If you live in a home with carpets or area rugs, you’ve likely found yourself wondering about carpet shampoo and how to spruce up your coziest surfaces. Not to be confused with spot cleansers (for targeted cleaning and stain treatment) or carpet cleaners (vacuum-like machines with wet scrub capabilities), carpet shampoo is akin to hair shampoo in that it’s meant to provide an all-over wash, be thoroughly rinsed, and leave an entire carpet feeling fresher and cleaner. Most, but not all of the carpet shampoos on the market, are meant to be used with a carpet cleaning machine of a specific brand noted by the shampoo manufacturer. And, depending on the shampoo, it may have additional features like a pleasant scent or robust stain removal capabilities, too.
Brandon Pleshek, third-generation janitor, member of The Spruce’s Cleaning Review Board, and the expert behind the Clean That Up Instagram and TikTok accounts, has important words of wisdom for any and all of your carpet shampooing efforts. “Carpet is resilient,” Pleshek notes. But, "you never want to leave residue, or let cleaner sit in the carpet. You want to make sure to always flush it out of the fibers and rinse the carpet area really well.” The hair shampoo metaphor rings true for this part of the process, as Pleshek likens leftover shampoo in your carpet to suds that dry in your own hair. It can be sticky and messy, and leave carpets looking worse than when you started.
Rest assured that if you take Pleshek's advice, stay mindful of the manufacturer's instructions, and opt for a quality carpet shampoo, you’ll likely be pleased with the results.
Here are the best carpet shampoos.
Nature's Miracle Carpet Shampoo
Works with any carpet cleaner
Available in multiple scents
Not a disinfectant
Pre-treatments sold separately
When a product is called “Nature’s Miracle,” you’re allowed to have high expectations. In the case of this carpet shampoo, it lives up to its moniker. We previously selected Nature’s Miracle as the best carpet shampoo for pet stains, but given its versatility and effectiveness, we felt it deserved an upgrade to "Best Overall." Not only does the enzymatic formula work on some of the toughest (and grossest) messes pets can leave behind, it treats odors too, and also provides the overall refresh that many of us are after when we reach for a carpet cleaner. It’s also suitable for use in any brand of carpet cleaner, and it's available in multiple scents and container sizes.
Plus, for targeted treatment of pet-related stains, it’s still a great option, and the brand has a line of coordinated formulas you can use for pre-treatment and spot treatments, too (they’re sold separately). Keep in mind that if you’re looking for a disinfectant or sanitizing solution, this shampoo doesn’t offer that. When it comes to your general stain treatment and carpet cleaning needs, though, it’s an excellent choice.
Price at time of publish: $17
Type: Liquid | Amount: 64 ounces | Scent: Varies | Application Method: Use by itself or with a machine cleaner
ZEP All-Purpose Carpet Shampoo
Concentrated formula goes a long way
Compatible with top brands of carpet-cleaning machines
Requires time to dry
Needs to be vacuumed
This carpet shampoo concentrate stretches 128-ounce bottles into a whopping 25 gallons of carpet shampoo. If you anticipate lots of cleaning in your future, or you simply like to be prepared, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more affordable choice to keep on hand. Most importantly, beyond the budget-friendly price point, it’s effective, too. You (and guests) likely won’t be able to tell that you went with a less expensive choice when you take a look at the results it garners.
The ZEP cleaner's process does require time to dry, and you’ll need to vacuum up afterward, too. As long as you factor these steps into your cleaning routine, you’ll likely be pleased with this choice. It’s a versatile, all-around cleanser that'll be a staple in your cleaning closet, and is made for Bissell, Hoover, and Rug Doctor carpet-cleaning machines, according to the product label. (These brands are the most popular and often effective carpet-cleaning machines, in our experience, so we like that the ZEP cleaner is compatible with them.) Just double-check that your carpet cleaner is one of the compatible models before adding it in.
Price at time of publish: $13
Type: Liquid | Amount: 128 ounces | Scent: Not listed | Application Method: Use with a machine cleaner
Biokleen Carpet & Rug Shampoo Concentrate
Suitable for all washable surfaces
No unscented version available
Not a disinfectant
Like our budget choice, a little bit of this carpet shampoo concentrate goes a long way. In the case of Biokleen, the 64-ounce jug can create more than 30 gallons of shampoo. It promises to be safe for all washable fibers; so in other words, it’s gentle enough for some of the more delicate rugs and textiles you may want to spruce up. It still is strong enough for regular carpet cleaning, too.
We appreciate the list of environmentally friendly, plant-based ingredients, and the fact that it’s biodegradable. Though, if you’re in need of a disinfectant or sanitizing solution for your flooring, this formula doesn’t include any of the tougher chemicals and soaps for the job. It also doesn't come in an unscented version, so if you or anyone in your household is sensitive to fragrances, you may want to steer clear. However, for your regular, eco-friendly cleaning needs, we think it’s a winner. The citrus scent is also a classic amongst cleaners.
Price at time of publish: $24
Type: Liquid | Amount: 64 ounces | Scent: Citrus | Application Method: Use with a machine cleaner
Angry Orange Pet Odor Eliminator
No machine required
Pleasant citrus scent
Brand offers UV light
Only one scent choice
UV light comes at additional cost
Sometimes it’s smells, not stains, that need our attention. When you’re looking to combat unpleasant odors, consider a product that’s formulated for just that purpose, and don’t let the "Pet Odor Eliminator" name of this product deceive you. Regardless of whether you’re tackling a pet-related smell or something else completely, it’s up for the task. You can use it directly on carpets (or even other smelly surfaces, like trash cans) to counter lingering smells immediately after you’ve cleaned a mess, or when a room’s in need of a simple refresh. The orange scent is essential oil-based. While we wish there was other scent choices, the citrus scent is common and often welcomed in most homes.
We like that the brand also offers a UV flashlight so you can find the source of smells, but note that it’s pricier for the set than just the odor eliminator on its own. And to reiterate, this solution isn't a cleanser, but an odor eliminator. It'll have rooms smelling fresh without the extra steps of cleaning or scrubbing. To use it, mix it with water and use a clean spray bottle to disperse the odor eliminator.
Price at time of publish: $24
Type: Liquid | Amount: 8 ounces | Scent: Orange | Application Method: Mix with water and use with spray bottle
Best for Pet Stains
Carpet Miracle Cleaner & Deodorizer Cleaner & Deodorizer
Can be used on car upholstery and furniture
Not a disinfectant
As much as we love our pets, we don’t always love what they leave behind. When you need to do some targeted cleaning on a pet-related stain, you need something that’s up for the task, which is why we’ve named Carpet Miracle as the best carpet shampoo for pet stains.
We also appreciate this shampoo's eco-friendliness and that it’s Leaping Bunny certified. Plus, like many of the products on this list, you can use it with any brand of carpet cleaner or with a steam cleaner. It’s suitable for car and furniture upholstery, too—as long as you can comfortably reach them with your machine. Just note: It's not a disinfectant.
Price at time of publish: $50
Type: Liquid | Amount: 1 gallon | Scent: Spring mint | Application Method: Use with a machine cleaner
Best for High-Traffic Areas
OxiClean Large Area Carpet Cleaner
Tried and true cleaning power
Suitable for large spaces
Leaves behind a fresh scent
Pre-treatment recommended on tough stains
Extra caution recommended for oxygen-based cleaners
OxiClean frequently appears among the top rankings in different cleaning categories, and this carpet shampoo fits right in with its high-performing peers. The oxygen-based cleaner creates a chemical reaction that works to dissolve stains and built-up grime, making it effective at both easing tough stains and tackling worn, high-traffic areas—exactly what you want from a carpet shampoo. Plus, it leaves behind a fresh scent and is budget-friendly, too. We’ve previously named this pick the best carpet shampoo for carpet-cleaning machines, but we also feel like it deserves recognition for the large, high-traffic areas it can handle.
One thing to note with oxygen-based cleaners, Pleshek cautions, is be mindful of how much and how you're using them, since they can be powerful. You'll want to make sure you're following all of the safety precautions listed on the label, which often include using the product in a well-ventilated area, wearing protective eyewear and gloves to avoid contact with your skin and eyes, and never mixing the cleaner with another.
While we’d love it even more if this carpet shampoo could promise effective pre-treating capabilities, and was easier to handle, we can accept that other formulas are more suited in this area. OxiClean does offer spot treatments and spray cleansers so you can find a complementary product in the same line, though. They’re sold separately.
Price at time of publish: $15
Type: Liquid | Amount: 64 ounces | Scent: Not listed | Application Method: Use with a machine cleaner
Best for Old Stains
Bissell Deep Clean Pro Carpet Shampoo
Can be used with any upright machine
Two formula options
Pre-treatments sold separately
The BISSELL Pro Max Clean + Protect Deep Carpet Cleaning Formula is suitable for any brand of upright carpet cleaner, despite coming from a well-known vacuum and carpet cleaner manufacturer. We’ve found it to be a worthy choice for old stains and worn carpets, and for limiting the effects of future stains, thanks to the Scotchguard stain protection. It's also available as a plant-based formula in case you want to skip the Scotchguard and opt for a citrus scent.
Both options offer a biodegradable formula that’s U.S. EPA Safer Choice certified, and promises to be pet and kid-safe when used properly. Plus, the formula is also safe for upholstery. Pre-treatment options are available, but sold separately. However, all in all, for tackling old stains and keeping new ones at bay, this shampoo is a great and reliable option.
Price at time of publish: $22
Type: Liquid | Amount: 48 ounces | Scent: Citrus | Application Method: Use with a machine cleaner
Best Encapsulation Method
Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Professional Strength Carpet Cleaner
Unique treatment process
Gentle yet effective
Reliable brand in carpet treatment
Pre-treatment recommended for tough stains
Drying and vacuuming can be time-consuming
In most cases, you’ll want to be wary of any carpet shampoo that doesn’t require rinsing. However, encapsulation shampoos, which are a newer option in home carpet shampoos, create a different type of chemical reaction. Instead of rinsing and extracting with water, you’ll vacuum the product (and the crystalized remnants left behind) once it dries. If you want to give this method a try, we recommend the Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Oxy Carpet Shampoo. Just keep in mind that the process is different from other shampoos named in this list, and that you’ll want to factor drying time and vacuuming into your plan.
Also, for tough carpet stains, pre-treatment is recommended. Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. does offer a line of options, all of which are sold separately. Worth noting, though, is one stain remover which earned our "best overall" spot in a recent test of carpet stain removers: the Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Oxy Stain Remover.
Price at time of publish: $20
Type: Liquid | Amount: 32 ounces | Scent: Not listed | Application Method: Apply with machine and vacuum once dry
Best for No Machine
Puracy Natural Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo
Multiple methods of application
Slightly more expensive
Pre-treatments sold separately
While the majority of carpet shampoos are formulated for use exclusively with a carpet cleaning machine, you do have some options if you’re interested in washing carpets without one. If you choose to go this route, we recommend Puracy Professional Carpet Cleaner Machine Detergent. And yes, you read that right—even though its name mentions cleaner machines, the brand also provides alternative instructions for manual cleaning. You’ll just need a bucket, towel, and plenty of water.
A range of Puracy brand cleaners have been featured in other roundups on The Spruce, often cited for the plant-based ingredients and concentrated formulas. Their carpet shampoo continues the trend, offering a four-times-concentrated solution (That's where the bucket comes in; you'll need lots of room to dilute). Whether you're using a carpet cleaner machine or elbow grease, we think it's worthy of your consideration.
Price at time of publish: $20
Type: Liquid | Amount: 25 ounces | Scent: Fresh Citrus | Application Method: Apply with or without machine
We recommend the Nature’s Miracle Pet Stain and Odor Carpet Shampoo for most machine-based carpet cleaning situations. Its effective enzymatic cleaning leaves carpets refreshed and treats all kinds of odors, too. If you're looking for the most budget-friendly option, then consider ZEP's All-Purpose Carpet Shampoo, which provides a thorough clean. It's a concentrated formula that goes a long way.
What to Look for in a Carpet Shampoo
Type and Amount
When you’re shopping for carpet shampoo, the most common type you’ll see is concentrated liquid versions that require dilution for application. While it may take a few extra steps to check the backs of bottles and specifications for the products you’re considering, it's worth your time to do so. You may find that bottles that don’t look all that different in size can actually create vastly different volumes of mixed shampoo. Be sure to also read labels to determine the appropriate measurements and ratio, too.
All of the featured products on our list come in liquid form, though powder and foam carpet shampoos are available as well. Powder versions can be formulated to remove odors and refresh carpets, while foam cleansers can dry over carpets. With any carpet shampoo purchase you make, be sure to read directions in full before you start.
Here’s another way that carpet shampoo remains similar to hair shampoo: The process always requires applying and removing the product. In most cases, application comes in the form of spraying or using a machine cleaner to both distribute the diluted solution over your carpet and then rinse it away. Whether you purchase a machine for home use or opt to rent one for a temporary weekend project, you’ll go through similar steps.
Brandon Pleshek, member of The Spruce’s Cleaning Review Board, prefers a slight variation on this method. For what Pleshek calls Pleshek's best pro-tip, Pleshek recommends mixing the water and shampoo in a separate container and applying it to the carpet before you come through with your machine. This has two benefits, Pleshek says. The first is giving soap the time to work and loosen up dirt and soil, then "all you have to do is add warm water to the tank and you’re completely flushing and rinsing the spot [when you come through with your machine]." Ultimately, the choice is yours, but keep in mind that whichever method you choose, the most important part is to thoroughly rinse and extract the shampoo.
While your favorite scent comes down to personal preference, you’ll find a variety to choose from when you’re shopping for carpet shampoos. Shoppers often point out that, even when a specific scent isn't listed on a product's label, carpet shampoo often leaves a clean or fresh aroma behind. Some products, like the Angry Orange Pet Odor Eliminator, are also designed with smell, almost as much as effectiveness, in mind. It's normal for a scent to dissipate within a few hours.
How often should you shampoo your carpet?
Thankfully, you don't need to shampoo your carpet as often as you wash your hair. The rule of thumb tends to hover between every six to 12 months, but be advised that every home is different. Large, active households with lots of kids and pets will likely find carpets ready for shampoos more regularly than homes with fewer people and pets. Climate and lifestyle factors can also influence carpet wear and tear, too. Regular vacuuming and spot cleaning also can stretch time in between shampoos.
Ultimately, Pleshek says the goal should be to shampoo the carpet and rinse away any dirt and debris before it creates long-term damage to the fibers. So, if your carpets are showing signs of general wear and tear, or matting—or if upon close look, the individual fibers look dull and damaged instead of shiny and intact—then you’ll know they’re in need of attention.
How do you shampoo carpet without a machine?
There can be a fine line between manually spot-cleaning and shampooing your carpet without a machine. Ultimately, manual shampooing will recreate the full process of applying the (often diluted) product and then extracting it. While machines often use suction to extract water, if you’re doing it on your own, you can mimic the process by misting water or your diluted solution directly onto carpets, then laying down absorbent towels and standing on them to soak up water, according to Pleshek. Pleshek's advice is consistent with the directions on the label for the Puracy Professional Carpet Cleaner Machine Detergent for applying products by hand, with the exception of using a saturated towel to apply and agitate the shampoo.
Ultimately, the larger space you’re tackling, the more labor-intensive this can be (and the more towels you’ll need), so we recommend some careful planning and lots of patience if you pursue this method. Consider trying it out with an area rug or small section of your floor before committing to an entire room.
Is it better to shampoo or steam clean carpets?
The answer to which method of cleaning is better is going to rely on your personal preference, and on the time and resources you have for the project. In most cases, steam cleaning is typically done by a professional with commercial-grade equipment. While at-home machines are on the market, they're most often going to provide a form of hot water extraction—a similar process to what we've been discussing with carpet shampoos—and not as robust of a process as professional-grade steam cleaners.
So, if you're looking for a DIY method that will give your carpets a refresh and give you the satisfaction of a job well done, you'll want to consider shampooing. If you're looking for something a professional can do for you, you have your choice of the two, and will want to consult with cleaners in your area.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Dena Ogden is a lifestyle and commerce writer who’s been writing professionally since 2016, and has been with The Spruce since August 2022. For this piece, she did thorough research on carpet shampoos currently available at major retailers, and evaluated options based on formula, reviews, cleaning methods, and prior brand performance in testing. She also spoke with Brandon Pleshek, a third generation janitor, member of The Spruce’s Cleaning Review Board, and the expert behind the Clean That Up Instagram and TikTok accounts.