Hot Water Extraction Upholstery Cleaning

Is A Rug Doctor a Steam Cleaner (+ How to Choose & Use It)

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When you look into the topic of cleaning rugs and carpets, Rug Doctor always pops up as well as the question “is a Rug Doctor a steam cleaner?”

Right off the bat, I am going to answer this question that: No, Rug Doctor is NOT a steam cleaner.

It is not surprising for Rug Doctor to be talked about when it comes to carpet and rug cleaning. Rug Doctor has been a reliable ally for homeowners grappling with the challenges of carpet maintenance. Rentable and purchasable, the Rug Doctor has become synonymous with thorough cleaning.

But as I said above, it is not a steam cleaner.

Granted, it uses hot water to clean your carpets and upholstery. But this water does not turn to steam. The water never reaches the boiling point required for steam generation.

The Difference of Hot Water Extraction vs. Steam Cleaning

The Rug Doctor operates on a hot water extraction system, a method often colloquially referred to as steam cleaning. It’s important to distinguish between steam cleaning as a specific technique using pressurized steam and the broader term applied when discussing deep or thorough cleaning.

Hot water extraction involves the application of hot water, not steam, along with a cleaning detergent. The Rug Doctor spreads this mixture onto the carpet, employing rotating brushes to agitate fibers and loosen the embedded dirt. The final act is a powerful vacuum that extracts not only the moisture but also the dislodged grime.

In contrast, true steam cleaners rely solely on pressurized steam without the aid of detergents. The steam attacks dirt directly, dissolving it and eliminating germs in the process.

Steam Cleaning Upholstery
Steam cleaning uses steam to clean!

Understanding the Rug Doctor’s Process

Now that we’ve clarified the distinction, let’s delve into the intricacies of how the Rug Doctor works.

The hot water extraction method is a choreography of precision. The machine dispenses a mixture of hot water and cleaning solution onto the carpet, where rotating brushes work diligently to penetrate deep into the fibers, loosening dirt and stains. The powerful vacuum then extracts the soiled water, leaving behind a refreshed and revitalized carpet.

That’s very different from steam cleaners, which only rely on very hot steam without any detergents. Gusts of pressurized steam attack the dirt head-on, dissolving it and killing off any germs while at it.

And now that you know what Rug Doctor does, let’s jump on how to use it.

And then we’ll examine the different models from the Rug Doctor Carpet Cleaner line, and how they operate. Most importantly, you’ll find out what’s in it for you!

How to Prep the Carpets Before Cleaning With Rug Doctor

Because cleaning carpets can be that “one-time, big-time” household chore, you know that it will involve a lot of things to maximize the results. This is regardless of whether you do it manually or with a machine. No shortcuts!

If you are up for the “fun” part, let’s get this started!

Move furniture out of the way

First, since you’ll be working with a machine, you want to make sure that there’s nothing that gets in the way. You don’t want any scratches on your furniture, do you?

If you are renting the machine, you don’t want it to get damaged and pay the penalty, right? It also doesn’t make sense to pay extra when you want to save money by renting instead of buying in the first place. 

Also, you want to make sure that the whole carpet gets thoroughly cleaned. As we all know, most of the dirt build-up can be found right where the furniture sets are. 

Vacuum the place

The next step is to remove all the dust and dirt on the carpet’s surface.

This makes it easier for the cleaner to do its job more effectively since the first layer of the problem has already been taken care of. That is to attack deep-seated grime and grease.

Apply the Pre-Treatment Solution

A Person Spraying Cleaning Solution On A Carpet Stain

Usually, these cleaners don’t need anything else. You just let the hot water and pressure do their job, and that’s it!

However, if your carpet is one that has seen its better days due to heavy foot traffic and the presence of pets, the application of a pre-treatment solution is necessary. (The company has a dedicated Rug Doctor cleaning solution. But I don’t think using another solution would hurt anything!)

This ensures lifting those already embedded heavy stains and grease in the carpet prior to steam cleaning.

How Does Rug Doctor Cleaner Work?

Now we’ve come to the main event: how to use Rug Doctor cleaner.

The temperature of the water you need will depend on the type of fiber or fabric. You don’t want to ruin your woolen carpet by using boiling water, do you? Lukewarm to warm would be perfect.

  1. Remove the recovery tank of the machine, which sits at the front. Just unclip the retaining handle.
  2. Fill the bucket with around nine liters of water. Again, the temperature depends on the type of the carpet’s fiber. Be sure it’s not too hot to burn skin.
  3. Pour 150ml of carpet detergent into the base tank of the steam cleaner.
  4. Add water to the base tank up to half of the filter.
  5. Put the recovery tank into its place until it clicks in, and secure it via the same retaining handle.
  6. On the top of the cleaner, push the white switch to “carpet cleaning.”
  7. Feel free to adjust the cleaner’s handle according to the height you are comfortable with through its lever.
  8. Plug the machine into the electric source and switch it on.
  9. Make sure that the machine’s brush is not touching the carpet by tilting it back a bit.
  10. Test the spray applicator by pressing the button found on the handle. If it works fine, return to the original position and start to slowly walk backward, pulling the machine while pressing the spray button. 

Which Rug Doctor Is Right for You?

Woman Cleaning Stairs With A Rug Doctor

Quick Overview

SpecsDeepSpot PortablePet PortableFlexClean
Dimensions17.5 x 11.5 x 43.5 in.16.14 x 11.02 x 15.74 in.31.75 x 45 x 43.8 cm113 x 46.99 x 30.48 cm
Air watts1,300110090900
Clean water Tank capacity3.8 liters1.9 liter1.9 liter3.7 liter
Dirty water Tank capacity4.2 liters1.9 liter1.9 liter4.7 liter
Power cord length8.5m4.6m4.5m6.7m
Hose length2.4m1.7m1.7m2.4m
Warranty period2 years2 years2 years2 years
What’s IncludedMachine with upholstery tool kit, rotating brush bars, and caddyMachine with upholstery tool kit, 2 x 500ml Spot Cleaning SolutionMachine with upholstery tool kit, plus trial size pet detergentMachine with upholstery tool kit, plus 1 x 236ml solution included

Best for General Cleaning: Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner

If you love well-rounded machines, this would be perfect for you! Rug Doctor makes no secret that this is the brand’s more versatile model.

If machine assembly makes you nervous, don’t fret! You can start using this straight out of the box.

Each tank is easily detachable from the machine and is appropriately labeled, namely: the clean water tank and the wastewater tank. This makes it easy to refill and empty these tanks when needed.

Its removable tool caddy makes it convenient to connect to the machine and clean upholstery, fabrics, stairs, and even car interiors. The dual cross oscillating brushes effectively clean carpet fibers in one move.

Drying carpets has been a significant concern for most carpet cleaners. 

The thing is, this cleaner really sucks (and in a GOOD way). And not just the filth, but also the moisture that dissolves and cleans the muck!  

This makes the carpet less likely to develop a foul smell and gunk.

What I don’t like about this model is that it could use a bigger water tank. The one that’s already there is quite challenging to refill (especially because you need to do it often!) and clean.

Best for Stains: Rug Doctor Spot Portable Cylinder Carpet Cleaner

Carpet stains are probably one of your worst fears, especially with expensive carpets lying around the house. Sometimes, even the basic carpet cleaning or shampooing wouldn’t be enough. 

Good thing, this particular model is pretty good with stains.

Different fabrics, upholstery, and car interior would benefit from the mighty hand tool that it also comes with. 

The machine is specially made to target your deep-seated stains. I used it to clean cat pee and vomit, and the results were amazing enough to make my cat wanna pee there AGAIN. (Cleaned that one too!)

With an IPX4 rating tucked under its belt, working outdoors is no problemo!

Being weatherproof gives this machine the ability to resist splashing water. Add in the twice suction feature for a double kill drying capability.

I just wish the power cord and the hose would have been longer so you can move freely as you explore other parts of your carpet without dragging the machine with you. They aren’t as long as those of, say, Bissell’s Spotclean Pro.

Speaking of which, if you’re interested in a good spot cleaner, check out our comparison of the Rug Doctor Portable and Bissell Spotclean Pro.

Best for Pet Hair & Gunk: Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner

Rug Doctor Cleaning A Pet Pillow

Having furry friends at home can be as enjoyable as it is problematic. (This is coming from a person who owns 2 dogs and a cat!)

If this is your situation, this is the perfect machine for you. And not just because it has the word “pet” in the name.

This Pet Portable Spot Cleaner is pretty similar, almost identical to the one above. The only difference, it sports the so-called Dual-Action Pet Tool that addresses deep-seated pet stains and odors. Think slobber, poo and pee (even when the stain grows old).

On the downside, Rug Doctor’s seemingly lousy reputation when it comes to its water tank design seems to affect most of its carpet cleaner line. It won’t balance on its own, and you’d need someone else to help fill it up with a cleaning solution up to its fill line. 

This is because you can’t get accurate measurements since it won’t balance on your hand in the first place.

Works on Hard Floors Too: Rug Doctor FlexClean Carpet Cleaner

The problem gets complicated when your hard floors also give you a hard time. Good thing, this particular 2-in-1 rug doctor steam cleaner saves you from purchasing or renting two machines when you need both features.

From cleaning colorful food spills on tile floors to just about any stains on your carpet, it doesn’t get any better than this. And when it says hard floors, it includes all types like concrete, laminate, tile, vinyl, marble, among others.

Functionality switches rather quickly just by swapping the front nozzle in between functions like a normal switch. Don’t worry, as this machine is so user-friendly, and the switch is properly labeled, so you can’t really go wrong unless you don’t hear a proper click.

My only complaint is it’s a bit heavy when compared to other upright carpet cleaners with the same features. Some users also point out that when pushed forward or backward, the machine swivels instead of going a straight line. I haven’t experienced anything like it though!

As a homeowner in pursuit of cleaner carpets, the Rug Doctor offers a reliable and versatile solution.

While it may not be a steam cleaner, its hot water extraction method ensures a thorough and deep clean; its ability to breathe new life into carpets is undeniable.

The adjustable cleaning intensity and compatibility with specially formulated cleaning solutions add to its appeal, allowing you to tackle various cleaning challenges with ease.

So, the next time you embark on a cleaning venture with the Rug Doctor, remember – it may not be a steam cleaner, but it stands tall as a champion in the realm of carpet care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is A Rug Doctor a steam cleaner?

No, the Rug Doctor is not a steam cleaner. It utilizes a hot water extraction method, which involves spraying a mixture of hot water and cleaning solution onto the carpet, agitating the fibers, and extracting the soiled water. While it shares similarities with steam cleaning, it does not generate steam.

How does hot water extraction differ from steam cleaning?

Hot water extraction involves the use of hot water and cleaning detergent to clean carpets, while steam cleaning relies solely on high-temperature steam. The Rug Doctor’s method ensures a thorough and deep clean without relying on steam.

Is a carpet cleaner the same as a steam cleaner?

Although a lot of carpet cleaners nowadays use steam cleaning technology, there is a big difference between a carpet cleaner and a steam cleaner. 

First, carpet cleaners are also called carpet shampooers. That is, you use a special carpet cleaning detergent that creates foam. Through the brush, the foam is released into the fibers, which in turn loosens the dirt. The suction function of the machine then removes the foam or suds that contain the dirt.

On the other hand, a steam cleaner can loosen the deep-seated dirt just from the steam from hot water, even without a shampoo or detergent.

However, another advantage of steam cleaner besides getting rid of dirt and stains, is the eradication of bugs, fleas, molds, and other allergens. It also dries faster than when shampooing due to lesser water used. With this, it is less likely to develop foul smell and dirt formation.

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