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Any home with carpeting or area rugs can benefit from a carpet cleaner. These machines can save soft surfaces from stains and dirt, and also restore fluff to carpet fibers to make rugs look new. Regular carpet cleaning is also important since carpets are an excellent hiding spot for unseen dirt and bacteria.
Marilee Nelson, a certified building biologist, environmental consultant, and co-founder of Branch Basics, says: “Of all the floor types, carpeted floors are the hardest to get truly clean." She quotes an interview with Dr. Philip Tierno Jr., a microbiologist, immunologist, and professor at NYU's Langone Medical Center, in a 2015 article from Men's Health. Tierno notes that every square inch of carpet is likely riddled with about 200,000 bacteria, which is significantly more than what's on your toilet seat. Before you rent a heavy-duty commercial carpet cleaner or even call in a professional carpet cleaning company to pick up this mess, consider buying a carpet cleaner that you can use to freshen up soft surfaces in your home at any time.
First, decide if you want a full-size, upright carpet cleaner or if a portable carpet cleaner is a better fit for your needs. Other features to consider include separate clean and dirty water tanks, a heating mechanism to reduce drying time, and an easily accessible brush roll for faster cleanup. Some models for pets also include specialty attachments for extracting pet hair. Whichever type of carpet cleaner you choose, pay attention to the size of the water tanks—which is directly related to how often you’ll be refilling the machine—the width of the cleaning head, and the weight of the machine itself. We tested several of these products ourselves to see how their features matched up, and how effective they really are as a whole.
Below, find the best carpet cleaners to tackle stains and freshen your favorite carpets or rugs.
Best Overall: BISSELL ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner
Weight: 19 pounds | Surface Type: Carpeting, area rugs, bare floors (with purchase of additional attachment) | Cleaning Path Width: 11 inches | Capacity: 1 gallon | Cord Length: 25 feet | Noise Level: Not listed
Easy-to-clean brush head
Automatically stops when dirty water tank is full
Useful tools and attachments
Doesn’t heat water
Easy Fill tank is only compatible with specific cleaning formulas
Anyone looking for a deep-cleaning carpet machine with easy-to-use features and impressive cleaning power will be satisfied with the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro. This upright carpet cleaner offers two cleaning modes: Max Clean and Express Clean. The Max Clean setting is ideal for deep cleaning heavily soiled carpeting, while the Express Clean uses less formula and water for faster drying times. Our product tester found both modes to be useful and reported that only a single pass with this carpet cleaner was required for removing dirt and leaving behind cleaner carpets.
One thing to know is that the Bissell ProHeat technology maintains water temperature, but you’ll still need to put hot water in the tank to start your cleaning session. However, another feature that makes the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro stand out from the competition is its Easy Fill tank. While it must be used with compatible carpet cleaner formulas, you simply fill to a marked line on the tank with no need to measure liquid formula.
The attachments that come with this carpet cleaner are more than cheap add-ons. The two-in-one Pet Upholstery Tool can be used in wet or dry mode and has rubber bristles for capturing pet hair. A small bin on the attachment itself contains collected hair and dirt instead of sending this debris into the dirty water tank. Even people without pets will appreciate this useful tool on upholstered furniture since it’s suitable for above-floor cleaning tasks. A three-inch scrubbing tool is also included for hand-scrubbing stains, along with a nozzle cleaning tool for clearing the brush head.
"I tested this carpet cleaner on one of my dog’s favorite rugs, and I was blown away by the results. I chose the deep cleaning mode, and starting from the first pass, [it] began pulling up lots of dirt! In fact, the water was so dirty I figured I should go over the rug again to be safe. However, on my second pass, the water was clean as could be.” — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best Budget: Bissell 2089 PowerForce PowerBrush Carpet Cleaner
Weight: 11 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet, area rugs | Cleaning Path Width: 9.5 inches | Capacity: 0.5 gallons | Cord Length: 20 feet | Noise Level: Not available
Removable nozzle for easier cleaning
Narrow cleaning path width
Small clean water tank
Many people buy a carpet cleaner for at-home use to avoid the recurring expense of rental machines or paying a professional to do the job. If you’re looking for a budget carpet cleaner that can get the job done for less, then consider the Bissell PowerForce PowerBrush. This lightweight carpet cleaner weighs just 11 pounds, and it's also easy on the wallet with a price tag that is half the cost of many other full-size carpet cleaning machines. You’ll make a few sacrifices, such as a narrow cleaning path (9.5 inches), a short 20-foot power cord, and a small clean water tank capacity (0.5 gallons). These factors make this budget carpet cleaner best suited for cleaning area rugs or smaller carpeted rooms.
Equipped with two tanks, this model keeps clean water separate from the dirty water it suctions out of carpets and rugs. The rotating PowerBrush features four rows of bristles for gently, but effectively, agitating fibers and removing dirt and stains. A removable nozzle makes it easier to clean the machine after each use. In addition, this carpet cleaner stands out for having a collapsible handle for more compact storage.
Best for Pet Owners: Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner
Weight: 12.5 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet, area rugs | Cleaning Path Width: 10 inches | Capacity: 0.5 gallon | Cord Length: 20 feet | Noise Level: Not listed
Effectively removes pet hair
Brush compartment is difficult to clean
Very loud during use
Carpet fibers easily hide pet hair, dander, and dirt, making it hard to get a thorough clean without deep agitation and powerful cleaning from a carpet cleaner. The Hoover PowerDash Pet delivers both, making this option the leader of the pack when it comes to the best carpet cleaner for pet owners. Pet parents will appreciate the PowerSpin Pet antimicrobial brush roll that drives bristles into the fibers of carpets and rugs to loosen and collect hair. Cleaning this brush roll can be a challenge, though Hoover includes a nozzle cleaning tool to assist with the dirty job.
In product testing, we found that the Hoover PowerDash Pet consistently extracted pet hair from carpeted surfaces and produced a visible difference between cleaned and uncleaned areas. Separate clean and dirty water tanks ensure that the extracted dirt, hair, and debris stay contained until disposal. The biggest drawback of this carpet cleaner is its small water tank size—just a half-gallon. When cleaning large rooms or area rugs, this means more frequent pauses to stop, empty, and refill the water tanks. However, in exchange for small capacity water tanks, the machine is more compact and easier to store than many other full-size carpet cleaners.
"The Hoover PowerDash doesn’t come with a ton of bells and whistles, but we were impressed with the features nonetheless. [It] boasts two separate tanks: one for the clean water and the other for the dirty water it sucks back up out of the carpet. The clean water tank only holds a half-gallon, so the liquid didn’t weigh the machine down as it would with a larger tank." — Angelica Leicht, Product Tester
Best Portable: Bissell SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner
Weight: 13 pounds | Surface Type: Carpets, area rugs | Cleaning Path Width: Not Applicable | Capacity: 30 ounces | Cord Length: 15 feet | Noise Level: Not listed
Large water tank
Powerful stain removal
Difficult to clean
Only cleans a 5 to 6-inch area
Put the power of a carpet cleaner to work in a variety of settings when you use a compact, portable option like the Bissell SpotBot. This model is designed for homes with pets, but in our product testing, it proved successful in cleaning carpets soiled by baby spit-up, spilled salsa, and crayons. Best of all, the SpotBot does its job with no user intervention. Just place this small carpet cleaning machine over the spot, select the cleaning mode (Deep Clean or Quick Clean), and return several minutes later after the machine beeps to indicate cleaning is complete. Of course, you can take matters into your own hands and use the removable hose with the three-inch stain tool to agitate specific spots. This is especially helpful for stains on vertical surfaces, like furniture, or for use on stairs.
This portable carpet cleaner is easy to store since it takes up minimal space in a cabinet or closet. Use it in any room of the house, on upholstered furniture with the help of the hand tool, or to freshen up car seats and floor mats. Keep in mind that larger stains will require repeated treatment since the Bissell SpotBet Portable Deep Cleaner has a cleaning radius of 5 to 6 inches. For full rug or carpet cleaning, you should leave the portable carpet cleaner on the shelf and reach for a full-size model.
"The SpotClean’s impressive cleaning abilities are both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it will get out tough stains, making your carpet look fresh again. However, if the rest of the rug is also dirty, the clean spots will stand out, and you’ll probably end up needing a full-size carpet cleaner to get the rest of the surface to the same degree of clean." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best for Fast Drying: Hoover SmartWash Advanced Pet Automatic Upright Carpet Cleaner
Weight: 18.9 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet, area rugs, upholstery | Cleaning Path Width: 12 inches | Capacity: 1 gallon | Cord Length: 22 feet | Noise Level: Not listed
Automatically mixes solution
If you love clean carpets but hate dealing with soggy socks for hours after your cleaning session, choose a fast-drying carpet cleaner like the Hoover SmartWash+. This full-size carpet cleaner uses intuitive motion-sensing to wash and dry your carpeting almost simultaneously. With a forward push, the machine dispenses cleaning solution and agitates the carpet fibers for deep cleaning. As you pull back, the machine extracts moisture and applies heat for more efficient drying. To further reduce drying time, a button activates a "dry only" mode that allows you to extract even more moisture from carpets and rugs.
Aside from faster drying times, user-friendly features make operating this carpet cleaner very simple. A small solution tank automatically dispenses formula into the clean water tank, which means that you’ll only use as much cleaning solution as the job calls for. The unused solution can be poured back in the bottle or left in the machine for use next time. An easy-to-remove nozzle provides quick access to the dual-bristled brushes for simpler cleanup after deep cleaning your carpet.
Best Stain Remover: Resolve Spot + Stain Carpet Stain Remover
Weight: Not applicable | Surface Type: Carpet | Cleaning Path Width: Not applicable | Capacity: Not applicable | Cord Length: Not applicable | Noise Level: Not applicable
Helps with discoloration
Not ideal for large areas
Doesn't neutralize pet odors
While carpet cleaners are great for freshening up entire rugs or carpeted rooms, a stain remover is best for targeting messes as they happen, along with smaller areas that need attention and care. Resolve Spot + Stain Carpet Stain Remover lifts stains and neutralizes odors with a triple-oxi formula. It’s safe for use on wool, nylon, and polyester carpets or area rugs.
Our product tester used it with great success on spaghetti sauce and set-in stains but doesn’t recommend it for removing pet stains, since it’s not formulated with enzymes that neutralize odors from urine and feces. This stain remover is also not ideal for large areas, but it can be considered a "portable" option whenever you need to get your carpets clean.
"I tried this carpet stain remover on tomato sauce, red wine, coffee, and ground-in dirt. While most of these stains were fresh (within 10 minutes of cleaning), the dirt and mud had been speckled on my entryway rug for at least a few days. The Resolve carpet stain remover got out the stains and left the carpet smelling fresh." — Katie Begley, Product Tester
Best for Cars: Vacmaster Professional Wet/Dry Portable Carpet Cleaner
Weight: 31.4 pounds | Surface Type: Low pile carpet, upholstery | Cleaning Path Width: 10 inches | Capacity: 0.5 gallon | Cord Length: 20 feet | Noise Level: Below 72 dBA
Small and large shampoo attachments
Has a detergent tank
Large tank for cleaning solution
No heated drying function
An automotive carpet cleaner must have attachments for tight spaces and powerful extraction to prevent musty odors and prevent mold from settling into damp carpeting or upholstery. The Vacmaster Professional Wet/Dry Portable Carpet Cleaner pairs a powerful vacuum with the ability to dispense shampoo onto car upholstery, carpeting, or floor mats. A carpet shampoo attachment and handheld shampoo attachment offer two options for cleaning large or small areas.
In addition, the vacuum’s nozzle offers the option to switch between vacuuming or shampooing functions with the push of a button. This carpet cleaner for cars has an eight-gallon collection tank and a one-gallon detergent tank, offering plenty of capacity for large or dirty jobs. You'll only be disappointed at how heavy it is to carry from one section of your car to another, and that there's no heated drying function to finish your task in a quicker manner.
Best Professional: BISSELL Big Green Professional Carpet Cleaner
Weight: 41 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet, upholstery | Cleaning Path Width: 10.5 inches | Capacity: 1.75 gallons | Cord Length: 25 feet | Noise Level: Not applicable
Large water tank
Adjustable handle height
Heavy and large
Leaves pet hair behind
A heavy-duty carpet cleaner like the Bissell Big Green is larger and more expensive than the average residential model but delivers an impressive clean for carpets, area rugs, and furniture. You can skip regular rental of commercial machines and instead pull this carpet cleaner from the closet any time your rugs or carpeting need a deep clean. Keep in mind that you’ll need some muscle to maneuver this carpet cleaner, which weighs 41 pounds. However, the larger size also means increased water tank capacity: the clean water tank holds 1.75 gallons and was more than enough to clean a medium-size area rug during product testing.
The Bissell Big Green is equipped with an extra-large brush that features eight rows of rotating bristles, plus a supersized six-inch hand tool with a nine-foot hose for giving extra attention to serious stains. Our product tester found that this high-end carpet cleaner extracted an impressive amount of dirt from seemingly clean rugs, and also had shorter drying times compared to other models. When it comes to stain-fighting action, the Bissell Big Green removed the majority of visible stains left behind from set-in chocolate, dirt, coffee, and salad dressing, but isn't as effective at removing pet hair.
"Further, the Big Green Machine has incredibly powerful suction, so it pulls the vast majority of water out of your carpets after washing them. We used it on a medium-pile rug, and it only took an hour or so until the rug was dry to the touch again. With other machines, the drying process can take several hours, so this is a big bonus in our book." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best Spray: Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover
Weight: Not applicable | Surface Type: Carpet, upholstery | Cleaning Path Width: Not Applicable | Capacity: Not Applicable | Cord Length: Not Applicable | Noise Level: Not Applicable
Requires no rinsing
Can be used in a carpet cleaner
Less ideal for pet accidents
Some stains may require repeat treatments
For a carpet cleaner spray, Folex is an effective and economical option. This formula is water-based and odorless. It also is VOC, solvent, and petroleum-free. If you have an aversion to strange-smelling cleaning products that cloak odors, you’ll appreciate Folex’s gentle, yet effective formula. It can be used for spot cleaning or diluted for use in a residential carpet cleaner.
Using this carpet cleaner spray is simple. After testing for color-fastness on an inconspicuous area, saturate the area to be cleaned, agitate with your fingers or a soft-bristle brush, then thoroughly blot with a clean, dry towel. The formula breaks down the bonds of stains like chocolate, wine, blood, and more, releasing them from the carpet fibers and enabling them to be blotted and removed. While we have used this carpet cleaner spray on a variety of tough messes with great success, take note that our product tester recommends an enzyme-based carpet cleaner spray when it comes to pet accidents.
“The simplest method for removing stains is to spray the affected area with your cleaner of choice and let it sit before scrubbing the area. Remember to always test the cleaner on an inconspicuous area first to make sure the cleaner does not alter or damage the surface.” – Marilee Nelson, Branch Basics
Our top pick for a carpet cleaner is the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner. It offers multiple cleaning modes and can be used to clean upholstery or stairs. It proves effective at removing daily dirt, stains, and pet hair from carpets or rugs. A more compact and budget-friendly option is the Bissell PowerForce PowerBrush Carpet Cleaner (view at Walmart). It has a more narrow cleaning path and smaller water tanks, but the collapsible handle saves storage space.
What to Look for in a Carpet Cleaner
Design and size
When shopping for a carpet cleaner, first consider what type you're looking for: an upright model or a more compact, portable version. Each design has its advantages. You can use an upright cleaner to cover more square footage, or a compact version for spot cleaning small messes or tidying up the interior of a car. While a portable carpet cleaner can fit on a shelf or in a cabinet, upright appliances will take up space comparable to a vacuum cleaner, so consider whether your home has room for a full-size machine.
It's also helpful to consider whether the carpet cleaner you're considering uses a single water tank or has a two-tank design—one for clean water and another for dirty water. A larger tank treats you to a lot more cleaning power in a single session, but can also make the product heavy and very difficult to maneuver. Many of the most popular models use a half-gallon or one-gallon clean water tank and pair it with a dirty water tank for efficiency and cleaner carpets.
Heating and other features
Some carpet cleaners are equipped with an internal heater. This feature increases and maintains water temperature to provide a more thorough clean. Aside from lifting dirt and stains more easily, hotter water can mean faster carpet drying times. This is a plus if you plan on frequent carpet cleaning but don’t want to wait any longer than necessary for soggy carpets to dry.
Another feature to consider when looking for a carpet cleaner is in-tank solution mixing. Instead of pre-measuring, just fill the water tank and solution tank of these cleaners, then the machine will mix the solution as needed. While some machines require you to pull a trigger to dispense the solution (then pull back on the handle to suction up loosened dirt and moisture), others automatically sense the motion of the machine and respond accordingly. This useful feature makes using your carpet cleaner similar to using your vacuum cleaner.
Most full-size carpet cleaners also have a brush roll to agitate carpet fibers. Since the brush roll can become tangled with hair or fibers, similar to your vacuum cleaner, consider how easy it is to access the brush roll for cleaning. Some models come with a removable cover that makes it simple to clean the brush without disassembling the carpet cleaner.
Many models of carpet cleaners also include additional brush or tool attachments to match various cleaning situations. For pet owners, consider a brush tool to clean upholstery. If you frequently deal with spills or stains, you'll likely appreciate a carpet cleaner that includes a tool specifically designed to treat tough stains with increased agitation.
How do carpet cleaners work?
A carpet cleaner dispenses liquid cleaning solution, then a brush or agitator tool gently scrubs carpet fibers to extract as much dirt as possible. Once this process is complete, the machine is tasked with suctioning up the loosened dirt, grime, and moisture into an onboard reservoir.
How often should I use a carpet cleaner?
Many people maintain the appearance and cleanliness of their carpets and rugs by using a carpet cleaner on a regular basis. While professional carpet cleaning is frequently recommended by carpet manufacturers on an annual basis, having a home carpet cleaning machine means you can take advantage of a deeper clean more often.
Some people use a carpet cleaner on a monthly or even weekly basis, but your specific needs will vary based on the type of carpet you have in your home, the volume of foot traffic, and whether or not you have children, pets, or habits that contribute to more rapid dirt build-up.
What kind of stains can carpet cleaners remove?
Stains from dirt, mud, food and drink, grease, oil, and bodily fluids can often be greatly reduced or even eliminated with the help of a carpet cleaner. Some stains may disappear with a single treatment, while others may require repeated cleaning sessions. To take stain-fighting power up a notch, you might consider using a specialty carpet cleaning solution, like one formulated for pet stains.
Can carpet cleaners remove pet odors?
The short answer is sometimes. Whether or not a carpet cleaning machine will remove pet stains and odors largely depends on if the padding underneath the carpet has been contaminated. If urine has saturated the carpet padding, cleaning the fibers on top is unlikely to completely remove the odor. However, if you use a carpet cleaner in combination with an enzymatic cleaner, you are more likely to be successful in neutralizing the odor.
One important thing to note is that you should not use hot water to clean carpets with pet odors. The heat can bond the proteins in urine to carpet fibers, resulting in a hard-to-remove stain and lingering odor.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Erica Puisis has been writing about home products for The Spruce since 2017. For this roundup, she researched full-size, compact, and portable machines, in addition to sprays for stains. Each option was evaluated based on its cleaning modes, user-friendly features, tank capacity, and accessories. She also considered reports from our product testers and interviewed Marilee Nelson, a certified building biologist, environmental consultant, and co-founder of Branch Basics. All of the machines featured have separate clean and dirty water tanks for effective cleaning of carpets and area rugs.