We tested the Rug Doctor carpet washer alongside washers you can buy to see if you should own your own or carry on renting.
If you’re buying a carpet washer, we recommend the Bissell ProHeat 2x Revolution Pet Deep Cleaner ($629) and Vax Compact Power Carpet Washer VX97 ($269).
The Rug Doctor Mighty Pro, which you can rent from a supermarket or hardware store for $50 per day, also did well enough in our testing to earn our recommendation.
We asked the washers to remove a combination of clay, sand and oil from a cream-coloured carpet. The Bissell was the top tested model, doing a very good job. The Vax and Rug Doctor machines weren’t far behind though. It would be difficult for an untrained eye to see much difference in the final results.
Carpet washers all work in the same manner – they squirt water and detergent into the carpet, zhuzh it up with a spinning brush and then suck the dirty water back into a tank. No washer can remove all of the water out of the carpet, but the better ones leave carpet drier.
After using the Bissell and Vax, our carpet was usable after four hours (but still felt very slightly damp). With the Rug Doctor, you’ll be waiting longer – the carpet was still damp after six hours and only reached the very slightly damp stage the day after cleaning it.
If you’re hoping to remove old stains from your carpet, you’ll likely be left disappointed. We tested the washers on dried-in red wine, coffee and gravy. None did a good job. In general, set stains require specialist cleaning products and treatments, so you’ll be asking a bit much of your washer.
Ease of use and features
The Vax (5.5kg) and Bissell (8.7kg) weigh much less than the Rug Doctor (16.9kg), so are less tiring to manoeuvre. The Vax is a carpet-only machine that doesn’t have a hose attachment, though at $269 you might not expect such bells and whistles.
The Bissell has a hose and tool for tackling upholstery and comes with a crevice attachment and separate brush for tricky jobs. The brush also captures dirt in a small tank, so pet unmentionables won’t contaminate the machine. Who knows what the previous renter has been sucking into the Rug Doctor machine? Perhaps it’s better not to think too hard.
Rent or own?
Whether investing in your own carpet washer is worthwhile comes down to how often you’ll use it and how much you value convenience. The Rug Doctor does a good job and, at $50 to hire for a day, is an appealing option if you only clean your carpets once or twice a year. However, it leaves your carpet wetter than our other recommended machines, is more awkward to use, and isn’t as versatile for tackling stairs, upholstery and cars.
If you have crisp, light-coloured carpet paired with young children and pets, and live in a multi-level home, it’s likely you’ll see the value in owning your own carpet washer. And, of course, you don’t need to make two trips to a supermarket or hardware store during business hours to collect and return it.
Carpet washers: are they worth the investment?
Renting a Rug Doctor costs $40 for 4 hours, but would you be better off buying your own carpet washer? We trialled a budget and premium model to find out.
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