The best carpet cleaning solution

Samantha Bookman

Before steam cleaning a carpet, go over it with a vacuum cleaner first to remove surface debris. It’ll make the steam-cleaning process more efficient.

Periodically steam cleaning a carpet is important because steam can loosen stuck-on gunk without damaging carpet fibers. To remove months of built-up dirt and allergens, using a carpet cleaning solution is an absolute must. A carpet cleaning solution works in tandem with the steam cleaner to make the process worthwhile. When used with upright cleaners, carpet cleaning solutions work almost as well as a professional carpet cleaning service.

Keep reading for a product shopping guide that will show the common types of carpet cleaning solutions available. We'll also have a few product recommendations, like Bissell's Deep Clean Pro 2X Carpet Shampoo, that we think work great with home carpet steamers.

Considerations when choosing carpet cleaning solutions

Carpet cleaning solutions are often made for specific brands of retail cleaning machines and are formulated to work best with those machines. Any carpet cleaning solution can be used with machines sold by different manufacturers and brands, but beware. Some solution is sold as a concentrate. For those, if a carpet cleaning machine doesn't have a water tank and reservoir to properly mix the solution, you'll need to dilute the solution before adding it to the machine. Check the manufacturer's specifications and the instructions on the back of the cleaning solution to ensure you're using the correct solution strength.

Three main types of carpet cleaning solutions are available:

Conventional solutions are designed for specific brands of carpet cleaning machines, and they have distinct and strong scents.

Enzymatic solutions are great for cleaning carpets badly stained with pet urine.

Green solutions are made from nontoxic environmentally friendly ingredients.


Measuring cup: The lid of a carpet cleaning solution may double as a measuring cup, especially for brand-specific cleaners.

Stain protection: Some carpet cleaning solutions contain a stain protectant that will temporarily repel spills for a few weeks or months after the cleaning is completed.

Deodorizing: Some solutions have added enzymes that break down organic residue. When used in conjunction with warm water, all cleaning solutions break up and remove deeply embedded residue to reduce odors in the carpet.

Scent: Almost all carpet cleaning solutions have perfumes to mask the odor of a recently cleaned carpet. These perfumes can be quite strong but dissipate after a few hours.

Carpet cleaning solution prices

Both conventional and enzymatic or "pet-friendly" carpet cleaning solutions retail for $7 to $20, a wide price range. Green cleaning solutions are much more expensive, starting at about $15 and increasing to $30.


Q. Can I use carpet cleaning solution to pretreat carpet stains before shampooing?

A. If a carpet cleaning solution is labeled as a pre-treatment for carpet stains -- either on the front of the container or in the instructions on the back -- then you can use it according to the instructions for pre-treatment.

Q. What if I use too much carpet cleaning solution in the machine?

A. The solution may foam excessively when sprayed onto the carpet. Extra solution soaks into the carpet and is difficult to rinse. You have to go over the carpet repeatedly, which risks the carpet backing becoming wet. As soon as you realize the mistake, empty the reservoir water and cleaning solution, and refill using the proper ratio of water and solution.

Carpet cleaning solutions we recommend

Best of the best: Bissell Deep Clean Pro 2X Concentrated Carpet Shampoo

Our take: A concentrated carpet cleaning solution that can be used with any upright cleaner.

What we like: Just a small capful goes a long way, cleaning average-sized rooms effectively with one pass. Picks up stains well, and the Scotchgard protectant that's part of the solution does a good job of repelling spills after cleaning.

What we dislike: Has a strong scent.

Best bang for your buck: Nature's Miracle Advanced Deep Cleaning Carpet Shampoo

Our take: An outstanding odor-fighting enzymatic cleaner that doesn't rely on heavy perfumes.

What we like: Great for pet owners who deal with marking, spraying, in-house accidents, and need to rid the carpet of deep-seated odors. Works with most home carpet cleaners. Can be used for spot treatments.

What we dislike: The smell generated as the enzymes go to work (it dissipates in a day or so) may be a turn-off for some users.

Choice 3: Puracy Natural Carpet Cleaner Detergent

Our take: One of the best green carpet cleaning solutions on the market, with no harsh chemicals and a clean citrus scent.

What we like: This concentrated cleaner can be used in a carpet cleaning machine (diluted one part solution to four parts water), or for spot cleaning and stain pre-treatment. It hits all the marks as a nontoxic low-allergen naturally scented cleaning solution that is safe for pets and kids.

What we dislike: The natural citrus ingredient can warp rubber gaskets, so the machine must be rinsed thoroughly after each use.

Samantha Bookman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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