So, you accidentally spilled a plate of saucy spaghetti all over your beige dining room carpet. What to do? Act quickly, for one, and don't let the mess soak in. Then, you'll want to pull out a trusty carpet cleaner. It's the best way to remove embedded dirt, stains, and smells from any wall-to-wall carpeting and large area rugs.
Marilee Nelson, certified building biologist, environmental consultant, and co-founder of Branch Basics notes that 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," making sure to test the spray cleaner on a tiny, hidden area first. That's true, but sometimes a spray isn't enough, or there is an entire room waiting to be deep cleaned. Those times are when a carpet cleaner shines.
We tested dozens of carpet cleaners at The Lab and at home. We evaluated effectiveness, portability, and attachments. We tasked each with removing orange juice, ketchup, wet potting soil, and coffee stains and noted how noisy or quiet the appliance was while operating. The Bissell Jetscrub 25299 Upright Pet Carpet Cleaner is our top pick. It's lightweight, easy to maneuver, and has a spot-cleaning feature and LED light on the floor head.
Bissell 25299 Jetscrub Pet Carpet Cleaner
Has a stain pretreatment feature
LED light on floor head
No hose or attachments
Need to vacuum some stains first
The Bissell Jetscrub 25299 Upright Pet Carpet Cleaner remains our top pick for a carpet cleaner—hands down—after multiple rounds of testing in The Lab. It has multiple cleaning modes, a pretreatment feature, and an LED light on the floor head. It's portable and easy enough that you'll actually use it in your home to suction up stains, dirt, and more.
It's easy to get started with this machine, with parts intuitively snapping together. The instructions weren't the most thorough, but we did find them to be pretty simple. It was a cinch to fill the water tank and add solution, with clear lines indicating how much of each to add. In addition to the simple and straightforward setup, the cleaning modes were labeled on the machine (an express clean setting for surface cleaning, a deep clean setting for stains, as well as a CleanShot feature to pretreat tough stains). This cleaner also comes with a storage mat and collapsible handle for stowing it away in a small closet when not in use.
In our test, the unit sucked up the fresh coffee stain in one back-and-forth swipe and a set-in orange juice stain in two back-and-forth swipes. We did note that the carpet was still damp two hours after we ran the deep clean function, so you'll want to keep pets and children off of any spots you clean for at least a few hours. The only thing it didn't pick up was the synthetic hair that was mixed in with the wet potting soil, but you could easily vacuum that up before or after your clean.
A floor head LED light helps illuminate any stains that might be hard to see, and the machine self-propels, so you don't have to put in a ton of elbow grease to have clean carpets. This one quickly turned and maneuvered almost on its own, which really impressed us. Compared to the other carpet cleaners we tested, this one is small and by far the easiest to use.
Emptying the dirty water was easy and mess-free. An included brush helps clean the tank, but we found we didn't need to use it. There are no hoses or other special attachments, so the cleaner isn't the most versatile, but it works so well with the two available settings and has a small floor head for concentrated cleaning, so not much is left to be desired. It's also relatively quiet (similar to an average vacuum) and lighter than other models we tested. All in all, this carpet cleaner is highly effective, easy to use, and more portable than similar machines, so it's well deserving of our best overall spot and a place in your cleaning closet.
How It Performed Long-Term
This machine has continued to prove itself and confirm our initial positive assessment, and we've found it to be just as easy and efficient at home as it was in The Lab. One feature that's become apparent with regular use is how easy it is to rinse out and break down in between cleaning sessions, which gives us confidence that we'd be able to maintain it for even more long-term usage. We also got another clear sense of how effective it is by seeing it perform on carpets that we thought were actually in decent shape. Once we saw the dirty water and grime that it pulled from flooring that had been recently vacuumed, we were convinced! We still think this is a great machine, and we'd recommend it for someone who's never owned a carpet cleaner before or as an upgrade for someone whose current machine isn't quite hitting the mark.
Price at time of publish: $260
Dimensions: 44 x 10 x 15 inches | Weight: 12.3 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet, area rugs, bare floors, sealed hard floors | Cleaning Path Width: 9.5 inches | Capacity: 0.38 gallons | Cord Length: 20 feet | Noise Level: 75 decibels
Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner
Effectively removes pet hair
Brush compartment is difficult to clean
The Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner is designed to both loosen and suck up pet hair from your carpets, as well as attack tough stains. For the lower price, we believe it's a great value. 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 and how the clean water tank only holds a half-gallon, so the liquid doesn't weigh the machine down as it would with a larger tank.
In product testing at The Lab, this carpet cleaner sucked up the fresh coffee stain in only one forward pass (but it required more effort for set-in stains). It dragged the potting soil a bit, so we recommend thoroughly vacuuming any noticeable 3D stains beforehand. We loved that this machine was lightweight and easy to maneuver, but we wish it came with attachments to help tackle tougher stains. It's also worth noting that cleaning this brush roll can be a challenge, though Hoover includes a cleaning tool to assist with the dirty job.
For the affordable price, this is ultimately an excellent pick for pet owners or those who need to deep clean small spaces. When cleaning large rooms or area rugs, the half-gallon water tank requires more frequent pauses to stop, empty, and refill. However, in exchange for a smaller capacity, the machine is more compact and easier to store than many other carpet cleaners.
Price at time of publish: $130
Dimensions: 43.5 x 10.1 x 15.3 inches | Weight: 12.5 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet, area rugs | Cleaning Path Width: 10 inches | Capacity: 0.5 gallons | Cord Length: 20 feet | Noise Level: 83 decibels
Bissell Big PET PRO Carpet Cleaner
Water tank is easy to dump and rinse
Removes staining within six passes
Not much assembly required
Easy to maneuver
No storage for attachments
Might be heavy for some users
The Bissell Big Green PET PRO Carpet Cleaner is a spin-off of the manufacturer's commercial Big Green cleaning machine that's specifically designed to handle pet stains, including odors from staining. This machine was pretty much ready to go out of the box and only required a bit of attaching. Plus, it wasn't too difficult to push around and felt easy enough to use.
After just three passes of wet and then dry cleaning in our test, the fresh coffee stain was completely removed, and the red wine, chocolate, and dirt stains were nearly gone. With three more passes of wet and dry cleaning, the wine stain was also gone. To remove the last two stains, we used the wet-dry attachment. While we did vacuum any excess dirt and hair first with a handheld vacuum, this performance was still impressive. The machine wasn't super-loud by any means, and we could hear when someone was trying to speak while using it.
Although we didn't find this machine particularly difficult to maneuver, it weighed over 60 pounds when the tank was full, so it may be too heavy for some users. This machine also does not have any onboard storage for the attachments, which we found slightly frustrating. However, the water tank and hose are fairly easy to clean and dump, which earned this machine a perfect 5-star rating for ease of use. While it's certainly not built for everyday messes, if you find yourself deep cleaning your carpets more than twice a year, we recommend investing in this Bissell model.
How It Performed Long-Term
This machine made a marked difference in the home carpet we used for long-term testing; it cleaned up tough spots, brightened up the white/gray color, and even made certain areas smell better. We could see it working especially well for larger spaces and heavy-duty cleaning. Plus, even stairs were manageable, thanks to the included accessories. Though, as great as it performs, its bulky size could be a potential limitation for some; it's not the best choice if you're short on space or have lots of nooks and crannies to clean. But if your focus is on keeping your open carpet areas clean, it's well worth your consideration.
Price at time of publish: $443
Dimensions: 43 x 11 x 21 inches | Weight: 44 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet, area rugs, upholstery | Cleaning Path Width: 10.5 inches | Capacity: 1.75 gallons | Cord Length: 25 feet | Noise Level: 91 decibels
Bissell 1400B Little Green Multi-Purpose Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner
Comfortable hose and attachment design
Large water tank
Excellent spot treatment
A little bulky
Narrow cleaning path
The Bissell Little Green rose to fame on TikTok, as users filmed themselves cleaning impossible-looking stains on carpet, couches, and chairs while posting with the tag #littlegreenmachine. When we brought the portable carpet cleaner into The Lab (on multiple occasions), we had low expectations that it would live up to the hype. We were wrong. "The Bissell Little Green Carpet Cleaner went viral for a reason," said one member of our team. "It lifts even the toughest of stains and isn't difficult to operate. Cleaning and maintenance are easy, and the turtle shell design is quite adorable."
This machine impressed as it cleaned perfect 3-inch paths through each stain. You could see the Little Green sucking up the fresh coffee spill, and with a little bit of elbow grease, it cleaned the set-in stains of orange juice, ketchup, and potting soil with no pretreatment and only a faint stain left behind. As a result, we think it works best on fresh stains, but it still worked well enough on set-in stains to score a 4.5-star rating for effectiveness.
The beloved Bissell machine took around eight minutes to set up. The directions were a little unclear, but once we followed the pictures, the assembly made more sense, and the large tank was easy to fill up. Just make sure you take note of which tank is for clean water versus dirty water. We also noted that the Little Green might feel a little cumbersome if you're carrying it around your home, but if it's sitting on the floor while you use the hose and attachment, it's easy (and, admittedly, a little fun) to use. So, add this machine to the list of TikTok hacks worth trying and carpet cleaners worth buying.
Price at time of publish: $124
Dimensions: 17.25 x 8.25 x 12.5 inches | Weight: 9.65 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet, upholstery | Cleaning Path Width: 3 inches | Capacity: 48 ounces | Cord Length: 15 feet | Noise Level: 80 decibels
Best for Pet Owners
Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner
Effective at quickly spot-treating stains
No setup required
Clean water tank is challenging to fill
Pet owners know that fur babies come with their own set of messes, which is why we recommend the Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner for any pet waste-related, deep cleaning needs. If you purchase this cleaner through Rug Doctor's website, an 8-ounce bottle of their Pure Power Pet Stain and Odor Cleaning Solution is included, but you can also purchase it separately. This small but mighty machine was ready to go out of the box and was also pretty intuitive to use. Our favorite feature on this cleaner is the retractable handle, which makes rolling this machine very easy between spots and for storage.
The coffee stain was no match for this machine's suction power and was gone after just one pass. The red wine, chocolate, and dirt stains were almost completely removed after one pass. After pretreating the other three stains again and going over them two more times, all were faded to faint shadows. We were impressed by how quickly this cleaner removed the stains and pleased that we did not have to refill the tank, which was still half full after three passes on each stain.
One hiccup that we encountered was the design of this machine's clean water tank. The top of it is curved, which makes filling it from the bottom incredibly tricky if you don't have an extra set of hands. Although this machine is incredibly effective and lightweight, we were a bit surprised at its higher price point, given some of the design features. The red tabs that hold the cord in place felt less durable, and the issue of the clean water tank was a disappointment. Despite the sticker shock, we recommend this mighty carpet cleaner for its effectiveness and innovative rolling design.
How It Performed Long-Term
Our long-term testing confirmed the "pet" and "portable" aspects of the Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner. It encountered multiple dog messes of the digestive kind, as well as spilled food, and we were pleased with the thorough results — it got rid of the stains (and their related smells!) completely. The compact size and the wheeled design also proved helpful in moving the machine from room to room. As it turns out, the handle was a bit large for one tester's liking, so if that's a potential area of concern for you, you may want to take note. All in all, this remains high on our list for spot cleaning in particular.
Price at time of publish: $190
Dimensions: 16.02 x 10.94 x 15.63 inches | Weight: 18.96 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet, area rugs, upholstery | Cleaning Path Width: Not listed | Capacity: 1 gallon | Cord Length: 28 feet | Noise Level: 90 decibels
Best for Tough Stains
Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner
Multiple cleaning modes
Immediate, visible results
Useful tools and attachments
Some assembly required
Anyone who is looking for a deep-cleaning 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 features two cleaning modes. The Max Clean setting is ideal for cleaning heavily soiled carpeting, while the Express Clean uses less formula and water for faster drying times.
This model undoubtedly cleaned the best in our product testing—once it was assembled properly. Due to the so-so assembly process and the fact that it's so large (It resembles a commercial carpet cleaner), this cleaner lost its previous spot as our top pick. However, if you frequently encounter tough stains, are looking to clean a large area, and have the space to store this machine in a utility room or garage, this is an excellent choice.
You'll need a screwdriver to assemble this machine, and you'll need to follow the directions closely. Some parts come assembled, but double-check that they are locked in tightly. During testing, our dirty water tank completely leaked out during the first test because we didn't double-check that it was locked in extra-tight. Once it was in place, the machine powered through all of the stains with ease, though, and we loved utilizing the CleanShot feature to pretreat tough stains: It removed a good portion of the set-in stains with two passes, and anything leftover was able to be scrubbed out with the hose and attachments. It required a bit of manual labor to get the stains completely out, but it was worth it.
The attachments that come with this carpet cleaner are very thoughtful and work well, too. The machine is not super-easy to maneuver or lift, but the attachments are easy to use for small areas where the entire machine would be a burden. The two-in-one pet upholstery tool can be used in wet or dry mode, and it 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 when cleaning upholstered furniture. A 3-inch scrubbing tool is also included for hand-scrubbing stains, along with a nozzle cleaning tool for clearing the brush head.
Price at time of publish: $309
Dimensions: 43.5 x 15 x 12.5 inches | Weight: 17.5 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet, area rugs, bare floors (with purchase of an additional attachment) | Cleaning Path Width: 11 inches | Capacity: 1 gallon | Cord Length: 25 feet | Noise Level: 82 decibels
Best for Spot Treatment
Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Plus
Spot treatment dries relatively quickly
Short run time and long charge time
Must purchase cleaning solution
There wasn't much we disliked about the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Plus after running it through our tests in The Lab. This cordless and compact carpet cleaner is the ideal tool for quick spot treatments, plus it's surprisingly quiet while in use (especially when compared to other compact cleaners that were as loud as standard house vacuums).
This carpet cleaner is unique in that it doesn't require any water to operate, so you don't have to worry about fussing with a water tank, but it does require a cleaning solution. Bissell recommends using the Bissell PRO OXY Spot and Stain Cleaning Solution with this machine. The solution still gave us results that rivaled water-based machines; it picked up the coffee and red wine stains after 10 total passes. The chocolate stain was more resistant to lifting, but that was the case with every carpet cleaner we tested.
Overall, this cleaner is an affordable and practical tool to have in your cleaning arsenal. Although it has a short runtime, we don't see that as a total downside since it's meant to treat stains quickly and only operate for a few minutes at a time. And since it's cordless, it can easily go where other machines can't for quick and easy clean-ups and spot treatments.
How It Performed Long-Term
We were happy to see that our initial impressions of the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Plus's overall effectiveness and ease of use were proved correct during our home testing. Its small size, portability, and cordless design have been appreciated, and it's done particularly well with fresh stains (and still made noticeable improvements to older stains, too). We do find the hard plastic handle to be less than ideal (finger grooves would be preferred), but we're willing to overlook this minor detail since the grip is personal, and there are ways to accommodate.
Price at time of publish: $100
Dimensions: 17.75 x 5 x 8 inches | Weight: 3.3 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet, area rugs, upholstery | Cleaning Path Width: 3 inches | Capacity: 8 ounces | Cord Length: Not applicable | Noise Level: 70 decibels
Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 Commercial Carpet Cleaner
Can clean large areas
Can order attachments separately
Easy to set up
Can stand while operating it
Difficult to empty and store
Of all the commercial carpet cleaners we tested in The Lab, the Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 was our favorite. If you're looking to invest in a professional-grade carpet cleaner for your home or workspace, this is the one for you. In our most recent testing of this machine, it cleaned red wine and coffee stains within the first six passes. It also cleaned potting soil and chocolate stains after 12 passes with both the wet and dry clean features, which impressed us. Setup was simple since it comes out of the box ready to use. And while it doesn't come with attachments, you can order a hose with an attachment separately. We also liked that we didn't have to bend over to use this cleaner, which is often the case with smaller spot-cleaning options.
This model is powerful, yes, but you should know that commercial carpet cleaners can come with a downside. For one, they are bulky and hard to store. They are also noisy and heavy. We would never try to have a conversation while using this machine because it is too noisy. This machine is also particularly difficult to empty because the clean water tank isn't detachable, so we had to place it in a large plastic tub and hold down the solution-release button until it was completely empty. In your home, we'd recommend just using the machine until it completely runs out of solution. Ultimately, if you have wall-to-wall carpeting or find yourself renting a commercial carpet cleaner often, we recommend investing in this one.
How It Performed Long-Term
Our long-term testing verified that this is indeed a machine you'd want to use for heavy-duty cleaning and large spaces. It mostly goes forward and backward, so big, empty rooms are where it's best suited. In other words, if you need to go around furniture or have lots of smaller sections of your home, it's not going to be a good choice. But if you have the space to accommodate this effective machine, expect your carpets to look and smell better, as we saw in our home testing. We were also impressed by how well it sucked water back up, which contributed to quicker drying times.
Price at time of publish: $600
Dimensions: 27.5 x 12.5 x 21 inches | Weight: 47 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet | Cleaning Path Width: Not listed | Capacity: 3.9 gallons | Cord Length: Not listed | Noise Level: 87 decibels
We Still Recommend
Hoover FH11300PC Portable Carpet & Upholstery Spot Cleaner
Easy to assemble
Easy to use
No additional attachments
While the Hoover Spotless Portable Carpet & Upholstery Spot Cleaner, a previous pick for Best for Spot Treatments, it's still incredibly effective at cleaning fresh and set-in stains. It was also one of the easiest devices to use during our initial round of testing. It has two separate tanks—one for dirty water and one for clean water. The tanks are clearly labeled, and the release button on top of the machine makes emptying the dirty water tank straightforward and mess-free. The center handle ensures that it's easy to carry around your home, and the 5-foot hose wraps around the machine for compact storage when not in use.
Thanks to its powerful deep cleaning abilities, this one was a standout in our testing. It impressed us as it took care of the set-in ketchup stain just as easily as it cleaned the fresh coffee stain. Plus, it's on the more affordable side, so we see it as a good overall value. There aren't any additional attachments with this machine, but the one included is so powerful that it's all you need to make set-in stains disappear.
Price at time of publish: $171
Dimensions: 15.04 x 13.94 x 9.72 inches | Weight: 9 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet, upholstery | Cleaning Path Width: Not listed | Capacity: 51 ounces | Cord Length: 14 feet | Noise Level: 84 decibels
|Overall Rating||Setup||Effectiveness||Noise Level||Ease of Use||Portability|
Bissell Jetscrub Pet Carpet Cleaner
Hoover PowerDash Pet Carpet Cleaner
Bissell Big PET PRO Carpet Cleaner
Bissell Little Green Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner
Best for Pet Owners:
Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner
Best for Tough Stains:
Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro
Best for Spot Treatment:
Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Plus
Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 Commercial Carpet Cleaner
We Still Recommend:
Hoover Spotless Portable Carpet & Upholstery Spot Cleaner
Our top pick for a carpet cleaner is the Bissell Jetscrub 25299 Upright Pet Carpet Cleaner. It's easy to use, and it comes with clever features, such as a collapsible handle and floor head LED light. It's also compact and incredibly effective at removing stains and spills from carpets or rugs, as seen in our testing. One budget-friendly option is the Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner. It's lightweight, easy to maneuver, and effective at removing stains and pet hair.
Other Options We Tested
TINECO CARPET ONE PRO Smart Carpet Cleaner: While this carpet cleaner was pretty effective at removing every stain with several passes, our tester said that it was almost too automated for such a simple task. For example, pressing the start button results in the machine talking to you, and you have to press additional buttons in order to begin cleaning. The dirty water tank handle can also be easily confused with a carrying handle, and the attachment hose leaks water at connection points. Although this is a great stain fighter, we were disappointed in its so-so "smart" features.
Bissell Big Green Commercial Carpet Cleaner: We loved that this one came out of its box ready to go, with almost no assembly required. However, in its main form, this carpet cleaner is slightly awkward to maneuver in tight corners and is very heavy when the water tank is full. It did quickly remove fresh coffee and red wine stains with three passes of the wet and dry functions. When our tester used the hose and attachment, it performed much better to clean up the rest of the chocolate syrup from our tests. For a commercial carpet cleaner, we expected a more efficient cleaning, though.
How We Tested the Carpet Cleaners
During our carpet cleaner tests at The Lab, we've put dozens of carpet cleaners—commercial, upright, and portable—through the same series of tests to compare their strengths. First, we test the ease of setup by timing how long it takes to unbox each cleaner. We evaluate the instructions and how many steps are involved in the process. We extend that category by testing how easy it is to fill the water tanks and noting whether the machine includes a heating feature. Then, it's time to test each appliance's effectiveness. We smear 4-inch stains of orange juice, ketchup, and wet potting soil mixed with synthetic hair onto a carpet and let it sit overnight. The next day, right before each test, we spill coffee on the carpet as well. In doing so, we can test the effectiveness on daily fresh stains as well as tough, set-in stains.
We also consider each cleaner's noise level, portability, and versatility. We test the noise level with a decibel meter and weigh whether we could have a conversation over the machine's noise. For portability, we score on whether you could lift the carpet cleaner with one hand or two and how heavy the machine is when the water tank is full. Then we assess versatility by observing which attachments are included that would deep clean other surfaces besides carpet.
We also take into account usability by reporting on the machine's design features that would make it practical to use in your home, such as cord length, water tank size, and hose attachments. We also record whether it's difficult to empty the dirty water tank and clean the machine after use. We weigh these factors against the price to determine the overall value of each and whether we would recommend the cleaner to a friend or family member. Our editors boil down all of the insights and data from our testing to create this list of the best carpet cleaners, which we then update as long-term data from our home tests becomes available for certain models.
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: a commercial, upright, or a more compact, portable model. Each design has its advantages, and we've included examples of each style on this list. You can use a commercial (like the Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 Commercial Carpet Cleaner) or upright cleaner (like the Bissell Jetscrub Carpet Cleaner, our Best Overall pick) to cover more square footage, or a compact version for spot cleaning small messes or tidying up the interior of a car (check out the Bissell Little Green Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner for an example). While a portable carpet cleaner can fit on a shelf or in a cabinet, commercial and upright appliances will typically take up space comparable to a vacuum cleaner, so factor in whether your home has room for a full-size machine.
It's also helpful to note whether the carpet cleaner you're eyeing uses a single water tank or has a two-tank design—one for clean water and another for dirty water (all of our picks on this list keep wastewater separate from your clean water or solution source). Also, consider the size of your tank or tanks, too. A larger capacity treats you to a lot more deep cleaning power in a single session, but it 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.
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, note 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 deep deep clean upholstery. If you frequently deal with spills or stains, you'll likely appreciate a carpet cleaner that includes a tool that's specifically designed to treat tough stains with increased agitation.
If you're dealing with set-in stains on your carpet or upholstery, you'll need to pretreat them with a carpet-cleaning spray or solution before shampooing your entire carpet. Some carpet cleaners, like the Bissell Jetscrub 25299 Upright Pet Carpet Cleaner, have a built-in feature that targets the set-in stain, so you can pretreat the area before cleaning (without having to purchase an additional spray bottle). Activate this built-in feature by pulling a trigger button on the machine, and it will spray the cleaning solution directly onto the stain. After a few minutes, you can shampoo your carpets as you normally would.
Gone are the days of waiting overnight for your freshly cleaned carpet to dry. All carpet cleaners recommended on this list left our testing carpet dry after only two hours. Some machines, like the Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner, have a heating feature that helps aid in a quick-drying process. This carpet cleaner shampoos when you move the machine forward, and it applies heat to dry the carpet when you pull the machine back toward you. If you're hoping to clean quickly before guests arrive, look for carpet cleaners that have an express clean mode, too. That mode promises to dry the carpet in 30 to 45 minutes.
How do carpet cleaners work?
A carpet cleaner dispenses a liquid cleaning solution, and 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 carpet manufacturers often recommend professional carpet cleaning on an annual basis, having a home carpet-cleaning machine means that 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 you have children, pets, or habits that contribute to more rapid dirt buildup.
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 a carpet-cleaning machine will remove pet stains and odors largely depends on whether the padding underneath the carpet has been contaminated. If urine has saturated the carpet padding, cleaning the fibers on top is unlikely to remove the odor completely. 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 deep 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.
Is it worth it to clean your own carpet?
Carpets in your home should be deep cleaned about once every 12 to 18 months. Carpet cleaners, like our recommendations, use hot water extraction to clean, spraying the carpet with hot water and then sucking it back into the machine with any captured dirt. Professional steam cleaning uses higher temperatures to more directly inject hot water into your carpet, and it will typically perform better than home carpet cleaners. While cleaning your own carpets is entirely viable, you might still want a professional service occasionally. Where a carpet cleaner really shines is in tackling high-traffic areas, spot cleaning, and specific stains.
What’s the difference between a carpet cleaner and a carpet shampoo?
A carpet shampooer uses soap and agitation, while a carpet cleaner uses hot water and suction. A shampooer uses a rotating brush to press soap into your carpet fibers. That's great for specific stain fighting, but it often won't get as deep in the carpet fibers as a professional steam cleaner or comparable carpet cleaner. In practice, many of the carpet cleaners we recommend are almost hybrids, incorporating carpet-cleaning solutions to treat or pretreat carpets in addition to the hot water extraction.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Erin Johnson is a commerce editor at The Spruce, specializing in appliances, organization, and cleaning products. She's tested carpet cleaners in The Lab herself to find the best options for various household needs, and she considered the insights from in-Lab and at-home testers to create this list. Johnson has first-hand knowledge of how our Lab tests were developed and performed. When selecting models, she considered customer reviews, features, and practicality. Johnson also pulled picks from a variety of brands and retailers.
Erica Puisis also contributed to this roundup. She considered reports from our product testers and interviewed Marilee Nelson, a certified building biologist, environmental consultant, and co-founder of Branch Basics, for additional insight on treating spots and stains.
Emma Phelps, updates writer for The Spruce, and Dena Ogden, commerce writer for The Spruce, also updated this list with additional rounds of testing insights.
What Is Spruce Approved?
Here at The Spruce, we want to ensure that we fully stand behind every product we recommend and that when we say something is the best, we mean it. You might have noticed The Spruce Approved badge next to the products on this list. Every product with this badge has been rigorously tested in person and carefully selected by our expert team of Lab testers and editors. In most cases, we buy all of these products ourselves, though occasionally we get samples provided to us directly by companies. No matter how we procure products, they all go through the same tests and must meet the same strict criteria to make the best-of cut. We also pride ourselves on transparency and will always let you know if we received a product for free.