this thing's incredible

This Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner Got Years of Dirt and Dog Vomit Out of My Rugs and Couches

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

My three area rugs, three couches, and two carpeted bedrooms were past due for a cleaning long before the pandemic even started, so after a year and a half of binge-watching, binge-snacking, and binge-pacing back and forth, they were shamefully gross. Then the world started reopening, life bloomed again, and my mother-in-law was coming to stay for a week. Private filth is one thing; filth before your husband’s mother is quite another.

So I faced the big question: Hire professional cleaners, or do it myself? What a lonely, dispiriting endeavor finding the answer turned out to be! The more research I did, the less I understood. Reading some good advice would have spared me so much agony when I was out there, so I write this ode not merely to exalt the Bissell Proheat 2x Lift Off Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner, which deserves all the exaltation I can give it, but as a public service to you, my fellow textile-haver.

But let’s first examine the two main options. Professional carpet cleaners think this can only be done by them. Makers of home machines think you can do it yourself. (Renting ceased to be an option once I saw the size of the machine and the distance I’d have to lug it from and to the store.) Professionals come one time. They give you a price estimate which can change for any number of reasons any number of times after they’ve started cleaning. They might do a good job, or they might not, but you have the option of not hiring them again. A machine is yours to keep. It costs a finite amount of money. It might do a good job, or it might not, but if it doesn’t, you’re stuck with a shameful, bulky reminder of your folly.

Like any desperate person, I went to Yelp. After one innocent inquiry (never do this), I was swarmed with estimates from about 30 companies. The cheapest ones had the worst reviews; the more expensive had more variables. They needed to know the exact sizes of the exact things to be cleaned and there was a lot of talk about how various fibers and “the number and type of pet stains” would influence the final price. One place even floated the possibility that some stuff might have to be sent out for a “facility clean.” I’m sure my fibers are ordinary, and my dog is the bestest boy in the world and would never dream of relieving himself in the house, but he does like to furiously lap coffee when no one’s looking and then vomit it onto the same spot of my new living-room rug. I don’t know what type of stain happens when espresso roast commingles with an Italian greyhound’s digestive juices, but no matter how well you scrub it, it rises like a phoenix again and again. It could definitely use a facility clean.

So I looked into home machines. Without boring you with a bunch of specs, I’ll simply say that amps, brush rows, tank size, cord length, hose length, onboard tools, and lightness are all determiners of price, and that a decent one needs to be about $300 — still less than all the pros who seemed to be telling the truth. The Bissell Proheat 2x Lift Off ticked all the boxes, but ultimately I pulled the trigger on it because every Bissell purchase helps save homeless pets. I figured if I was going to gamble, at least someone would win. (The company also makes a “Pet” version, which, from what I understand, is better for people with lots of pet hair and pet-accident stains. Other than that, I think they’re the same.)

At the risk of sounding pathetic, I can report that buying the Bissell Proheat 2x Lift Off was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. After filling the (totally large enough) tank with water and the restrained yet pleasant-smelling cleaner, (buy extra; it only comes with a trial size), I glided the sleek, light machine across the carpets and couches and marveled as stream after black stream of dirty liquid bloomed in the canister like so much squid ink. Not only did it clean as well as the pros for a lot less money — the vomit stain has not returned — the Bissell is mine to keep and use to my heart’s delight. (Throw pillows? Let’s party!) And though I’m not expecting any more visitors or global pandemics and, ironically, my dog has since learned to hold his coffee, it’s nice to know I now have the power to suck it all up.

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This Cleaner Got Years of Dirt out of My Rugs and Couches