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Steam cleaning carpets with the RugDoctor

One of the selling points when we chose our house was the beautiful (if very worn) hardwood flooring throughout. I’ve always loved wood floors, but the attraction wore off a bit when I became pregnant. I had a nasty spill when I slipped while walking down the stairs in socks. I banged my back pretty badly, resulting in a nasty bruise and shaken nerves (thankfully my son was fine). I also realized that I wanted a soft surface in the nursery. So, shortly before our son was born, we had carpeting installed on the stairway, in the hall, and in the nursery.

If I have to have carpet, then I always gravitate toward light colored neutrals. I knew it would get dirty but I figured I would do my best to keep up with it. Over one year and a baby boy later, I would sit looking at the various spots that had developed from dirty shoes and unnoticed spitup or formula spills. Of course we had vacuumed the carpet regularly, but we hadn’t ever shampooed it.

RugDoctorI decided against hiring somebody to do the job. First, it was expensive, and second, I had never heard of anyone being completely satisfied by the job done. I had thought about purchasing a carpet steamer, but we just didn’t have the extra money. Finally, I decided I would try renting the RugDoctor, the red machine I passed by every time I went grocery shopping.

With every day that went by I had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that the stains in our carpet were becoming ever more permanent. They were probably impossible to remove at this point, and nobody would want to buy our house ever, unless we replaced the carpeting (what can I say, my imagination likes to run). I was so happy to finally have a free day this past Saturday to rent the machine and give it a try. I was beyond pleased with the results!

The Machine

I decided to rent the RugDoctor from my local Lowes store. I rented the regular-sized machine, which cost about $23. The hand-held upholstery tool rental was another $3. I also purchased several RugDoctor cleaning products: OxySteam Carpet Cleaner, Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment, Upholstery Cleaner and Anti-Foam. The total cost for the equipment rental and the cleaning products was about $61. It was more than I had thought I would spend, but less expensive than any cleaning service. I could take my time (the rental was good for a full 24 hours), and tackle whatever jobs I wanted.

The RugDoctor is very straightforward and relatively user-friendly. The different cleaning solutions are mixed with hot tap water, then poured into a chamber in the bottom of the machine. Anti-foam can be added to the dirty water collection tank on top, to prevent foam from amassing and spewing all over your floor. The machine is rather heavy, and must be pulled backward to clean carpets. It was a little bit awkward, but I soon got the hang of it and zipped around without too much effort. The only major annoyance was the power cord, which was difficult to keep from the path of the machine while walking backwards. The work is a bit faster and less annoying if you have a helper to mix up a fresh batch of cleaning solution to have at the ready to refill the tank. It will hold two gallons, and I had to fill it at least twice for a 120 s.f. room.

I tackled a variety of jobs with this machine, and I will tell you about each below:

1. The Sofa

We were given a used sofa over a year ago. It has an ivory background with flowers. It was in nice shape, but the cushions had become dingy, and there were some miscellaneous stains from spilled chocolate and milk. I used the Upholstery Cleaner and the hand-held upholstery attachment to tackle this job. It was the wrong task to start with, as there was a bit of a learning curve. Since the sofa fabric was smooth, it did not absorb the cleaning solution the way a plush fabric would. It took trial and error to figure out the correct way to hold the tool and the rate at which to move it. I spilled cleaning solution all over the place at first, and had foam spewing out of the machine. I added extra Anti-Foam to the collection tank, and the problem was fixed. The tool worked very well on flat surfaces, but tackling the curved arms proved to be messy. I decided to stick with the cushions. The solution powered right through the stains–the chocolate vanished before my eyes. The cushions looked bright and clean when they were finished. They were damp, but dried quickly.

2. The Small Rug

Since I had a lot of Upholstery Cleaner left in the machine, I decided to try cleaning a small area rug by hand. The rug was beige, had resided underneath my computer chair for over two years, and had all manner of unidentified stains. Cleaning by hand was somewhat slow going, but the machine did a beautiful job. All of the spots were sucked away. The only stain remaining was an ink stain. With the proper solution I probably could have removed even that, but it was much less noticeable than before. The carpet also looked much less matted. I was very impressed!

3. The Nursery

Baby stains are very tricky, because it can take a while for them to appear. There were several miscellaneous spots in my son’s room that had appeared several days after milk or spitup had hit the carpet. I would sit in the glider rocking my son and thinking about how awful the carpet looked. It was especially bothersome since we had forked out extra money for premium carpet in his room. I had tried spot removing products to no avail. I was certain the spots were there to stay, but hoped the RugDoctor would help somewhat. I mixed up the cleaning solution and pulled the machine around the room. It powered through the vast majority of the stains. They vanished! When all was finished, I took a step back to survey the room. It looked as nice as the day the carpet was installed! My son’s room has looped carpet, which was left slightly damp and dried in 4 to 6 hours.

4. Hall and Stairway

The hall and stairway have a light beige berber. It has held up relatively well, but the stairs were becoming dingy from traffic. There was a large stain in the hall where I had used a spot cleaner previously. The cleaner had left residue that acted as a magnet for dirt, and it kept looking worse and worse. After one pass with the RugDoctor, I could literally see a track through that stain–the difference between clean and dirty. Other smaller spots were removed with similar ease. I used the hand tool to tackle the stairs. Although not as powerful as the main unit, the hand tool still did a decent job of lifting up the matted fibers, and it worked beautifully on the dirt. The stairs were left looking bright and almost new. The berber absorbed much more moisture than the looped carpet. I should have taken a couple vacuum-only passes to remove some of the excess moisture. It took a full 24 hours to dry completely, but did not leave a musty odor.

5. The Area Rug

The final item on the agenda was a hand-me-down area rug that has been in our living room for years. It had been vacuumed frequently and I had used a spray cleaner once, but it had never been thoroughly cleaned. The rug doctor picked up a tremendous amount of dirt and did not damage the rug. I could see a visible track as the machine did its job. I thought that because it was not berber, the rug would not absorb very much moisture, but that was a mistake. The rug remained damp for quite a while and began to smell musty the next day. Two days later the smell was unbearable, and I discovered that the wood floor underneath was damp. I should have used the hand tool to tackle this job. I ran a dehumidifier in the room, then sprinkled a full 32-ounce box of baking soda on the rug. I let the baking soda sit for 8 hours before vacuuming it up. The carpet was left smelling fresh, and I’m glad I cleaned it. Next time I will use the hand tool.

Overall I am tremendously pleased with the RugDoctor. It was very simple and easy to use, and I am amazed at how well it cleaned my neglected carpets! It was hard to believe (and stomach) how dirty the water in the collection tank was, but it was nice having proof that the machine was working its magic. Now that it’s dry, the carpeting smells fresh, and it is softer to walk on. I’m so happy that my second-hand sofa has been rejuvenated as well. From now on it will be easier to relax, knowing that if carpet accidents do happen, they can be easily fixed. Although I do intend to look into purchasing a carpet steamer (mainly for convenience), I think I will be hard-pressed to find an inexpensive machine that works as well as the RugDoctor. I may just stick with renting!

DISCLOSURE (what’s this?): I am not in any way affiliated with Rug Doctor or Lowes.  This is an unsponsored review based on personal experience.

DISCLOSURE: This website is monetized with affiliate links. I earn a small percentage of the sales price when visitors make purchases through affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

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