Do Dry Steam Cleaners Clean Carpets?

Do Dry-Steam Cleaners Really Clean Carpets?

This is probably the single most asked question regarding steam cleaners and unfortunately it is not a simple 'yes' or 'no'.

Although dry steam cleaners are a relatively new concept, they are an excellent addition to any cleaning programme, be it domestic or commercial. However, there has been some confusion caused by a limited number of suppliers of dry steam cleaners who claim that they can 'clean carpets'. Unfortunately, many customers have been disappointed with the results and feel as though they have been misled. So - have they?

The first point to clarify is that virtually all dry steam cleaners work on the same principle at similar temperatures. What distinguishes them is the steam pressure, the capacity of water they hold, the power and quality of the heating element, the control of the output and the range and quality of the accessories. Other points you need to consider when choosing one is the reputation of the supplier, the ease of obtaining spares, consumables and product support.

Next, you need to understand how these machines work to appreciate the difference between cleaning hard non-porous surfaces (tiles, bathroom fittings, vinyl floors, kitchen equipment etc.) and typical carpet fibres. The fundamental difference is that on hard surfaces the dirt doesn't penetrate the surface. So, once the steam has loosened the dirt, it is easy to remove it with the terry towelling cloths as the steam condenses (reverts from steam to water). However, with carpets the dirt penetrates deep down between the fibres and, although the steam may well loosen the surface soiling, these machines don't have the facility to extract this embedded dirt from deep within the pile.

Dedicated carpet cleaning machines use a much larger volume of water to flush the dirt out which is then extracted using a powerful vacuum. In effect what happens with a steam cleaner is that the dirt on the surface is removed and short-term the carpet does look cleaner. However the dirt left in the carpet soon 'wicks' back up the fibres and the carpet is dirty again. You may have heard people say that carpets seem to get dirtier quicker once you've cleaned them but this almost always indicates that they were never cleaned properly in the first place.

Before we get too negative about steam cleaners and carpets there are certain tasks that we should highlight. Because of the extreme heat dry steam cleaners are very good at killing dust mites within carpets and bedding and can reduce household allergens. They are also good at dealing with smaller stains and spills and are good for killing bacteria and combating odours. Curtains and clothing can also be steamed to remove creases and malodours. However, we don't think this is good enough to encourage customers to buy them mainly for 'deep cleaning' of carpets.

The big difference between Express Cleaning Supplies and other retailers is that we only supply cleaning equipment. Highstreet electrical retailers that sell all manner of electrical appliances generally have a good basic understanding of all the equipment they sell but lack the experience of hands-on use and in-depth knowledge of equipment like this.

Although we supply to many home users, our main customers are commercial users such as professional carpet cleaners and contract cleaners. These customers demand excellent results particularly with regard to carpet cleaning equipment and, to keep these customers coming back to us, we are obliged to give an honest opinion on the limitations of each machine.

In summary

  • Dry steam cleaners are intended primarily for hard non-porous surfaces. Buy a dedicated steam cleaner.
  • They are good for 'freshening carpets' but not 'deep' cleaning.
  • They are good at killing dust mites and combating odours.
  • If you need to 'deep clean' carpets buy a dedicated carpet cleaning machine.

As with anything else in life - you get what you pay for!

Descaling Dry Steam Cleaners

Unless your machine has a separate calcium filter or you only use it with distilled water, over a period of time the boiler will become less efficient and will take longer to heat to the required temperature as the impurities in the water build up inside the machine. Descaling, or decalcifying, your dry steam cleaner on a regular basis will not only maintain shorter heating times but will also extend the life of the machine.

Different areas of the country have different types of water and, as with household kettles, the harder the water the quicker the limescale builds up. As a general guide we recommend that you descale your machine at the following intervals:

  • For low levels of water hardness (<1.8 mmoI/L) after approx 100 uses.
  • For medium levels of water hardness (1.8-3.96 mmoI/L) after approx 75 uses.
  • For high levels of water hardness (>3.96 mmoI/L) after approx 50 uses.

We recommend Karcher's Biological Descaler RM511 which is based on citric acid and is 100% biodegradeable.

Instructions for descaling steam cleaners

  1. Disconnect the steam cleaner from the mains electricity supply.
  2. Completely empty the boiler of any residual water.
  3. Completely dissolve a sachet of descaling powder into 1 litre of warm water, stirring all the time.
  4. Pour the solution into the boiler and stand for approx 8 hours.
  5. Pour the contents out of the boiler and rinse out the boiler at least twice with cold water to ensure that no descaling solution is left inside.

Your steam cleaner is now ready for use again.


The safety cap should not be screwed onto the boiler while descaling is taking place. Ensure that the unit is not used while there is still descaler agent inside the boiler.

Return to Domestic Steam Cleaners