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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 shampoos

The floor of any household eventually and inevitably gets dirty. Dust, particles, and other contaminants from the outside world are tracked inside. Open windows usher in pollen and other allergens. Inside inhabitants, particularly children and pets, create their own messes, too.

Carpet can be tricky to clean. Thick carpet easily captures all kinds of stains and odors, but even short, dense carpet holds on to unwanted residue and debris. Fortunately, you can use carpet shampoo to clean stains and odors. Some shampoos even work preventatively to stave off problems in the future. 

Any given carpet shampoo may tackle a variety of surfaces or focus on specific issues, such as pet soiling. Ingredients and instructions vary from product to product. For best results, choose a carpet shampoo that’s appropriate for your lifestyle and needs.

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Understanding how a carpet shampoo works is only half the battle. If you’re using a carpet cleaner, make sure you know how to operate that machinery as well.

Key considerations

Usage

Carpet shampoo is usually used in conjunction with a carpet cleaner. However, some shampoos can be squirted directly from the bottle for spot cleaning. Make sure the carpet shampoo you buy is compatible with your carpet cleaner, and know that some shampoos are more effective than others.

The bottle should provide specific instructions on how and under what circumstances to use the shampoo. Follow the protocols exactly for best results. If you use too much or too little, it could result in a poor cleaning job, too much foam, too strong of a smell, or wasted product.

Target

What is your goal in purchasing carpet shampoo? Some products focus on specific problems, like a particular type of stain or odor. For example, you may want a shampoo that tackles grease stains in your dining area. Other products are more generally focused. These “all-purpose” shampoos are designed for regular maintenance cleanings throughout the year. 

Expert Tip
Always follow the directions on the back of each cleaning solution. Some items need to be diluted and some don’t.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Quantity

Smaller containers of carpet shampoo may contain 16 to 25 ounces of product. Larger jugs may contain a half or full gallon. There is usually a price-per-ounce discount on larger quantities, but keep in mind you must find a place in your home to store these larger jugs of shampoo.

People with pets and children often find it worthwhile to keep a spot spray on hand to supplement regular cleanings. 

Environmentalism

If you want a sustainable and healthy product, look for carpet shampoo that explicitly advertises non-toxic ingredients without harsh chemicals. Components you may want to avoid include phosphates, sulfates, bleach, chlorine, and dye. Many of these cleaners also steer clear of animal products and animal testing. 

Be wary of any false implications, though. A cleaning product might be advertised as “green” or “eco-friendly,” but these terms aren’t regulated or easily defined. Some companies use the color green to suggest their product is earth-friendly, but you can’t be sure unless the label explicitly states what is (and isn’t) included in the bottle.

Features

Anti-allergen

Some carpet shampoos help remove allergens and dander from carpet. This is especially useful if you live in an area ripe with pollens and other allergens. Even if you’re careful, outdoor pets and children may bring pollen and other unwanted particles into your home. Look for a shampoo designed to counter such allergens. 

Prevention

Most carpet shampoos serve as solutions to problems, tending to stains and odors after they occur. However, formulas exist that actually help prevent future accidents from happening, particularly when it comes to pet urine.

If you share your home with a young pup or other furry friends, you’ll want to make sure that any marking isn’t done a second time. Look for a carpet shampoo that doesn’t just remove urine and odor but also works to deter messes in the future. 

expert Tip
Pretreat your carpet prior to using your carpet cleaning machine.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Additional surfaces

Despite the name, some carpet shampoo isn’t just for carpet. Multipurpose options may tackle furniture and upholstery, including the interior of your car. Some carpet cleaners can also be used to clean floors, countertops, or appliances.

While this multifunctionality is certainly convenient, be wary of carpet cleaners that claim to clean “all surfaces.” These products may be decent at one job but not as good at another. For example, an “all-purpose” cleaner may provide an okay (but not great) carpet cleaning.

Color brightening

For those with big and bold carpets, there is a worry that over-cleaning could degrade the beauty of the rug. Some carpet shampoos boast a color-brightening component to keep your carpet looking new. 

Scent

Carpet shampoos range from aromatic to unscented. The decision of which to get may come down to personal preference. Keep in mind that either option could result in a strong smell. Scented carpet shampoo may be overpowering or off-putting to some, while “unscented” shampoo may impart a strong chemical smell that’s equally intrusive.

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Expert TIp
Always buy the best cleaner that fits your stain. For example, for a pet stain, you want to purchase an enzymatic carpet cleaner. This helps with pet stains and gets rid of the smell and presence of urine.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Accessories

Carpet powder: Capture Dry Cleaner
Powder can be used to supplement carpet shampoo as needed. Check out this inexpensive product from Capture that’s effective on a variety of surfaces for spot cleaning.

Carpet cleaner: Bissell Big Green Carpet Cleaner
Most carpet shampoo works in tandem with a motorized cleaner. We love this heavy-duty, fast-acting machine from Bissell, a leading name in cleaning.

Carpet sweeper: Rubbermaid Dual Action Mechanical Sweeper
Before using carpet shampoo, make sure you get rid of any apparent dirt. For areas with a lot of foot traffic, this efficient and inexpensive sweeper from Rubbermaid is a worthy investment.

Carpet shampoo prices

Inexpensive

For under $10, you can find small bottles of carpet shampoo, including spray bottle options for spot cleaning.

Mid-range

Most carpet shampoos run between $15 and $30, depending on size. In this price range, you’ll find options to eliminate oil- and water-based stains as well as pet odors.

Expensive

For over $30, you’ll find larger quantities of carpet shampoo. These products are usually meant to be used with machines to cover a vast area.

Tips

  • Carefully follow instructions. Most carpet shampoos have specific instructions that, if not followed, could make stains and odors worse or even permanent.
  • Act quickly. Should a spill or mess occur, it’s best to act quickly before the mess settles. Know where your cleaner is and how to use it to swiftly tend to accidents.
  • Vacuum first. Prior to a big cleaning with shampoo, run a vacuum cleaner over your carpet to remove dirt and particles that could interfere with the shampoo.
  • Test an area first. For the sake of your carpet, test a bit of shampoo on a small portion of your carpet first, just in case a bad reaction occurs.
  • Use hot water. Most carpet shampoos interact with hot water best, as the higher temperature helps dissolve chemicals faster while breaking down dust and dirt.
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For the most effective clean, dust and vacuum the area before moving furniture out of the way for the shampoo process.

FAQ

Q. How often should I shampoo my carpet?

A. Carpets should be cleaned at least once a year, but doing so every four to six months is a good idea. If your carpet withstands a lot of traffic, you may want to shampoo it often. This holds true for light-colored carpet that reveals dirt and stains as well.

It’s best to spot clean any time there is an accident, particularly if it’s pet-related. The longer a stain sits, the harder it is to remove, even with the best carpet shampoo.

Q. Should I dilute my carpet shampoo?

A. Some carpet shampoos require dilution prior to use. Follow product instructions to the nose for best results. While it may seem like companies want you to use a lot of product in order to buy more later on, cutting corners on water or product volume could have bad results. 

Q. How long does the shampooing process take?

A. When shampooing with a cleaner, most processes take four to six hours from start to finish. The range may be higher or lower depending on your particular machine, shampoo, and carpet. It’s best to plan ahead, as you may want to evacuate the house for the drying process — especially if there is a chemical odor associated with your shampoo. 

It may also be worth running over the carpet a second time with cold water in the machine to remove any leftover shampoo without further activating it.

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