We knew a carpet cleaning was due.  We are leaving in a few days for our roadtrip to California and had every intention of waiting until we got home.  But then a full cup of coffee got spilled on our carpet, meaning that Project Carpet Cleaner Rental was bumped a lot higher up on the priority list.

We rented the Rug Doctor, as we have many times before.  Light colored, cheap carpet is the bain of my existence.  This particular one runs $25 to rent for 24 hours.  Normally, we buy the Rug Doctor shampoos to use with it, but we were already grumpy about shelling out money to rent the machine in the first place.  I vaguely remembered my friend Kelly saying that she used vinegar in a Rug Doctor before.  She had amazing results, and it got rid of some wretched smells that they inherited from the previous renters.  I called her, and she stated she used a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water.  She then did a second pass with the machine filled with water and liquid fabric softener.

We didn’t have a huge issue with odors…just stains.  And we also can’t use liquid fabric softener in our washing machine.  (We have a weird washing machine and it states not to use it.  Odd.)  I did a few internet searches and found a few people who stated that they used 1 cup of vinegar in their machine with good results.  I also found someone else mention the use of essential oils.  Hey, I have that.  (We use it in our homemade laundry detergent.)  This is what I eventually used:

  • 1.5 to 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • Hot tap water
  • 4-5 drops lavendar essential oil

I put all of the above in the machine.  By using the essential oil instead of the fabric softener, this also meant I didn’t have to go over my carpet twice.  I love time savers.

I wasn’t sure if I should post about using these items in this machine.  Rug Doctor explicitly states to only use Rug Doctor solutions in their machines.  But, this is how their website states it:

Can I use products other than Rug Doctor in the carpet cleaning machine?

Products that are not made specifically for water extraction method cleaning of carpets should NEVER be used. Damage can occur. Carpets need a specific pH range of cleaning that is effective and won’t damage fibers. As well, products that are not made for the kind of simple rinsing and extraction provided by the machine will leave residues that attract dirt. Through extensive testing we have found no products that compare to Rug Doctor in terms of the 3 essential elements for complete carpet cleaning: (1) effective deep-cleaning to release embedded dirt, bacteria, and allergens from carpet fibers, (2) a pH balanced formula for safe cleaning and (3) clean rinsing ability.  For these reasons, we do not recommend the use of any cleaners other than Rug Doctor solutions in Rug Doctor machines.

It doesn’t say anything about ruining their machines, which I didn’t want to do, nor did I want to encourage others to do that either.  The only concern the manufacturer states is for my carpet.  Which is eight years old, and has admittedly been ruined several times before.

I’m going to position it this way.  I don’t claim to be a carpet expert.  I don’t work for the industry, so I don’t know all the ins and outs of carpet pH balance and whatnot.  And I am not telling you what to do to your own carpet.  (Use your best judgement, but you are assuming your own liability on this one.)  BUT…I am a mom.  We have kids and a dog.  Life happens, and my carpet was grody.  Vinegar is generally regarded as a safe go-to cleaning supply.  I was willing to chance it.

If you have not used vinegar before for cleaning, try not to freak out.  Your house will not smell like an easter egg dye session.  I promise.  You might smell some vinegar smell while using it (I didn’t in this case), but that goes away fairly quickly and it will actually neutralize whatever odor you might have had hanging around beforehand.

Here is an example of how well it worked in our house


Now, in the interest of full disclosure, this is what my coffee stain looked like after the carpet cleaning

It is marginally better, at best.  Before cleaning the carpet, I tried flushing it with water (then blotting).  I also sprinkled baking soda on it.  After vaccuuming that, I tried a mixture of OxiClean and warm water.  The OxiClean solution sat on the stain for almost an hour before towel drying it.  And, finally, I sprayed it with straight vinegar (as a stain pre-treater), and cleaned it with the Rug Doctor.  This one is stubborn.  I have some friends who are recommending  Folex (found at Lowe’s) or Solumel/Prespot (by Melaleuca).  I may give those a try down the road, but I am honestly looking at starting the fast track to my floor replacement fund as soon as this roadtrip is done.

Overall, I am super happy with the results.  I would do it again (but am secretly praying that this was my last carpet cleaning session ever.)

And you should also see what same machine and home-made solution did to my van’s interior!  Click here for the post titled Using the Rug Doctor and Vinegar in Your Car’s Interior.

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2 Comments on Using Vinegar in a Rug Doctor to Clean Carpets

  1. Jessica says:

    Folex rocks for stains…and you can find it at most grocery stores as well as WalMart. :-)

  2. [...] rented this machine for a little incident inside our house.  (See today’s earlier post:  Using Vinegar in a Rug Doctor.)  And I decided to take advantage of it, and get our money’s worth out of the rental.  [...]

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