Rug Doctor carpet cleaner machine, $25.

It's only a matter of time before you run across one of these little red Rug Doctor carpet shampoo machines, because many home-improvement stores across the country rent them. The reason they end up at yard sales is because someone didn't return the machine they rented. I'd have a hard time selling stuff that I knew wasn't mine to sell!

If you visit the Rug Doctor website, you'll notice that their machines are indeed available for outright sale to the public - and they're blue, not red. I'd bet that a zillion of the red machines get rented for every blue one that the company sells. I say this because although I've run across numerous red ones at yard sales, flea markets and auctions, I've yet to see a single blue one.

Several years ago, I listed one of these red Rug Doctors on eBay, and got an email from a guy who worked for Rug Doctor loss prevention. He told me that they wanted their machine back. I asked him what the heck he was talking about, and he explained the situation. Each of their rental machines is plainly marked on the top that they're 'property of Rug Doctor,' and an 800 number is also listed. A reward is also mentioned, but I don't know how much it is. I know now only because I've seen the machines for rent at my local home improvement store. The machine I had listed on eBay had all this info scraped off by a previous 'owner.' I ended up dropping the machine off at a local hardware store that rented Rug Doctor machines. Interestingly, I never heard a word back from the loss prevention guy after his initial email!

After I got the email from the Rug Doctor loss prevention guy, I had the local police come out and run the serial number on the machine to see if it had been entered into the national police teletype system as stolen. In other words, had Rug Doctor - or the store from where this machine was rented and not returned - filed a theft report on it? You'd think they would have, wouldn't you? But there was no report filed, which I suppose meant that I could have legally sold it on eBay.

But what the heck. There's plenty of stuff floating around out there to sell, without having to resort to unethical means. Anyway, here's a little info on these machines in case you're interested.

The Rug Doctor carpet cleaner is known as an extraction machine, because it injects the cleaning solution down into the carpet, and then sucks it back out - extracts it - along with all the dirt. The Rug Doctor boasts one of the highest extraction rates in the industry, extracting over 80% of the cleaner that gets injected down into the carpet. This is important because the more solution you can extract, the more dirt you’ll remove along with that solution. The Rug Doctor even heats its water for better cleaning, and to aid in the cleaning process, there's a brush that moves back and forth across the pile of the rug.

Everything about the Rug Doctor says industrial, and you should learn to spot this industrial look, because industrial often means expensive to produce, which translates to more eBay profits. Notice the squat, unflattering look, the nondescript colors, the heavy nylon construction and the heavy duty controls. Contrast all this to the glitzy look characteristic of the consumer models you're likely to find at your local Walmart. But unlike the glitzy models, the Rug Doctor was built to work all day, every day. Until it's stolen, of course.

Notice the little mesh bag hanging on the back of the shampooer, which contains the hose and attachments for cleaning upholstery. Not all Rug Doctor shampooers are configured to accept the upholstery attachment, and the ones that are sell for more than those that aren't.

So there you have it. You should also note that parts and pieces to these machines sell well on eBay, as do machines that aren't in working condition. There are people on eBay who fix these machines, and are just waiting for a specific part, a parts machine, or a machine they can repair.

Photo of Rug Doctor carpet extractor cleaning machine