Variations of Very Low Moisture (VLM) Cleaning

Very Low Moisture (VLM) carpet cleaning is a method that is gaining popularity for cleaning carpets, especially in commercial settings. The biggest advantage of VLM is that it limits drying times to 1-2 hours.

There have been many different variations of VLM cleaning. Some of these include Bonnet, Encapsulation and Dry Compound cleaning.


Considered to be one of the oldest forms of VLM, this method uses an absorbent pad to agitate and absorb the soil from the carpet. During this process, a shampoo solution is used to clean the surface. It is typically applied with an electric sprayer, and the solution is then removed via a rotary machine that contains cotton bonnets. This method is effective for its cleaning properties. However, it could leave a residue, and for that reasons, it is most commonly used by janitorial staff to clean common areas such as school hallways.


absorbant pad with rotary cleaner

Dry Foam

This method involves using a cleaning foam solution, applying it to the carpets and then immediately vacuuming it out. The process is not entirely dry. However the percentage of moisture in the foam is typically less than 10%, (the foam is composed of shampoo and water), and thus it is very fast drying. In some cases, a rotating brush is used to agitate the compound into the fibres and thus helping to remove dirt and other contaminants. This approach is standard with fine carpets and other types of material that are sensitive. This method has been gaining popularity due to its simplicity and its fast drying times. In spite of the fact that this was intended mostly for commercial purposes, it has been gaining a strong foothold in the residential cleaning arena.


encapsulation cleaning in classroom


Considered to be the most efficient form of VLM, encapsulation entails using chemicals that surround and ‘encapsulate’ dirt particles, thus isolating them from the rest of the carpet fibres. The dirt is then removed via a simple vacuuming process. The chemicals are typically delivered by a sprayer and in some instances, a scrubber is employed to scrub the floor immediately after application. Once the solution drys, the vacuum quickly lifts the remaining soil and dirt. The result is incredible fast drying times which are usually in the range of thirty to ninety minutes. Encapsulation is the most common choice for commercial use due to its time efficiency as well as its simple yet effective process.


sprayer and scrubber

Effectiveness & Use

The rise in popularity of VLM carpet cleaning is bound to continue in the foreseeable future. More cleaners are taking advantage of the techniques, the methods and the technology to deliver better results in less time than in the past. Even though there is resistance to some of these methods, they are paving the way for an easier and more efficient approach. Of course, VLM is just one of the methods employed by many cleaners. Other methods can be just as effective and in some cases, just as quick. In the end, most professionals showcase their array of services and it is up to the customer to choose the method that most suits their needs, and their lifestyle.