My Love Hate Relationship with Carpet


Never in my wildest imagination could I have predicted the response I would get to the column I wrote about the best thing I ever bought—a carpet cleaning machine. Trust me, it’s not just any carpet cleaner. My machine has a solid tank for hot water, not simply a “bladder.” Please, please do not do what I do if you have any other kind of carpet cleaning machine. You could ruin your machine and then I would feel terrible.

I’ve had so many letters about the challenges of cleaning carpet I think we have sufficient numbers to start a Carpet Anonymous group and also a Hoover Fan Club. And now I have more to tell you.

When we remodeled our home we replaced some of the carpet with hardwood. What a revelation. Now I could see the dirt and dust and honestly, I couldn’t believe what accumulated in such a short time on those wood floors. Of course I never saw it on the carpet, but have no doubt that it was there all along.

On the one hand I love carpet for the warm, cozy way it can make a room feel, especially in a bedroom. But the thought of what’s in it gives me a slightly creepy feeling. I used to think that weekly vacuuming was sufficient. Now I’m not so sure.

And what about those stains? On the wood, I wipe up spills instantly. But stains or spills on the carpet? Aha. That’s where my best purchase ever comes in. I may not vacuum daily, but I can promise you there are no stains in my carpet and no dirty paths either.

The machine I love and use at least as often as I use my quite amazing vacuum is my Hoover Steam Vac. This thing is totally amazing because it has a big, strong tank for the clean water and another for the dirty. And it is so affordable—far less than the cost of one visit from a professional carpet cleaner.

Here is my carpet cleaning routine:

First I treat stains as soon as possible with Spot Shot. Then I pull out Hoover. The instructions say to fill the tank with hot water from the tap. I take it a step further. I carefully pour in boiling water. Yes I said it. Boiling water. I do not use any carpet detergent or soap whatsoever. Only boiling water. There is some detergent in the spot treatment which is all that I find necessary.

Going over the area with Hoover until the water coming back up into the machine appears soap free and clean, I get to watch the stains and dirt disappear. And the areas that are not particularly stained—only dusty and generally dirty—the really hot water does a great job. I know because I see the soiled water going back into the dirty water tank. In a way it’s like I’m damp mopping my carpet the way I damp mop the wood floors. It is so gratifying it’s almost fun. Almost.

Because I’m using hot water and Hoover is so good at extracting nearly all of the water I put down, it dries quickly.

The carpet in my home is very light colored and about 12 years old. It still looks fantastic, if I do say so myself, with no dirty paths or stains. I can’t take the credit here. I owe it all to my beloved and faithful friend, Hoover!

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15 replies
  1. Paul Brown
    Paul Brown says:

    Like others even I am skeptical about using boiling water. I made my own carpet cleaning solution with two quarts warm water and a drop of biodegradable cleaner. I poured it into my steam cleaner and cleaned the carpet. It looked as good as new.

  2. Mary
    Mary says:

    Yes, I agree with the folks who say to use very hot but not boiling water.I tried the machine Mary recommended and after the third use the valves in both tanks wouldn’t open and close properly which meant that once you squeezed the handle to release the boiling water, it didn’t close and the entire tankful emptied onto the carpet immediately. Luckily, it was less than one month old and I could return it for a new one.

  3. ShirleyT
    ShirleyT says:

    I just bought the Hoover Vac. I got it from Wal-Mart with a 2 year replacement plan for a total of 168.09, from Amazon its 178.68. Mary I hope you checked this out before posting this, if not you might have a lot of angry followers. I know you have posted this about 3 times now, so lets hope it works…will let you know.

  4. Anne
    Anne says:

    I bought a new Hoover Steam Vac recently as my 30+year-old one was held together with “spit and bailing wire”, actually, duct tape. It wasn’t dong a bad job using Mary’s guidelines, not using boiling but very hot water. The new one sure is nice. Not using the soap does keep from leaving residue in the carpet and it is much cleaner. I’ve been using Spot Shot for a long time based on a friend’s recommendation and my rotten little dog. Nok-Out is another great product and their new rug cleaner does a great job when Elvira has an accident, cleans and deodorizes in one shot. I use the Bissell Green Machine for this type of spot cleaning and it has paid for itself many times over. I am keeping the machine in the garage now, covered, because at 77 it was getting too hard to bring up from the basement. Only three steps up now instead of a full flight.

    • Ann
      Ann says:

      My very small town single -proprietor
      used vacuum
      store owner said, “You want a Hoover!”.
      I bought a Hoover Steam vac. Looks like the picture Mary posted, slighly
      different model. Has upholstry attachment. Yea!
      He demonstsrated one, and when it got problematic,
      he upgraded me and thoroughly checked out and cleaned
      the better model with me by his side,
      for same price…$80.
      Heats it’s own water, so…”12 amp spin scrub (but you can turn the brushes off)
      “heated cleaning”.
      I also buy my other appliances from my single proprietor W/D/fridge guy.
      Neither of these stores take credit cards or checks, so I have
      to save up, but they have been in business for a very long time (30+ years).
      The appliances last about 8-10years, sometimes more.
      But I don’t have to go into debt for them.
      If you are very young, you can think that you want something to last,
      and you can pay on time, if you’re old, you want it to last so you won’t have to drag it out of your house by yourself when you’re 85 y.o.
      or pay for that, so, it’s up to your individual situation: pay to have it
      hauled or pay for longer lasting stuff…I go for less debt, but
      I struggle with the decision!
      Ann NC

  5. Judi James Merrow
    Judi James Merrow says:

    i bought one on your advice. It is still in the box Hope to use it within the next couple of weeks. Hope it works as good as you say Mary. Had to order it from Amazon Canada and it was more then your price.

  6. 2tiredmom
    2tiredmom says:

    Got a bonus from work and bought myself a Rug Doctor. It even came with an attachment for upholstered furniture. Best purchase I ever made. It was a large expenditure at the beginning but my whole family has used to clean rugs and furniture. Works great. Also they sell a great spot remover that you don’t need the machine to use.

  7. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Be careful using boiling water. I usually love Mary’s tips and was very excited about this one (what a great idea!) but when I tried it, it ruined my carpet cleaner, even though my cleaner did have a solid tank for hot water.

    • Dee
      Dee says:

      Boiling water was not a good idea after all. Our Hoover no longer holds water but leaks all over. I did get 6 years of infrequent use out of it, but I think if I stuck to the manufacturer recommendations it would still be working.
      The warranty was only a 2 year limited warranty. Use boiling water at your own risk!

  8. DianaB
    DianaB says:

    This is not the first time Mary has recommended boiling water for carpet cleaning. I am not sure all carpet can withstand that kind of heat. Depends on what the carpet is made from. I think when the directions tell you something about the temperature of the water you should believe them. They are there for a reason. Of course, boiling water may not even be good for the shampooer as in the post from Linda, as it could damage the machine. Then your warranty is screwed because you did not follow directions. Too much money to waste on trying out the boiling water thing. Just my opinion.

    Also, no one has mentioned just how heavy this thing is. I have a shampooer that I don’t use near often enough because the bugger is just plain heavy to lug around sometimes since I am now somewhat older (71). I am thinking of getting a Shark.

  9. Kim
    Kim says:

    I’m totally with you. I’d love to have hard surface floors through out the entire house. We pretty much do downstairs. The last house I had laminate floors installed through out. The problem with that was it was extremely loud. Thanks for the advice on the carpet cleaning. I did buy the unit but still need to use it.

  10. Suzanne
    Suzanne says:

    I bought the Shark vac last week and LOVE it. I ordered the Hoover Steam vac yesterday. Can’t wait to get it. Thanks, Mary, for your recommendations.

  11. Linda
    Linda says:

    I really like my Hoover Steam Vac, too. Its directions say not to use water that is over 140 degrees. I tried the boiling water and my machine lost its suction (had to buy a new one), so travel at your own risk with that! The steam vac has a set of brushes that are designed for hard surfaces.


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