DISCLAIMER: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed below belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.


Is the Rug Doctor any good?

I’m a professional carpet cleaner and I’ve become certain the rug doctor is a total waste of time and money in most situations.  There is a lack of good consumer review sites in New Zealand and someone in the know needs to help the public make an informed decision about using or not using this product.

What’s My Problem With The Rug Doctor Machines?

  1. The Rug Doctor machines don’t heat the water hot enough.
  2. They don’t extract enough of the water they put into the carpet to clean it.
  3. Their soaps and stain removal products tend to create light spots on dark carpets
  4. They leave sticky, soapy, residues in the carpet.
  5. Many landlords aren’t satisfied with Rug Doctor results
  6. If Rug Doctor doesnt work, it makes it harder for the professionals to get results
  7. They claim to save you money, but often don’t.

The Rug Doctor machines don’t heat the water hot enough. 

When using a rug doctor machine the instructions call for adding hot water.  Hot water from your tap comes out at around 45-60 degrees. It’s hot, but it isn’t powerfully hot.

Heat is vital to the cleaning process. Many types of stain, grease, food, and other matter in your carpet is removed by the heat of a professional machine alone. An obvious example of how heat helps cleaning is when we clean our dishes.  Think how easy it is to remove tough marks and food bits when you use hot water instead of cold.  Even when using soap, the difference heat make is obvious.

A professional carpet cleaner with truck mounted machine will inject steam into your carpet.  That’s water at over 100 degrees celsius! Steam not only cleans better, it sterilizes as well, killing mould and bacteria that cause bad odours in your carpet.

So that’s the choice, lukewarm water and lukewarm cleaning results VS powerful HOT steam and a carpet so clean it’s literally been sterilized.

They don’t extract enough of the water they put into the carpet to clean it.

The Rug Doctors design means your ability to properly extract water is limited. The machine has a single button that activates the water spray and the rotating brush underneath. As you pull back the machine it sprays, scrubs and sucks (in that order). They recommend then going over the same patch 2-3 more times with the red button released to get more water out.

Here’s the problem. the big and bulky machine is hard to move back and forth, the water left behind in those brief moments before the 2nd or 3rd pass gets a chance to seep deeper into the carpet fibres taking any dirt and grime with it, where it can’t be reached. So now your machine has wet the carpet, dissolved some surface dirt and let it sink into the pile further.

In contrast, a professional cleaner has nimble and well designed ‘wand’ that does the water spraying and extraction.  This wand is shaped to create a firm seal between the carpet and the head.  This means maximum water extraction and the ability to reach deep into the carpet, often pulling air from below the carpet weave and through the carpet strands. The hose is very thick at 2 inches wide. At the other end of the hose is a commercial grade petrol powered vacuum machine.  The suction created by this machine is far greater than the Rug Doctor. This means the carpet is drier and more dissolved dirt and grime has been sucked away instead of left in the carpet.

Their soaps and stain removal products tend to create light spots on dark carpets  

Not all products and carpets are affected with this one but it’s important to be aware of what can happen. As a professional carpet cleaner I have lost count of the number of times I have arrived at jobs and the customer has advised me they had tried using the Rug Doctor.

Many of these people are upset or worried because the Rug Doctor has either not removed the stains, or the stains are gone only to be replace by a big bleached mark or light patch on their carpet. This outcome can sometimes be worse than the stain it was trying to remove.

It’s worth pointing out that professionals can bleach carpet too. However, with years of experience and commercial grade specialized chemicals the chances are much lower.  What’s more, they have insurance to fix the problem should they really screw things up.

They leave sticky, soapy, residues in the carpet.

Because the machines don’t use hot enough water, and don’t have the power needed to lift the moisture from the carpet completely, they tend to leave behind residues of soapy cleaning product and dirt that didn’t get extracted.

We all know that when we wash dishes, or clean the car, we need to rinse it thoroughly to get rid of the soap. Your carpet is soft, but no different. Soaps and cleaning agents are great at dissolving dirt, but the secret is removing all that cleaning product and dissolve dirt once it’s done its thing on your carpet.  When using a Rug Doctor, every bit warter left behind contains soapy leftovers that dirt will stick to.

I should make it clear, all carpet cleaners will leave residue behind, including the pros.  The difference is that the pro’s leave specific residues behind on purpose.  These residues aren’t soaps, they actually lower the pH of your carpet. This does 2 things,

  1. it makes the carpet soft to the touch.
  2. It acts as a shield against re-soiling. You see, alkaline carpets interact with acidic substances to cause stains… For example, the bottom of your shoes will be dirty and in a ‘acidic state’ (low pH). If your carpet has just been cleaned and left in an alkaline state (high pH) then you have a problem.  When these two surfaces meet the alkaline carpet will “clean” the acidic shoes. the shoes end up clean and the carpet ends up dirty.

Professionals can also inject large amounts of pure hot, steam into the carpet with no cleaning solution. This enables professionals to go over carpet again and again, each time leaving less and less undesirable residues behind.  The Rug Doctor simply doesn’t let you do this.

Many landlords aren’t satisfied with Rug Doctor results  

Obviously I can’t speak for every landlord, just the ones I meet in the field.  Several times a week (no exaggeration) I get bookings from landlords who tell me “the tennant used the rug doctor, but there’s still stains”.  The fact this happens so often is proof enough that the Rug Doctor doesn’t get great results.

If Rug Doctor doesnt work, it makes it harder for the professionals to get results

Time and time again we attend these jobs and make quick work of the stains that the rug doctor didn’t get out. Unfortunately, in some of these instances the attempt at DIY carpet cleaning by the tenant has made things worse.  Some marks and stains can be treated and removed using special techniques, tools and chemicals.  unfortunately the average tennant using a Rug Doctor has no idea about this and proceeds to apply the wrong approach to the wrong stains.  Some stains get locked in when heat is applied, other substances react with cleaning chemicals to actually lock into the carpet fibres.

Lastly the soap! I often have to spray special foam and bubble reducing chemicals onto the stains because the left over cleaning products are creating foam that looks like hair mousse. This is clearly not good, so much product left in the carpet smells, is nasty to touch, can be harmful to pets and kids and will shorten the life of the carpet.

They claim to save you money, but often don’t

The most frustrating thing about Rug Doctor is that most people hire one to save money on professional carpet cleaning. When the rug doctor doesn’t work, they often have to pay again to hire the professionals to do the job properly.  This great money saving idea costs them more in the long run. Not always, but often enough to be a thing.

Taking this to the extreme, if you had stains that now don’t come out because the rug doctor and off the shelf cleaning chemicals have either bleached your carpet or locked the the stains then the bills will really start to pile up.  I recently wrote a report for an insurance company about the state of a rental property which had attempted cleaning with the Rug Doctor.  I can’t be 100% certain the stains would have come out if they hadn’t tried but they certinaly looked like stuff i have removed before until they started foaming up with left over soap. This landlord’s entire house needs to be recarpeted.  Hopefully the insurance company helps out, the tenants bond is certainly gone.

Summing Up…

So there you have it folks.  Many people may think I’m biased because I run a carpet cleaning business, but really I’m the person best positioned to see the truth. This stuff needs to be said.

You will spend just under $100 hiring the machine and buying cleaning chemicals to use Rug Doctor. I will also take you 3-5 hours to do the job yourself. And the results can vary from ‘ok’ to ‘wtf?’.

Compare this to spending around $200 to get in professional carpet cleaners.  They will do the job properly the first time, get the carpet clean enough to get your bond back, and are insured for damage. I don’t know about you, but that extra $100 is a tiny premium for much more service and satisfaction.