Carpet Cleaner Vs Vacuum Vs Steam Cleaner
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Guidance of Carpet Cleaner Vs. Vacuum Vs. Steam Cleaner

Carpet cleaner vs. vacuum vs. steam cleaner are 3 ways of cleaning to keep your house spotless and smell good. But how do they actually work so you can identify which one will be your best choice?

Indeed, they all have different jobs, advantages, and disadvantages that you need to consider before buying. And in this post, I will cover every aspect of these cleaning methods by comparing them through their features, characteristics, how they operate, price, etc.

So keep reading for the extensive comparison between these 3 objects that you can barely find anywhere else.

Red Vacuum Cleaner
Vacuum is the most popular cleaning item in many homes, but how about steam and carpet cleaner?

Main Features of Carpet Cleaner, Vacuum, and Steam Cleaner

Let’s start with the general information regarding their main features for easier capture, especially when you are not familiar with these appliances.

A carpet cleaner (aka carpet shampooer) can wash and remove tough stains and deep dirt or soil on your carpets. It requires cleaning solutions that are applied on the surfaces. With many excellent commercial carpet cleaners out there, you can have many options to choose from.

Vacuum cleaner, basically, is a quick solution for dry sucking and removing dirt, hair, debris, or any lightweight particles on many surfaces (e.g., carpets, wood floors, stairs, auto). There are also many amazing commercial vacuum cleaners that are suitable for different requirements.

However, a steam cleaner applies the steam from hot water to loosen the dirt, stains on the surfaces and kill germs, bacteria, bugs, or any living microorganisms. You can also find various best-chosen steam cleaners on the market.

Cleaning Floor Steam Cleaner
Have you tried to use a steam cleaner before?

7 Differences Between Carpet Cleaner, Vacuum, and Steam Cleaner

The bottom line in this article is the comparison between carpet cleaner, vacuum cleaner, and steam cleaner. After using and analyzing these objects, I can develop some of their specific characteristics to compare in the most extensive way.

Product AspectsCarpet CleanerVacuum CleanerSteam Cleaner
DesignBased on their types but bigger and heavier than vacuum generallyBased on their types but most of them come in a compact sizeBased on their types but bigger and heavier than vacuum generally
How They WorkApply shampoo on the surface, scrub it with brushes to loosen the dirt/stains, and remove it by the suctionSuck dirt, debris, hairs, or particles into the vacuum's bag to cleanUse hot water to produce pressurized steam that can loosen dirt/stains/grease, and extract the dirt by the vacuum system.
Cleaning Solution NeedYesNoNo
Ease of UseEasyEasiest compared to othersMore complicated
Ease of StoreTake more places than a vacuum cleanerEasyTake more places than a vacuum cleaner
  • Only work on carpets or rugs
  • Best for deep-cleaning to remove ground-in dirt/stains
  • Can work on various surfaces
  • Best for surface-cleaning
  • Can work on various surfaces
  • Best for deep-cleaning, disinfection, and sanitization
Cleaning/Drying Time
  • For cleaning: Based on the areas
  • For drying: Take longer time than steam cleaner (might be from 6 to 24 hours) depending on the condition
  • For cleaning: Fast
  • For cleaning: Fast For cleaning: Based on the areas
  • For drying: Take shorter time than carpet cleaner (might be less than 6 hours)depending on the condition
Cleaning Frequency
  • Every 6 to 18 months (normal condition)
  • Every 2 months (high-traffic area)
  • Daily, twice a month, or twice or thrice a week for high-traffic areas.
  • Every 6 to 18 months (normal condition)
  • Every 2 months (high-traffic area)
  • Based on their models, built-in functions, power, etc.
  • More expensive than a vacuum generally
  • Based on their models, built-in functions, power, etc.
  • Affordable price
  • Based on their models, built-in functions, power, etc.
  • More expensive than a vacuum and carpet cleaner generally

1. Design and Weight

Overall, you can see many carpet cleaners and steam cleaners have a bulky design that is much heavier than typical vacuum cleaners. The designs are varied as well based on their types, models, functions, attachments, etc.

Here are the examples of some main types of these 3 machines in terms of their designs:

Carpet Cleaner

There are 3 main types of carpet cleaning appliances on the market based on their uses: home usage, Industrial usage, and Commercial usage.

  • Home carpet cleaners: For residential use, so most of them have compact sizes. And some are really lightweight.
  • Industrial carpet cleaners: They are heavy-duty types that can clean a huge amount of particles, stains, dust, etc.; therefore, they are bigger and heavier than the home-using types.
  • Commercial carpet cleaner: Suitable for businesses like offices, restaurants, hotels, etc. And like industrial types, these machines are also big to ensure high-quality performance.
Carpet Cleaner Indoors
Most industrial or commercial carpet cleaners have a bulky and heavy look.

Vacuum Cleaner

Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
Handheld vacuum has a compact design that you can easily move around.

Most vacuum cleaners’ designs are lightweight and straightforward. They also have many types with different shapes, such as:

  • Upright: Motor, power brush, vacuum bag, suction head, hose are in the same unit.
  • Handheld: They are designed to hold by 1 hand, which is so handy and convenient.
  • Canister vacuum: These vacuums have a separate canister attached to a long wand.
  • Backpack vacuum: They are designed to allow you to carry them on your back with a pretty long cord attached to the backpack canister.
  • Stick: They have a long stick and slender frame to ensure you can get in narrow spaces.
  • Autonomous/Robot: They come in small round robots that can freely move around your house and clean automatically.

Robot vacuums have just been widely used recently, but which one is the best? Watch this video:

Watch this video: Best Robot Vacuums - Robots Analyzed & Compared

Steam Cleaner

There are 4 popular segments in steam cleaner’s designs with distinctive shapes, such as:

  • Steam mops: They are designed to clean floors mostly. Their designs look quite similar to a stick vacuum. They are lightweight as well.
  • Handheld steam cleaner: With a small and compact shape, you can easily and quickly move them to clean the areas.
  • Cylinder steam cleaner: These devices are much bulkier than handheld and steam mops, making them hard to store or manage.
  • Vapor steam cleaner: They look similar to cylinder steam cleaners that also come in with many kinds of attachments.
Sanitizing Doormat Using Steam
Steam cleaners also have various types with numerous designs.

2. How They Work

These 3 cleaning methods have different ways to operate and clean stuff. Following are some main highlights about it.

Carpet Cleaner

As explained in the first section, a carpet cleaner’s main feature is removing dirt, stains and washing out carpets or rugs’ fiber. Their cleaning operation is based on water and cleaning solutions to deep clean the objects. 

Plus, with hot water extraction, strong scrubbing brushes, and vacuum suction, these items can get rid of tough grime, dirt, etc., not only on the surface but also on the base of carpet or rugs. The ideal water temperature for cleaning by carpet cleaner is around 150 to 200 degrees F.

For easier understanding, you can simply remember that the carpet cleaner will apply the shampoo on the carpets, then its brushes will scrub and loosen the dirt or stains, then the suction will lift and remove it from the carpets.

Vacuum Cleaner

However, a traditional vacuum cleaner is only suitable for surface cleaning, not for ground-in dirt. It can not remove dirty stains from food/drink spills, pet messes, or foot traffic.

Regular vacuum cleaners do not use water or any cleaning solution to clean. That’s why these machines are capable of cleaning dry surfaces only. However, thanks to technology development, some upgraded vacuums use water to clean the surfaces.

The good thing about vacuums is they can reach all areas or surfaces, so you can quickly suck dirt, debris, hairs, or particles into the machine’s bag.

This lively demonstration will aid you in knowing how a vacuum operates. Watch this video:

Watch this video: How Does a Vacuum Cleaner Work

Steam Cleaner

Steam cleaners use warm to hot water to perform. When the water is hot enough, they produce pressurized steam that works through the brush, nozzle, or other tools to loosen and clean difficult dirt, stains, or grease; then, the machine will extract the dirt by their vacuum system.

The heat from a steam cleaner might reach more than 245 degrees F. This is why this product can kill bacteria, allergens, pests, mold, mildew, or even viruses (1).

And unlike carpet cleaners, steam cleaners do not require shampoo or any cleaning solutions to eliminate stains or dirt. Thus, they are better for the environment as they do not use any chemical cleanings.

3. Ease of Uses and Store

Robotic Vacuum Cleaner Cleaning
Many vacuum models have small shapes, like this automatic type, making them so easy to store.

Both carpet cleaners and steam cleaners possess bigger and heavier forms than vacuum machines; they are neither easy to use as vacuums nor storing.

Most carpet cleaners need to be filled with water and shampoo solutions before cleaning, while you only have to plug the vacuum in the power outlet, or charge them before using it for portable vacuum models, then start to suck the dirt.

After every use, you have to clean the water tanks in a carpet cleaner, but you do not have to clean the vacuum bag regularly, as long as they are not too full.

The steam cleaning product is another story. They are even more complicated to use than regular carpet cleaners. Why? Because they come with various tools like nozzles, iron brushes, crevice tools, fragrance discs, etc., which require more knowledge in using them properly.

They also have more set-up processes, and their steam’s heat is super high; therefore, if you want to use them safely, you should read their manual guide carefully. Or it would be better to hire a professional person to perform a steam cleaner.

Do not know how to use a carpet cleaning device? Let’s check this instruction.

Watch this video: How to use britex

4. Efficiency

With a carpet cleaner, they can be used to work on carpets or rugs, while a vacuum and steam cleaner can work well on a variety of household surfaces, like floors, mattresses, carpets, upholstery, etc.

But generally, their efficiency level is based on how you want to clean. For eliminating tough and ground-in stains or dirt, you should use a carpet cleaner to deep clean the objects. But if you want to clean the normal dust on the surface, vacuuming is enough.

With a steam cleaner, they not only deep clean the most stubborn stains but also disinfect, sanitize your stuff. Moreover, one common thing in carpet and steam cleaners is that they both can deodorize your items, while regular vacuums cannot.

There is another note: you can still spot some shampoo residue after cleaning by carpet cleaner machines while steaming appliances are less likely to leave any particles. Thus, you should vacuum these areas/surfaces after using these 2 machines for the best result.

So the most important efficiency in using these cleaning methods is to prevent dust allergies as they can negatively affect your health (2).

How many surfaces can a steam cleaner work on? Here is your answer.

Watch this video: Can You Use a Steam Cleaner on Every

5. Time For Cleaning And/Or Drying

You need to spend more time cleaning your stuff if you use carpet and steam cleaner. But with a vacuum, it will not take too much time to do it.

There is no exact cleaning duration for carpet and steam cleaning appliances because it depends on the area’s size or the object’s thickness. It could be at least 1 hour to more than 24 hours.

However, the drying time is easier to determine. Though both methods are deep cleaning, steam cleaner tends to dry faster than carpet clean due to its high heat.

Some people claim the drying time is less than 6 hours for steaming, while carpet cleaning might take around 6 to 24 hours to dry completely.

Another factor that can affect drying duration is the area’s condition. If these are well-ventilated, your stuff can dry faster. On the other hand, as a vacuum is not a water-based cleaning, it will not make your items wet.

6. Cleaning Frequency

Technically, you cannot use a carpet cleaner or steam cleaning appliance regularly like vacuum cleaners. Many people think cleaning a carpet by carpet cleaner or steam cleaner should be every 6 to 18 months.

But mostly, it relies on the traffic level. For instance, with these high-foot traffic areas in your home or businesses, you should clean them every 2 months.

The frequency of using a vacuum cleaner, in contrast, is higher. It is also based on traffic. Some people suggest they vacuum up their places twice a month, or twice to thrice a week for high-traffic areas.

Or suppose you are amathophobia, or you have kids and pets, you can clean your home with this household item daily or every other day.

Cleans Floor
For the cleanest living space, you can vacuum your house every day.

7. Price

The investment for carpet and steam cleaning machines is higher than a vacuum in general. Therefore many people choose to rent the appliances instead of buying them. Or they can hire an expert to tackle these cleaning processes.

But when comparing carpet cleaners and steam cleaners, some think carpet cleaners are more affordable than those for steaming.

But overall, the price for these 3 types of machines has a wide range based on their models, built-in functions, power, etc.

Pros and Cons Of Carpet Cleaner, Vacuum, and Steam Cleaner

Learning their advantages and disadvantages is also an effective way of deciding what kind of appliance you should buy. So read on to see their benefits and drawbacks and compare them to your demands for the best buying decision.

For Carpet Cleaner

Below are some notes for you to think about when investing in a new carpet cleaner.

  • Deep clean and remove the hardest dirt, stains, spills effectively, even on the high-foot traffic areas
  • Make your carpet (or rugs) look like new
  • Can deodorize your carpet
  • Can extend the life span of the carpet (or rugs)
  • Easy to use, so you do not need an expert
  • Improve the living environment and indoor air quality
  • Might increase moisture which results in mold and mildew
  • Some brushes can damage the carpet's material
  • Take time for the carpet to dry
  • Limited working-surfaces
  • Heavier than steam cleaner as these appliances need to fill up with water and solutions
  • Some specialized carpet shampoos are not eco-friendly
  • Leave lingering shampoo particles
Carpets Chemical Cleaning
Carpets or rugs are 2 primary surfaces that a carpet cleaner can operate on.

For Vacuum

In reality, different vacuum types have different pros and cons, but here are some key aspects to consider.

  • Easy to use
  • Can save time and energy when using it
  • Can remove allergen, hair, debris, or any lightweight particles
  • Can perform on many surfaces
  • Can in various prices, but most of them are affordable
  • Some vacuum types (like robot vacuum) can even work without humans' help
  • Some types are too heavy to lift
  • Cannot deep clean and eliminate stubborn stains
Cleaning Sofa Cordless Vacuum
Compared to the other 2 devices, vacuum cleaners are much lighter and easier to use.

For Steamer Cleaner

Similarly, steamer cleaners also have some positives and negatives that make people hesitate to buy them.

  • Eliminate allergens (e.g., dust, dirt), grease, microorganism, pests, germs, or viruses better than other cleaning methods.
  • Can even remove hard things like wax, chewing gums, or glue due to the heat can melt them
  • Can sanitize and disinfect that vacuums or carpet cleaners cannot
  • Eco-friendly as they do not need chemicals to clean. It is also safer for your kids and pets.
  • Can clean various surfaces
  • Come with many attachments that can get into difficult or narrow places
  • Dry faster
  • Leave no residue
  • Can ruin the carpet's material
  • Require a certain time to heat the water up
  • Not user-friendly
  • Can result in serious injury if they are not operated properly
  • High cost
  • Might not be too ideal for removing tough stains as they do not use cleaning chemicals
  • Take many spaces to store because of their bulky design
  • Though they can clean a variety of surfaces, they should not be used anywhere that cannot cope with the heat or moisture (e.g., painted surfaces, cardboard, wood, etc.)


In order to help you have a clearer view about carpet cleaner, vacuum, and steam cleaner, here are some most asked questions about them that I believe you do not want to miss.

Does a carpet cleaner work better than a vacuum?

It depends on your requirements. For example, vacuuming is a quick treatment to suck dirt or debris, but if you need a deeper cleaning to remove stains, a carpet cleaner is much better apparently.

Can vacuum and carpet cleaner or vacuum and steam cleaner work together?

Yes, you can. Before you clean your carpet with a carpet cleaning or a steam cleaning machine, you should vacuum the surface up to pick up any soil or dirt.

And when the carpet completely dries, you can vacuum it again to get rid of any potential solution residue.

Which method is the most useful in cleaning carpet?

The best way to clean carpet could be steam cleaning as it does not only make your stuff look good but also kill dangerous germs and viruses.

Can I clean my carpet in winter?

Though it might not be too ideal to do it in winter, you still can do it, as long as you can make sure your carpet will dry completely. Personally, steam cleaning is better to use during this season.

Can a steam cleaner vacuum?

Yes, some models have a vacuum cleaner function. However, you should check the manual guide to ensure your device has this system. Otherwise, you can ruin your carpets or other stuff if you use your device like a vacuum.

Steam cleaner vs. carpet cleaner, which one is better?

Steaming cleaning appliances are the winner as they can clean and sanitize stuff better than a carpet cleaner.

Deciding Which Machine That Meet Your Preferences

Well, have you found the ideal cleaning treatment for your home and belongings? I bet you can make up your mind at this point already.

To sum up, all 3 products here have different features with pros and cons. Based on people’s preference, some might choose a carpet cleaner, some stick with their vacuum, or some want to make a big investment in a steaming appliance.

But after all, I really hope this article can offer you sufficient knowledge to assist you in selecting a cleaning machine. And if you think it helpful, your likes and shares are much appreciated. Thanks for stopping by!

Carpet Cleaner Vs Vacuum Vs Steam Cleaner


  1. 2020, Can Steam Mop Kill Germs.
  2. 2018, Dust Allergies.

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Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones

Home Cleaning Specialist

Expertise: In-depth Knowledge of Cleaning Agents and Their Uses, Advanced Home Sanitization, Techniques Expertise in Cleaning and Maintaining, Various Floor Types, Innovations in Home Cleaning Tools

School: American College of Home Economics

Kevin Jones is a seasoned home cleaning specialist with over a decade of experience in the industry. A stickler for cleanliness and organization, Kevin brings a systematic and innovative approach to home maintenance. His expertise ranges from traditional methods to modern cleaning technology, ensuring homes are not just clean but healthy environments too.

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