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The 5 Best Carpet Cleaners of 2021

Carpet cleaners help remove lingering carpet stains in high traffic areas and get rid of messes caused by accident-prone children or pets. In this review, the This Old House Reviews team analyzes some of the best carpet cleaners available to help you select the right one for your home. The products included in this article are available at various home improvement stores, local home centers, and online retailers like Amazon.

Rug Doctor Carpet Cleaner Courtesy Amazon

Whether you have a puppy in training or kids with dirty shoes, a carpet cleaner can be a smart investment to help your carpet stay in good condition. Carpet cleaners come in a variety of models, with some focusing on pet cleanups and others holding enough power to clean your carpet from wall to wall.

To help you in your search for a carpet cleaner that fits your lifestyle, we’ve researched numerous products and online customer reviews to provide you with a selection of high-quality carpet cleaners that can perform a variety of tasks.

Buying Guide

Owning a carpet cleaner is a good step towards ensuring the life of your carpet, but it’s important to understand the benefits and features of the cleaners before purchasing so that you can make an informed decision. Read our buying guide below to learn more about different types of carpet cleaners.

6 Key Features of Carpet Cleaners

Attachments

Carpet cleaners come with an assortment of attachments that help traverse hard-to-reach areas and scrub tough stains. While quality carpet cleaners don’t always have attachments, it’s important to select a model with attachments that fit your needs. For example, one of the most popular attachments is an upholstery tool that allows you to clean stairs, furniture, and other tight spaces.

Tank size

Your carpet cleaner’s tank size dictates how long you’ll be able to clean without stopping to refill. If you’re looking for a whole-carpet cleaner, purchase a product with a large tank to decrease the number of pit stops.

Tank shutoff

Tank shutoff is an automatic feature on some carpet cleaner models that stops the cleaner from extracting until the full dirty water container is emptied.

Size

The size of the carpet cleaner you purchase should match the job you need it to do. For spot cleaning, consider a compact, portable carpet cleaner like Bissell Spotclean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner. If you want to clean carpet from wall to wall throughout the home, a commercial-grade cleaner like the Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 may be a better option.

Hose length

Most carpet cleaners come with an attachment hose for portable cleaning. The size of the hose affects your reach and how often you need to move your cleaner around to accommodate the hose. If you’re looking for a carpet cleaner to remove stains on your stairs, consider a model with a flexible hose.

Weight

The weight of your carpet cleaner varies based on factors like its tank size and frame. Weight is a feature that needs to be balanced alongside your needs. If your home requires a powerful carpet cleaner that’s designed to run for hours, you should expect a heavier model.

What To Look for in a Carpet Cleaner

Carpet cleaners typically fall under the following four categories that each offer their benefits and drawbacks:

Spot cleaners

Spot clean up models are compact, lightweight, and designed to take care of small areas throughout the home. Spot cleaners are generally more affordable than their standup counterparts but aren’t usually equipped with spinning brush heads and have limited tank capacity.

Our recommendation for a spot cleaning model is the Bissell Spotclean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner, which comes with a trial bottle of professional cleaning solution and a six-inch stair tool.

Pet cleaners

Some carpet cleaners are designed with pets in mind, offering high-powered brush rolls and handheld attachments. Pet cleaners are great for carpeted areas around the home and are even effective in cleaning highly-trafficked areas of the home. The downside to pet-focused carpet cleaners is that they don’t have the tank capacity for a wall-to-wall carpet clean.

Our top recommendation for a carpet cleaner for pet owners is the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro because of its included pet upholstery tool and clean shot pre-treater.

Whole-home solutions

Although not as affordable as job-specific carpet cleaners, whole-home carpet cleaners allow you to deep clean your entire carpet with minimal back-and-forth to empty the water tank. Our recommendation for a whole-home carpet cleaner is the Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 which comes with a triple-action vibrating brush and a large water tank.

Budget models

Budget models provide users with basic carpet cleaning features at an affordable price. While customers who opt for budget models won’t receive a feature-filled product, these models do provide a great cleaning solution for small areas throughout the home.

Our top recommendation for a budget carpet cleaner is the Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner, which is compact, lightweight, and delivers a powerful clean to small areas.

How a Carpet Cleaner Works

Take a look at how a carpet cleaner restores your dirt- and grime-filled carpet:

Spray

To start the cleaning process, carpet cleaners wet your carpet to break up the dirt and debris that’s wedged itself into its fabric. The solution that’s injected into your carpet is typically a mixture of water and a cleaner with stain-removing properties.

Scrub

Once your carpet is wet and the embedded particles are loosened, your carpet cleaner uses rotating brushes to pull dirt to the surface for clean up. Most vacuums are equipped with a rotating brush, however some spot models require you to scrub manually.

Suction

All carpet cleaners utilize vacuum-like suction to lift away the dirt that’s brought to the surface, leaving behind a clean carpet. The dirt is then stored in the dirty water tank, which is emptied after each use or when full.

Frequently Asked Questions About Carpet Cleaners

Do carpet cleaners heat water?

It’s recommended that you fill your carpet cleaner with warm water as the heat helps break down the dirt underneath a carpet’s surface. While none of our recommendations actively heat the water, some models, like The Hoover SmartWash Automatic Carpet Cleaner, have a heating element that helps dry the carpet after a clean.

Should you vacuum before using the carpet cleaner?

Yes. You should always clean the area with a vacuum to remove loose dirt and debris before carpet cleaning. This will result in a deeper and more efficient clean.

What is the best available carpet cleaner?

The Hoover SmartWash Automatic Carpet Cleaner is our top recommendation for a carpet cleaner. While this model doesn’t offer a large tank capacity, it does have the tools to do a variety of cleaning throughout the home, including spot cleanup, pet stain removal, and general cleanup in small areas.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.