take around 15 minutes to dry. Some higher-end priced machines have a drying attachment to aid in the dry time.


Shampooing does not entirely remove all residue from the carpet. Steam cleaning removes most particles and provides a very deep clean. It also removes most of the dirt and grime that shampoo cleaning can without the same amount of residue.

Despite the residue risk, shampoo cleaning does work well on heavily soiled and greasy carpets. Steam cleaning does not utilize soap to clean the carpet, just water and heat. This does not leave a residue, but some prefer soap to be used.

Machinery Needed

Steam cleaning requires more complex machinery than shampooing. Most steam cleaning machines require the following.

  1. Nozzles
  2. Ironing brush cloth
  3. Squeegees
  4. Mop pads
  5. Fragrance discs
  6. Crevice tools

Shampooing machines require a tank and a suction hose. It can also be done by hand with a brush if needed; however, machinery makes the process easier.


Steam cleaning is more expensive than shampooing. This is because of the machines and experience needed. The machine’s cost varies depending on the standard, industrial or commercial grade.

Industrial and commercial grades are suitable for varying situations. Industrial grade is adequate for frequent cleaning. Commercial or a lower grade is adequate for a home or periodic cleaning.

Experience Needed

Most people need to hire a technician for steam cleaning. Due to the machinery required to steam clean, it is most common for a business to be hired for steam cleaning. It can be done at home, but it requires more experience to get an effective clean.

With shampooing, you can do it at home with minimal experience. These machines can weigh 20-25 pounds and are not designed for daily use. If needed for frequent use, lower-grade carpet shampooing machines are manufactured at a lighter weight. This usually does equate to a lower price.


Steam cleaning is more popular than shampooing. This is because it takes much less time and is less taxing. Steam cleaning has a much shorter drying time which is what people want.

Steam cleaning avoids the possibility of residue that shampooing can leave. Shampooing is often considered dated and has disadvantages that steam cleaning does not.

Shampooing is not guaranteed to remove all traces of pests. It might get rid of live pests but not their eggs.

Advantages of Steam Cleaning Carpets

Steam cleaning can be challenging, but the outcome will show great accomplishment in the efforts taken. Below are the benefits of steam cleaning.

  1. Pollutants are removed throughout the carpet.
  2. Dust mites which are the leading cause of allergens are removed.
  3. Mold and mildew are prevented, which causes severe allergies and respiratory infections. It also causes odors.
  4. The carpet’s life will increase as the softness will get restored with the luxury of the look and feel.

Disadvantages of Steam Cleaning Carpets

There are few disadvantages to steam cleaning, but they should take the spotlight under the cons. They are as follows.

  1. Some steam cleaning machines are complicated to maneuver and may be heavy and awkward to carry.
  2. The time it takes for the carpet to dry is the worst of the disadvantages. It can make a family feel as though they cannot gain access to their home. The carpets must never receive foot traffic after steam cleaning.

Advantages of Shampooing Carpets

The benefits are less than steam cleaning but are borderline when it comes to the chemicals. It is worth the effort and carries its weight in cleanliness. Below are the advantages of shampooing.

  1. The chemicals are designed to remove stains and restore color and have become safer over time.
  2. Many of the chemical ingredients inside the shampoo offer long-lasting cleanliness.
  3. In some situations, the shampoo will remove items like grease and soil better than steam cleaners or vacuuming.

Disadvantages of Shampooing Carpets

Likewise, the chemicals are the downside of carpet cleaning. Below are the effects of the ingredients within the shampoo.

  1. Residue buildup over time will develop, causing the chemicals to stay within the fabric of the carpet.
  2. The substances may harm pets and humans alike as the residue never fully gets removed.
  3. All it takes is a slight mistake to mess up with the chemicals, and the carpet is ruined. The wrong brush or the wrong chemical per fabric may never get restored.
  4. There is no rinsing involved with shampooing. Some chemicals may allow for quicker re-soiling.

Lower Grades are More for Home Everyday Use

These prices vary depending on the brand and time of year. Less industrial quality cleaners and steam cleaners can cost as low as $159. A low-grade professional cleaning machine that uses shampoo can cost $399.

These options are lower grades and are based on an industrial standard for the best clean.

They are suitable for someone who needs to clean quite frequently. However, a lower-grade cleaner could be ideal for a household or someone who does not require frequent cleaning.

Final Thoughts

Figuring out which one to use, a steam cleaner or shampoo carpet machine is easy. The hard part is figuring out if you want to pay someone to clean your carpet or do it yourself. A decision has to be made when the smell of mildew or mold hits you from the carpets.

Steam cleaning and shampooing the carpet both have benefits and downsides. These methods and knowledge of which one to use will help keep your carpet and space cleaner. If you research ahead of time will help you to decide on the exact fit for your needs.