Whether you have kids or pets or just want to maintain the pristine state of your flooring, the right carpet cleaner can help minimize stains, bacteria, and wear and tear. Sure, you could rent a carpet cleaner from a hardware store -- but if your home has lots of carpeting, you may want to purchase one of your own so you can use it whenever you like.
Using a combination of water, cleaning solution, and high pressure, a carpet cleaner can remove stains and dirt more effectively than a standard vacuum cleaner. However, there are myriad carpet cleaner options on the market, and it can be a challenge to find the right one. The size of your carpeted areas and the types of messes you need to clean impact which cleaner would be best for you. We've tested our top pick from Bissell extensively and it always outperforms our expectations.
Considerations when choosing carpet cleaners
Unlike a vacuum cleaner, which removes surface-level dirt and debris, a carpet cleaner scrubs out stains for a deeper clean. There are a staggering number of carpet cleaners on the market. Suction power, hose length, and the quality of the cleaning brush and any included attachments determine the effectiveness of the machine.
Suction is one of the most important factors because it affects how deeply the carpet cleaner penetrates your carpet. A machine with weaker suction can still be effective, but a once-over with a vacuum may be necessary after cleaning to remove excess debris.
Attachments and scrubbing brushes
In addition to suction power, the attachments and scrubbing brushes included with a carpet cleaner are worth considering. Many carpet cleaners come with separate attachments that make it easier to spot clean, delve into corners and hard-to-reach areas, improve the condition of upholstery, and erase the signs of wear and tear from carpeted stairs. Some models may even include specialized pet attachments to remove the remnants of pet stains.
Most carpet cleaners have a separate tank for water and a compartment for cleaning solution. The water and solution are released under pressure as you move the cleaner over the carpet. The scrubbing brush works the water and cleaning solution deep into the fibers of the carpet, and the suction pulls up the moisture and dirt. Some carpet cleaners have separate tanks for clean and dirty water, which helps you minimize the number of times you must empty and refill them. Be sure to rinse your tanks after a cleaning session to remove any remaining shampoo.
A budget-friendly carpet cleaner can be an effective choice, and you may be able to find a good one for around $150. However, this price usually covers just the base model. If you want additional attachments or features, such as a stain pre-treating solution or extra cleaning solution, expect to pay extra for these items.
Mid-range carpet cleaners offer more in the way of durability, suction, and features. Between $150 and $450, you'll find a wide range of carpet cleaners of varying quality. If you elect to spend $450 or greater, you should expect a high-end, professional-grade carpet cleaner that delivers a spectacular performance and lasts for years to come.
Q. Do I need to stick to the brand's cleaning solution?
A. Not necessarily. Although some manufacturers recommend using their cleaning solution with their machine, the suction and scrubbing brush often have more of an impact on stain removal than the cleaning solution.
Q. Can a home carpet cleaner tackle all stains?
A. In many cases, carpet cleaners can remove stains from tomato sauce, grease, chocolate, pet urine, soil, and other everyday messes, as well as reduce the appearance of wear and tear. They can even eradicate stains that have set in. However, some tough, persistent stains, such as dried-on nail polish, may require professional attention. In addition, natural fibers like wool will always need to be treated by a professional.
Q. How long does it take to use a carpet cleaner?
A. It depends on the size of the area you want to clean. Unlike vacuuming, carpet shampooing is a highly involved process that usually requires you to move furniture, vacuum up large debris, fill the machine, make passes along the carpeting, and rinse the entire surface area. Depending on the drying settings of your machine, it can take several hours for the carpeting to dry ... and it needs to be completely dry before you return your furniture to its original location.
Carpet cleaners we recommend
Best of the Best: Bissell Big Green Professional-Grade Carpet Cleaner
Our take: If you want a high-performance carpet cleaner with powerful suction to extract deeply embedded stains and dirt, look no further. The included cleaning solution protects against future stains, too. And with its 25-foot cord, it can cover a large area.
What we like: The Bissell Big Green Professional Grade Carpet Cleaner has strong suction, a powerful motor, and an extra-large scrubbing brush to remove set-in dirt. Attachments that make it easier to clean furniture and upholstery are included. This machine has a large capacity, which means less emptying and refilling.
What we don't like: The benefits of this model come with a bigger price tag. It's also heavier than other cleaners at more than 40 pounds.
Best bang for your buck: Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Washer
Our take: This is an affordable model that can tackle a large carpeted area, and it includes upholstery attachments and tools for reaching tight crevices.
What we like: It's lighter than some other models, it includes a dual tank, and it uses heated blowers to speed up drying.
What we don't like: Its lighter weight may make it slightly less sturdy than other models, which could, in turn, make it more prone to leaking or breaking down.
Choice 3: Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner
Our take: With dual-action scrubbing brushes and powerful suction, it delivers a deep clean.
What we like: It removes deep, set-in stains immediately, it's easy to use, and it has a wide suction head so you can clean larger areas faster.
What we don't like: The tanks are smaller than others, requiring more frequent filling. A small number of units have been reported as faulty.
Tracey Zielezinski 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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