Pro Carpet Cleaning: Chemdry vs Steamer vs ??

jsfoxApril 11, 2012

Looking for a carpet cleaning service that does a good job, doesn't use harmful chemicals, etc. Any help/input appreciated.

Carbonated/Buffer (Chem-Dry): Often accused of 'fear marketing'. Their traditional method supposedly doesn't really extract the dirt from the carpet/house and their buffers wear carpet down. Many complaints that carpet is extremely stiff after cleaning. They have apparently begun switching to a truck based extraction system (hot water extraction, but 'carbonated'?) that may work better. But can they be trusted?

Hot water extraction (Stanley Steamer, COIT, etc.): Perhaps best for extracting dirt. Numerous concerns that if not done properly that high amount of moisture left in carpet & pad can cause mold/mildew growth and faster deterioration of backing and pad. Some/many do use perc, hydrogen peroxide, and other not too appealing chemicals?

Other options? Independent cleaners better than franchise chains such as the 3 above? Any websites with an honest comparison of methods and who provides them?

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I researched this about 10 years ago when I got married and moved into a house full of wall-to-wall carpet that we didn't yet want to replace. After reading all the arguments/hype for/against "dry" versus steam cleaning, I decided that steam extraction was the way to go. Also, I found that just as important is the quality of service of the technicians. If you want to understand how to pay someone to do a good job, just try doing it yourself with a rented or borrowed home carpet steam cleaner (Rug Doctor, Hoover, Bisssell, etc.). If an area is really dirty, you'll have to go over it slowly and repeatedly to get it clean. Dryness depends a lot on how much time the operator spends sucking out the rinse water.

I found an excellent, local independent in an ad in a local home magazine. I used 4 independent companies over the years, all with the same type of equipment, but one did a superior job because their technicians were so thorough. They also moved and replaced all the furniture, with plastic underneath. I gave them a big tip.

I make it a point to schedule cleaning on the warmest, driest day possible. On cold rainy days, the carpet is just not going to dry, even if they extracted as thoroughly as possible. Also, we have a commercial blower, and running that in the room speeds drying ENORMOUSLY.

Recently, a company that did some flood restoration for us has been sending me mail piece about their new "residue-free" carpet cleaning. If I were still getting carpets cleaned, I'd look into that. (However, I'm now about to replace most carpet with wood and cork flooring.)

Oh, one more thing. If you have pets, and examine your carpet at night in the dark with a blacklight, well, first of all, you'll be ready to get rid of your pets no matter how much you love them! Really, you'll see accidents you never knew happened. Each spot you can see on the carpet is like the top of a pyramid that has soaked into the padding below in a much larger area. If I were keeping my carpet, I'd pretreat all these areas with oxygen bleach and enzyme cleaner, pulling the carpet up from the tack strips to get at the padding. Then I'd have the cleaners finish up with their process. You can have them restretch the carpet to the tack strips if you don't want to do it yourself. Or, at the very least, mark the accident areas you find with the blacklight so they can at least treat them with their pet stain formula.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 4:55PM
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I have great success with a dry product called "Host". Sprinkle it on, use the machine to brush it in, leave it on for a few hours, then vacuum. Smells nice, too.
It's also great for spot cleaning or small space like stairs. I just sprinkle it on and use a hand scrub brush instead of renting the machine. Works very well that way, too.

Here is a link that might be useful: HOST dry carpet cleaning

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 9:32AM
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I've used Chemdry and been pleased with them, but I know they have the "magic reappearing" stains. Carpets look and smell clean immediately after, then take several days to fully dry, especially in humid weather. And within a month you'll start seeing dark spots reappearing, like "magic" ha-ha. So I don't "love" Chem Dry. I have 2 pets plus a messy husband to clean up after. I use Resolve Deep Clean on occasion, and it does a pretty good job. It's a powder you sprinkle on, then rub in with a brush, then vacuum. Just my experiences.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 9:03AM
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When we bought our 'new' (to us) home, I had the carpets professionally cleaned. I used an independent gal, who had the system where the hoses went out to her truck. She did a good job. But the price was high--think it was $375. Mind you, that was for a good-sized living room, two bedrooms and a fully carpeted basement.

Next time around? I bought a carpet steamer. It cost less than HALF what I paid her. There are no-scent, no-dye cleaners you can get for the steamer. I used HALF the amount of cleaner recommended (which I almost always do with any kind of cleaner--manufacturers always tell you to use too much, just to sell more product). My rugs were actually cleaner, and stayed cleaner longer than when the pro did them, and it's not that much work. An added benefit is that if you do them yourself, you can split the cleaning up, so you can still walk around at least part of the house, while the other part is drying.

Don't think I'd ever go back to having an expensive pro job now that I have the steamer--I can do a better job, and a minute fraction of the cost, and I sort of enjoy doing it.

1 Like    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 7:51PM
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I have a friend who works for a company that puts products and services to the test. I always find his stories and information facinating to say the least. Last Christmas I got on the the subject about carpet cleaning and he told me the horor stories about the different companies some of you listed. However, the one that he and his company recommeded was chemdry. Why? This is a franchise that has a natural solution that is truly natural. Also, each chemdry has to be trained every year and their techs are fully trained. My buddy was very pleased with their equipment and process. Now, I understand that you could have some bad seeds in the mix, however I can tell you from my experience with chemdry have been very good. Not sure what jsfox was talking about the buffer thing, but our chemdry did an extraction with a neat looking machine. My wife was even amazed at how the dirty water was being extracted through a clear tube. All of my spots that were removed are gone and did not reappear. Even my wifes coffee spot. I guess I am now a loyal chemdry customer. I am not cutting on any other service or anyone in this forum, but all I can say is do your research. Hope this helps you all!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 12:36PM
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OK, I'll bite, although many will say that I am biased...
I operate a ChemDry franchise, for 7 years now, and would like to adress some of the statements made here.

Fear marketing :
Don't know where that comes from, fact is, we will point out the advantages of our process vs. the traditional steam cleaning.
Our process uses much less water/cleaning solution than the traditional steam cleaning process, most carpets will be dry in 2-3 hrs.
Before I went into business as a ChemDry franchisee, not knowing any better, I had the carpets in my home cleaned twice, by 2 of the big names in steam cleaning, both times the drying times were well over 8 hrs.
Now, when I clean them myself, they are dry after 2hrs.
They also will stay clean longer, since our cleaning solution, the Natural, does not leav any residue in the carpet.
Some of the steam cleaners use plain detergent for their cleaning, this will leav a soapy residue on the carpets, which is actually dirt-attracting, causing quicker re-soiling.

Reappearing spots :
This is a problem mostly associated with the steam cleaning process. Because the steamcleaning process leaves so much more moisture in the carpet, but at the same time does not clean as deep, spots and stains will at first be gone, but later re-appear, this is called "wicking".
This is a problem the ChemDry process does not have. I even give my customers a guarantee, if any spots come back, so do I, free of charge to take care of it.
In my 7 years as a ChemDry franchise, I had to go back once !

Do-it yourself cleaning :
Sorry but the statement that a do-it-yourself machine, be it Rug Doctor, Bisell, or whatever, will do a better cleaning than a professional cleaner, especially a ChemDry cleaner is just plain ridiculous.
These machines don't even come close to the heat and suction generated by professional equipment, and therefore the cleaning is superficial at best.
If you have very lightly soiled carpet, yes, they might work, but on dirty carpets, they don't come close to professional equipment.
On this one, I also am speaking from pwersonal experience, I also tried one of those, if I remember correctly, it was a Bissell, the results were disappointing, total waste of time & money.

But don't take my word for it, give it a try.
You can find the local franchise in your area by going to, there is a localizer function, you put in your zip code, and it will show the franchises in your area.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 8:19AM
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I'm hoping someone in this thread will respond to my question about WASHING hand-knotted wool rugs -- not 'fine' or 'antique', just modern-day 'orientals'. Is there an 'off season' for sending these out? What's a good price for about 500 sq ft total? (Maybe just what's normal per sq ft and I'll add in the pickup and delivery that's normal here.)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 11:54AM
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ChemDry. In my first house, we had them clean the carpets (I had met the owner through the office where I worked, when he cleaned our carpets there.). Then, we had them clean our carpets -- great job, dried quickly, no spots left. We had a flooding issue from our air conditioning unit sometime later -- called ChemDry -- the owner came out with an antimicrobial solution, blowers, pulled up the carpet, got everything dry, then came back and tacked down the carpet after X amount of time later to put everything back in order (it's been 10 yrs, so I forget the exact order of things). I was always pleased with their service.

Have never used any of the "steam cleaner" companies, so I can't comment on them. I do have an Oreck carpet cleaner for cleaning up smaller messes, and it works ok, but not as well as professional cleaning, obviously.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2013 at 3:19PM
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I am a diehard Chem Dry Fan and have used them for over 30 years. Prior to Chem Dry, I used a variety of the large pro cleaning companies and DIY rental machines & their cleaning solutions. I gave Chem Dry a try when my first baby started crawling all over our fully w2w carpeted home. I just didn't want the baby having constant close skin contact and breathing in detergent and chemical residue. I was completely sold after the first Chem Dry cleaning: cleaner, brighter, fresher and no dirt attracting residue. The carpet stayed clean longer and tough spots were gone. They were soft and nice! Compared to other carpet cleaning, the results were immediately visible. Wish only that they had a "loyal customer" program ;)

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 3:44PM
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I have all wool 8 by 10 carpets and don't what to use? I'm pretty sure steam/hot water s out.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 5:32PM
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Candi Bryant

I just had Chem Dry and they just used a buffer which seemed to mash down the carpet. Where they taking a shortcut? I thought they where suppose to use suction to remove the liquid and dirt and lift the carpet fibers. I have a steam cleaner and can say that my own work is as good as what they just left me with.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2015 at 11:05AM
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I don't use Chem Dry. Years ago they used carbonated water and a rotating pad that had thick cloth on it to clean. I wasn't impressed. One professional came with a machine that used three small arms that rotated as the cleaning solution and rinse water sprayed out from them. That made sure it got deep into the fibers and was then vacuumed out. Got stains out of a thick light carpet that were left behind when I hired a steam type of cleaner. Funny thing was: the steamer guy told me the gray areas were wear patterns. The wear left when the second guy was finished.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 7, 2015 at 5:53AM
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