The 9 Best Carpet Cleaners of 2022, Tested and Reviewed

The winner is the Bissell Jetscrub Upright Pet Carpet Cleaner

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A group of carpet cleaners sit on a floor together during The Spruce's carpet cleaners test at The Lab.

The Spruce / Tamara Staples

A carpet cleaner is 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 and has a spot-cleaning feature and LED light on the floor head. It's also very easy to maneuver.

Here are the best carpet cleaners, backed by our testing.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Bissell Jetscrub 25299 Upright Pet Carpet Cleaner

4.6
Bissell Jetscrub upright carpet cleaner with black and teal accents colors

Walmart

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    4/5
  • Effectiveness
    5/5
  • Noise Level
    3/5
  • Ease of Use
    4/5
  • Portability
    5/5
What We Like
  • Self-propelling

  • Has a stain pre-treatment feature

  • LED light on floor head

  • Collapsible handle

What We Don't Like
  • No hose or attachments

  • Need to vacuum some stains first

What do buyers say? 86% of 1,300+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

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 pre-treatment feature, and an LED light on the floor head. It's portable enough that you'll actually use it in your home to suction up stains, dirt, and more.

Initially, our testers gave the upright appliance a perfect score for ease of assembly, since it was ready to go from the moment they opened the box. After re-testing, our tester assigned it a 4-star rating for setup time, because the instructions were not completely insightful, but the parts still snapped together without issue. This cleaner came with a storage mat and collapsible handle for stowing it away in a small closet when not in use. It was also incredibly easy to fill the water tank and add solution. There were lines indicating how much of each to add. In addition to the simple and straightforward setup, the cleaning modes were clearly labeled on the machine. There's an express clean setting for surface cleaning and a deep clean setting for stains, as well as a CleanShot feature to pre-treat tough stains. In our testing, we found that all modes dried in under an hour.

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 feature earned it a 4-star rating in ease of use and a perfect, 5-star rating in portability, especially when compared with bulkier machines that require a full-body effort to push forward. This one quickly turned and maneuvered almost on its own, which really impressed our tester: "I loved that this carpet cleaner pulled itself toward the stains so it was easy to clean a large area." They added that "compared to the other carpet cleaners we tested, this one is small and by far the easiest to use."

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. Our tester 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.

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. 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.

Price at time of publish: $267

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

Best Budget: Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner

4.5
Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    5/5
  • Effectiveness
    3.5/5
  • Noise Level
    4/5
  • Ease of Use
    3/5
  • Portability
    3.5/5
What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Effectively removes pet hair

  • Compact build

What We Don't Like
  • Brush compartment is difficult to clean

  • Noisy operation

The Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner is designed to 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. Cleaning this brush roll can be a challenge, though Hoover includes a cleaning tool to assist with the dirty job.

We tested this pick at home and in The Lab. 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, so we recommend thoroughly vacuuming up any noticeable 3D stains beforehand. Our tester loved that this machine was lightweight and easy to maneuver but wished it came with attachments to help tackle tougher stains.

"The Hoover PowerDash doesn’t come with a ton of bells and whistles, but we were impressed with the features nonetheless," said our lab tester. "[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."

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: $120

Dimensions: 44 x 10 x 15 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

Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner

The Spruce / Tamara Staples

Best Splurge: Bissell Big PET PRO Carpet Cleaner

5
BISSELL Big Green PET PRO

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    5/5
  • Effectiveness
    5/5
  • Noise Level
    3/5
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Portability
    5/5
What We Like
  • Water tank is easy to dump and rinse

  • Removes staining within six passes

  • Not much assembly required

  • Easy to maneuver

What We Don't Like
  • 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. Our tester said that it wasn't too difficult to push around and felt easy enough to use.

After just three passes of wet and then dry cleaning, 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, our tester used the wet-dry attachment. While they 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 our tester could hear when someone was trying to speak to her while using it.

Although our tester said she did not find this machine 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.

Price at time of publish: $443

Dimensions: 42 x 11 x 20.5 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

Best Portable: Bissell 1400B Little Green Multi-Purpose Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner

4.6
BIssell Little Green

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    3.5/5
  • Effectiveness
    4.5/5
  • Noise Level
    5/5
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Portability
    4/5
What We Like
  • Comfortable hose and attachment design

  • Large water tank

  • Excellent spot treatment

What We Don't Like
  • 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," says our Lab tester. "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 our tester 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 pre-treatment 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 our tester around eight minutes to set up. The directions were a little unclear, but once they followed the pictures, 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. Our tester 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

Bissell Little Green Multi-Purpose Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner

The Spruce / Tamara Staples

Best for Pet Owners: Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner

4.6
Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    5/5
  • Effectiveness
    4.5/5
  • Noise Level
    3/5
  • Ease of Use
    4.5/5
  • Portability
    5/5
What We Like
  • Rolling design

  • Effective at quickly spot-treating stains

  • No setup required

What We Don't Like
  • Clean water tank is challenging to fill

  • Expensive

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 tester's 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 against 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 pre-treating the other three stains again and going over them two more times, all were faded to faint shadows. Our tester said she was impressed by how quickly this cleaner removed the stains, and she was also surprised that she did not have to refill the tank, which was still half full after three passes on each stain.

Our tester's main gripe with this machine is the design of its clean water tank. The top of the tank 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, our tester said she was still surprised at its price point, given some of the design features. The red tabs that hold the cord in place felt cheap, and she was definitely disappointed by the clean water tank design. Despite the sticker shock, we recommend this mighty carpet cleaner for its effectiveness and innovative rolling design.

Price at time of publish: $190

Dimensions: 16.02 x 10.94 x 15.63 inches | Weight: 18.86 pounds | Surface Type: Carpet, area rugs, upholstery | Cleaning Path Width: Not listed | Capacity: 0.5 gallons | Cord Length: 28 feet | Noise Level: 90 decibels

Rug Doctor Pet Pro

The Spruce / Henry Wortock

Best for Tough Stains: Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner

4.9
Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Max Clean Pet Pro

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    4/5
  • Effectiveness
    4/5
  • Noise Level
    4/5
  • Ease of Use
    4.5/5
  • Portability
    2/5
What We Like
  • Multiple cleaning modes

  • Immediate, visible results

  • Useful tools and attachments

What We Don't Like
  • Large size

  • 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 pick.

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 our tester loved utilizing the CleanShot feature to pre-treat 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. Our tester said 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

The Bissell ProHeat 2X sits on a floor during The Spruce's carpet cleaners test at The Lab.

The Spruce / Tamara Staples

Best for Spot Treatment: Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Plus

4.7
BISSELL Pet Stain Eraser Plus

Target

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    5/5
  • Effectiveness
    3.5/5
  • Noise Level
    5/5
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Portability
    5/5
What We Like
  • Quiet operation

  • Cordless

  • Spot treatment dries relatively quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Short run time and long charge time

  • Must purchase cleaning solution

Our tester said there wasn't much she 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. It's surprisingly quiet while in use in our experience, compared to other compact cleaners that were as loud as standard house vacuums.

This carpet cleaner 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. Our tester said this machine easily picked up the coffee and red wine stains after 10 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.

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

Bissell Pet Stain Eraser

The Spruce / Henry Wortock

Best Commercial: Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 Commercial Carpet Cleaner

4.3
Rug Doctor commercial carpet cleaner with pet formula

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Setup
    5/5
  • Effectiveness
    5/5
  • Noise Level
    2/5
  • Ease of Use
    3.5/5
  • Portability
    3/5
What We Like
  • Can clean large areas

  • Can order attachments separately

  • Easy to set up

  • Can stand while operating it

What We Don't Like
  • Noisy operation

  • Heavy build

  • 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. This stellar performance earned it a 5-star rating for effectiveness. It also came out of the box ready to use, so setup was simple. And while it doesn't come with attachments, you can order a hose with an attachment separately. Our tester also appreciated that she 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 commercial carpet cleaners come with a downside. For one, they are bulky and hard to store. They are also noisy and heavy. Our tester said she 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.

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

The Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 sits on a floor during The Spruce's carpet cleaners test at The Lab.

The Spruce / Tamara Staples

We Still Recommend: Hoover FH11300PC Portable Carpet & Upholstery Spot Cleaner

4.2
Hoover Spotless Portable Carpet & Upholstery Spot Cleaner, FH11300PC

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Noise Level
    4/5
  • Ease of Use
    4.5/5
  • Portability
    4/5
  • Value
    5/5
What We Like
  • Easy to assemble

  • Clever design

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like
  • No additional attachments

  • Noisy

While the Hoover Spotless Portable Carpet & Upholstery Spot Cleaner is no longer our pick 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 our tester as it took care of the set-in ketchup stain just as easily as it cleaned the fresh coffee stain. Since it's on the more affordable side, it scored a 5-star rating for 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: $110

Hoover Spotless Portable Carpet Cleaner on a rug with a decorative ottoman in the background.

The Spruce / Tamara Staples

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

Compare

Overall Rating Setup Effectiveness Noise Level Ease of Use Portability
Bissell Jetscrub upright carpet cleaner with black and teal accents colors
Best Overall:
Bissell Jetscrub Carpet Cleaner
4.6
4 5 3 4 5
Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner
Best Budget:
Hoover PowerDash Pet Carpet Cleaner
4.5
5 3.5 4 3 3.5
BISSELL Big Green PET PRO
Best Splurge:
Bissell Big PET PRO Carpet Cleaner
5
5 5 3 5 5
BIssell Little Green
Best Portable:
Bissell Little Green Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner
4.6
3.5 4.5 5 5 4
Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner
Best for Pet Owners:
Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner
4.6
5 4.5 3 4.5 5
Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Max Clean Pet Pro
Best for Tough Stains:
Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro
4.9
4 4 4 4.5 2
BISSELL Pet Stain Eraser Plus
Best for Spot Treatment:
Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Plus
4.7
5 3.5 5 5 5
Rug Doctor commercial carpet cleaner with pet formula
Best Commercial:
Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 Commercial Carpet Cleaner
4.3
5 5 2 3.5 3
Hoover Spotless Portable Carpet & Upholstery Spot Cleaner, FH11300PC
We Still Recommend:
Hoover Spotless Portable Carpet & Upholstery Spot Cleaner
4.2
4 4.5 4
Final Verdict

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 is lightweight, easy to maneuver, and effective at removing stains and pet hair.

Two women using Bissell and Black and Decker portable carpet cleaners side-by-side

The Spruce / Tamara Staples

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 as 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.

Two carpets with stains lined up on them

The Spruce / Tamara Staples

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 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 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 the 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. At home, several other models are put to the test in real-world situations and rated according to the same attributes. Our editors boil down all of the insights and data from our testing to create this list of the best carpet cleaners.

Best Carpet Cleaners to Buy

Michela Buttignol / The Spruce

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 more compact, portable model. Each design has its advantages. You can use a commercial or 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, commercial and 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 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.

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 cleaning. Aside from lifting dirt and stains more easily, hotter water can mean faster carpet-drying times. That 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. 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.

Brush Type

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 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.

Woman holding the pet attachment on a Bissell PetPro Revolution carpet cleaner machine

The Spruce / Tamara Staples

Standout Features

Stain Pre-Treatment

If you're dealing with set-in stains on your carpet or upholstery, you'll need to pre-treat 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 pre-treat 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.

Quick Drying

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.

Woman feeling carpet to see if it has dried after shampooing

The Spruce / Tamara Staples

FAQ
  • How do carpet cleaners work?

    A carpet cleaner dispenses 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 shampooer?

    In sort, 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 is 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 solution to treat or pre-treat carpets, in addition to the hot water extraction.

Three woman looking at the stained carpets

The Spruce / Tamara Staples

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. She has first-hand knowledge of how our Lab tests were developed and performed. When selecting models, she considered customer reviews, features, and practicality. She 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 is an updates writer for The Spruce. She updated the product list with our second round of testing insights, and based on those she added two more picks and updated our comments on several other picks.

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.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bockmühl, D. Schages, J. Rehberg, L. “Laundry and Textile Hygiene in Healthcare and Beyond." Microbial Cell. Vol. 6, no. 7. July 2019: pages 299–306. doi:10.15698/mic2019.07.682

  2. Haines, Sarah R., et al. Ten Questions Concerning the Implications of Carpet on Indoor Chemistry and MicrobiologyBuilding and Environment, vol. 170, Mar. 2020. doi:10.1016/j.buildenv.2019.106589

  3. "How To Remove Pet Stains And Odors." The Humane Society Of The United States, 2021, https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/how-remove-pet-stains-and-odors.

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