How to Choose a Carpet Cleaner
The top performers in our review are the Hoover Max Extract 60, the Gold Award winner; the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner, the Silver Award winner; and the Hoover SteamVac SpinScrub Carpet Cleaner, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a carpet cleaner to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 products.
Regardless of how often you vacuum your carpets, you know that you’re not getting the deepest clean possible. A single carpet cleaning session can revitalize your floor from the effects of everyday living. Using the power of hot water, sudsy soap and rotating brushes, a carpet cleaner can scrub out old stains, new stains and deeply embedded dirt from high traffic areas.
You can get the most out of a carpet cleaner that combines top-of-the-line features, such as multiple brushes, strong suction, heated air drying and convenient accessories. More brushes means more opportunities for your carpet cleaner to scrub out stubborn stains and lift dirt from the fibers of your carpet. One of the most important features of a solid carpet cleaner is its ability to extract as much water as possible after you’ve cleaned a room. Machines that include an on-board dryer that forces heated air onto your carpets after sucking up water will help your carpets dry faster.
Although owning a carpet cleaner can save you money in the end – even after just two or three cleanings – not everyone is in the market to purchase a machine. We’ve studied the best carpet cleaning services available, so check out our list of the top services. When you’re ready to buy a steam cleaner, be sure you’re buying the right tool for the job – hard floor surfaces require steam mops. If you’re looking for a way to keep your carpets clean after all of your hard work, check out our list of the top upright vacuum cleaners. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a good vacuum cleaner, though – take a look at the best budget vacuums.
Some situations call for you to rent a carpet cleaner, such as when you need to refresh the carpets in an apartment before the end of your lease. Those industrial strength machines you can rent for a day from big box hardware stores may only cost a fraction of the price of a unit you can own, but they can come with unpleasant surprises, too. In addition to testing carpet cleaners that are intended for household use, we also rented two of the most popular commercial options available: the Rug Doctor Pro and the BISSELL Big Green Machine. Our tests proved that the bigger machines have unequaled extraction – especially the Big Green Machine. However, they did not necessarily clean better. Also, the Rug Doctor Pro left stains on our test carpet from the brushes, and it deposited water and cleaning solution from the edges of the machine. These unpredictable variables can mean more work for you in the long run.
The carpet cleaners on our lineup each went through vigorous testing on stains we created on light carpeting. We tested each machine’s features and its ability to clean carpets and extract water. See how they fared in a house with pets in our videos and learn more by reading our articles on carpet cleaners.
Carpet Cleaners: What We Tested, What We Discovered
The most important feature of any carpet cleaner is how well it can perform – from the moment it mixes water with a carpet shampoo to the point of sucking up all of that dirty water. It’s also important that you’re able to maneuver the machine, so we scored it on how easily we were able to move each carpet cleaner forward, backward and along edges.
Performance & Functionality
We put the carpet cleaners on our list through some of the toughest tests, including old set-in stains, ground-in dirt and more. After getting each test strip of carpet clean with these steam cleaners, we tested how well they were able to extract the water in the carpets.
We discovered that most of the carpet cleaning machines were able to clean stains to some degree, but the best carpet cleaners almost completely eliminated the stains with only one cleaning session. The universally hardest task was getting all of the water out of the carpets – not a single carpet cleaner on our lineup was able to extract 100 percent of the water, but some came very close.
Though a carpet cleaner with higher amps doesn’t always offer better performance or water extraction, it is a good indicator of more power for the motor. Some power needs to be directed to other features, such as headlights.
The best carpet cleaners have one or more roller brushes that beat and agitate the carpet to loosen deep, set-in dirt and stains, which can then be cleaned and extracted, leaving you with clean, fresh, fluffed-up carpets.
Convenience & Design
As necessary as it is to have a carpet cleaner that performs well, it’s just as important to have a machine that is easy to use and easy to keep clean. In order to determine how easy a carpet cleaner is to use, we considered the weight of the machine, how easy it was to push and pull, and the vibration it produced. We also considered how long it took us to clean and extract water from the same size area for each carpet cleaner.
To gauge the carpet cleaner’s maintenance score, we considered the ease of emptying and rinsing the dirty water tank. The bigger the tanks are, the less often you’ll have to switch out water.
The carpet cleaners that had the biggest cleaning path were able to clean a larger surface area than those with smaller nozzles. And we found that those with extraction power from the whole cleaning head were able to get more water out than those that only had extraction from the front nozzle.
Carpet cleaners are going to be loud, but we wanted to test these machines to find out just how loud they are. Although they aren’t as loud as outdoor equipment and tools that require hearing protection, you may want to use earplugs with some of these machines, if you have sensitive ears.
Some other factors to consider when choosing the right carpet cleaner for you include cord length, heated air dryer and edge cleaning. If your carpet cleaner has a long cord, you won't often have to stop what you’re doing to switch to another outlet. The carpet cleaning machines with heated air dryers got carpets drier faster than those without. If you’re able to clean the edges of your carpet next to baseboards without having to stoop, then it’s easier and faster to clean your carpets.
What Else Is Important in Choosing a Carpet Cleaner?
While there are several features you need in a carpet cleaner, there are many accessories you might simply want. Those additional bits and pieces can make the job of cleaning carpets easier on you. Also, it’s important that you know how your new purchase is protected by a warranty. If anything goes wrong with your machine, you want to know that the manufacturer has your back, so it’s vital that the company offers support and service centers. The best carpet cleaner manufacturers include tutorials online with either photos or video so you can learn the best way to use your new carpet cleaner beyond what’s included in the user manual.
A stretch hose combined with various interchangeable heads can make cleaning that much easier for you. For example, a carpet cleaner with an upholstery tool turns into a furniture cleaner so you can keep your couches and chairs looking as clean as the day you bought them. A crevice tool can let you reach into the corners more easily. And a pet tool can get cleaning solution deeper into your carpet, which can help remove stubborn stains and better deodorize those spots.
If your carpet cleaner includes a headlight, it gives you a better look at what you’re cleaning so you can determine whether you need to make another pass.
Some carpet cleaners include onboard tool storage or a bag for tools so you don’t have to find a place for all of those extras. Also, all of the carpet cleaners on our ranked list include the carpet cleaning solution that the manufacturer suggests you use.
Warranty & Support
As with any large appliance, it’s important that you know how the manufacturer protects you and your purchase. Most carpet cleaners include at least a one-year warranty that ensures you get a replacement of the product or parts if your machine is defective. Some offer even better warranties that protect your unit for upwards of four years.
You can contact the carpet cleaner makers in various ways, including by phone, email or live chat on the manufacturer’s website. Also, most manufacturers have service centers and can direct you to drop your carpet cleaner at one near you for repairs. Your carpet cleaner can include an instructional DVD or instructions in the user manual.
Carpet Cleaners: Our Verdict & Recommendations
When you’re ready to pick out a carpet cleaner, you want to choose one that is going to work for you now and for years to come. It should get your carpets clean and effectively extract the water and dirt from your carpets. Some of the best carpet cleaners include features that you won’t want to live without, such as heated air-drying.
We found that the Hoover Max Extract 60 outperformed all of the other carpet cleaners on our lineup. The stains we challenged it to clean faded before our eyes. The tank is bigger than most of the units on our list, which means you need to refill less often, and this Hoover cleaner extracted more water than any machine we tested.
The Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner almost matched the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award winner in stain removal and water extraction. It was a bit heavier, which made it harder to move around, but we could also cover more area in the room because of its 28-foot cord.
The Hoover SteamVac SpinScrub Carpet Cleaner, like the Hoover Max Extract 60, has heated air-drying, so it produces drier carpets faster than most of the machines in our lineup.
Although the Oreck Revitalize Carpet Cleaner did not clean as well as our top-ranked units, it is one of the lighter cleaners in our lineup, which makes it a bit easier to move about. It also has the best warranty of any carpet cleaner we reviewed.
If you’re looking for a long stretch hose and lots of accessories to make it easier to clean edges, stairs and furniture, you should consider the Hoover Power Scrub and the Kenmore Professional Carpet Cleaner. The Hoover Power Scrub is the only unit in our lineup to include a crevice tool that ensures a complete clean of each room. The Kenmore Professional Carpet Cleaner gives you a hard floor squeegee, which means you can easily clean hard flooring and suck up all of that water quickly.