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Cleaning Tips

Removing carpet stains

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Rug Doctor’s unique approach to stain removal.

At Rug Doctor, we know one-solution cleaning is impossible because different stains attach themselves in different ways to carpet fibers and require specific solutions for effective removal.

  • For sticky, oily stains such as motor oil, use Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment followed by a cleaning with a Rug Doctor machine.
  • For liquid, oily stains such as salad dressing, use Spot & Stain Remover on its own.
  • For bodily fluid stains, use Urine Eliminator
  • For unidentified stains, use Urine Eliminator and/or Spot & Stain Remover followed by a cleaning with a Rug Doctor machine depending on the severity of the stain.

For more specific recommendations on which Rug Doctor cleaning product is best for your particular needs, see the chart below.

For more specific recommendations on which Rug Doctor cleaning product is best for your particular needs, see our cleaning products page.

Type of stain Treatment Special Instructions
Beer Urine Eliminator or Spot & Stain Remover  
Bile, yellow/green vomit Urine Eliminator or Spot & Stain Remover  
Blood Urine Eliminator or Spot & Stain Remover  
Butter or margarine Urine Eliminator or Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment Use Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment only prior to cleaning your carpets.
Candle wax Spot & Stain Remover Scrape off as much wax as possible with a spatula or spoon. If wax is deeply embedded, cover with a white cloth and apply iron (on low setting) to cloth. Wax will transfer to cloth. Any remaining residue can be removed using Spot & Stain Remover.
Chocolate Spot & Stain Remover  
Clay Spot & Stain Remover  
Cocktails Spot & Stain Remover  
Coffee Spot & Stain Remover  
Cough Syrup Spot & Stain Remover  
Crayon Spot & Stain Remover  
Dirt, mud or grass Urine Eliminator or Spot & Stain Remover  
Feces (non-urine) Urine Eliminator or Spot & Stain Remover  
Food coloring Spot & Stain Remover  
Food grease Spot & Stain Remover or Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment Use Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment only prior to cleaning your carpets.
Fruit juice, berries or Kool-Aid® Spot & Stain Remover Some red dyes in food and juices are difficult to remove.
Gravy Urine Eliminator or Spot & Stain Remover  
Ice cream Urine Eliminator or Spot & Stain Remover  
Ink Spot & Stain Remover or Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment Use Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment only prior to cleaning your carpets.
Jelly or jam Spot & Stain Remover  
Ketchup Spot & Stain Remover  
Lipstick Spot & Stain Remover or Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment Use Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment only prior to cleaning your carpets.
Makeup Spot & Stain Remover or Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment Use Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment only prior to cleaning your carpets.
Mildew Odor Remover Odor Remover destroys the mildew source. After treatment blot well and keep area dry. A follow-up cleaning should eliminate the stain.
Milk Spot & Stain Remover  
Motor grease or oil Spot & Stain Remover or Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment Use Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment only prior to cleaning your carpets.
Mustard Spot & Stain Remover and full-strength white vinegar A near-permanent stain. Alternate using Spot & Stain Remover followed by vinegar. Yellow dye stains from mustard may not be removable depending on your carpet or fabric type.
Paint (water-based) Spot & Stain Remover Old or dried spots may need to soak for an hour or two.
Permanent marker Spot & Stain Remover  
Perspiration Urine Eliminator  
Salad dressing Spot & Stain Remover or Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment Use Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment only prior to cleaning your carpets.
Shoe polish Spot & Stain Remover or Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment Use Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment only prior to cleaning your carpets.
Soft drinks Spot & Stain Remover  
Tea Spot & Stain Remover  
Tobacco Spot & Stain Remover  
Tomato sauce Spot & Stain Remover  
Toothpaste Spot & Stain Remover  
Urine Urine Eliminator Act quickly! Urine is highly acidic and will bleach some carpets. If this happens the result cannot be corrected with stain-removing products.
Varnish or wood stain Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment Use Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment only prior to cleaning your carpets.
Vegetable oil Spot & Stain Remover  
Vomit Urine Eliminator or Spot & Stain Remover  
Watercolors Spot & Stain Remover  
Wine Spot & Stain Remover  

If you need additional help, please contact Rug Doctor customer support

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Cleaning carpets

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Things to know before you begin.

Rug Doctor machines and cleaning products are safe for most carpets. However, you risk damage to carpets and hard floor surfaces not intended for the water-extraction method of cleaning. Do not use or place the Rug Doctor machine or cleaning products on:

  • Natural fiber oriental rugs (silk or wool)
  • Hand-loomed wool rugs
  • Braided rugs
  • Sisal or jute carpets
  • Hardwood or laminate floorings

Some stains require professional treatment.

Use cool water when cleaning wool.

Prepare your carpet for cleaning.

1. For an optimal clean, move furniture to the center of the room. You will work from the perimeter into the center of the room. Clean the perimeter first, move furniture back into place and clean the center of the room. For best results, remove furniture from the treated room until carpets are fully dried.

2. Using a normal dry vacuum cleaner, vacuum the area you want to clean to remove loose dirt before using the Rug Doctor machine.

3. Pre-treat any special problem areas with the appropriate Rug Doctor cleaning products.

Setting up the Rug Doctor machine.

4. Depending on how dirty your carpets are, mix 2 to 4 ounces of Rug Doctor carpet cleaning solution per gallon of hot tap water in a clean bucket. Water should not be so hot as to scald or burn skin. The Mighty Pro tank capacity is a little over 2 gallons and the Wide Track capacity is a little over 3½ gallons.

5. Lower the restraining wire and remove the white upper tank.

6. Fill the lower tank with the cleaning solution mixture by pouring it through the white filter screen. The machine is full when liquid covers half of the filter screen. Slip upper tank back in place and seal it securely by replacing restraining wire.

7. Check the back of machine to make sure both hose connections are secure. Test the brass "quick coupler" by gently pulling on the clear hose. If it is loose, connect securely.

8. Plug the power cord in and position the machine.

Cleaning your carpet.

9. Refer to the label on top of the machine and press the “ON” switch for carpet cleaning. For some machine types you may also need to press the “Vacuum ON” switch.

10. While pressing the red button on the handle, pull machine steadily backward in a straight line, keeping the vacuum slot against the carpet surface. You will begin to see dirty water entering the clear dome. If you don't, stop and refer to the Troubleshooting section. Note: On ordinarily or lightly soiled carpets, you can pull the machine quickly at one foot per second. For heavily soiled carpets, pull the machine slowly at approximately one foot per every two seconds.

11. Release the red button 6 to 12 inches before ending pass to stop cleaning solution spray. Tilt the machine back and move forward to position it for another cleaning pass. Overlap passes 2 inches to ensure even cleaning.

12. The tank is empty when you hear the machine sound change and dirty water stops entering the dome. Stop and empty the upper white tank and refill the lower tank. Continue cleaning.

Additional cleaning tips for carpet.

For ordinarily soiled carpets, Rug Doctor machines are designed to deep clean and extract in one cleaning pass. Your best choice for cleaning difficult spots, stains or traffic areas is to use the following Rug Doctor specialty products:

  • Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment
  • Spot & Stain Remover
  • Urine Eliminator
  • Odor Remover

Avoid over-wetting your carpet. Don't go over heavily soiled spots more than two times. Berber, multi-level or looped carpets retain more liquid. For these types of carpets, do not repeat cleaning passes. If additional cleaning is desired, allow carpets to dry before attempting to re-clean heavily soiled areas. For more information about cleaning Berber and other carpets that retain more liquid, go to Rug Doctor Pro Tips.

Overlap passes slightly to cover all areas. CAUTION: When pressing red button, keep machine moving so vibrating brush does not agitate in one place for too long.

You should recover ⅔ to ¾ tank of dirty water for each tank of clean water used, depending on your carpet type.

Open windows and doors, or turn on air conditioning or heat for faster drying. This is highly recommended when cleaning Berber carpets.

To prevent stains: If replacing furniture before carpet is completely dry, place aluminum foil under furniture legs.

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Cleaning upholstery

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Things to know before you begin.

Rug Doctor machines and cleaning products are safe for many fabrics, even delicate fibers. However, you risk damage to fabrics not intended for the water-extraction method of cleaning. Do not use or place the Rug Doctor machine or cleaning products on:

  • Silk
  • Haitian cotton
  • Velour
  • Brushed corduroy
  • Leather
  • Non-colorfast fabrics or upholstery fabric with cleaning codes S or X

Do not use Rug Doctor machines or attachments on mattresses or mattress toppers made with memory foam, foam or goose down.

Some stains require professional treatment. Use cool water when cleaning wool, wool blends or delicate fibers.

Some stains require professional treatment. Use cool water when cleaning wool, wool blends or delicate fibers.

Prepare your upholstery for cleaning.

1. Prepare surface for cleaning by thoroughly vacuuming or brushing. Set up the machine, directing your attention to the hose connections at the rear.

Setting up the Rug Doctor machine.

2. First, pull free the top portion of the large vacuum hose at the back of the machine. Then connect the top portion of the machine vacuum hose to the vacuum hose of the Utility Tool. Next, slide down the sleeve of the brass "quick coupler" on the machine and pull out the small solution hose. Slide down the coupler sleeve again to insert the metal end of the Utility Tool solution hose. Release the brass sleeve to secure. Tug gently on the hose to make certain the connection is complete.

3. Remove the upper white tank. Mix Rug Doctor Upholstery Cleaner with water in a clean bucket according to the label directions and pour into the lower tank. Slip upper tank back in place and seal it securely by replacing restraining wire.

4. Plug in the power cord and position the machine. Refer to the label on top of machine and press the “ON” switch for Utility Tool cleaning. On some machines you may also need to press an additional switch for “Vacuum ON.”

5. Test for colorfastness by first cleaning a small, hidden area, then rub the test area with a white paper towel. If no color appears, continue cleaning. A little color on the paper towel means there's some chance of color running.

Cleaning your upholstery.

6. Working at a slow, steady pace, begin cleaning by squeezing the Utility Tool lever as you pull the tool over the fabric. Overlap strokes slightly. Limit your total number of passes to avoid over-wetting. CAUTION: Do not depress the button on machine handle while using the hand tool.

7. When cleaning is complete, empty any remaining solution by disconnecting the Utility Tool hoses and holding the Utility Tool over a sink and depressing lever until hoses are empty.

8. With all switches OFF and the Utility Tool hoses disconnected, securely reconnect the machine vacuum and solution hoses before returning to rental location. NOTE: For velvet upholstery, fluff up damp pile with a soft brush or towel to keep from matting.

Click the button below for more information about how to use your Rug Doctor to clean upholstery.

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Rug Doctor pro tips

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Now that you have discovered the professional cleaning power of Rug Doctor carpet-cleaning and upholstery-cleaning machines and products, take your cleaning power to the next level. Rug Doctor's cleaning tips provide detailed information about how to approach and overcome specific cleaning challenges.

Check this section regularly or subscribe to receive notices about new professional carpet-cleaning tips . You can also always refer to Rug Doctor's stain guide for information about removing specific stains.

Cleaning Berber carpet.

As with most types of carpet, Berber's preferred method of cleaning is wet extraction. However, as a tightly woven looped carpet, Berber has a tendency to pass stains and spills deep into its fibers where the looped structure and tight weave can make them difficult to remove. Its structure also tends to make Berber retain moisture and take longer to dry. Despite this, by making only slight changes to the normal cleaning method, you can achieve professional-level results when you do it yourself using Rug Doctor.

Cleaning Berber carpets in three easy steps.

1. Clean with a Rug Doctor machine using only one cleaning pass while depressing the red button on the handle to release the solution. Move at a quick pace of about 2 feet per second.

2. Make a second pass without pressing the switch so that you are vacuuming-only over the cleaned area. This pass may be more effective when done at a right angle to the first. During both passes, be sure to keep the vacuum slot at the front bottom edge of the machine snug against the carpet. Berber's loops tend to have a bumpy texture that can cause the machine to bounce along the surface. This can make the vacuum less effective so it's important to make the second pass slowly while keeping the machine from bouncing.

3. Depending on the season, turn up the air conditioning or heat and use fans to accelerate drying. On dry, warm days you can open windows or doors to circulate air.

Avoid the temptation to make more than one cleaning pass.

Since it's best to clean Berber using only one pass, and since it tends to hold liquid more than most carpets, you might imagine that extracting stains is difficult. It's very tempting to try to take up spills or clean heavily soiled areas like traffic paths with repeated machine passes.

WARNING: Making multiple passes (except vacuum-only) is unwise because the more liquid you put down, the deeper Berber channels moisture—even into the pad. This is called over-wetting and the results from it can range from being left with a musty-smelling carpet from the trapped moisture to a wicking up of stains previously left so deep in the carpet that they literally come up from the backings and pad and become permanently trapped in the tips of the carpet fibers. The risk of this occurring is greater if you have not regularly deep-cleaned your Berber carpet.

Pre-treating problem areas and stains.

The best way to achieve professional results cleaning stained or high-traffic areas on Berber carpet is to use Rug Doctor's specialty products.

Pre-treat high-traffic areas with Rug Doctor's Hi-Traffic Pre-Treatment, which penetrates fibers to loosen the oily and embedded dirt that's tracked onto carpet from outdoors or kitchens. Follow with machine cleaning.

Rug Doctor's Spot & Stain Remover and Urine Eliminator can be sprayed on or applied by saturating a towel and transferring the product evenly over the stain to prevent "pour through" of the liquid to the backing. Apply a clean, dry towel to the spot and stand on it with your full weight to soak up as much of the stain as possible. Follow with machine cleaning.

These methods allow the problem areas to be prepared for removal by the machine so that one-pass cleaning can be more effective. In the case of Spot & Stain Remover and Urine Eliminator, you need not wait to rent or use a machine to effectively clean with them; they're excellent just by themselves.

If the machine cannot remove tough stains in one pass despite pre-treatment, allow the carpet to dry completely and re-clean rather than risk over-wetting.

Over-wetting concerns.

Preventing musty odors: Over-wetting Berber carpet can sometimes result in musty odors due to the carpet remaining damp for too long. If over-wetting occurs, your first step should be to try to remove as much moisture as possible by repeating vacuum-only passes. It's a good idea to rinse the dome filter of the machine (even if it doesn't look blocked) to maximize the machine's vacuum airflow. Then allow the carpet to dry thoroughly. If weather permits, open windows and doors to increase air circulation or use fans, heat or air conditioning to speed the drying process.

Rug Doctor machines have extremely powerful 1.9-horsepower vacuum motors and do an excellent job of removing liquid from carpets. However, if a musty smell develops, allow carpet to completely dry and re-clean using Rug Doctor Carpet Cleaner and Odor Remover combined in the machine. The active enzymes in Rug Doctor Odor Remover will attack and consume the odor at its source. Follow the instructions above to help accelerate drying.

Removing stains that wick up: Regardless of whether you're cleaning Berber or the more common cut-pile carpet, if over-wetting occurs, occasionally pet accidents you may have been unaware of or spills you once thought were gone can reappear due to wick-up. This is not the result of the machine malfunctioning, but the result of the stain not being thoroughly cleaned at the time it occurred.

Concentrated, large spills or pet accidents often pass straight through the carpet and settle deep into the backing and pad where they spread out and are especially tough to remove. When carpet is over-wet, these old spills will dissolve and wick up the carpet strands as it dries. Because the spill moves to the surface after the machine has cleaned the area, a concentration of the spill will remain on the top of carpet strands once the liquid has evaporated and become a stain.

If stains from wick-up are evident once the carpet has completely dried, there are two approaches you can take to cleaning. For a small area stain, spot treat using Urine Eliminator. This can be done with or without a follow-up machine-cleaning. For larger areas, you can choose to re-clean just using Rug Doctor Carpet Cleaner but make your cleaning passes faster than normal, about 1 to 2 feet per second, and use additional vacuuming-only passes.

Eliminating cat urine stains and odors.

When a cat urinates on carpet or upholstery, it leaves both a stain and an odor. To fix both, clean the area as soon as possible to prevent it from soaking through to the backing and pad below and to avoid any permanent bleaching. Pet urine stains can have a permanent bleaching effect on some types of carpet depending on how they are dyed. Disperse-dyed polyester, solution-dyed olefin or solution-dyed nylon generally do not bleach under these conditions.

Pet urine is more likely to have a bleaching effect on nylon carpets colored with acid dyes. Bleaching may actually not become apparent until the carpet is cleaned, at which point the carpet dyes previously released by the pet urine are removed and suddenly a light spot appears. This is generally more visible in darker carpets. To avoid bleaching, address the problem as soon as possible.

Once you identify the problem area, apply enough Rug Doctor Urine Eliminator to penetrate deep into the carpet and carpet padding. Urine Eliminator's enzymes seek out the source of the stain and odors and literally eliminate it. These enzymes need moisture to work, so place a damp cloth or towel over the treated area. Make sure it stays damp for 24 hours. Generally the stain and odor will be resolved after one treatment.

If the stain or odor persists, reapply using the same steps. It's important to be thorough in cleaning cat urine spots because the dissolved crystals may release the strong scent of feline pheromones (glandular secretions contained in the urine to mark the cat's territory). Partial cleaning can actually make the odor seem worse as the stain may wick up from the backing and re-crystallize on the carpet fiber tips. Look for urine stains on adjacent walls or furniture as well and make sure to clean these areas too.

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