Exactly What Is This Viscous Black Substance Pouring Forth from the Carpet Cleaner


This is more or less what emerged from our carpet cleaner. Otter included.

GateHouse — Never rent a carpet cleaner.


Never rent a carpet cleaner.

Just don’t. Realize that carpets, by their filthy fibrous natures, will always contain some considerable amount of playground dirt and cosmic dust and standard-issue housefunk and dog hair and old food and and that’s just how it is, and you should be OK with it. Maybe it, you know, boosts immunity or something.

We rented a carpet cleaner this weekend. Related: We live like farm animals. Related: That’s not true. Farm animals would not let their living spaces get like this; at some point a rooster or something would be like, “Guys, seriously. Also, cock-a-doodle-doo!”

Oh sure, there is a hygiene upgrade and general peace of mind that comes with the post-clean knowledge that your carpets are so sterling you could eat off them (so long as you didn’t mind fibers in your steak or the occasional ball of fuzz in your soup). Sure, it’s nice to have a clean house. We have two kids in ours, so this last part has gone from being an occasional delight to something we remember from a time we’ve come to know as “The Restaurant Years.”

But when you rent a carpet cleaner, what begins as the Saturday afternoon rental of an appliance from some 17-year-old dude at Lowe’s ends 24 hours later in a Zen-level re-evaluation of your entire lifestyle, a questioning of the things that make you human, all of which are captured in that tank with the water you’re supposed to pour out because it contains all the stuff that used to be on your floor. And that water is usually black. That water has less the consistency of water and more the consistency of sauce. That water indicates that your carpets have spent a considerable amount of time beneath a carnival.

I mean, sure, it’s a little bit our fault. Apparently you’re not supposed to wait four years in between doing this sort of thing. I feel like that should have been mentioned at our house closing.

We should also have realized that one of the few rooms in our house with carpets is occupied by my son, who is 9, an age at which attention to domestic-related hygiene is at the approximate level of a goat. Actually, I take that back, goats would probably, after a few days, pick up their Legos, because goats would get tired of stepping on Legos in the middle of the night, and listening to their goat-parents curse at them for leaving their goat-Legos out, and paying attention to their goat-parents when the goat-parents yell, “GOAT! PICK UP THESE GOAT-RAILROAD TRACKS RIGHT NOW!” Kids, am I right? (<- STUPID GOAT PUN)

But 9-year-old are, as a rule gross, and as such it stands to reason that their floors are a reflection of that inveterate grossness. I’ll spare you what happened in that room, but basically we went in, moved out all the furniture, brought up the carpet cleaner and turned on the carpet cleaner, which immediately burst into a blue flame and released hundreds of spirits of the undead.


Related, sort of

• I Will See You in Hell, Garbage Disposal

• In Which Two Minor Home-Repair Projects End with the Now-Traditional Spraying of Some Blood


Naturally, it was left up to me to return the carpet cleaner to the nice people at Lowe’s who, inexplicably, gave me back a “clean machine deposit” that I had apparently paid before I realized that I realized I was basically hosing out a panda enclosure. Excepting the time we got like $40 of our deposit back from our college apartment, which I’m convinced was meant for somebody else, because frankly what we did to the garbage disposal alone would have been cause for cancellation, I’ve never been more surprised to get a security deposit back in my life (I wonder if the clerk noticed my whooping and the way I sprinted out of the store at full clip.)





About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

7 responses to “Exactly What Is This Viscous Black Substance Pouring Forth from the Carpet Cleaner

  • victoriabruce

    9 year old’s and Lego. I’m with you. I attempted the great kids’ bedroom clean out this weekend. I discovered fossilized sandwiches, enough lego to build a build a Death Star and various other things that might be new species of life. I chanted a mantra my mother taught me: “Cleaning up after small boys is like trying to sweep the sand from the beach.”


  • Carpe Absurdum

    Kids are extremely gross. I thought I was gross when I was batching it in my younger years. No, not in comparison. Us parents are as desensitized to filth and grossness as an ER nurse. Maybe not quite to that extent, but close.


  • Missy Jost

    Don’t fret…I’m the owner of a Yorkie (which doesn’t come with a label on them that says “I’ll NEVER become housebroken!) and my front living room carpet gets cleaned by my OWN carpet cleaner 2 – 3 times a week, and the water is ALWAYS BLACK! My Suzy doesn’t allow anyone in this room (don’t tell her she’s not a Great Dane, because I’m not!!) so the only thing that happens in this room is her sun-bathing and pee-peeing. Oh, she has FOUR pee-pee pads in the room, and is let out once an hour, and is never home alone for more than 3 hours at a time (I’m lucky enough to live 1 mile from work, so I can come home on my lunch break), but she rules. Anyway, I think it’s a conspiracy by carpet cleaner companies to make you feel HORRIBLE about yourself, like you’re a dirty filthy boy/girl – so you need to buy one! What’s got two thumbs, a carpet cleaner and SUCKER on her forehead….this chick RIGHT HERE!!!
    Love your articles!!


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