Thursday, September 3, 2015

How To Fix Nozzle Problems On Rug Doctor Portable Spot Remover

It only took a quick Google search to realize that average users weren't taking apart this machine. But the nozzle was clogged, and I have 4 dogs. My machine was also about 2 months old--too late to return it to Amazon. I could see a couple reviews where people said that Rug Doctor wasn't very responsive.

Did I mention that I have 4 dogs? I really needed to clean up a few spots, and failure was not an option.

The Problem

The nozzle on my Rug Doctor Portable Spot Cleaner was clogged. Pressing the trigger with the unit on gave me two tiny streams shooting out left and right, about half a foot from where the brush head is expecting to pick up that water.

My brother suggested running just a tank of plain hot water through it. This didn't do much. It was obvious there was something clogging the nozzle. I'm handy with a screwdriver, no problem, right? Wrong. This project only took 3 hours total, but I can strip down a Hoover Steam Vac and rebuild it top-to-bottom in about an hour, just because it's easy to work on.

This unit ... is not easy to work on. I would place this end towards the upper end of difficulty of all the appliances I've fixed. Years ago I had a Mercedes, and it was so complex that it always gave me the feeling that I wasn't qualified to operate it--this Rug Doctor gives me the same feeling. This is a precise machine.

If you are handy with a screwdriver and have OCD about putting things back together, it is entirely possible for the average person to take about the brush unit to service the few servicable parts in there, like the clean fluid switch and the spray nozzle.

The Solution

Since the nozzle doesn't easily come out, I had to disassemble the brush unit to get to it so I could poke out whatever was clogging it from the other side with a needle. I originally thought about poking the needle through without taking it apart, but it seemed like if there was debris clogging the nozzle, pushing it in wouldn't stop it from needing to come out. No, I needed to be on the other size of it.

Note that the nozzle probably should've been replaced, since clearing it with a needle bored it out, and now the nozzle sprays a little wider than the head.

Disassembly Notes

Since this was my first time taking this apart and I had no manual, I have no idea if there is an easier way to do this. From looking at this unit disassembled for a few days and studying it, I'm pretty sure that the entire unit needs to come apart to take out the nozzle or do basically anything to the internals. But I could be wrong, and I'm about as far away from being an authorized repair of these machines as someone can be.

Also, there seem to my old eyes to be two lengths of screws, with one being slightly smaller. So pay attention and make sure you put the smaller ones back where they belong.

The terminology I'm using could be all wrong, too. I've never taken a unit quite like this apart before, so I could be naming everything incorrectly. As the kids would say, I'm a Rug Doctor Noob.

Head Construction

The brush head unit has the sprayer, brushes and brush agitator motor, spray nozzle, and finally, it also picks up the dirty water. This makes it real easy on the user, who just has to pull the trigger and drag the head along.

There's basically 4 pieces holding this thing together: the brushes and three red plastic shells. The unit has kind of a main back plate where the two sides attach, forming a plastic cage that holds the agitator motor in place.

Preparing For The Job

You'll probably want a small zip-lock sandwich baggy to hold the small parts while you are working on the unit. You will also want a good quality Phillips screwdriver so you don't strip the screws, because they are cheap screws.


Step 1 - Diassembly Of Brush Head

1. Take off brushes

First you want to take off what I am calling the brush block. There are two screws on the brush block itself that hold it in, including the agitator brush. If I remember, the top screw was a little smaller, so pay attention.

At this point the brush block should slide right out as two pieces.

2. Take out all the screws

What I did was took out every single screw at that point. It might be possible to take off just the side with the nozzle on it. Under the spray trigger, it says "SOAP" and you might try taking off all the screws on the side that says "SO" on it.

But again, I just took all the screws out and let everything just kind of fall into its component pieces on the counter.

3. Catch the spring

There is a spring which gives the spray trigger a nice, tactile feel to it. You'll want to catch that spring and put it in your parts baggy.

4. Catch the trigger

The spray trigger will probably fall off when the head is opened, so make sure to capture it an put it in the parts baggy.

5. Separate the two halves

At this point you should have both halves of the unit's shell separated, with the agitator unit laying on the back plate--the third piece of the shell.


Step 2 - Take The Spray Nozzle Off

The spray nozzle should be dangling there once you have the two sides apart. It's held on by a little zip tie. I didn't want to risk cutting the spray hose, so I just slid the zip tie off, and it worked!

At this point you should be holding the grey spray nozzle in your hand.


Step 3 - Fix Or Replace Nozzle

Where, oh where did I go wrong? I only used clean, hot, tap water with store bought cleaning solution. I wasn't abusive to the unit at all. At this point I'm almost convinced that it had some debris in it from the factory.

I fixed my spray nozzle by putting a needle through it from a cheap sewing kit I had. Putting the needle through it, I could feel gritty stuff in it, and afterwards, when I tested it, my little Rug Doctor now lays down almost double the water it did on the day I first used it.

The only way to know for sure that whatever you did to the nozzle will work, is by putting it back together and seeing for yourself. Since this thing is a hassle to put back together, it might be feasible to just replace the nozzle.

Step 4 - Reassemble Unit


1. Re-attach the sprayer nozzle

I didn't replace the zip tie on mine, but if you do, know that the nozzle is keyed to the "SO" half of the unit. You won't be able to twist the sprayer hose, so make sure the nozzle is oriented right before you make it too tight to turn.

2. Attach the "SO" half of shell

At least this is how I started to reassemble everything. I first put the screw in the bottom just to help, hold it together. And then I put in the two screws for the "SO" half of the brush agitator unit. The agitator is very picky how it goes on, and it took me a while to decide on this as the first step of putting the shell back together.

3. Put the screws back in "SO" half of shell

Take note to put the screws back in the right places.

3. Attach the "AP" half of the shell

This is the hard part. First I put in the grey sprayer trigger. That's the easy part. Next, the sprayer switch has two little holes that have to slide onto the shell. But there's not much slack in the wires, so once you attach the switch, you have to do the rest while trying to keep everything from falling apart.

If everything goes well, put the spring onto the sprayer trigger, letting it lay on its side so it doesn't fall out while you fumble with the rest.

Now, if all that isn't enough, the shell is very picky about how it snaps together. The agitator makes it even worse because it is also picky.

If all goes well, the other half of the shell snaps into place with no gaps anywhere. If you have gaps in the brush unit, then you did something wrong.

4. Test the spray trigger feel

Before you put the screws back in and pat yourself on the back, test the trigger to make sure it has the right feel to it. If you messed up with the trigger spring, you will know it.

5. Put the screws back in

Put the screws back in the "AP" half of the shell. There's a couple small ones, but the lengths are so close, I'm not convinced it really matters which screws go where, but don't quote me on that. I did look at the attachment points for every screw, and as far as I could tell, the shorter ones were just a couple places they could save .00001 cents using less steel.

4. Attach the brush block

This is the easy part. Put the thin part that agitates into the holes in the agitator unit. You can move the white plastic agitator to line the holes up if you need to. The brush should just fit right in.

Now just put the rest of the brush block back on. It should just slide right into place without any fuss.


Step 5 - Test your work

As a computer engineer I've always said that if you haven't tested it, then it doesn't work. Which is why I would fill the tank with clean water--don't waste cleaning solution until you know it works--and power it on, specifically looking at the spray pattern and making sure the agitator brush moves like it should

Final Notes

  • As noted earlier, this is a fairly complicated task given the precise nature of the main brush/spray/pickup unit.
  • I'm sure taking the unit apart voids the warranty, so before you mess with your unit, I would make an attempt to return it to wherever you purchased it.


  1. Before all this it might be worth trying putting a mixture of baking soda and water in the input area with the clean water tank removed. Once enough of this is soaked up you can fill the cleaning tank with vinegar and try to run that through it. After ~10 minutes of the hose sitting on the sink with a rubber band on it the nozzle sprayed much better.

  2. I have a different problem with my machine, but your photos and descriptions are very helpful. My nozzle was dripping when it sprayed. I thought it might just be some fuzz or dog hair around the nozzle, but when I looked in the nozzle to see if there was anything visible the nozzle was came off. Rather the outside part of the nozzle came off. It must have somehow had a crack where it goes through the wall of the brush unit which is why it was dripping, and then it came apart when I touched it. Your write up suggested replacing the nozzle as an option, and that's just what I need. I looked around on the internet for a replacement nozzle, but there's none to be found.

    I sent an email to Rug Doctor customer support asking about getting a new nozzle. Their response was that if my machine was less than two years old and I still had the original receipt I could send it back to them for free repair. They didn't say what to do if it is older than two years (it may be, I don't remember the exact date) or if I can't find my receipt (I haven't tried looking yet). It sounds like I am probably out of luck, which sucks because I like the machine. My last resort is to try to glue it, but that will be tough to get a good glue joint that doesn't leak without clogging the nozzle with glue.

    Anyway, thanks for the thorough write up. If you have any ideas where I can find a replacement I'd love to hear them.

    1. Funny you should reply, my nozzle broke and I also emailed the company. I of course got the same reply as you. Not very good customer service if they won't give or sell you a 50 cent part. My unit is all but disabled now. Who keeps receipts and who is going to return a carpet cleaner to the manufacturer?

    2. I have my receipt. But my machine passed the 2-year warranty period in September. Interesting that I am not the only one to have the nozzle break in two.

      I thought about looking on Craig's List to see if anyone was selling a used one that I could buy for parts, but I think these failures are planned obsolescence and there is no point in spending another dime on it.

    3. My nozzle broke while I had it apart it just fell apartso I super glued it sms it works good enough.
      The initial reason I took it apart was cause the hose was clogged.. I'll be honest images not very experienced at fixing things but now that I'm separated and not a lklot of money I'm learning as I go..
      I Had that thing completely dismantled.. (So many screws) and as of now mine is unclogged and put completely back together.. I must say I am proud of myself cause that thing was a doosy.. But I rocked that sh**.

    4. Interesting - My nozzle has also shattered. This seems to be a common failure - I think the nozzle bumps against the base when you're snapping it in place. It also may be made of cheap plastic. At some point, I'll try to 3D print a replacement.

      My issue is with hair build-up under the clear plastic part. It appears that's glued on?

  3. Mine had the pump fail after I fixed the nozzle, and I've since moved to a Bissell. I won't buy any Rug Doctor products again.

  4. Thanks very much for this post. My nozzle snapped in half. Went shooting across the room when I tried to spray with it.

    So far contacting Rug Doctor has been a waste of time. They only hire automatons who can't read and can only send the scripted warranty email. I can't believe they won't just sell the freaking handheld part. (Yes, I was going to buy the entire oscillating brush head.) Long story short, I am done with Rug Doctor.

    So a second thanks to Mark for the tip. I have a Bissell upright that is too much for the small cat messes I was using the Rug Doctor for, but I am looking for a replacement. It will NOT be a Rug Doctor.

  5. Where can I buy a new spray nozzle head?

  6. If you only take the screws out of the "so" side then you can have this nozzle out in minutes. It will also be much easier to put back together as everything else will stay put. Also, pull the nozzle out and try to tap it on a hard surface to knock the blockage out. 2 taps had mine clear and the nozzle won't get modified from poking something into it. All said in done, I had mine fixed in 10 minutes.

  7. What a piece of Shit product and company.