How to Use a Rug Doctor Steam Cleaner

Updated on April 22, 2019
cperuzzi profile image

I have two old dogs, so I'm very familiar with routine carpet cleaning. But every once in a while, it's time for "the big clean".

The Rug Doctor Steam Cleaner
The Rug Doctor Steam Cleaner | Source

It's Time to Deep Clean the Carpets

You just can’t avoid it anymore.

When you’re a dog owner, you don’t need another person to tell you when you need to steam clean your rug. It’s inevitable. You fear it. You know you have to do it or hire someone else to do it. The latter is not even an option because you really don’t want another person to see your rug. The former is just a lot of work.

Here’s one thing that isn’t an option: a new rug. So long as you have a dog that is old (like my two dogs) or are crate training a puppy, a new rug is just a waste of time. Of course, if you have kids, you’re just as prone to a soiled rug as a dog owner—you’re just less reluctant to pick up the mess.

In any event, you have a soiled rug and it’s up to you to clean it. And even when we have our own steam cleaner to do spot cleanings, every once in a while you have to get the industrial strength cleaners that were made for what I call “the big clean”.

When you do the “the big clean”, you really need to know what you’re doing and be prepared for a thorough job. My personal recommendation is to use The Rug Doctor. You can rent one of these in most supermarkets around the country. They’ll sell you all of the cleaning supplies you’ll need along with the machine. The machine itself will cost about $25–$30 to rent for 24 hours.

And let me tell you, it’s worth it.

Prepping for the Job

You have work to do before you start steaming.

The prep work you need to do is common sense. You need to move the furniture off the rug first. It either needs to be out of the way or out of the room. I recommend doing the latter. It will motivate you to take your time when you do your rug. You’ll see the difference in color tones. The traffic stains alone should tell you how dirty your rug is.

The next thing you have to do is a thorough vacuuming of the room. You need to make sure that all the dust and loose dirt is off the rug. If you have dogs, it’s especially important to vacuum all the hair from the floor before you steam. The last thing you want is wet fur and hair in the machine, so make sure the carpet is free from loose debris.

Using the detergent button
Using the detergent button | Source

Chemicals for Steam Cleaning Carpet

At minimum, you need two chemicals: The Rug Doctor Cleaner (detergent) and Anti Foam.

You can also get the odor remover and the pet cleaner to mix in with the rest of the detergents. If you have dogs, I recommend it for two reasons: It will pick up urine easier and it will kill any smell so that your dog may not find his favorite spot again.

You will need ¼ cup of cleaner for every gallon of water. The machine will hold about 4 gallons of water. As far as the water is concerned, it should be hot. You can either use the hottest water your tap can make OR you can boil the water.

For time and energy’s sake, I use hot tap water.

The thing to remember with the chemicals is that the detergent goes into the machine and the anti foam goes where the wastewater goes. Just a squirt will do. What the anti foam does is exactly what you think it does. It keeps foam from building in the machine. When the detergent gets all foamy on the rug, it’s the anti foam in the waste tank that keeps you from having a tank full of dirty suds.

Making Rows
Making Rows | Source

How to Steam Clean Carpet

You’ve finished your prep. Everything is clear. Now you can start your steam cleaning.

Before you start the machine, unwrap the plug and cord from the machine. The machine will turn on and use the functions for carpet or upholstery. Be sure that it is set to CARPET and not UPHOLSTERY. Of course, if you are going to use the upholstery attachment to steam clean your furniture and hard to get at places, that’s up to you. However, for our purposes, we’re going to clean the rug. So, set it to CARPET.

I find that keeping the cord out of the way is the biggest obstacle in using this machine. One of the things that you’ll need to do is either work with the outlets in the room to keep it away from the machine or hold the cord loosely coiled in your hand.

You’ll also want to lower the angle of the handle to something that’s more comfortable for your height. You can do this by squeezing the switch on the handle.

Once the machine is on, you’ll need to attack your job in a series of squares. I believe Rug Doctor recommends doing areas of 4’by 4’ squares. I prefer to do 6’by 6’ or 7’by 7’ squares. The reason I do it this way is that it will give the detergent time to actually work.

The technique for working the machine is simple, and it involves walking backwards. Start the machine at the corner of the square and press the detergent release button (located in the center of the handle). Give the machine a two-second start before pulling it backward for the first pass.

The slower you go the more you saturate the rug with the detergent. At the same time, the slower you go, the more the machine will suck up. Drag the machine backward 4 to 6 feet for your first pass. When you finish your first pass, tilt the machine backward and push it all the way to the level of where you started and slightly to the right.

Repeat until you’ve made 4 to 6 feet of passes. Once you’ve made this square with vertical passes, do this again with a horizontal rotation. I recommend 3 passes from three different angles. Then do a fourth pass without applying detergent and just use the machine to suck up the excess cleaner.

Then start another square.

Do this until you run out of detergent. You’ll know you’ve run out of detergent because you won’t see any more liquid come into the waste tank.

Waste Water From a Rug Doctor
Waste Water From a Rug Doctor | Source

Emptying a Rug Doctor's Waste Tank

This is one of the more disgusting, yet gratifying things to do after you’ve finished one detergent cycle. Remove the full waste tank and walk it to your toilet (or wherever you’re going to dump it). Pour the insanely dirty waste into it.

There are two indicators that show Rug Doctor has done its job. The first is that almost immediately you should see a difference in your rug. The second is that when you see how dirty the water is that collects in your tank, it will make you wish you only walk on your rug with socks.

Obviously, for most carpets, it will take more than one refilling of detergent and formula to finish one room. Repeat the formula mix with hot tap water and squirt more anti foam into the waste tank until you finish the job.

A clean carpet after Rug Doctor
A clean carpet after Rug Doctor | Source

Final Words

As a pet owner, I love my dogs. But they are disgusting creatures that have accidents when I don’t arrive home on time. If you are a pet owner and don’t want to buy a new rug for your room every five years or so, I suggest you learn how to steam your rugs. For your own sanity and for the love of your dog, this needs to be done.

The other option to you doing your own rug is to have it cleaned professionally. That, too, is a good investment. Unfortunately, I’m a little trepidatious about having another human being see how dirty my rug is when my dogs have frequent accidents. And after a while, even for the best spot checker, your rug will look and smell terrible.

I won’t say that rug cleaners won’t appreciate your business, but people judge. I’d just sooner have this work done and keep my four-pawed children’s secret all to myself. Steam cleaners are inexpensive to use and will allow you to accomplish a task you can take pride in.

For more information on the Rug Doctor and Rug Doctor products (as well as where to find a place to rent one) visit the Rug Doctor site.

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • How hot is the steam from a Rug Doctor?

    That’s a good question, and it points to something that I need to clarify.

    While it is true that the Rug Doctor is a steam cleaner, it has no mechanism that heats up steam. If you put cold water in it, it will remain cold. My recommendation is that you can either boil water and put that into the supply or use the hottest water you can get out of your tap, which I prefer; it’s just easier, and you’re less likely to burn yourself. The steam is as hot as you make it.

  • Is a Rug Doctor a steam cleaner?

    Yes, it is. Technically. While the Rug Doctor does not generate its own steam, you need to put hot steaming water into the water supply tank. While cold water will not work effectively, it will vacuum it up. For what it is, the Rug Doctor is a good solid machine that you can rent and provided you can get hot water from your faucet (or boiled from your stove), it will do the job.

© 2012 Christopher Peruzzi


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    • cperuzzi profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher Peruzzi 

      13 months ago from Freehold, NJ

      Fine, Paul. Let me clarify this.

      The Rug Doctor does not heat the water to make steam. However, the steam used from hot water (that you put into it) comes out of it.

      For example, if I put tea from a kettle into a tea pot, the hot water made hot from the kettle will still be hot in the tea pot?

      Clear enough?

    • profile image

      Paul Cox 

      16 months ago

      You did not answer the question. You only said that the Rug Doctor does not really create steam but then you said that it makes steam as hot as you make it. Do you not understand that does not make sense and is contradictory.

    • aliahmedsumon profile image

      Md Ali Ahmed Sumon 

      18 months ago from Dhaka, Bangladesh

      very helpfull

    • cperuzzi profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher Peruzzi 

      5 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      I'm glad you asked that.

      I can't answer for every vendor, but every machine I've ever rented has a phone number on the machine. You can call that number and ask if you can purchase that one.

      If you want a new machine, you can always go to

      I hope I answered your question.

    • profile image

      lisa Mcrae 

      5 years ago

      i have use ur rug doctor before and i like it so i want to rent to own how do i do that

    • glamourous06 profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      O, don't worry I am fine, it worked out fine for me. My awesome dog which I adore to bits makes carpets dirty so it was worth to get one.

    • cperuzzi profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher Peruzzi 

      7 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      It's a sad day when we realize that buying is cheaper than renting.

      Candidly, though, the most expensive part of this process are the chemicals. The detergent will last a few cycles, but it all depends on how much you do at a shot. If there are multiple rooms, you can go through a large bottle in one renting.

    • glamourous06 profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Funny article, actually hiring Rug Doctor with my dog was so expensive that got me motivated to get one of those for myself.Good article. Thank you for sharing.


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