We purchase every product we review with our own funds—we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
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.
While the best professional carpet cleaners are truck-mounted, and that is true pro-grade, you can still get a good cleaning with your cleaner.
Our expert, Allen Rathey, explains that pro-grade units apply solution under pressure and remove soiled solution using very powerful extractors for deep cleaning and rapid drying.
But you want to purchase a carpet cleaner that delivers all of the features you need, without breaking the bank.
Choosing the right model can be a real challenge.
There are so many options on the market, using many different cleaning methods, so not all cleaners are created equal.
At Best Reviews, we buy all of our own products, which means our reviews and recommendations are completely unbiased.
We also conduct field and expert research, so you can be sure you have all of the facts necessary to make an educated shopping decision.
When you’re ready to purchase a carpet cleaner, check out our top five product recommendations in the matrix above.
If you just want to learn more about carpet cleaners in general, continue on to our shopping guide.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Bissell Big Green Professional Grade Carpet Cleaner
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. It includes powered, rotating brushes to drive the dirt out of your carpet fibers.
Most carpet cleaners employ a tank that holds water and a compartment to hold a cleaning solution. As you roll the cleaner over the carpet, it emits the water and cleaning solution. Meanwhile, brushes scrub at the carpet fibers to remove embedded dirt and stains.
The cleaner then uses suction power to remove the dirt, debris, and moisture from the carpet. However, some models don’t have suction power so you must go over the carpet with vacuum cleaner afterward to remove the loosened dirt.
Expert Allen Rathey explains, “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.”
Allen Rathey is a cleaning expert who promotes healthier indoor spaces. He is past-president of the Housekeeping Channel and the Healthy House Institute, and principal of the Healthy Facilities Institute (HFI) culminating more than 30 years of experience in making indoor places cleaner. He has been tapped as an expert by the New York Times, Real Simple, U.S. News & World Report, and other national media.
While vacuuming regularly removes surface dirt and debris from your carpet, there may be deeply embedded grime and stains that you’re not able to see. Using a carpet cleaner periodically freshens your carpeting so your home is cleaner and healthier.
You can hire a professional carpet cleaning service or rent a carpet cleaner to clean your carpeting, but if you’re committed to doing it several times a year, purchasing your own carpet cleaner can save you money in the long run.
If you have children and pets, you may deal with more obvious stains from spills and other accidents. Having your own carpet cleaner allows you to treat stains as soon as they happen, which greatly increases your chances of removing them effectively.
The first line of defense in cleaning carpet is vacuuming first. Do this slowly and thoroughly (multiple passes) using a vacuum with clean bags and filters. Dry soil that is not removed turns to mud, impairing the performance of the best carpet extractors.
Some carpet cleaners can weigh as much as 50 pounds, while others weigh less than 20 pounds. The weight and size of the machine greatly affects how easy it is to use because large, bulky cleaners are difficult to push.
If you plan to use the cleaner on multiple floors in your home, check whether you you can lift and carry it easily. It’s a good idea to test the weight of a carpet cleaner before you purchase it.
Keep in mind that the weight of the carpet cleaner will increase once you add water to it. However, a large machine usually won’t need to be refilled as often as a small, lightweight machine. Of course, you can always carry your cleaner up the stairs with the reservoir empty, then fill it from a water source on that second floor.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Washer
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, resulting in cleaner and drier carpeting.
A carpet cleaner’s most important feature is its suction. It should effectively extract the moisture, cleaning solution, and dirt from the carpet to ensure that it’s truly clean. Powerful suction is also necessary to get rid of stubborn stains.
The more effective a cleaner’s suction is, the more quickly the carpet will dry when you’re finished cleaning, too.
Carpet cleaners at the higher end of the price range tend to offer the most powerful suction, while budget-friendly option usually have weaker suction.
Keep in mind that some cleaners don’t have their own suction power. They require you to run a vacuum cleaner over the carpet, after you’ve scrubbed the surface with a cleaning solution to remove the dirt and moisture.
It’s also handy to have a rinse feature on your carpet cleaner. That allows you to go over the carpet after you’ve cleaned, using just water to “polish” it for a final rinse.
A carpet cleaners uses brushes to scrub the carpet with the cleaning solution and remove dirt and stains.
Some employ fixed brushes that don’t move on their own, while others utilize rotating or powered brushes that move independently of the cleaner itself.
Powered brushes usually provide the deepest clean because they scrub at the carpet fibers more effectively. Carpet cleaners with fixed brushes tend to be more budget-friendly, though.
According to microbiologists, your home’s carpeting may contain as many as 200,000 bacteria per square inch, even if you vacuum regularly.
The longer a carpet cleaner’s cord is, the larger the area you’ll be able to clean with it. Look for a model with a cord that’s at least 15 feet long.
Some carpet cleaners are equipped with hoses, allowing you to reach stairs and elevated areas without maneuvering the entire machine.
For the most versatile option, choose a cleaner with a hose that’s at least 9 feet long.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner
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 stairway. They also appreciate 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.
Some carpet cleaners come with accessories and attachments that allow you to clean more easily, or clean additional surface types.
Depending on how you plan to use your cleaner, you may want to look for a model that comes with handheld attachments for cleaning upholstery, stairs, or tight corners.
Several pounds of soil can accumulate in and under a carpet over the course of a year.
When you consider the size of a carpet cleaner, pay specific attention to the tank. The larger the machine’s tank is, the fewer times you’ll have to refill it when you’re cleaning your carpet.
Carpet cleaners with a large tank tend to weigh more, though, so they may be more difficult to use.
Some carpet cleaners feature dual tanks: one for clean water and one for dirty water. Others features a single tank with a bladder design – the clean water is housed in a smaller container that sits inside a larger one, where the dirty water is collected to keep them separated.
You should also consider what sort of dispenser the carpet cleaner uses for the cleaning solution. Some mix it directly with the water, while others apply it to the carpet separately from the water.
Carpet cleaners are available at a variety of prices, but you can typically expect to pay between $99 and $400 for one.
A high-end model with a large water tank, powerful suction, and powered brushes will usually cost between $200 and $400.
A budget-friendly machine with a smaller water tank, low to no suction, and fixed brushes will typically set you back between $99 and $130.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Shark Sonic Duo Carpet and Hard Floor Cleaner
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.
Avoid getting your carpet too wet when using your carpet cleaner. Some cleaners don’t have enough suction power to fully extract the moisture, which can lead to the growth of mildew and bacteria.
You can usually remove 99% of carpet stains if you treat them within the first few days.
Before purchasing a carpet cleaner, check a display model to determine if you can lift it easily, especially if you’ll need to carry it up and down stairs.
If your carpeting features a built-in stain treatment, check the manufacturer’s instructions regarding what type of cleaning solution to use. Using the wrong solution may damage the carpet’s coating.
You can reduce the drying time for your carpet after cleaning by turning on a fan, dehumidifier, or air conditioner in the room where you used the carpet cleaner.
As much as 75% of the dirt in your carpet is due to tracked-in soil. Placing mats at the entrances to your home can help cut down on tracked-in grime.
Some carpet cleaners come with attachments that make it easier to clean hard-to-reach corners, or even allow you to clean upholstery.
Q. What type of carpet cleaners work best for heavy stains?
A. A carpet cleaner with rotating brushes is usually the best option for heavily soiled carpets. It scrubs the carpet fibers very effectively to loosen and remove deeply embedded dirt.
Q. Is there a risk of carpet damage with a carpet cleaner?
A. If you purchase a carpet cleaner with rotating brushes and have a carpet with fragile fibers, such as Olefin or PTT, the cleaner may tear or rip the carpeting. You can also damage your carpet if you use a shampoo or cleaning solution that’s too harsh. Spot test the cleaner on an inconspicuous spot before using the solution all over the carpet.
Q. How long does it take for the carpet to dry after using a carpet cleaner?
A. The type of carpet, the thickness of the pad, and how wet you’ve gotten it determines how long it will take the carpeting to dry. In general, it’s best to give the carpet four to six hours to dry.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.