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I have an old Rainbow brand dry/wet vacuum that my mom got at a yard sale, similar to this model. My family grew up with this kind of vacuum at home, and it was useful not only for typical carpet sweeping, but also for cleaning up wet messes.

This type of vacuum has a water-filled basin in the bottom to catch whatever gets sucked up.

My question is, can I use a cleaning solution plus this vacuum to shampoo my carpets similar to a Rug Doctor?

EDIT: More information: I'm hoping to clean our apartment's carpet of the dirt build-up from in front of where our couch was before we re-arranged the living room. There is a noticeably darker strip where our feet would sit. I don't think there are any tough stains that need extreme heat to break up, just dirt and a few water-soluble spills here and there.

Our apartment is tiny and only has three carpeted rooms, and only the living room gets regular shoe traffic, so it's the only room I'm thinking of doing this in.

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Theoretically it ought to be possible to combine a water-heating-and-spraying device with a shop vac to wind up with an equivalent of those machines. But I don't know of such an accessory device, and given safety concerns I wouldn't want to try homebrewing one. Depending on WHY you're shampooing the carpets, wet mop and shop vac might do the job... or a house-style vacuum head with a beater brush. –  keshlam Jun 17 '14 at 17:12

4 Answers 4

The Rug Doctor type of carpet cleaners heat up a relatively large amount of water to a very hot temperature, and spray it fairly evenly into the carpet along with the cleaning solution, then vacuum it back out. Although they are often referred to as "steam cleaners", the rental ones I have used don't actually produce steam, but very hot water (below the boiling point).

A wet vacuum like you indicate will do the last portion of vacuuming up the solution, but the missing piece will be the heating and spraying of the solution. I have definitely had carpet stains that no amount of spray-on cleaner (like "Resolve" spray) would remove, but the rental cleaner would. I believe it is the super hot water that makes the big difference.

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Having professionally cleaned carpet in the past, I have yet to see anything as effective as truck mounted machine. That being said, I would go the way you're thinking instead of renting or buying something like this.

As another answer stated, with a truck mounted machine, the water gets very hot, which is paramount for removing tough stains. If you just wanted merely to scrub the carpet by hand or some other means and vacuum up with the shop vac, that's certainly doable, provided you have the proper wet filters, and adequate power (suction) from your vac. I would do this for tough spots, even 12'x 12' rugs, but anything larger my efforts would outweigh the cost of paying for a truck mounted cleaner with an experienced person to do it.

That being said, I suppose a decent cleaner can be made at home with the proper materials. First, you'd need really hot water & soap, pressurized together. So, for that, a pressurized power washer like this should suffice. It would need to be able to take special detergent as well, I know that some power washers only handle 'approved' soaps.

You'll now need something with a lot of suction. Your shop vac may be up to the task, only you will know for certain. One thing I'll add to that is make sure your vac either has a big tank so you won't have to stop every 5 minutes to empty it, or you just open the outlet (if possible) and drain it out without it building up.

For brownie points, try fastening them together to create a contraption that looks like this

enter image description here

You got a trigger to control soap/water flow, with the outlet behind the vacuum head, and fastened into single wand for control.

Update

For a small strip such as in front of the couch, I would scrub, vac, repeat, maybe an hour tops.

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While useful information, I think this might be overkill for what I'm hoping to do. –  Martin Carney Jun 17 '14 at 17:53
    
@MartinCarney the trick is using very hot pressurized water, and having a strong enough suction to pull it back out the carpet, otherwise it will take forever to try, and still be slightly dirty. If you wanted to go all in/whole house, the wand certainly makes it easier ;) –  BigHomie Jun 17 '14 at 17:55
    
@MartinCarney updated. –  BigHomie Jun 17 '14 at 17:58
    
This is an issue of asking 'can I' when the right question is 'should I' or 'does it make sense to try this ...' You can but you will not be happy with the results. The others have the right ideas, for a pet 'accident', Resolve and a shop vac. For a body size area, rental unit (use powdered electric dishwasher detergent with 1/2 hotest water your heater provides and 1/2 almost boiling water from the stove, be careful of the hot water coming out of the machine, honestly.), for anything larger, write a check, sit back and watch someone else do the work for you. –  Some Guy Mar 22 at 23:31

I've used a shop vac and Resolve for spots, but it would be impractical for anything larger.

One thing that would be missing is the high-pressure water spray. I don't know how much of a difference that actually makes.

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Sears used to sell the "16927 carpet cleaning attachment set" for 54.98 (in the 1997-98 Craftsman tools catalog) which was basically an attachment set and 40 ft of braided vinyly hose, floor and upholstery tools, extension wands,water valve, faucet connectors and adapters, etc that basically turned your wet/dry vac into a carpet extractor machine.

Unfortunately it seems they no longer sell this but I have that catalog and that is the description... seems like someone ought to make it.

You can get a similar attachment alone (floor/carpet head) from Sears for about 12 bucks and it looks similar to the Rigid tool at Home Depot for about 15 bucks.

A good wet/dry vac works well.... I'm using my old Craftsman to do my carpets because my Bissell all of a sudden won't spray solution anymore (it would and then it won't, LOL) I think it has an air leak in the lines somewhere as I've checked all the "o" rings and other seals... it will shoot a bit and then quit.

SO.... I've just been using a garden sprinkler can for my solution and then water. You can find good home-brew carpet solutions made from Tide/vinegar/ammonia/water or clear dish soap instead of Tide... some people use just vinegar and water if they don't like the chemicals.... for extraction I find a splash of Tide (maybe 3 oz or so) and a glug of vinegar (maybe 3 oz or so) to about a gallon and a half of warm tap water works great. I'm spot treating with Folex and/or Zep high-traffic carpet cleaner but a good substitute for the Folex is 1 quart water, 3 oz vinegar, 3 oz ammonia, 6 oz tide or clear dish soap (actually works better than Folex, seriously)you can leave the ammonia out if you have cats as they will take the odor of the ammonia as urine and to mean it's OK to use the carpet as a cat box, I hear on the 'net.

The Zep has enzymes so I spray a little spot cleaner on the spots (Folex or the home-brew) then mist the worst or the area with a pump-sray bottle.... liightly rub the surface with my hand just to spread it a bit, then soak (sprinkle) the area with the sprinkler can (with the diluted home-brew, mostly water with tide and vinegar), rub by hand again (lightly, just to spread again, then vac it all up....works great.

For general large area cleaning you can use the home-brew and sprinkler can and vac up immediately. I bet you can get good results with a 3-gallon garden pump sprayer if you don't want to get the carpet so soaked but my big wet vac pulls it up pretty good..... remember to let it get some air flow and I use the 6-inch gulper nozzle for most of the cleaning... you can actually pull up the carpet a bit and pull a lot of air through the backing and all. I use the car attachment (similar to the crevice tool) for spot cleaning or smaller areas (like next to walls or door jambs) but the crevice tool might work as well other than being a bit more awkward.

The only problem with soaking with a sprinkler can is you can "wick up" some dirt from the backing but if you're soaking well you'll pull it all out, otherwise you'll have to hit it again. A 3 gallon pump sprayer might let you just wet the nap without soaking all the way to the backing so you can just clean the top which will also allow for faster drying... although I'm not having any problem with it, only taking slightly longer than an extraction machine (although I suspect if I soaked it that much with an extraction machine it would take about the same amount of drying time.... Just make sure that if you have puddling under the carpet, which you can feel "gulping" up the hose/wand, to keep gulping that area until you don't feel the water coursing through the wand anymore in that area (otherwise it will take way to long to dry)... then just keep pulling the gulper attachment along as usual. the top will be damp but will dry in a few hours I use a fan to speed it up, you can also use the a/c to pull water out of the air and speed drying.

I'm using a 2.5 HP, 8 gallon, 2 1/2 inch hose Sears wet/dry vac I got in the '80s... I bet one of the newer 5 HP models would work really well but I'm getting great results.

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