Updated May 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best carpet cleaners

Carpet flooring is often ruined by unavoidable conditions, but you can be prepared with the right carpet cleaner to minimize damage. By mixing water and a cleaning solution under high pressure, carpet cleaners can remove dirt and debris from flooring more effectively than a typical vacuum. With so many different options, however, it can be difficult to know which one you should buy.

The types of messes and the size of the cleaning space will both determine what kind of carpet cleaner you need. Suction power is one of the most important qualities of a cleaner since more suction is required for difficult stains. The type of cleaning brush, hose length, and any accessories the cleaner comes with will also influence the messes you can tackle effectively.

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For the cleanest, healthiest home, it’s recommended that you deep clean your carpeting at least once a year.

How does a carpet cleaner work?

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 a vacuum cleaner afterward to remove the loosened dirt.

EXPERT TIP
Reading the instructions for your machine and using the correct cleaning solutions for your carpet cleaner is very important.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

What are the benefits of a carpet cleaner?

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.

If you only clean your carpeting during spring cleaning or before the winter holidays, you can hire a professional carpet cleaning service or rent a carpet cleaner, 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.

Feature considerations for carpet cleaners

Carpet cleaner weight and size

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 affect 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 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.

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Expert Tip
Cleaning your carpet in even and straight lines will help your carpet dry faster.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Suction power

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 options 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.

Brushes

A carpet cleaner uses brushes to scrub the carpet with the cleaning solution and remove stains and dirt.

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.

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EXPERT TIP
Remembering to use non-slip shoes while cleaning your carpet will help.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Cord and hose

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 nine feet long.

Accessories and attachments

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.

Carpet cleaner tank size and setup

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 feature 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.

"Several pounds of soil can accumulate in and under a carpet over the course of a year."
STAFF
BestReviews

How much should you pay for a carpet cleaner?

Carpet cleaners are available at a variety of prices, but you can typically expect to pay between $99 and $400 for one.

Inexpensive

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.

Expensive

A high-end model with a large water tank, powerful suction, and powered brushes will usually cost between $200 and $400.

Tips and tricks

  • 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.

  • Treat stains as soon as possible. You can usually remove 99% of carpet stains if you treat them within the first few days. 

  • Test the weight before you buy. 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.

  • Use the right solution. 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.

  • Use a fan. 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.

  • Use entryway mats. 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.

  • Take advantage of your attachments. Some carpet cleaners come with attachments that make it easier to clean hard-to-reach corners, or even allow you to clean upholstery.

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If you clean your carpeting more than once a year, a carpet cleaner can pay for itself in as little as two cleanings.

FAQ

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 will determine how long it will take the carpeting to dry. In general, it’s best to give the carpet four to six hours to dry.

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