How to use a Rug Doctor

I get a lot of hits to my site from people looking for information on Rug Doctors. I’m not sure if they’re looking for where to find them or how to use them. So I’m going to cover both topics, just in case.

Where to find a Rug Doctor

Rug Doctors, and machines similar to it (Easy-Off is one such example) can be found at most major grocery stores. In Calgary (where I happen to live), you can find Rug Doctors at your local Safeway. That’s where I found the one I rented. You can also find Rug Doctors at many “big box” hardware stores (e.g. Home Depot).

How to use a Rug Doctor

There is one thing you have to make sure you understand before you rent yourself a Rug Doctor. If you do not understand this one specific detail, you will waste your money because you won’t use it the way you’re supposed to.

A Rug Doctor is not a vacuum cleaner.

Yes, Rug Doctors do have a vacuum system, that’s how they extract the dirt and solution from the carpet. But it does not behave like a regular vacuum, so don’t try to use it like one. If you do, you won’t get the results you need, and you’ll probably have to go back and redo your cleaning.

This is the reason that a lot of apartment contracts state that you can’t use a Rug Doctor to clean your carpets before you leave. You’re usually asked to get a professional cleaner in, usually at a considerably higher cost. This is why the appeal of Rug Doctors is so high.

So can you use a Rug Doctor on your apartment carpets? Of course you can, if you use it correctly. When I moved out of my last apartment, I used a Rug Doctor, and it worked very well. In fact, the Manager was quite impressed, as she thought it wouldn’t work.

Here’s the trick, and it ain’t rocket science: Rug Doctors can only work when pulled *slowly* in one direction. I can’t emphasize the “slow” enough. Pull too fast, and it’s useless. Push it forward? Forget it.

If you look at the underside of the unit, you’ll see the suction opening and the spray nozzle. You’ll note that the nozzle is “behind” the suction opening. That’s because the spray needs to hit the carpet before you suck it back up — that’s how it works. That means you need to *always* pull it back, never forward.

And pull it slowly. You should only cover about a foot every two seconds. Make sure you have enough of the cleaning solution in *hot* water — don’t use too little or too much, follow the directions exactly. Too little, and it won’t clean. Too much, and you’ll get suds.

When you’ve filled the receptacle about halfway, consider emptying it. Don’t try to run it as long as you can before dumping. It’s heavy when it’s full, and it sloshes a lot.

And above all, take your time — you cannot use a Rug Doctor quickly. It’s a slow process, but it’s not something you want to rush. You need time for Rug Doctors to work well. You might even want to consider doing it twice. But the results, when done well, speak for themselves.

Incidentally, and this probably doesn’t need to be said (but I’m going to say it anyway), don’t use a Rug Doctor on anything but carpets and rugs. Rug Doctors will do nothing for your linoleum, hardwood, or tile floors. You should also consider not cleaning your nice Persian rug with them, since the solution might fade the colours.

Rug Doctor Upholstery Attachment

If you’re considering doing furniture, or you have stairs that need cleaning, invest in the upholstery attachment. I can’t speak for cleaning the furniture, but I can say that you can’t do stairs any other way.

The process is the same as doing your floors. Take your time, and move only in one direction, pulling the nozzle along the surface towards you. You might want to spray some extra solution before using the suction, but that’s a case-by-case thing. Beware of colour loss, though. Testing on a hidden surface is always a good idea first, just to be sure.

46 Replies to “How to use a Rug Doctor”

  1. Thank you for your detailed comments on the Rug Doctor!! I was considering renting one to see if I could save some $$, and I will definitely do this as I now know that if properly used, it will work!

  2. I’ve wanted to rent a rug doctor for a long time, but I have teal carpet in my apartment. You mentioned color fade, is this something I should stay away from and find something else to clean my carpets?

  3. Natasha — as Rug Doctor themselves suggest, take a wee bit of the cleaner, find a remote spot of carpet (like in the closet) and see if it bleaches the colour at all. If it does, you’re outta luck and will likely have to use regular steam cleaning.

    Anj — did it work for you?

  4. Thanks for the information and I figured that would have to be done. I’ll take some of the cleaner home and let you all know what happend to my carpet???? Just if you wanna pass it along. :o) Thanks again!

  5. I used the Rug Doctor on our beige carpet when we sold our condo. The new owner thought it was done by a professional. The trick, as Geoff suggests, is to take your time. I am thinking of using it on my black car upholstery. Has anyone used it in their car? Should I be worried about colour fade? Is it possible to use it with out detergent and still get some results? Thanks

  6. I’m looking for a carpet cleaner on a professional basis. I’m a building manager for a small apartment complex. Would the Rug Doctor be the best one, or would you suggest another one. Thank you for your time.

  7. Well, there’s the issue: Rug Doctors aren’t professional tools. They’re mean for everyday people. And I suspect they’re good only for periodic use, not something you’d want to use regularly. (That said, I would strongly believe they’re well-built, since they’re meant to be rented and used often. It’s the chemical stuff I wonder about.)

    That said, I can’t suggest anything else that would be considered “better”. I know only what I’ve used, and right now, I’ve only used a Rug Doctor. I’ll lay bets, though, that it outclasses most of those off-the-shelf cleaners you get in a store.

  8. thanks for the helpfull tips about the rugdoctor. However its not true that the rugdoctor wont do anything for a wood floor. althought it wont clean the the wood floor it is good for sucking up water out of it. I had a toillet flood over and I used the rugdoctor to suck the water out of the wood floor. It saved me tons of money!! And my wood floor is good as new. GO RUGDOCTOR!!!

  9. Its sounds odd and I dont know how but belive it folks the rugdoctor sucked the water right out of the wood. I was so shucked!! its bananas!!!

  10. I just got a puppy and he is finally trained i would like to clean the carpets because the do not smell good anymore. Would you suggest the rug doctor?

  11. A Rug Doctor might work, but so would almost anything else that does proper carpet cleaning. The big issue is the smell, I imagine. The reintroduction of moisture might worsen the smell at first. You might even want to consider adding some baking soda to the spots before cleaning them.

  12. I bought a rug dr machine. I have my own cleaning business and there is not a stain i cannot get out of the carpets. This machine works great, well worth every cent i paid.
    You can also go to swish maintenance and buy a chemical that has an enzime in it, you spray on the carpets after they have been cleaned and still dam, it kills any and all smells left in the carpets.

  13. If you’re cleaning up after a puppy, the challenge may be in getting rid of the stain. I worked briefly for one of the big carpet cleaning franchises, and urine stains seemed to chemically alter the color of the carpet. At least that’s my memory from better than twenty years ago. Hope the machine did what you needed it to.

  14. I used one once, soaked my living room carpet so bad I had to take my socks off, didn’t do a dam thing, maybe that’s why there are proffessionals

  15. Hardy Says:
    May 21st, 2008 at 18:31
    I used the Rug Doctor on our beige carpet when we sold our condo. The new owner thought it was done by a professional. The trick, as Geoff suggests, is to take your time. I am thinking of using it on my black car upholstery. Has anyone used it in their car? Should I be worried about colour fade? Is it possible to use it with out detergent and still get some results? Thanks

    Hardy, its fine to use on your car seats, I had a Renault with Turqouise cloth seats and they used to get really dirty, the hand attachments are really easy to use as well – hope this helps :o)

  16. oh also, no problems with colour fade, I think it’d work ok without the cleaning solution as it’s really powerful but think the solution oxidises any smells….

  17. I am thinking of doing the Rug Dr. thing for my new place and I found a little demo video on line which may be helpful for some of the people here:

    Does anyone know how much solution (approx) I would need for about 500 square ft. of carpet?

    Also, assuming i use it correctly, can anyone tell me approximately how long it took for the carpets to dry?


  18. Hi, I have used rug doctors through over 14 moves, and I have ALWAYS received our full security deposit back. I have never used their solution, I use a solution of 1c DISSOLVED Oxyclean and 1c Odoban. The Oxyclean brightens the rug, and the Odoban takes care of any organic spills/etc. For example, we have 4 small children & 2 dogs, and 2 cats, despite best efforts, there is a range of substances that end up on the carpet (as you can imagine). Using the SUPER SLOW dragging method, and overlapping each stroke by one half the width of the machine, each carpet came out better than we arrived. I used to do this when we move in, and every 3-6 months, just for cleanliness; and upon move out. The trick is to use hot water to fully dissolve the Oxyclean first, and then add warm water with the Odoban until the tank is full. And again, drag the machine super slo-o-o-o-ow. I don’t know if this would work for everyone (probably one of those “at your own risk” things, but it sure worked for us.

  19. Oh, if you go really slow, the rugs dry out really fast (couple hours) because the machine sucks up most of the water as you go.

  20. Kat, sorry, but I don’t know what amount you’d need. It’s been a very long time since I’ve used a Rug Doctor, so my calculations wouldn’t be of any help. Maybe someone else has an idea?

  21. Awesome writeup! Thanks a bunch. We are leaving in about 10 minutes to rug doctor an apartment we moved out of, and this info will definitely come in handy!

  22. I have used the Rug Doctor a couple of times and find it works great. Its true though that you have to slowly pull it backwards to use it properly. The machine is pretty powerful

    I have not tried their shampoo though, I just used the Bissel Brand (cheaper and doesnt get all sudsy) … about a cup per fill.

    I have not tried the Rugdoctor pre-treat spray for stains either…I was going to buy some but the guy at the store said, ” dont buy that, its too expensive, just buy some laundry stain spray- its the same thing but cheaper. LOL

    So tonight I got my machine at Safeway, and then went to Walmart and bought a bottle of Bissel shampoo for $13.99 and a bottle of Spay N Wash for $1.99 🙂 Way cheaper than the Rugdoctor products…and my rugs are CLEAN! yayy 😀

  23. WARNING on th usage of spay & wash stain remover. It can bleach your carpet. It bleached my area rug. Be wary of what ou use and ALWAYS do a test spot first.

    As for the rug doctor, does it spray water the whole time your pulling it back? there’s no mention how it sprays or when? I want to get one next week. Any help on how/when it sprays the carpet would be great Thank you.

  24. Dee,
    You would control the spray with a button on the handle. It sprays out just behind the suction at a rate that when pulled slowly will mostly be sucked up immediatly without requiring a second pass. The suction is on the whole time the machine is on. It is a very easy and effective system.

  25. Hey JM!

    Yep, it works on stairs, but you have to use the upholstery attachment. It’s a LOT more work, as you’re the one doing the scrubbing, not the machine.

  26. I have been using this machine for years. I always used diluted Simple Green for the first time and then clean the rug again with a fabric softener and water solution. The rug turns out soft, clean, and smells great.

  27. Fabric softener for carpet?.. Hmm.. I’ve never heard of that.. I’m going to clean my aunt’s carpets and rugs today.. I might try that on a small rug to see how it turns out.

  28. I have just cleaned the light grey clothe seats in my wife’s old 12 year old Mercedes estate (or should that be inastate). Well, you have never seen anything like the state of them and the carpets. They looked as if a herd of elephants had been living on them for about 10 years. Actually it was 10 years of grime from my three kids – every bit of food, drink and bodily fluid that you could imagine. The car was unsaleable and my Missus reckoned I was wasting my £30 on the hire charge. Well, I am gobsmacked – you would not beileve what came out of them by way of dirt (I would rather not remember) and they are now pretty much A1. I reckon I just put £500 on the value of the car. Great tool

  29. To the Canadians (Edmonton) in particular – Where can you buy a Rug Doctor that is the same quality as the SAfeway REntal Units? I’ve seen them on INfomercials but they are blue units and look a little different for $600-$800.

    I’ve used the rug doctor rentals for years. I only had trouble once in a basement suite apartment where the carpets didn’t receive a lot of day light and began to smell mouldy because the water didnt’ dry out fast enough.

  30. Yes, I am wanting to know too – where in the Edmonton area can a person buy a Rug Doctor?!(or even online with reasonable S & H fees)

  31. Walmart, kohls,or rug sells the machine. $445.00at walmart and kohls but no upholstery attachment.$599 online at rug hose attachment included.also look for $80 off coupons.good luck

  32. I have used a rug doctor when I moved out of my previous house. The carpets in some rooms were shag and it really worked great. To be honest, the colour of the carpet made it so that I couldn’t -see- any difference, but every time I went to dump the used water it was nasty, so I knew it must have been doing some good!
    I went really slowly as you said. That really has to be emphasized.

    I’m spring cleaning and doing my house I’m living in now. The carpets are pink, but with a very obvious brown tinge from (likely) years without cleaning. I look forward to seeing how they turn out!

  33. Wish I had read this last night before I rented one to clean my hardwood floors! I asked the salesperson if it would work on hardwood and they were like oh of course! Now I’m out $40! I was looking on here to see how to use it…

  34. About 3 years ago, I purchased a new “Rug Doctor” for my home. It is just lile the ones you rent except that it comes in blue rather than red. It’s a lifesaver!
    I’ve had to clean dog diareah & vomit a few times with it and it leaves a nice fresh smell and a clean surface.
    It also comes with a 20 foot hose setup for doing upholstery and stairs. I use this often to clean the upholstery and carpets on my work truck and it works fabulously.
    As Geoff Sowrey said, take your time and it will do a professional job. Use the Rug Doctor pre-treaters on high traffic areas and scrub with a stiff brush and it will even lift away stains that the professionals can’t remove!
    Rug doctor cleaning solutions work with oxygen, not detergents and therefore don’t leave a detergent residue. They also have a urine remover solution that works great should your dog or child wet the carpet or bed.

    Rug Doctor also sells a system for cleaning hardwood floors and linoleum that attaches to the hose. It’s around $99.99.

    Thank you Geoff, I’m sure you’ve helped a lot of first time users.

  35. thank you for this i was actualy planing on renting one later this week and wanted some pointers on how to use one. The last time i ever had to do the carpets was when i was a kid and my parents owned their home. i currently live in an apartment and am moving out soon so i wanted the carpets to be almost perfect. so thank you

  36. I’m following all of the instructions but the cleaning solution seems to run out very quickly. I’m adding 2 gallons of water plus cleaner at a time and I had to refill 3 times to finish one medium sized bedroom. Does this seem normal?


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