How Effective Are Dry Carpet Cleaners?

by Reader Contributors

How Effective Are Dry Carpet Cleaners photo

Do dry carpet cleaners work as well as wet methods? What are the best dry carpet cleaners? And are they cost effective? Our frugal readers weigh in and offer up some useful carpet cleaning tips.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I have a question on carpet cleaning.

I do not like the idea of soaking my carpets and wonder if the sprinkle-on carpet cleaners, are safe and effective. Do they do as thorough a job as the wet method? Are they as affordable? Are these products safe for pets?

And can you offer any other suggestions for carpet cleaning?
Faye A.

How Effective Are Dry Carpet Cleaners?

And what are the best dry carpet cleaners? We turned to our frugal readers to get their input and tips on effective and affordable carpet cleaning solutions. Read on for their favorite dry carpet cleaners.

Give Capture a Try

My husband and I have used the powder Capture Carpet Cleaner for years. It has taken out tar, grease, blood and red wine!

You blot the spot with a towel or wash cloth and cold water, after removing any obvious “chunks” of the offending material, brush the powder into and around the spot, let dry and vacuum. NOTHING else has worked for us. We feel the pre-stain that Capture also sells is unnecessary.

It sells for about $20.00 a small bucket. The better you brush it in, the better it picks up. We have off-white carpet, two teenagers and a cat, and a husband who works on old classic cars, and we’re happy!
Joyce R.

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Carpet Cleaning Advice from an Insider

I worked for a carpet cleaning firm for a number of years, and the opinion there was NOT to try dry methods to clean your carpets. The analogy was that it is similar to washing your hair. If you sprinkle something on your hair, and brush it out, how clean does your hair actually become? Good steam cleaning not only applies the carpet cleaning chemical, but rinses with hot water and then extracts most of the moisture. This is the way to get your carpets really clean.

Often, you can have a professional clean your carpets for less than do-it-yourself. Find a company that offers an inexpensive service. The key is to not buy all the other services the carpet cleaner offers: pre-scrubbing, stain-guard, etc.

Also, the way to keep your carpet looking nice the longest is frequent vacuuming. If you can vacuum every day or every other day, you will really extend the life and appearance of your carpet.

Professional Advice Regarding Dry Carpet Cleaners

I’m the retired owner of a fire restoration cleaning company and former member of the leading national carpet cleaning trade organization.

First, no knowledgeable technician would soak a carpet no matter what cleaning equipment used. Without lab testing there is no way to know if the product is safe or effective: however, it probably is for its intended use. No, they are less effective than hot water extraction (steam) or shampoo methods. Probably safe for pets, but remember some of the product will be left behind which a pet could ingest. For peace of mind hire a reputable carpet cleaning professional.

Reason for sprinkle cleaners: These products are intended for use on commercial carpets (level loop) to maintain high traffic areas between thorough cleanings. They aren’t intended for plush carpets (cut pile). The reason is that no matter how powerful your vacuum is you can not extract all of the material. What is left in the carpet will do a great job of cleaning the soles of your shoes thus leaving behind soil in the carpet.
Blanchard W.

A European Solution

I use a wonderful “dry clean” product on my carpet which I just love (along with my friends who have tried it). It’s called Kobosan Active made in Germany by a company called “Vorwerk” pronounced “forverk”. It is cheap considering what it costs to rent a cleaner and the solution.

It would help if you had the vibrating machine with sponge (called the Frischer) that works it into the carpet, which you can’t buy separately but you can use a clean dry rag to rub it in especially for spots. The Frischer is good to clean the whole carpet, but if spot cleaning you wouldn’t need it. One bag will do an average sized room. It is a white moist powdery substance that won’t harm pets or children. It will kill fleas and you can even wash your horse with it. The bag must be closed up tight or it will dry out.

To use: you sprinkle on carpet stain; rub in; let dry (approximately 1/2 hr.); then vacuum up. Repeat if necessary. It does caution to try it in a spot that no one will see in case it affects the dyes/color in your carpet; but I’ve never had a problem with that. It smells fresh and clean, too. I was told that it is really much better than steam cleaning, which rots your carpet padding over a period of time. This product does not. My sister used to sell the Vorwerk vacuum cleaning systems which included the “Frischer”, years ago and I still use it.
Donna M. in Tennessee

Use Club Soda

A professional carpet cleaner in our area came to do my carpeting some time ago. I asked what he really recommended as I too did not like wet carpet and his company uses a dry-chem powder method of cleaning.

His response was simple: He said the best cleaner for your carpet is club soda! Makes good sense to me. It is fizzy and would likely be very effective in “lifting” any stains that you could catch early and would not leave any odor.

Host Dry Carpet Cleaner Is Effective and Affordable

I’ve been using the Host Dry Carpet Cleaner for several years and I love it. With this one you rent a machine which has brushes that work the cleaner into the fibers of your carpet. It’s the damp sawdust type of cleaner. There’s enough cleaner in the large box to do three small houses (approx. 100 square yards of carpet). I’ve gone in with two other people and we shared cost of the machine and cleaner. It’s really easy to do this over the weekend because once you put the cleaner on, you’re through with the cleaner and the machine. Someone else can take it and clean their carpet. In my area, the machines and carpet cleaner are available at janitorial supply stores.

I sprinkle the cleaner over a portion of the floor and then use the machine to work it into the carpet. It’s not physically taxing at all to put the carpet cleaner on. The biggest job is vacuuming it up. The directions say to let the cleaner sit on the carpet for three or four hours until it’s dry. You can walk on it while it’s drying. It’s not harmful to pets, but our cat doesn’t want to be on it.

I put the cleaner on at night and vacuum it up the next day. I leave it on about 12 hours because I tend to wait until the carpet gets really dirty before I clean it. Recently I purchased a used machine and I do the high traffic areas a lot more often, which keeps it looking good all the time. I had thought about going in with several other people to buy a machine before I bought the used one because new ones are very expensive.

The last time I cleaned my carpet, the vacuuming was not nearly as hard as it’s been before. I got a small but powerful wet/dry vacuum and got most of it up with that. You need to have a wet/dry vacuum to get the edges really good anyway, but a broom can be used to get the edges if you don’t have one. Having to empty the bag of my upright often was a real pain. This time, I went over it really well with the wet/dry vacuum and then only needed to go over it once with the upright. You need to have good vacuums (or borrow them) to clean your carpet this way.
Janice F.

Reviewed December 2020

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