Encapsulation Carpet Cleaning VS Steam Cleaning: Effectiveness Compared

Carpets are filthy. According to the Carpet and Rug Institute, one square yard of carpet can contain up to a pound of dirt. Vacuuming them isn’t enough to remove all of the dirt, food particles, and dead skin cells locked in carpet fibers. Incorporating a good, deep cleaning into your regular carpet cleaning routine is the most effective way to ensure that your carpet is spotless. So, what is the most effective method of cleaning your carpet, encapsulation cleaning or steam cleaning? 

Encapsulation carpet cleaning is a better solution for keeping carpets cleaned in a day-to-day setting, although steam cleaning carpets occasionally. Encapsulation carpet cleaning is more efficient and effective for the following reasons:

  1. Encapsulation cleaning uses less water, making it much more environmentally friendly.
  2. It takes much less time to clean your carpet with the encapsulation method of cleaning.
  3. The soil resistance of carpet is much better when using encapsulation cleaning.
  4. Encapsulation carpet cleaning reduces wear and tear on commercially glued down (CGD) carpet.
  5. Detergents are more easily removed through the encapsulation method.
  6. Encapsulation carpet cleaning is more cost-effective than traditional steam cleaning. 

How Do They Work? 

The Janitorial Store states that the low-moisture encapsulation method of carpet cleaning works by spraying a concentrated detergent solution directly onto the carpet fibers and then scrubbing them clean using a rotating brush. The soil is then released from the carpet fibers and encapsulated in the crystalline polymer-based solution. The dirt and remaining detergent are then vacuumed away. 

However, hot water extraction cleaning (also known as steam cleaning) cleans carpets entirely differently. Steam cleaning works by injecting a solution of carpet cleaning detergent and hot water directly on carpets through spray nozzles. The water is immediately vacuumed from the carpet through a hose attached to the steam cleaner. No additional vacuuming is required once the water is suctioned from the carpet. 

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Impact on the Environment

There is a significant amount of emphasis placed on the impact a business has on the environment. To put things into perspective, a study conducted by the Washington State Department of Health recently

revealed that the average human being wastes approximately 30 gallons of water per day. Earth has limited resources, and I know that I make a conscious effort to waste as little of these precious resources possible. If you place as much importance as I do on the environment, I have good news. 

Encapsulation carpet cleaning can clean up to 300 square feet of carpet with a single gallon of water, whereas a typical steam cleaning can use hundreds of gallons. 

By using the encapsulation cleaning method, we waste less natural resources than by using steam to clean our carpets. I consider it a victory any time I can get something sparkling clean while wasting less water. That is a win for both the planet and my wallet. This is why encapsulation cleaning takes this category.


There are only 24 hours in each day. Meet Fox states that most people are only afforded roughly two hours of free time per day, assuming that the average person gets between seven and eight hours of sleep per day. While it’s a given fact that none of us are getting any younger, the importance of being efficient with the small amount of spare time we have should be even more apparent. 

Most people associate the term efficient with being a combination of speed and quality. 

Encapsulation cleaning is the epitome of efficiency, with carpet cleaning speeds anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 square feet per hour. Not only is encapsulation cleaning faster than steam cleaning, but it also dries quicker. This means that carpets are ready for use again in less time. This means that I spend much less time cleaning and much more time enjoying the results. Encapsulation cleaning wins this category in a landslide. 

Soil Resistance

The entire purpose of cleaning your carpets is to get them clean. I can’t be the only one who finds it incredibly frustrating when my freshly cleaned carpet appears to be dirty shortly after finishing. I have recorded how much I don’t particularly appreciate wasting time, money, and natural resources. Would I be wrong in assuming that repeated cleanings performed more frequently would waste all three? 

If you feel the same way as I feel, I have good news for you. The polymer-based detergent used during encapsulation cleaning is more effective at resisting dirt than traditional steam cleaning. Dirt bonds with the polymers in the detergent, quickly lifting away with a quick, post-cleaning vacuum. If I can find an effective solution to cleaning my carpet, I would side with encapsulation cleaning without hesitation. 

General Wear and Tear

Carpet is a costly investment for any home or office. Whether residential or commercial, most carpet is held down to subsurface flooring by using glue. When using steam in your carpet cleaning routine, the glue holding down your carpet will eventually loosen, causing the carpet to buckle. I can’t be the only person who is frustrated at the thought of seeing a carpet that can cost thousands of dollars looking worn out. 

By using the encapsulation method to clean your carpets, you not only can clean your carpet more effectively, but you also have the potential to reduce the number of times your carpet will need to be replaced. For this reason, I have to give the edge to the encapsulation method in this category as well. 

Detergent Removal Efficacy

Once you are done cleaning your carpets, do you honestly want to have to rinse them a second time to remove excess detergent? I know that I don’t. While no carpet cleaning method will be 100% effective at removing residual detergent, encapsulation cleaning is far more efficient than steam cleaning at this particular task. The crystallized detergent is lifted away with quick and easy vacuuming, revealing a much cleaner carpet under the surface. 

The best comparison I have read regarding this concerns the theory of liquid dilution. If I put a few drops of paint in a glass and continue adding water, the paint doesn’t disappear completely. It’s not as visible as it once was, but the paint is still present. The same concept applies to trying to clean your carpet with steam. The dirt is still there. It’s just slightly less visible. The advantage goes to encapsulation cleaning, and it’s not even close. 

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I wouldn’t say I like to spend any more money than I have to on most of my expenses. While encapsulation cleaning was once a bit pricier than steam cleaning, Fixr states that the average price of steam cleaning is slightly more than the average cost of encapsulation cleaning. The average cost of steam cleaning is between $100 and $500, while the average price for encapsulation cleaning is within the $85 – $350 range. This is a win-win situation for both customers and business owners alike. 

Total cost efficiency is perhaps the broadest win of these categories that I can award to encapsulation cleaning. The average cost per cleaning is lower than the average cost of steam cleaning, it consumes less water to operate, and you will spend less money on replacing your carpet. Nobody goes into business to lose money. Using steam to clean your carpets would accomplish precisely that. 


The encapsulation method owns a sizable advantage over the traditional hot water extraction method of cleaning your carpet. Encapsulation cleaning uses much less water, making it much more environmentally friendly than steam cleaning. If efficiency and speed are deciding factors (and they usually are), encapsulation cleaning takes fewer steps to complete and dries quicker than steam cleaning.

Steam cleaning is much worse regarding wear and tear and soil resistance than encapsulation cleaning as well. Finally, the encapsulation method does a much better job removing residual detergent traditional steam cleaners leave behind. However, incorporating a monthly steam cleaning with frequent encapsulation carpet cleanings is recommended. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth the cost to have carpets professionally cleaned?

As is the case with many other things, this depends on a few essential factors. If you want to clean the carpets in your home, purchasing a small carpet cleaner may be a wise investment. Renting carpet cleaners are also usually inexpensive. However, office buildings and storefronts typically have much more foot traffic than the average residence. In this case, I would highly recommend leaving the carpet cleaning to the professionals. 

How often is it recommended to clean the carpets in your home?

Carpets are a significant investment, sometimes costing thousands of dollars. Dirty carpets in your home can immediately make a wrong impression on your guests. It’s only natural to want them to stay clean and looking new. The Carpet and Rug Institute recommends that a good, thorough cleaning take place approximately every 12 to 18 months to keep your carpets looking their best. 

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Please note that the contents of this blog are for informational and entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Any action taken based on the information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Additionally, all images used in this blog are generated under the CC0 license of Creative Commons, which means they are free to use for any purpose without attribution.