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Carpets are soft, comfortable, and welcoming, but they can also be tough to keep clean. Vacuuming regularly goes a long way, but if you have kids, pets, or just a busy household, you might need a carpet cleaner too. With the right machine or product, you can remove stains, prevent discoloration, and extend the lifespan of your carpets without having to hire a professional.
To help you narrow down your choices, here are the best carpet cleaners currently on the market.
Best Overall: BISSELL ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner
Our top pick is the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution. This powerful machine has multiple settings and comes with various tools to efficiently remove tough stains and eliminate odors. You can switch between the deep-clean mode for stubborn stains, the express mode for quick cleaning, and the vacuum mode to pick up dirt, dust, and debris.
Thanks to the included accessory attachments, you can easily access all hard-to-reach areas. The ProHeat 2X comes with a stain-trapping tool, a pretreatment tool, a stair tool, and a two-in-one pet/upholstery tool. This carpet cleaner has 12 rows of brushes underneath a removable cover, which makes it easy to maintain. It weighs just over 18 pounds and is easy to carry and maneuver around your home. And since Bissell backs this product with a five-year warranty, you can have peace of mind about your purchase.
"I tested this carpet cleaner on one of my dog’s favorite rugs, and I was blown away by the results. I choose 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: Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner
Interested in a more affordable option? The Hoover PowerDash is impressively powerful and efficient, considering its budget-friendly price tag. Weighing just 12.5 pounds, this slim and lightweight carpet cleaner is ideal for small spaces and high-traffic areas. The PowerSpin brush roll washes your carpet, and like the SmartWash, HeatForce technology dries it fast.
The light, compact design of the PowerDash makes it easy to clean carpeted stairs and maneuver it up, down, and all around your home. With a removable nozzle and a dual-tank system, it's easy to fill, empty, and rinse the parts as needed. This carpet cleaner is also backed by a one-year manufacturer warranty.
"The Hoover PowerDash doesn’t come with a ton of bells and whistles, but we were impressed with the features nonetheless. [I]t 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 like it would with a larger tank."—Angelica Leicht, Product Tester
Best Spot Cleaner: Bissell SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner
When it comes to spot cleaning, the best option is the Bissell SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner. As the name suggests, this compact yet effective machine is designed to provide professional-level results for carpet cleaning and spot removal. Using powerful suction and a special cleaning solution, it treats, scrubs, and then sucks up dirt and discoloration from both synthetic and natural carpets.
The SpotClean Pro has a 22-foot power cord and a 5-foot hose with a small brush head that's ideal for addressing stubborn spots and stains. It has a large tank that can hold up to a gallon of cleaning solution and comes with a trial-size bottle of Bissell's Professional Deep Cleaning Formula. You can get rid of discoloration from mud, wine, coffee, and other unsightly spills without much elbow grease.
"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 Pet Stains: Hoover SmartWash Advanced Pet Automatic Upright Carpet Cleaner
If you're looking to remove pet stains, we recommend the Hoover SmartWash. This automatic carpet cleaner mixes and dispenses the precise cleaning solution needed. It has a built-in motion sensor that knows when to wash and dry, which takes the guesswork out of cleaning your carpets. When you push it forward, it cleans, and when you pull it back, it dries—just as easy as vacuuming your floors.
The power-brushes gently wash your carpet fibers while removing dirt, stains, and pet hair. Then HeatForce technology extracts moisture to quickly dry the material. The SmartWash has a low-profile foot, which makes it easy to clean underneath furniture. It also comes with an antimicrobial pet tool, a stair tool, a crevice tool, and a one-step removable nozzle to effortlessly reach every nook, cranny, and corner of your carpet.
Best Spray: Resolve Spot + Stain Carpet Stain Remover
Sometimes, a little manual scrubbing is all you need to spruce up your carpets. That's why it's good to have a bottle of Resolve Spot + Stain on hand. This cleaning solution is ideal for removing spots left by oil, sauce, makeup, wine, juice, coffee, tea, mud, grass, pet accidents—you name it.
Just spray it on, let it sit for 30 seconds, then scrub gently back and forth with a clean cloth. Almost as if by magic, Resolve removes stains and discoloration, neutralizes odors, and actually leaves your carpet feeling soft and smelling fresh.
"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, too."—Katie Begley, Product Tester
Best Steam Cleaner: Dupray NEAT Steam Cleaner
If you're looking for a steam cleaner, your best bet is the Dupray Neat. This heavy-duty, multi-purpose product is designed for efficiency, durability, and ease of use. It effortlessly removes dirt, grime, grease, and stains from carpets while eliminating 99.9 percent of bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew, and other allergens. But that's not all—it also deodorizes your floors.
The Neat can be used on all types of carpeting and flooring materials, as well as upholstered furniture, curtains, car interiors, kitchen appliances, and bathrooms. With high-heat steam reaching 275 °F and a large-capacity tank, there's a good chance you'll be able to clean your entire home in a single session without having to fill it back up. Dupray backs this all-star product with a two-year warranty.
Best Professional: BISSELL Big Green Professional Carpet Cleaner
If you need to clean carpeted floors in a commercial space or just want professional-level power, we suggest the Bissell Big Green. It has a 1.75-gallon tank capacity and an extra-large brush to scrub deep into carpet fibers, plus heavy-duty suction that cuts down on drying time.
This shampoo and steam cleaner combo effectively cleanses and removes stains and discoloration while eliminating odors. Thanks to the large tank, you can cover substantial square footage without refilling it. The 25-foot cord and 9-foot hose allow you to reach all corners of most rooms with one outlet. You'll also get a stain tool for addressing stubborn spots on your carpets, rugs, or upholstery.
Our top pick is the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner (view at Amazon), which comes with a variety of useful tools to remove tough stains and eliminate odors. If you're on a budget or tight on space, the Hoover SmartWash Advanced Pet Upright Carpet Cleaner is a great option. It doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but it's effective at cleaning carpets and removing pet hair.
What to Look for in a Carpet Cleaner
Design and size
Consider whether you’re looking for an upright carpet cleaner or a more compact, portable carpet cleaner. Each design has its advantages; use an upright model to cover more square footage or a compact version for spot cleaning small messes or for use in the car. While a portable carpet cleaner can fit on a shelf or in a cabinet, an upright carpet cleaner will take space comparable to a vacuum cleaner–so consider whether your cleaning closet has enough room for a full-size machine.
You should also consider whether the carpet cleaner uses a single water tank or has a two-tank design–one for clean water and another for dirty water. Larger tanks mean more cleaning power in a single session but can also make the carpet cleaner heavy and difficult to maneuver. Many of the most popular models use a ½ gallon or 1-gallon clean water tank paired 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 around for soggy carpets to dry any longer than necessary.
Other features to consider when looking for a carpet cleaner are in-tank solution mixing, which means no pre-measuring. Instead, just fill the water tank and solution tank and the machine will mix solution as needed. And while some machines require you to pull a trigger to dispense the solution and then pull back on the handle to suction up loosened dirt and moisture, other carpet cleaners automatically sense the motion of the machine and respond accordingly. This handy feature makes using a carpet cleaner much more similar to a vacuum cleaner.
Most full-size carpet cleaners 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 using your carpet cleaner. Homeowners with frequent spills or stains will 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. Finally, 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 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 or not you have kids, pets, or habits that contribute to more rapid dirt build-up (like wearing your shoes on carpeted surfaces).
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 whether not 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?
This article was researched and written by Theresa Holland, who is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon. She has substantial experience researching, writing about, and testing household products and home goods. She also writes for MyDomaine, Verywell Health, and Byrdie.