Carpet cleaners, at-home vs. professional

March 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Americans spent more than three billion dollars in just one year on professional carpet and upholstery cleaning. But you can save a lot of money if you want to tackle the task on your own. Getting carpeting cleaned can really brighten up a home. This professional cleaner says his customers are often really impressed.

"You see a big difference. When we're finished, you see a big difference. You know, it's like new," Professional carpet cleaner Navin Jawahir said.

Consumer reports just tested eight carpet-cleaning machines from Bissell and Hoover. Prices ranged from $80 to $400. Testers also evaluated a rental machine. And for comparison, they hired a professional service, too.

Testing carpet-cleaning machines is a dirty job. First testers evenly spread a measured amount of topsoil over the carpet. Next, they spray it with water, and then use a heavy roller to press in the dirt - much like foot traffic does.

Testers then vacuum the dried dirt and use this device, a colorimeter, to measure the amount left on each rug.

Now it's time to put the carpet-cleaning machines to work.

Each one passes over the soiled area 20 times.

Last step, the colorimeter measures the difference. Some results were clearly better.

"No home machines or rented ones did as good a job cleaning as the professional service. You can really see the difference when comparing the professional cleaning to the lowest scoring carpet cleaner, the 80-dollar Bissell QuickSteamer 1770," Emilio Gonzalez said.

But nevertheless, consumer reports did find a carpet cleaner that delivered very good results.

It's the Hoover Dual Steam Vac all terrain with spin scrub brushes. It costs $270, not inexpensive, but just a fraction of what you'd pay for professional cleaning jobs.

Consumer reports also tested cleaning solutions and spot cleaners.

For carpet-cleaning machines, if a cleaning solution is not specified, try the top-rated fresh solutions allergen complete cleaner. It costs about $17.