What do I look for in a good carpet cleaner?
August 25, 2010 3:04 PM   Subscribe

How do I evaluate different carpet cleaning options for my house? Everything seems to be skeevy door-to-door guys hawking chemical treatments and I used to recall steam cleaning being the way it was done when I was a kid (is that kind still around?). The yellow pages and general local review sites offer no help in picking one of a dozen options. Also, about how much is a normal price for a 3-4 bedroom average house, ballpark range?

We moved into a 2600sq ft house about five years ago and ever since the last subcontractor left there have been some subtle stains on our carpeted stairs and in a hallway. The carpet in the house is high quality and we keep it vacuumed but it's a lightish color of maybe medium tan or so, and dark brown dirt shows up on it.

I've been researching carpet cleaning a bit and it seems everyone uses fairly harsh chemicals these days and I've also noticed I'm constantly interrupted at home by door to door sales men trying to sell carpet cleaning. It also seems like the dudes doing carpet cleaning are fairly unskilled and I don't want anyone to fuck up my house.

So I guess my questions are: what exactly should I be looking for and is old school hot steam action still around (or are the new chemical methods better?), and how much should it run?
posted by mathowie to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I own a steam cleaner (definitely still around and can buy them at Best Buy, Sears, etc). You can also still rent them at some places like grocery stores.

Works good for me especially for stuff like hairballs, food, etc. Especially if you use it right away which is why I bought one. Not too long ago my cats had an epic accident where one managed to slice the other's lip open, who then proceeded to run around the house splashing blood on the carpets. After taking care of the cat, I used the steam cleaner and everything came out fine.

However, it is not really great at deeply ground-in stuff, much much better as a use-often or immediately kind of thing. Not sure what to do about stains that have been there for years.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:16 PM on August 25, 2010

We just did OxiFresh the other week. They claim to be pretty green. While making the appointment over the phone I gave them an online coupon code and they found a better deal for us, which was nice. I think we could have done the whole house for the price we paid -- ended up just doing the main floor (3 bedrooms plus living room) for around $160. It took about 2.5 hours plus an hour to dry. Would use again.

The worst part was moving all the furniture downstairs.. the Oxi cleaner will just move small pieces.
posted by starman at 3:20 PM on August 25, 2010

I used to recall steam cleaning being the way it was done when I was a kid (is that kind still around?).

Stanley Steemer sounds like a sex act, but isn't.

But I bought one of these at Target and have been quite happy. For best results, vaccum, pre-treat, brush with a stiff broom (to loosen things up and get the pre-treat in there), and then clean.

I never buy anything door-to-door, especially carpet cleaning. For one thing, I've heard nightmares from several people. Secondly, I figure the Target/CostCo/Wal-Mart buyers don't want unhappy customers, either, so they'll verify that the products on the shelves actually do something if used properly.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:25 PM on August 25, 2010

The Rug Doctor brand is AMAZING -- the nice thing about renting is that you can go over the area once or twice. We got our carpets cleaner than professional services were able to.
posted by mmdei at 3:29 PM on August 25, 2010

We have a child that is fairly allergic or sensitive to a wide range of chemicals, so we bought one of the Bissell deep cleaners linked above. It works very well, and you can either use their cleaning solution or add a little vinegar to water and use that.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:32 PM on August 25, 2010

We have a Bissell steam cleaner. The spray is just concentrated soap and hot water. I don't use it on wooden or laminate floors as the water can cause peeling and mold. It has worked well for us on carpet. Don't overdo the spray on carpet and I think you're fine. See if you have a friend who can loan you his or her machine.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:33 PM on August 25, 2010

For the occasional carpet crisis, Bissell's Little Green Cleaner has been a lifesaver with a sick/incontinent cat and white(who thought that was a good idea?) carpets. It's quite a bit smaller/cheaper than their other steamers. They try to sell you their special 'pet odor' product, but you can really use anything, sometimes I just use water.

We rented a steamer a couple times from our grocery store and it was a pain in the butt to use, and took forever to dry the carpets. I'm sure we were doing it wrong, but we were kind of one our own.

Once a year, usually before my parents visit, we get this company to come and steam clean the carpets. They are local, so you aren't going to find them in your area, but they are the old school type company you describe and but maybe their website can lend some key phrases to help your search? They claim to be free of chemicals, etc.. I think it runs under $200 for our house, don't know the exact sq. footage but that's for a large bedroom, great room, living room, and a small hallway.
posted by snowymorninblues at 3:43 PM on August 25, 2010

the things rug doctor has gotten out of carpets of mine shouldn't even be spoken of - but i can verify that it works.

i've also heard great things about the bissell wet/dry vacuums.
posted by nadawi at 3:45 PM on August 25, 2010

I've rented a large steam cleaner from Home Depot before. Worked fine for me.
posted by redfoxtail at 4:48 PM on August 25, 2010

Nthing renting a steam cleaner and doing it yourself. We were really pleased with what a visible difference it made in our home.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:24 PM on August 25, 2010

The Rug Doctor is pretty amazing for something that you can rent from the grocery store.

If I had a fully carpeted house I'd probably go ahead and get a Bissell, everyone I know who's got one has raved about it.
posted by padraigin at 5:25 PM on August 25, 2010

We do Stanley Steemer for the full monty (they move the furniture for me) ... Rent a Rug Doctor to clean just the areas where I don't have to move things. :) Rug Doctor is really great if you have the patience to do it yourself!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:27 PM on August 25, 2010

Meant to add -- Stanley Steemer gives you various chemical options, but you can decline them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:27 PM on August 25, 2010

The home options are nice for regular maintenance, but if you want a professional deep cleaning call a cleaning company like ServPro* or ServiceMaster and ask them to bring a truck mount out to clean your carpets. Truck mounts are cleaning units with their own hot water supply that are mounted inside their service van with a long hose running from the vacuum head out to the van. These can get the water much hotter and can extract much more water out of the carpet than handheld units can. Be firm with the cleaning company on this - you want a truck mount, not a handheld unit!

Disclaimer: My parents used to own a ServPro, but chances are, not your Servpro!
posted by platinum at 11:53 PM on August 25, 2010

Best answer: I work at a flooring retailer.

First, you might want to contact the builder. It may take a little detective work, but they might be able to help you find out what kind of carpet you have. Then see what the manufacturer's cleaning recommendations are. Almost all manufacturers now have that info on their websites. Hot water extraction is most often recommended; it's typically advised every 12-18 months depending on traffic, and manufacturer warranties widely hinge on it being done regularly.

If you haven't had luck finding a trustworthy cleaning service through your acquaintances, then there may be a friendly local business that can help you. Independently owned flooring stores are surviving on their reputations now more than ever; the big box retailers can advertise pricing they can't compete with, so to keep on keepin' on the little guy has to beat them with superior installation, selection, service, and knowledge. If they want to keep their customers, that also means a system of dealing with complaints like yours and taking care of them. Find a mom & pop flooring store that's well-respected--or at least one that's been around since before the housing market went nuts--and chances are good they'll be able to recommend a reliable local cleaning service over the phone.
posted by heatvision at 9:41 AM on August 26, 2010

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