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(Pocket-lint) - Carpet cleaning is one of those things that you probably only think about doing when you are moving into a new house. When you think of carpet cleaning you probably think about Vax, so we put their Dual V carpet cleaner to the test.

If you've watched TV in the last 5 years, you've probably seen Kim and Aggie on "How Clean Is Your House?" It's a chance for us all to peer into filthy houses and feel smug. After all, your carpets are relatively clean aren't they? We thought so, until we put them up against the Vax Dual V.

There is a scene in "How Clean Is Your House?" where Kim will present a bucket of filthy brown water, along with a comment like "we took 55 of these out of your carpet, you filthy beggar" and a stern finger-wagging. Much to our surprise, we managed to draw a similar level of filth from a seemingly-clean carpet.

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That's a frightening thought isn't it? Okay, there is a toddler and a cat living in our test house, but the carpets are only 4 years old and look, to the naked eye, to be fairly clean. We're not talking super clean and who wants to be super clean - a bit of dirt helps give you an immune system worth having.

At £329.99, the Vax Dual V is probably one domestic appliance you'll opt to live without, especially considering that it is only a cleaning machine. It doesn't work as a dry vacuum cleaner, so that price is on top of your regular Dyson (or even Vax) vacuum cleaner. Obviously, price is going to be a barrier to ownership here.

It's a large lump, consisting of two tanks, one for warm clean water, and a second for the recovered dirty water. On the side of the clean water tank is a reservoir for the cleaning solution. The Dual V auto-dispenses this, so you don't have to worry about measuring it out, you just fill up the tanks and off you go.

The Dual V is an upright cleaner, with five rotating brushes on the bottom that scrub the carpet as you move over it. There is a trigger mounted in the handle which you squeeze to wash the carpet. This releases the water and detergent to scrub out the filth. The water is heated too as it passes through the brushes, so it can better break down grime.

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Of course, the Vax is about removing filth, so the suction is the more important element. Whilst the Dual V is on, the suction is working. As you pass over the carpet, the cleaning happens behind the suction channels, so you don't immediately pickup the solution you've just laid down. As you pull the machine back over the wet area, it sucks the water back in, again, blasting heated air out to speed up drying times. The cylinders are all clear, so you can see the filthy water rushing back into the bottom tank.

Using a method of a couple of wet strokes followed by a number of dry strokes, you'll find that the carpet will be left only slightly damp. If you do too few dry strokes, or too many wet strokes, you'll have a sopping wet carpet. We cleaned a carpet a couple of times in a "high traffic" area and were pleased with the results. Not only is the carpet cleaner to look at, but the fibres are lifted and it looks newer.

There are two modes on the Dual V,; a wash mode and a rinse mode. The rinsing is recommended to remove any residue left over from the cleaning solution. We tried both methods in different carpeted rooms: a straight wash and a wash and rinse. The rinsed carpet came up better; it was softer underfoot following the process, whereas the wash only carpet was a little stiffer.

The Dual V is surprisingly good at collecting the liquid back out of the carpet. It will still be damp, but only so damp that it will need a couple of hours to air dry. The cleaning solution left a slight odour, but it was a clean smell and nothing anyone would complain about.

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At first the Dual V does look rather daunting, but it is easy to use and we were up and running within a few minutes. You do need to top-up the clean water and empty the dirty water as you go, and we found that a lint trap needed to be cleared on each empty - cat hair that our normal vacuum hadn't picked up.

There are a range of tools that come with the Dual V too. A hose attachment can be used for cleaning furniture or the stairs, with the choice of a SpinScrub attachment or straight sprayer and sucker. This gives you more flexibility as to where you clean and is easy enough to use, but be warned that the spray is wider than the nozzle, so don't get too close to surrounding areas or you'll find everything gets soaked.

When using the hose it is important that the bottom of the Dual V can draw air in. We initially had it standing on a newspaper, which restricted to airflow which meant it didn't suck up the liquid we had dispensed.

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In performance we were happy that the Dual V did what it said on the box, but it won't perform miracles. On everyday dirt it was really effective, but you might need to treat dirty areas before you start cleaning, or use the SpinScrub tool to target that area specifically. On our test carpets it handily cleaned out an old patch of spilt tea, but had no impact on a rust stain. The general rule seems to be that if you can scrub it out by hand, the Dual V will probably do it. If a stain persists after scrubbing with a brush, the Dual V won't shift it.

It is a big cleaning appliance, so storage is going to be a consideration for the Dual V as well as the price - it might be for those occasional cleaning jobs that you would be better off hiring a cleaner from your local DIY store. Tackling a carpet cleaning job is much easier if you have plenty of space, because with a device this big, you really need to do the whole room, not just one corner. We found that the straight sucking tool was better than the SpinScrub tool, so we ended up using a combination of both when cleaning furniture, but these tools will also let you attack smaller areas.

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One thing the Dual V is really good at is picking up spills - so if someone throws a cup of coffee all over your carpet, you can at least draw most of it out, without having to resort to heaps of paper towels.


One word of warning though. We found that the Dual V would occasionally dribble at the end of a cleaning job, so it is useful to have somewhere to park it when you are going to turn it off (some of the soiled water will drain down the suction paths) - hence the newspaper in our tests.

One thing that might be a consideration when you are looking to buy a carpet cleaner is that the Dual V comes with a 6-year guarantee. This isn't a flash-in-the-pan impulse buy; it's part of the long game.

If you have a house full of kids and animals and want to keep your carpets in a cleaner state than you can currently manage, then the Vax Dual V is easy to use and seems to cope well with the job - but you will have to consider the cost over occasionally hiring a carpet cleaner and have somewhere large enough to store it. 

Writing by Chris Hall. Originally published on 10 May 2010.