We purchased the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner so our reviewer could put it to the test on a variety of set-in stains. Keep reading for our full product review.
Experts recommend deep cleaning your carpets and rugs once per year, and if you’re tired of paying for professionals to do the job, you might be eyeing a product like the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner. This hefty rug cleaner looks quite similar to the ones you can rent out from a home improvement store, and it claims to do as good a job as the pros when it comes to deep cleaning your carpets.
To see if this carpet cleaner, which earned a gold rating from The Carpet and Rug Institute, is worth the splurge, we put it to the test on several dirty surfaces. Read on to see if it was able to remove tough stains as easily as it claims.
Setup: Ready to roll
If you hate nothing more than piecing together products, you’ll be glad to hear that the Rug Doctor is essentially ready to go right out of the box—note that it’s a big box, though. All we had to do is plug it in, then fill the tank with the cleaning solution (we used the Rug Doctor Oxy-Steam Carpet Cleaning Solution, which you can get as part of a bundle or buy separately) and water. After this two-minute setup, we were able to start cleaning right then and there.
We were surprised at how frequently we needed to refill the 1-gallon water tank.
To use the upholstery tool, we just had to put the water and suction tubes into their respective holes. The hand tool also comes with a caddy that you can clip onto the back of the Rug Doctor’s handle—no screwdriver needed.
Not all products are this easy to assemble, so make sure to invest in one of the best home tool kits so you’re always prepared.
Design: Leaves something to be desired
While it looks quite professional as a whole, the 25-pound Rug Doctor has several features that don’t seem to be well-thought-out.
Right off the bat, when we went to fill the water tank, we were surprised at how awkward the process was. The twist-off cap is located on the side of the tank, so we had to hold it horizontally under the faucet to fill it up. We found that the best option is to then put the cap back on to carry it; if you pick the tank up by the handle, it tilts to an awkward angle and spills.
Plus, the port that lets water into the machine leaks—not a ton, but enough that it left a trail of water spots as we walked back to the machine. We did like that you can measure out soap with the cap, however, as this saves you from having to keep a separate measuring cup on hand.
Another feature we found awkward is that you can only use the Rug Doctor in a backward motion. Instead of moving back and forth like you can with other carpet cleaners, we had to pull the machine backward in a straight path, then release the trigger, tilt the front of the machine up, and wheel it to the top of the carpet to do another pass. The handle adjusts to various angles to make pulling the machine comfortable, but the process still seemed awkward.
Performance: Gets deep into carpets
One of the selling points of the Rug Doctor is that it gets deep into carpets to stir up hidden dirt. It has ten rows of stiff cross-action bristles that work the rugs from every angle. We were shocked at how much dirt the device extracted from a medium-pile rug that seemed relatively clean to the eye. We actually had to go over the rug twice to suck up all the grime that was hiding deep in the carpet. The nice thing is that the wide, 12-inch head allows for fewer passes than narrower carpet cleaners.
The Rug Doctor claims to provide 75 percent more suction compared to other upright deep carpet cleaners, which means it sucks up more water. In theory, this should mean a shorter drying time for your carpets, but the rug we cleaned still took several hours to dry out completely. However, the pile was quite high, so that’s only to be expected.
We were shocked at how much dirt the device extracted from a medium-pile rug that seemed relatively clean to the eye.
Though we gave the rug a quick once-over with the vacuum before diving in with the Rug Doctor, there was apparently still quite a bit of dog hair left behind. The Rug Doctor didn’t do a great job sucking up pet hair—instead, it mostly got stuck in the suction head or was just left behind in wet clumps. We’d recommend vacuuming thoroughly before using this carpet cleaner if you have long-haired pets.
While we did end up going over the rug two times, we were surprised at how frequently we needed to refill the 1-gallon water tank. We ended up filling up three times for a medium-size area rug. We also had to empty the dirty water tank twice. Overall, we think the water tank could definitely be a little bigger, especially considering how much water this machine goes through.
Stain Removal: Removes several serious stains
The Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner claims to be able to extract deep stains, and we wanted to see if this was true or not. To do so, we stained an old rug with mustard, chocolate, salad dressing, coffee, wine, dirt, and permanent marker. We let the stains dry before trying to remove them with the carpet cleaner.
We went over each stain twice using the Rug Doctor’s hand tool, and we were quite liberal with the amount of water/soap mixture we sprayed. Overall, the carpet cleaner did a good job of removing stains—it took out the majority of the chocolate, salad dressing, coffee, and dirt. The wine was still slightly visible, but it could probably be removed with a spot treatment.
The Rug Doctor didn’t do a great job sucking up pet hair—instead, it mostly got stuck in the suction head or was just left behind in wet clumps.
The only stains that remained steadfast were the mustard and permanent marker. However, keep in mind that these stains were really rubbed in and not spot-treated at all. That said, we’d recommend you act fast if you drop your hot dog on the carpet and keep permanent markers away from young children who like to create unconventional art.
Additional Features: “Super Boost” isn’t so super
The one special feature of this carpet cleaner is the optional “Super Boost,” which is intended for heavily soiled or high-traffic areas. To use this feature, we simply flipped a switch on the back of the machine, and when we pressed the normal trigger, an extra stream of fluid came out the back of the machine.
In theory, it’s supposed to deliver extra cleaning fluid to the area, but the feature isn’t designed well in our opinion. Because you have to pull the Rug Doctor backward to operate it and because this stream of liquid is located at the back of the machine, the Super Boost won’t reach the front edges of the rug you’re cleaning. So if the stain you’re targeting is on the last foot or so of the carpet, you’re going to have to do some awkward maneuvering to get the Super Boost spray onto it. In this case, you’re better off just attaching the hand tool and spraying it with that.
Storage and Cleaning: Tricky
When it comes time to put away your Rug Doctor, there are some good and bad features. We like that all the pieces attach to the main unit, so you don’t have to find a separate spot for any attachments. Plus, the handle folds forward for more convenient storage—though the machine is still quite large and will take up a lot of room in your closet.
The problem(s) came when we tried to clean the Rug Doctor. First of all, the dirty water tank isn’t designed in a way that makes it easy to rinse out. The brand says the opening is large enough to stick your hand into for “easy cleaning,” but we found the idea of putting our arms into a dirt-covered tank kind of gross. Once you do get it clean, you’re supposed to leave the cap off so the interior can air dry. We didn’t do that because we just wanted to put the whole machine away, and we came back the next day to a fogged-up tank. Oops.
The other issue is that the area around the brush head collects a lot of dirt and hair. After much head-scratching and consulting the manual, we determined that there’s no easy way to clean out this area. You’d have to either use a flexible brush of sorts or just take the whole head apart. This seems like a significant oversight.
Price: Affordable for a Rug Doctor
Rug Doctor is known to be a high-end brand, and this particular model is actually one of its most affordable options, retailing for around $275. However, as carpet cleaners go, this is still on the higher end of the price scale.
Overall, this machine does a good job at its main purpose, but its lack of intuitive, easy-to-use features makes us balk a little at the price tag.
Don’t buy it for the features.
If you’re looking for a carpet cleaner that can get deep into medium- to high-pile rugs, the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner will certainly get the job done, pulling up dirt you didn’t even know was there. However, if you’re looking for a versatile model with an array of useful features, this isn’t your best option.