The 10 Best Carpet Cleaners
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in May of 2015. In most busy homes, it doesn't take long for carpet to start looking old and worn. Luckily, you can quickly take care of ingrained dirt, pet hair, and stains with one of these effective cleaners. You may never have to spend money on a professional cleaning service 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 selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
September 08, 2020:
Although steam cleaning can be a good way to lift old grime or even sanitize an area, we've removed the Pure Enrichment PureClean XL, a canister steam cleaner. It does not offer suction, so there's no way to extract any water from your carpet — which is not always ideal. Instead, we've added the versatile Bissell DeepClean Lift-Off. This 2-in-1 model puts both a typical upright machine and a spot cleaner at your disposal, so you don't have to invest in both.
When it comes to power and deep cleaning, however, the Bissell Big Green 86T3 remains the one to beat, with the Hoover Smartwash FH52000 coming in a close second. These have all manner of features to make your cleaning time less stressful and more effective, from large tanks to excellent suction that offers relatively low drying times. But if your budget won't admit these models, the Bissell Turboclean PowerBrush Pet is a good alternative, if you're patient — the dirty water tank has some crevices that trap hair, so you'll need to allow a little extra time for cleaning this tank thoroughly.
Finally, we kept the powerful Bissell ProHeat 2X, although it's worth noting that the name is perhaps deceiving — the machine does not actually heat up the water inside. Instead, if you put hot water in it, the motor helps keep it that way during use. But you should only use hot water, not boiling, as overly heated water could damage it.
March 30, 2019:
Sure carpet is nice and soft on the feet, and it doesn't get cold like tile does, but anybody who has had it in their home for any length of time knows the headaches it comes with, namely trying to keep it clean. Unlike hard floors, carpet fibers literally suck up dirt, liquids, pet urine, and pretty much everything else. Instead of hiring a costly professional service though, you can get yourself one of the handy cleaners on this list.
If your carpets are seriously soiled, or you have a large family and carpet in high-traffic areas, like a hallway, then you'll definitely want to take a look at the Bissell Big Green Deep 86T3, as this bad boy is nearly as powerful as professional models. If you are a pet owner, the Hoover Power Scrub Elite Pet, Bissell DeepClean Premier Pet, and Bissell Turboclean PowerBrush Pet are smart choices. The Bissell SpotBot 33N8 is a good choice for pet owners who don't plan on having to clean their entire carpet, but rather taking care of periodic accidents, like when raising a puppy or dealing with an older pooch. Speaking of spot cleaning, the Rug Doctor 93300 is another model designed specifically for that. If you have a very small home, you'll appreciate the compact Bissell Turboclean PowerBrush Pet, which is slim and has a folding handle for storage. If you have both hard and soft floors in your home, you may want to consider the Pure Enrichment PureClean XL, which can be used on everything from granite to carpet.
Tornado Cascade 20 If you don't have time to waste, the Tornado Cascade 20 has you covered. In just one hour, you can tackle a 4,200 square foot area in deep cleaning mode; not only that, but drying times are low, too. This self-contained recycling extractor was made to use less chemicals than many others, too, which is good for both your wallet and the environment. tornadovac.com
Rotovac 360i At first glance, the Rotovac 360i looks like a floor waxer, but its head has spray jets and vacuum ports that make short work of even the dirtiest of carpets. Designed for professional use, it operates with a side-to-side, self-propelled motion that staves off fatigue, and it pairs with truck-mount or portable extractors that use a standard 12-inch wand. rotovac.com
Whittaker Smart Care 15-Inch Trio System Although the Whittaker Smart Care 15-Inch Trio System puts a robust, commercial machine at the disposal of your facility or business, this model was created to be both comfortable and easy to use, with no special training required. It will extend the life of your carpets, even in high-use areas, by removing grime without doing damage. whittakersystem.com
Five Reasons Why You Need To Buy A Carpet Cleaner
If you buy a carpet cleaner and use it regularly, you'll only need to figure out how it works once.
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. 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, 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.
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.
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.