I get it: you just got off the phone with 10 carpet cleaning companies that all quoted you at least $250 to clean a few rooms in your home. So you think, “Hey, I’ll just do it myself!”
That means you need to rent a carpet cleaner. The question is, how well do rental carpet cleaning machines work? In our view, although they are useful for some situations, generally they’re a poor option for cleaning a large area of carpet, or multiple rooms.
"It couldn't be that hard, could it?” say the do-it-yourselfers. “I mean, all you do is spray some water and soap down, suck it up, and BOOM, the carpets are fresh, clean and odor free!"
To be fair, I think it's a great idea for everyone to own some type of home carpet extraction machine or use a rental carpet cleaner once in a while. They are useful for cleaning up spots and spills as they occur. But in our opinion, that's all they're good for.
The limitations of rental carpet cleaners
These machines are powered by a standard electrical outlet, which means they are limited to 15 amps (a traditional electrical outlet breaks at 15 amps). Most portable machines are about 12-13 amps, or approximately 1.5 horsepower.
Compare that with what the experts use: a good professional truck-mounted carpet machine ranges from 20-40 horsepower!
As a result of that limited power, the vacuum in a rental cleaner suffers. A certain rental machine that will go unnamed, but rhymes with Bug Toctor, claims to have a 108" water lift. Now, that probably won’t mean much to you – but as a professional carpet cleaner, I can tell you that this is not something to brag about. I honestly doubt it will even perform at that level, anyway due to the fact that the machine is used and probably has loose or broken fittings and seals all over the place.
It's like a car manufacturer saying that the car gets 30 MPG. Those tests are done in ideal conditions. We all know we’ll never get that kind of mileage after we purchase the vehicle.
This same unit is supposed to spray water at a max of 35 PSI. Again, not something to brag about. But honestly, because of the poor vacuum, 35 PSI might be a good idea: the less water sprayed into the carpet, the better, because the machine won’t be able to vacuum that water out very well anyway.
A professional carpet cleaner will set their machine’s PSI somewhere in the range of 200-350. This higher PSI helps to blast out spots, spills, or food trapped in the carpet.
Again, the same rental machine has a recovery (waste) tank with a 4.8-gallon capacity, a 3.7-gallon fresh water tank, and sprays water at a rate of .85 gallons per minute.
So that means that you'll run out of water in just over three minutes! Granted, you won’t necessarily be constantly spraying. You'll be moving the machine around a bit. But because you have to go so slowly with these machines, you could easily need to fill up – and also run out of water – in less than 10 minutes.
That means you have to stop, turn off the machine, fill up a bucketful of hot water, and pour the fresh water into the machine. This might take 5 minutes. It would probably be a good idea to empty the machine every time you run out of water, too.
In light of the fact that you’ll constantly have to fill up with fresh water, empty the dirty water and go so slowly, it could easily take 30 minutes to clean one room And the results can be disappointing.
So much of carpet cleaning is experience. I've stated this in other posts, but a good carpet cleaner with a mediocre machine can do a far better job than an inexperienced carpet cleaner with the biggest and baddest carpet cleaning truck-mount.
You're inexperienced, and you're using a used rental carpet machine with severe limitations. So just keep that in mind when you set expectations.