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Spills. Dust. Dirt. Carpets can be tricky to clean. And while most homes have a vacuum cleaner, not everyone has a carpet cleaner. Renting a carpet cleaner — or hiring someone to do the job for you — is an expensive proposition. Owning your own carpet cleaner can save you money in the long run.
We researched the market in order to identify a shortlist of the five best carpet cleaners available. Each of the products in our matrix, above, passed our rigorous tests for quality and value.
We do not accept products directly from manufacturers; we use our own funds to purchase the same “off-the-shelf” products that you do. And when we've finished our testing and consumer reviews, we donate all these products to charities and other non-profit organizations.
Some carpet cleaners weigh over 50 pounds; others weigh less than 20 pounds. Some include a built-in soap dispenser; others require a special attachment to get the job done. How much carpeting do you have, and how dirty and/or stained is it? The answers to these questions will guide you toward the right carpet cleaner for your needs.
Suction is one of the most important considerations when choosing a carpet cleaner. A cleaner with good suction does a better job. You want your cleaner to remove stains, and you want its suction to remove excess water when you're done. But extra suction often comes at a price. We examine your options here.
Carpet cleaners offer a variety of features. Some models include a pet hair filter. Some have a rinse cycle that helps you extract soap when you're done shampooing. Some include attachments that make it easy to clean stairs or furniture. We examine the features offered by each contender in this section of our ratings.
A carpet cleaner is an investment. Most cost more than a vacuum cleaner. But then again, most carpet cleaners can do more than a vacuum cleaner does.
As a consumer, you'll undoubtedly be faced with a range of carpet cleaner prices. In general, a deep cleaner costs more than a light-duty cleaner — but not always. We help you weigh the pros and cons of each contender's economic value here.
The Hoover Carpet Basics Power Scrub is an upright machine with dual tanks for dirty and clean water. Detergent mixes automatically into the water. There's a rinse option if you want to go over your carpet with plain water after cleaning. (This is a good way to get more detergent out!) The Hoover weighs about 18 pounds, making it one of the lightest models on our shortlist.
At 22.5 pounds, the upright Bissell PowerLifter PowerBrush is fairly lightweight and easy to push across carpeting. It is designed to take hot tap water, and owners say it is quiet. They also say it's durable and cleans well enough to replace a rental cleaner.
The upright Bissell Big Green Deep Cleaning Machine is a professional-grade carpet cleaner. At 55 pounds, it weighs significantly more than its competitors. The power cord is long (25 feet), and it sports two tanks: one for clean water and one for dirty water. Users report that it is reliable, durable, and cleans carpets better than some rental machines.
In our test lab, we found that the Bissell is easy to put together without reading the instructions. (For some people, that's definitely a plus!) It's a little harder to maneuver than some lighter-weight vacuums and shampooers, but that's to be expected when you invest in a 55-pound machine. Besides, as one of our testers commented, "You don't need the same fast maneuverability from a shampooer that you expect from a vaccum."
Rug Doctor's Deep Carpet Cleaner is a 25-pound upright model. It's not the lightest cleaner on our list, but it's certainly not impossible to maneuver. Owners rave about the upholstery attachments, which are great for heavily soiled stairways, and the wide openings of the two tanks. However, some say the tanks don't hold as much liquid as they would like. The ergonomic handle folds down for convenient storage.
Shark's Sonic Carpet/Hard Floor Cleaner is the only product on our shortlist that also functions as a hard floor cleaner. It's an upright model with easy-to-maneuver "swiveling" action. At just 18 pounds, it's as light the Hoover Power Scrub, but it's more versatile because you can also clean hardwood, vinyl, tile, and stone flooring with it.
This machine comes with plenty of parts. Thankfully, these parts are color-coded based on their function. Instead of filling a tank with water, you fill a small bottle and attach a microfiber pad to the machine. (There are pads for cleaning hard floors and pads for cleaning carpeting. The pads can be used about 20 times before they must be replaced.) Bottles of cleaning solution are also included with the package. Some owners dislike having to purchase supplemental solution bottles.
With all the options available in the market today, you can now have a "professional" grade carpet cleaner at home as opposed to renting one out every time you need one.
Owners say they're happy with the Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Washer's level of suction. Indeed, this machine has the ability to remove long-standing stains and debris that haven't been eradicated by vacuuming alone. If you remove the brush assembly and go back over the carpets again, suction power increases, thereby resulting in cleaner and drier carpeting.
The Bissell PowerLifter has surprisingly good suction for a small cleaner. It leaves carpets only slightly damp, which means it pulls nearly all water out of the fibers. The suction will also pull up embedded pet hair, so potential owners should note that they would need to vacuum the carpet before cleaning it. For its lower price and light weight, this is a powerful cleaner indeed.
Take a peek at the video (above) of BestReviews staff using the Bissell Big Green Deep Cleaning machine to eradicate spaghetti, red wine, and coffee stains. It's really rather amazing. The Bissell Big Green cleaner has powerful suction.
Users report that it does the job better than many rental cleaners and even some professional services. We're not surprised. The best mehod of use, our testers found, is to move the machine slowly and deliberately over the stain until it's completely gone.
The hose is nine feet long and features a wide opening for easy use. The machine's DirtLifter PowerBrushes, when combined with Bissell's special formula, can erase even the toughest of pet stains.
What's more, users tell us that their carpets are much drier than expected when they're finished cleaning. That's a definite benefit.
Portable carpet cleaners can come in handy for stairs and hard-to-get spaces, but typically they cannot suction up liquid stains.
Rug Doctor boasts that its Deep Carpet Cleaner provides 75% more suction than leading brands. Many owners agree that this cleaner has better suction than they've ever experience before. Some say their carpeting comes clean with one pass; others say that two passes are necessary. The general consensus is that you shouldn't hurry while using the Rug Doctor; slower is better. (This is true for many carpet shampooers.)
Unfortunately, some owners have had problems getting their Rug Doctor to emit its cleaning spray. One handy owner who experienced this problem disassembled his Rug Doctor and fixed a power lead connection on the circuit board. After that, his machine worked very nicely. Not everyone is this handy, though, and the malfunction shouldn't occur in the first place. If you get a Rug Doctor that functions correctly — and most people do — it does phenomenal work.
In terms of suction, the Shark Sonic Duo Carpet and Hard Floor Cleaner functions in a different way than the other contenders on our shortlist. The machine administers a chemical cleaner, agitates surface dirt, and penetrates carpet fibers with its "Trap and Remove" technology. This process dehydrates embedded dirt and releases it from carpet fibers, but the Shark doesn't actually remove the dirt from the carpet. Rather, owners must use a vacuum cleaner to remove dried, loosened dirt particles after the Shark has been used.
Some owners are very satisfied with the results they get. Many pet owners say that seemingly permanent stains (and smells) have been lifted from their carpeting with the help of the Shark. Other owners are not as positive. They say the Shark is an "adequate" machine, but it's not outstanding.
The Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Washer has a good many features that make it a desirable carpet cleaner. The power cord, at 20 feet in length, is long enough to stretch across most rooms. The dual tanks are easy to remove, refill, and replace. Hot tap water can be used for best-result cleaning. There's a rinse option that allows you to remove excess detergent from your carpeting and a hot air blower that helps carpeting dry faster. The Hoover Power Scrub also comes with stair and upholstery tools, a hose, and cleaning solution.
The Bissell PowerLifter doesn't come with attachments, but due to its smaller size, it's best suited for smaller areas, anyway. The tank sports a "two-in-one" design: the machine's heavy-duty bladder rests inside the tank and holds clean water, and the dirty water surrounds it. Notably, the two tanks of water do not mix. The Bissell's lint screen prevents pet hair from getting inside the machine, and its built-in measuring cup (for water and detergent) offers convenience.
In addition to an extra-long power cord, the Bissell Big Green carpet cleaner comes with an attachment kit that includes a nine-foot hose and a six-inch stair tool. It's ideal for cleaning carpeted stairs and upholstery as well as "regular" carpeted areas. Owners with children and pets rave about its efficiency! Because the tanks have a large capacity (1.75 gallons), they don't have to be emptied as often as the tanks of smaller shampooers. We noted during our own testing session that the tanks are easy to empty and replace.
Another feature favorite among our lab testers was the built-in carrying handle for the tank, which doubles as a lock.
Carpet cleaners are engineered to be safe, but it pays to take extra precautions when dealing with water and a plugged-in appliance. Whenever possible, plug your carpet cleaner into a GFCI outlet, which will shut the power down if it detects abnormal current activity.
As mentioned above, the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner's two tanks aren't as large as some owners would like. But their wide openings make them easier to fill than some other carpet cleaner tanks on today's market. A convenient soap-measuring cap is included, but there's no water heater built in; you must use hot water from the tap. This isn't necessarily a drawback, but potential buyers should know that no on-board water heater is included.
We really like the fact that users can customize their cleaning experience via the "Super Boost" mode: high-traffic areas get the vigorous cleaning they need, and low-traffic areas get the gentle treatment they require. We also like the Dual Cross Action Brushes that have helped earn this cleaner its good reputation. These features, in combination with the Rug Doctor's upholstery tools, result in a thorough cleaning that can remove long-standing stains and raise the nap of your carpeting.
One of the Shark Sonic's most outstanding features is that, in addition to shampooing your carpets, it can also clean and polish your hard floors. For people with a healthy mix of area rugs, vinyl, tile, and even stone flooring, this is an appealing option.
The manufacturer simplifies the Shark's many parts by color-coding them based on their function. You won't be confused about which cleaning pads are for carpeting and which pads are for hard flooring unless you're color blind and can't see the difference between purple, green, and orange. Users can customize their cleaning experience by choosing between two scrubbing speeds. Perhaps one of the Shark's best features is the fact that, according to several people, its swivel steering and long handle make the work easy on your back.
In the below graph, we analyzed the cost of cleaning a 1,000-square-foot carpet four times per year for two years with a variety of different options (as listed above). We accounted for the number of hours it would take to accomplish each type of cleaning task and the average cost for materials and workers in the U.S. You'll notice that our Best of the Best product provides the cheapest option overall; using spot spray with a vacuum comes in for a close second. However, we note the spot spray option would signifcantly increase your physical labor requirement as well as your time on task. Hiring an outside service to clean your carpet, on the other hand, requires minimal time outside of some basic coordination and preparation.
We believe these guidelines can help you determine which carpet maintenance solution is best over the long haul.
With a price tag of $129, the Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe falls in the mid-range of most home carpet cleaners. Owners say it cleans well and that they've saved money by not having to rent a carpet cleaner.
This machine's rinse option and extra tools make it a good buy for homes with large carpeted areas and/or carpeted stairs. Notably, however, some owners have complained of water leakages and breakages. This is an unfortunate occurrence, but such defects are bound to occur when a manufacturer makes as many products as Hoover.
Overall, Hoover's reliable products have generated plenty of high ratings from satisfied customers over the years.
The Bissell PowerLifter cleaner is priced right at $99. Packaged with a bottle of detergent and a fiber-cleansing formula, this efficient, commercial-grade machine is a true value. The majority of users say it cleans as well as a rental machine, so for the price, it's definitely a great buy.
Note: while many say this machine can handle tough stains, a few owners have mused that the PowerLifter works best on carpets that aren't very dirty to begin with. Of course, the amount of detergent and the temperature of the water you use could affect this.
At $399, there's no question that the Bissell Big Green Deep Cleaning Machine costs significantly more than most carpet cleaners. However, users report that it performs far better than rental machines. We took it upon ourselves to test this claim by dumping spaghetti with sauce, red wine, and black coffee onto one of our office carpets. Please see the video, above, for a demonstration of the Big Breen's awesome stain-erasing power.
Suffice it to say that if you expect to do a lot of carpet cleaning, it makes sense to invest in Bissell's Big Green Deep Cleaning Machine.
Conveniently, the package includes a bottle of cleaner to get the new owner started. The machine uses Bissell DeepClean PRO solution, which can easily be purchased online and in some stores.
Research your carpet brand before cleaning, as many have directions for how and how often you should care for your carpet.
At a cost of $238, consumers expect to receive a near-perfect package when they order the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner. Indeed, the majority of buyers are very happy with their purchase, saying that the Rug Doctor is the most thorough deep cleaner they've ever used.
Unfortunately, more than a handful of consumers have received faulty units that do not spray the water/cleaner solution as they should. The problem is reportedly quite easy to fix — if you're handy. But if you're not handy, the problem can be quite frustrating. Rug Doctor customer support is available if the need arises, but many of those who received faulty units ended up returning and exchanging them for something else.
In short, if you want one of the best carpet cleanings you've ever had, you may want to purchase this product. However, you'll be taking somewhat of a gamble due to an unfortunate quality control issue.
At a price of $219, the Shark Sonic Duo Carpet and Hard Floor Cleaner isn't the cheapest item on our list, but it's not the most expensive, either. For the money, you get a versatile tool that requires some additional investments (replacement pads and cleaning solution) down the road.
You must have access to a working vacuum cleaner if you want to shampoo your carpets with the Shark, because while the Shark loosens embedded dirt very well, it does not physically pull it out of the carpet. Nevertheless, many people — including pet owners — are amazed by the thorough cleaning they get from this easy-to-maneuver machine.
In short, if you're looking for a multi-purpose, light-duty cleaner that's not too expensive, this could be the solution for you.
While a price of $399 may seem high, the Bissell Big Green Deep Cleaning Machine is the Best of the Best carpet cleaner on the market. Users consistently report that this powerful cleaner yields better results than rental cleaners and even professional cleaning services! We confirmed its effectiveness when we used the Big Green to eradicate spaghetti, wine, and coffee stains in our BestReviews living room.
The Bissell Green Machine's extra-large tanks hold far more water than many of its competitors. Conveniently, this means you don't need to empty the machine very often. It comes with a hose and upholstery attachment for easy cleaning of stairs, furniture, and hard-to-reach places.
Owners rave that the Big Green machine removes even the oldest of set-in stains, including pet stains. And, because of its powerful suction, your carpet is nearly dry when you finish using this Bissell model.
We can't say enough good things about this carpet shampooer. It consistently out-performs the competition, and we have no doubt that you would be happy with this Best of the Best product.
At a low cost of just $129, the Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Washer packs plenty of punch for the money. It cleans carpets as well as a rental cleaner, it's lightweight and easy to maneuver, and the unit itself is easy to clean.
Perfect for smaller homes or apartments — or for homes with area rugs — the Hoover easily glides across the floor. Hot tap water adds to its cleaning power. Detergent mixes automatically with the water, and there is a rinse option which allows you to "polish" the carpet a final time with plain water.
This carpet cleaner costs little more than a small vacuum cleaner, so even buyers on a budget can afford it. Considering the cost of renting a carpet cleaner and purchasing cleaning solution, this Hoover carpet shampooer pays for itself after just a few uses.
People with bad backs say the 18-pound Hoover Power Scrub is a refreshing change from the heavy, unwieldy upright machines they've tried in the past.
A few owners have complained that the Power Scrub didn't give them the thorough clean they were hoping for. However, we note that the way you approach the task of shampooing your carpet — how hot you make the water, how much detergent you use, how many times you go over tough spots, whether you pre-treat stains — can positively or negatively affect your results.
The majority of owners agree with us that the Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Washer is a true economic value and the Best Bang for Your Buck.