Looking for Carpet Cleaner recommendations.
April 22, 2013 9:51 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to buy a carpet cleaner but have done way too much research on the subject and have lost myself in sea of conflicting reviews and comparisons and now have no idea what to get so I thought I'd turn to you guys for help.

Requirements are,

I just want a simple model, it doesn't have to be too large, I don't have a lot of carpet I need to clean regularly, just 4 smallish rooms.

Something good with the occasional dog accidents and the fact my husband cannot use a doormat to save his life.

Not too heavy or too much bending required to set up and empty.

Ease of use would be nice, though I only hope to use it every few months when carpets start looking really bad, so being a bit fiddly to set up if it cleans well is OK.

I'd like it under the $200 price mark if possible.

Attachments or a set up so I can just spot clean with it if needed an added bonus.
posted by wwax to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't buy is the best advice I can give. If you do buy, do not buy anything that does not offer high levels of suction. Back in the day I sold carpet cleaning services as a summer job. I have also used the hire-yourself machines and the $150 consumer machines you can get.

The cheaper machines just put water and detergent in your carpet. They suck some of the water and detergent back up, leaving you with soapy water in your carpet. When this dries, you basically have a residue left there that will go on to attract more dirt. To a greater or lesser extent, so do the prosumer machines that you can rent from various places although they are just about OK. At less than $200 you will be buying a system that ultimately will not do the job you want even though it will remove dirt and mess from your carpet initially.

Commercial operators use either chemical systems or high power water-based systems. In my opinion the chemical systems are not as good at removing the dirt, although they do a better job of not damaging expensive, deep pile woollen carpets. The water-based systems the commercial guys use are powerful and both push out and suck up a high volume of water. You can see how much crap they are removing by looking at the waste water container. It is horrible. But the key is the % of water they remove relative to what they put in.

Although it is not the answer you are looking for, you would be better off getting down on your hands and knees and cleaning up the dog mess with a bowl of warm, lightly soaped water and a brush. Train your husband. Pay for someone to come in and clean your carpets once a year. Twice a year at most. At least when I sold carpet cleaning there was a huge premium in the price to pay the salesman, the cleaner, the admin. If you know you're going to keep getting the company in to do your carpets periodically then you should be able to get a decent discount of published prices. It is fundamentally not an expensive or technical task.

If you have to buy a model then go for the most powerful one you can afford.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:14 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have one, and I'm advising you not to buy one.

Stanley Steamer is the best carpet cleaning service out there. I've used them all over the country and they uniformally clean the rug, charge what they say, are professional and are an incredible value for the money.

They have this stuff that whenever I have to deal with cat urp, cleans it right up.

So have Stanley Steamer come out and really do your rugs, then buy the spot treater.

You'll be so happy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:49 AM on April 22, 2013

I bought a Bissell Little Green Cleaner when I adopted two dogs. I only needed it for spot cleaning the couch or our living room rug so I haven't used it on carpet.

To be honest, it is just ok. It has come in handy as we went through a bumpy housebreaking period and through a period of dog stomach upset (yuck!). The suction isn't that great so you end up pressing pretty hard on the attachment. I wouldn't want to clean a large area with it, it is better for spot cleaning. With dogs and house breaking, it is important to clean up the mess and treat with enzyme ASAP so it was great to have a tool around at all hours.

I opted to buy this machine instead of renting one because I was sort of grossed out by the idea of running a machine on my couch/floor that other people use to clean up gross messes.

It has been good to have around but I haven't been bowled over by the performance.
posted by dottiechang at 11:13 AM on April 22, 2013

Echoing the above sentiments: Don't buy a carpet cleaner. Hire a professional. Mine (not a franchise, but owner of his own small carpet cleaning business) comes once or twice a year. I've been using his services for a few years now, so it's like seeing an old friend when he shows up. Also, it's nice to have a tried and true carpet cleaner who will give you (as a longstanding customer) priority response when pipes are breaking all over town from a cold snap. My guy arrived within two hours, set up fans, and had my living room carpet dried out in a couple of days for a reasonable price.

For the occasional kitty hork in between cleanings, I have one of these. Apparently they are no longer made, but there are similar ones on the market.
posted by caryatid at 11:31 AM on April 22, 2013

I was an Electrolux salesman for one miserable month during a summer in college. If there was ever a job I could not be less good at, it is that of salesman. However, at the time the products were actually very good, and the sales pitches were mostly based on merit, not just gladhanding BS.

One of the products I was supposed was a carpet cleaner that used a three-step process: Step 1, you'd squirt diluted shampoo onto the carpet, and brushes would foam it into a lather. This gets the carpet just slightly damp. Step 2: remove the brushes and attach these rotating plastic nubbly things that simultaneously work the foam into the carpet, and stir up the crud that's settled to the bottom of the nap so it's suspended in the foam. Step 3: Let carpet dry for a few hours and vacuum up all the crud that the plastic things stirred up. I don't know how it compared to a professional service, but the thing really did do a good job. It looks like Aerus (formerly Electrolux) still sells them - that photo looks pretty much identical to the ones they sold 20 years ago.

All of that being said - get a quote from a professional carpet cleaner, and weigh it against whatever Aerus is charging for those things these days; they're not cheap, and for something you're only going to use once or twice a year and then have cluttering up your closet or basement, you might be better off just letting the pros do the work.

For occasional pet messes, no need for a carpet cleaner; this stuff is magic - it's an enzymatic cleanser that works better than Nature's Miracle ever did, even before they were bought and their formula was changed.

P.S. MuffinMan's points about cheap steam/water machines just soaking your carpet and leaving detergent in it to attract more dirt are spot on... as you might expect that was a major selling point of the Electrolux system.
posted by usonian at 12:57 PM on April 22, 2013

I used a Bissell Green Machine extensively in another life. It worked, after a fashion. Unlike the really cheap machines that just goosh the water around with brushes, it was moderately useful at sucking water out of the carpet with a strong vacuum and a wedge nozzle you could really put some weight on. And weight was the key; you had to put your body weight on it to get anything out of the carpet pad and not just leave puddles on the subfloor. That's why I wound up using it instead of my ex, because I had the mass, strength and stamina to operate it effectively.

And then when we sold the house we hired someone with a truck and it was like we got new carpet as all the old fairly well distributed stains were REALLY lifted up.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, if you want a work-out along with an only 80% clean and just somewhat dry carpet, go ahead and buy a home machine.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:30 PM on April 22, 2013

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