Carpet Cleaning Machines - Box Extractor vs Brush/Self-Contained

by Matt Besley on 15-11-2016

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There is now more choice than ever before when you come to choose a carpet cleaning machine, but it can make the decision difficult.

2 of the most popular types of machine are the box/spray-extract machines and the brush/self-contained machines.  They are both great choices for different senarios, but one of the first decisions you need to make is the type of machine you are after.

How they Work


Spray-extract or box extractor carpet cleaning machines have a solution tank and a dirty water tank. The water is pumped from the solution tank to the upholstery tool, or carpet wand then extracted through the wand and vacuum hose to the recovery tank.  The size varies from tub vacuum sized machines up to 50L capacity machines.


Brush/self-contained carpet cleaning machines have a solution tank and dirty water tank.  The water is pumped from the solution tank to the brushes.  The brush agitates the pile of the carpet and the vacuum bar vacuums the dirty water into the recovery tank.  The size varies from Rug Doctor size, to large walk behind machines.


The best machine for you entirely depends on the application.


Generally if you are doing a lot of larger commercial jobs, then the brush machine is the obvoius choice because it can clean large areas much quicker.   The added benefit with a brush machine is that the brush agitates the pile of the carpet and makes the clean more effective, and will clean in a single pass.  The pile of the carpet looks great after cleaning it too! 


Brush machines are also known as 'self-contained' machines.  Because everything is self-contained there are no hoses etc to trip over.  That said, most machine will have the option to attach a hose to, for upholstery and getting into the edges and awkward areas.


Box-extractors are very versatile, and if you get a good enough size machine you can join 2 sets of hoses up together and leave the machine downstairs whilst you clean upstairs (look out for a machine with 150psi pump and at least 2 vacuums to be able to do this - read more about PSI here).   These machines get into much smaller spaces, so ideal if you are doing a lot of domestic or mixed application jobs.


Other Points to Consider:


  •  Brush machines tend to be heavier - think about how you will be able to lift them up-stairs etc.
  •  There is an normally an extra motor with the brush machines - this means more to go wrong, and they are usually more expensive.
  •  With a box-extractor you can use a powered brushwhich basically makes your machine into a hybrid - you can use it as a box extractor and a brush machine (and it wont be as heavy to push around - a really effective solution.



  Box/Spray-Extract Machines Brush/Self-Contained Machines
  • Very versatile - can be used on both commercial/domestic and large/small jobs
  •  You can use longer hoses with larger machines
  •  Can be used as a hybrid when used in conjunction with a power brush.
  •  Faster for large areas
  • Everything is self-contained, so there are no hoses
  • Brush makes the clean effective and brings up the pile
  •  Slow for large areas
  • Large machines can be heavy to maneouver
  •  Agitation and pile lifting needs to be done with a seperate machine or manually
  •  Generally a lot heavier (we would definitely recommend looking at a ramp if you are taking this between sites).
  • Less flexible - you would need to use a uphoslstery tool/hose for stairs and up into the edges.
  • Brush motor makes machine more expensive and is something else to go wrong.


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