Tips for picking the best carpet cleaner

If you love the plush, cozy feeling carpets bring to your home but hate how dirty they get over time, it only makes sense to buy a carpet cleaner. It will soon pay for itself compared to hiring someone to do the job, and you have it ready to use whenever you need. 

Some cleaners are perfect for deep cleans, whereas others are better for spot cleaning and cleaning smaller areas. Learn how to pick the best carpet cleaner for you so yours will give you everything you need.

Questions to ask yourself before buying a carpet cleaner

How dirty do your carpets get? 

You’ll need more impressive cleaning power if you have kids or dogs than if you have a small, adult-only, pet-free household. Some carpet cleaners are specifically designed for homes with pets and have the extra oomph needed to get rid of pet odors, muddy paw prints and other pet-related messes. Think about whether there are any high-traffic areas in your home in which your carpets tend to get extra dirty. If so, it’s worth paying more for a powerful cleaner that will do its job well. 

How often will you use your carpet cleaner? 

Are you likely to use a carpet cleaner once every couple of months, once a year or once in total before relegating it to the back of a closet somewhere? It makes sense to spend more if you’ll use your cleaner regularly, getting more bang for your buck. For occasional use, an inexpensive one will do the trick. 

Do you want to clean upholstery? 

Most carpet cleaners also work on upholstery, with the help of the right attachments. However, some are specifically geared toward upholstery and do a better job with it than they do with carpets and rugs. 

What to look for in a carpet cleaner

Upright vs. canister

You’ll find two main types of carpet cleaners: upright and canister. Upright ones have the water tanks, motor and cleaning head all in one unit, with most looking similar to upright vacuum cleaners. Canister models have the motor and water tanks in the body of the unit with a separate cleaning head attached to the body by a hose. It’s generally quicker to clean with an upright model, so they’re suitable for cleaning large areas, while canister options are better for spot cleaning and upholstery. 

Quick-dry mode

When you deep clean your carpet, it can take as long as 24 hours to fully dry, but this isn’t always practical or necessary. Quick-dry mode is a lighter cleaning mode that doesn’t get your carpet as wet, so it will fully dry within 1-2 hours. After an initial deep clean, you should only need to use the quick-dry mode to refresh your carpets if you clean them regularly. 

Tools

Carpet cleaners should come with at least a couple of tools or attachments. The main cleaning head is what you’ll use for cleaning large areas, such as big rugs or wall-to-wall carpet, but you’ll also want a crevice tool for getting into tight corners and an upholstery brush for cleaning couches and other soft furnishings. Other tools are less essential, but it’s nice to have a good range just in case. 

Dual tanks

Ideally, your carpet cleaner should have two water tanks: one that holds clean water only and one that holds dirty water after it’s been sucked out of the carpet. Without dedicated tanks for each, you’ll be cleaning your carpet with grubby water and you’ll need to empty and refill the tank regularly to keep the water clean. 

Tank capacity

Check the capacity of both the clean water tank and the dirty water tank. Larger capacities allow you to clean more of your home before needing to empty the dirty water and replenish the fresh water. Compact models may only hold 1.5-2 liters of water, while large models can hold as much as 3.5-4.5 liters. If you have a large home with fitted carpets, you’ll thank yourself for choosing a model with a decent tank capacity. 

Cleaning solutions

Check what kind of cleaning solution is required before buying. Some work with any cleaning solution designed for use with carpet cleaning machines, while others only work with the manufacturer’s proprietary solution, which can be limiting.  

Best carpet cleaners

Bissell TurboClean PowerBrush Pet Carpet Cleaner

Bissell TurboClean PowerBrush Pet Carpet Cleaner

This inexpensive, lightweight carpet cleaner is great for occasional use but still powerful enough to clean up after pets. 

Sold by Amazon

Bissell Big Green Professional Carpet Cleaner

Bissell Big Green Professional Carpet Cleaner

This professional-quality carpet cleaner leaves rugs, carpets and upholstery looking as good as new. It’s pricey, so it’s best suited for people who will use it regularly or who have large homes with fitted carpets in most rooms. 

Sold by Amazon

Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner

Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner

With quick-drying technology, this is a great choice for quick cleans to tackle pet messes as well as more thorough deep cleans. It’s compact and easy to use and maneuver. 

Sold by Amazon

Hoover Smartwash Automatic Carpet Cleaner

Hoover Smartwash Automatic Carpet Cleaner

Thanks to its automatic cleaning technology, it’s extremely simple to use — just push it forward to clean and pull it backward to dry. Its power brushes clean deep into the pile of your carpet. 

Sold by Amazon

Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner

Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner

This compact canister spot cleaner is perfect for cleaning up pet-related stains on carpet and upholstery but isn’t well-suited to cleaning whole rooms worth of carpet. 

Sold by Amazon

Vacmaster Wet Dry Shampoo Vacuum Cleaner

Vacmaster Wet/Dry Shampoo Vacuum Cleaner

A wet/dry model, the Vacmaster is suitable for dry vacuuming, wet vacuuming and carpet shampooing. It’s good for low pile rugs and carpets but really shines when it comes to upholstery cleaning. 

Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.