What’s the best way to clean a carpet when you have pets?

If you wake up one day, shocked that your once greige carpet has veered into *gasp* slate grey territory, that suggests two things.

You haven't tended to it in a (long 😛) while, and/or you don't know how to properly maintain it.

As fellow pet parents, we totally get it.

It’s easier said than done! But we're about to make it easier by outlining three residential carpet cleaning techniques, their pros and cons, and our choice for professional-grade cleaning.

(This overview does not include encapsulation or bonnet cleaning, which are more suited for commercial establishments.)

Carpet cleaning methods

From effectiveness to convenience and lifestyle compatibility, here's the low-down on popular carpet cleaning approaches you can use at home.

Reminder: Wet techniques shouldn't be used on jute, sisal, coir and similarly-textured carpets.

Hot water extraction

In hot water extraction (HWE), carpets are sprayed with hot water and detergent. The liquid is immediately removed using high-powered suction, leaving you with a clean and sanitised carpet.


✔️ Great for deep cleaning dirty conventional carpets

✔️ Eliminates dirt, bacteria, and common allergens

✔️ Leaves little to no residue behind


❌ Inconvenient due to extended drying times of up to 24 hours

❌ Uses a lot of water, which can cause shrinkage and damage to the carpet and flooring

❌ Requires professional cleaners

Pro tip: Dampness invites mould and mildew, so ensure your cleaner doesn't cut corners! A wet pass should always be followed by a separate dry one—extraction only—to remove as much water as possible. This reduces carpet drying time.

Steam cleaning

This is often mistaken for HWE, but genuine steam cleaning only uses steam. There are no detergents, soaps, or chemical agents involved.


✔️ Neutralises bacteria, dust mites, and allergens

✔️ Works on a wide range of hard and soft surfaces

✔️ There are affordable models for household use


❌ Ineffective on tough pet-related messes

❌ Unsuitable for odours (heat permanently sets protein-based stains into carpet fibres)

❌ Can harm the user with steam burns

Pro tip: Steam's high temperature sanitises carpets, rugs, and upholstery but does not clean them in the traditional sense. It's like a steam session at the sauna versus bathing with soap and water. Not the same! 🤪

Carpet shampooing

This method thoroughly cleans carpets by creating a lather with carpet shampoo and hot water, although not as hot as HWE or steam cleaning. Vacuum-style shampooers are designed to agitate fibres, lift dirt, and remove stains from even the grungiest carpet.


✔️ Perfect for heavily soiled carpets

✔️ Leaves carpets looking good and smelling fresh

✔️ It's DIY-friendly


❌ It can take up to 10 hours for carpets to fully dry

❌ Not suited for delicate carpet fibres like silk

❌ May lead to the long-term build-up of residue (depending on the shampoo)

Pro tip: The carpet shampoo you use has to be compatible with your machine, but it must also be effective in dealing with the full spectrum of messes.

For such a monumental task, you want a carpet shampoo like PetLab's Bio-Activated™ Eco Carpet Cleaner Shampoo.

Our non-toxic formula breaks down proteins (and harmful bacteria), counteracts the urea and uric acid in urine, revitalises carpet fibres, and does NOT leave sticky remnants behind!

What's the best carpet cleaning method when you have pets?

It depends on several factors.

  • Carpet type: Synthetic or natural fibres? Removable or wall-to-wall?
  • Degree of soiling (cause of stain, age, and how deep they have penetrated)
  • Personal preferences like acceptable downtime, budget, sustainability, and convenience

Having said that, we've been there, done that, and got the t-shirt on how to deal with all kinds of carpet disasters.

No exaggeration! We have young kids with a penchant for colourful crayons. Our boisterous, mud-loving pets go everywhere. And I may or may not occasionally spill my filled-to-the-brim cuppa hot chocolate on the way to the sofa. 🤫

So, yes, we've tested multiple carpet cleaning methods over the years only to conclude that good old-fashioned carpet shampooing best satisfies our non-negotiables.

✔️ We get professional-grade, thorough cleaning without rendering the area unusable for a whole day.

✔️ Shampooing resolves regular and complex messes, plus bothersome odours. (Here's our painless guide to removing pet stains using carpet shampoo.)

✔️ It's easy. No fancy training or pros are required!

With a 45-day risk-free trial, nothing is holding you back from giving our wildly powerful Double Strength Formula™ carpet shampoo a try. We can’t wait for your feedback. 😉


Get Our

15-Minute Speed Cleaning Routine For Pet Parents


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