The 10 Best Carpet Cleaners
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Take care of all the ingrained dirt, pet hair, and stains in your carpets, rugs, and upholstery with one of these effective carpet cleaners. You won't have to waste money on professional cleaning ever again. We've ranked these models by price, performance and ease of use, so you can find the perfect one for your needs. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best carpet cleaner on Amazon.
Five Reasons Why You Need To Buy A Carpet Cleaner
What about if your carpet is badly in need of a clean and you have to use your carpet cleaner twice?
Meanwhile, the more often you clean your carpet, the more cost-effective it will be to buy rather than rent a carpet cleaner.
When the time comes to give your carpet the deep cleaning experience of its life, you really have 3 options: hiring a professional; renting a carpet cleaner; or buying a carpet cleaner. We think buying your own carpet cleaner is a worthwhile investment, and here are 5 reasons why:
1. Over time, it makes financial sense. A professional carpet cleaner with truck-mounted cleaning equipment might do a more thorough job, but at up to six times the cost of renting a machine for the day - 'easy but expensive' was the verdict of Consumer Reports. Meanwhile, the more often you clean your carpet, the more cost-effective it will be to buy rather than rent a carpet cleaner. Experts suggest you should be cleaning your carpet every 12 to 24 months, but if you have pets, kids or other sources of regular mess - and/or if anyone in your home has allergies that can be exacerbated by dust, dirt or pet hair - your carpet will thank you for a more frequent deep clean. If you can get into the habit of using your carpet cleaner regularly, you could extend the life of your carpet, too.
2. You have a better guarantee of quality than with a rental machine. Ask yourself this: if you inadvertently rented a carpet cleaner that was not in good repair, would you know? Would you be able to tell if it was releasing too much detergent, or too much water? We don't think we would. But if you buy a carpet cleaner, read the directions and keep it well maintained, you'll a) be assured that it's not been used before and b) get to know it, so you can tell when it's not working like it should.
3. It saves time. You see all that above about reading the directions and getting to know your carpet cleaner? If you rent, you're going to have to do that every time, even if you're able to rent the same model on every occasion (which is not guaranteed!). If you buy a carpet cleaner and use it regularly, you'll only need to figure out how it works once.
4. You can avoid hidden extra costs. Do you need extra accessories, like an attachment for cleaning the stairs? That could cost you extra if you rent a carpet cleaner. What about if your carpet is badly in need of a clean and you have to use your carpet cleaner twice? That's going to cost you extra with a rental, both in terms of the rental period and extra cleaning fluid. And don't forget about the cost - in money and in time - of picking up and dropping off a rental carpet cleaner: an extra hassle if you don't drive, or don't have a vehicle big enough to transport the unit.
5. You have more choice. As we hope our top 5 and top 10 lists show, there are a lot of carpet cleaners out there: but not all of them are available as rental units. If you buy, you have a better chance of finding a carpet cleaner that is right for you.
6. No judgey strangers coming into your home. Cast your mind back to the Jimmy Kimmel video. OK, if you buy your own carpet cleaner you will have fewer opportunities to pull pranks on carpet cleaning professionals, which is a definite con. But if your carpet has gotten so dirty that the idea of anyone taking a close look at it, besides close family members and maybe your regular cleaner, fills you with juuust a little shame, then consider the benefits of owning your own carpet cleaning machine to use whenever you like.
How Do Carpet Cleaners Work?
Professional carpet cleaners use a variety of methods to get the nasty out of your carpet - but since you've read the article above, we're going to go ahead and assume you're interested in buying your own carpet cleaner to keep and use at home, rather than having to call in the pros once or twice a year.
It's important that your carpet cleaner performs this 'extraction' part of hot water extraction effectively, both to ensure a thorough clean and a speedy drying time.
With the exception of spot cleaners like the #2 choice in our top 5 list, the vast majority of carpet cleaners available for you to buy for use at home use a method that is often called steam cleaning but is more accurately known as hot water extraction (it's actually about as 'steamy' as the Pope's Instagram feed, as opposed to the separate industrial process of steam cleaning, which is steamier than a screening of Black Swan shown in a sauna).
Hot water extraction involves spreading hot water, or more usually a hot solution of detergent and water, over the carpet, working it deep into the fibers, and then vacuuming it out (ie extracting it), along with a load of lurking dirt. It's important that your carpet cleaner performs this 'extraction' part of hot water extraction effectively, both to ensure a thorough clean and a speedy drying time. If your cleaned carpet takes forever to dry, not only is that going to be inconvenient for you - how long can you go without setting foot in an entire room of your home?! - but it could cause discoloration or even mildew in your carpet.
Some carpet cleaners also come with a 'pretreatment' solution. If you want to pretreat your carpet before deep cleaning, look for a solution that promises to rinse easily: you don't want to swap a dirty carpet for a carpet with trodden-in cleaning solution.
Which Carpet Cleaner Will Get This Stain Out Of My Carpet?
We've all been in the situation illustrated by the picture on the left, am I right? You've murdered a relative, but despite having watched all eight seasons of Dexter to pick up tips you completely forgot to put down plastic sheeting first and now there's blood all over the...wait, that's red wine? Of course it is. Our bad. Sorry.
store-bought cleaners for specific items, like nail polish remover, a chewing gum remover, and a stain remover to tackle grease or oil spots.
When it comes to using a carpet cleaner to eradicate a deep stain, it really depends on whether it's a true 'stain' or just some ground-in dirt. If it's the latter, then you're in luck: where lingering dirt is clinging on to your carpet fibers, any of the carpet cleaners we've reviewed here should be able to shift them (although the sooner you clean, the more successful you'll be).
A real stain is a change in the color of the carpet fiber itself, and it's likely to be permanent unless you get it cleaned up almost immediately. We'd recommend having a stain-removal kit ready ahead of time, so you can spring into action as soon as that blood - wine! Sorry! We meant wine! - hits the ground. Here's what you need to keep in your kit:
- white cloths or paper towels
- detergent solution for general stains: you could use the solution that comes with your carpet cleaner
- acidic solution, i.e. a bottle half-filled with white vinegar or white wine, and topped up with water, to clean up alkaline stains like urine or dog mess
- alkaline solution, ie a tablespoon of ammonia mixed into a cup of water, to clean up acidic stains like cat mess, vomit or blood. (Don't use this on carpets that contain wool fibers as it will damage them.)
- store-bought cleaners for specific items, like nail polish remover, a chewing gum remover, and a stain remover to tackle grease or oil spots.
When a stain hits, immediately apply the relevant treatment, and then as soon as possible - like when your dinner party guests have all gone home, or after you've disposed of the body - give the whole carpet a proper seeing-to with your carpet cleaner. Check out Good Housekeeping's ultimate stain removal tips for more advice.
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