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Best carpet cleaners 2021: The best carpet cleaners for pets and stains at home

Best carpet cleaners 2021: The best carpet cleaners for pets and stains at home
(Image credit: Amazon)

Transform your home with the best carpet cleaners around, and get the satisfaction of owning immaculate throws and rugs. These purifying appliances can rid your carpets of dust, dirt and stains and return them to a good-as-new condition. It’ll be your new favorite appliance whenever you need a deep clean in your home.

With picks from brands such as Rug Doctor, Bissell and Hoover, you know you’re in safe hands when it comes to the best carpet cleaners. And, once you’ve got a dedicated appliance for the task in your home, you’ll never need to have to pay a professional to do the job again.

Some must-have features with the best carpet cleaners include powerful stain removal ability, and a lightweight design to help you carry it around. You should also look out for a model with an array of attachments, so you can be as thorough as possible when it comes to different carpet thicknesses and hidden carpeted crevices.

You can bag one of the best carpet cleaners for under $150 and get that fresh floor feeling all the time. Some of the models included in this round up use steam to eradicate dirt, something you can replicate on your hardwood floors with the best steam mops. Before you go to town with your new carpet cleaner, it’s also best to give your carpets a once-over with the best vacuum cleaners for home, so check out our guide if you’re due an upgrade!

1. Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe: Best carpet cleaner overall

Best carpet cleaners: Home carpet vacuums with professional results

(Image credit: Amazon)

Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe

This is the best carpet cleaner overall

Auto detergent mix: Yes | Water capacity: 1 gallon | Weight: 18.1 Lbs | Motor warranty: 2 years

Removes stains quickly
Costs less than $150
Includes a hose and attachments for cleaning furniture and stairs
Has a shorter hose than some machines

The Hoover Power Scrub is a low cost carpet cleaner that offers a powerful clean. The fact that this carpet cleaner is a slightly older model, and designed for people on a budget means that it doesn’t come with all the fancy features a newer model would have. This stripped-back nature leaves it feeling a little lacklustre and basic.

The one area that the Hoover Power Scrub doesn’t scrimp is cleaning power. This machine glides through stains quickly, and effortlessly. It’s light which means it's easy to guide, with the only frustration coming from its inability to get right up against hard edges and corners.The crevice tool on the hose makes light work of these areas, though it slows down the cleaning process. The machines auto mix feature means it is easy to mix the soap and water solution without any tricky mathematics.

The machine has a good amount of suction and can extract a water fast, and heated air function which helps the carpets dry quicker. 

2. Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact: Best value carpet cleaner

Best carpet cleaners: Home carpet vacuums with professional results

(Image credit: Amazon)

Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact

This is a great value carpet cleaner that also works for pets

Auto detergent mix: No | Water capacity: 0.5 gallons | Weight: 13 Lbs | Motor warranty: 1 years

Easy to carry and maneuver
Simple to set up
Costs less than $100.
Has a short cord

The Hoover Power Dash Pet Compact is an interesting carpet cleaner that feels like it is in it own unique class. Its basic, bare-bones design compact size makes it feel like a bigger, more full sized spot cleaner that is ideal to whip out and clean out small spots or transport between multiple sites.

The small size of the Hoover Power Dash Pet Compact is its greatest strength, but also its biggest weakness. To keep the machine compact the water tank is smaller than other models, which meant we had to fill the tank more often than we did with larger models. The machine also has a smaller clean path, and power cord. Despite its size, this carpet cleaner still has a very good water extraction rate and removes stains easily, but it might take a few passes.

The Hoover Power Dash Pet Compact is a low cost carpet cleaner which does not have a hose or any accessories. However, if you want a basic cleaner or a more robust spot cleaner this model the best cheap carpet cleaner.

3. Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner: Best high-power carpet cleaner 

Best carpet cleaners: Home carpet vacuums with professional results

(Image credit: Amazon)

Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner

This is the best high-power carpet cleaner, with professional-quality results

Auto detergent mix: No | Water capacity: 1 gallon | Weight: 25 Lbs | Motor warranty: 2 years

Superior water extraction
Hose and attachments included
Most expensive machine we tested
Heavy and bulky

The Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner is a mid-range machine that offers a professional-level cleaning job. The Rug Doctor is a little slower to soak up stains than other machines, but it provides a deep clean that dries quickly due to the design of its brush. The excellent brush design offers a wide cleaning area and its side bristles can clean right up to the hard edges.

This carpet cleaner comes with a range of features like the super boost spray, which easily allows you to apply extra soap to tough and stubborn stains. The ability to remove the tool caddy and fold the handle down make it super easy to store. The water tank comes with a handle and can be detached from the machine for easy filling and decanting.

The Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner excels at water extraction, beating every other machine we’ve tested in this area. We found the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner a little heavier than most carpet cleaners, meaning more effort was needed while cleaning, but this didn’t impact our ability to control the machine.

4. Bissell PowerLifter PowerBrush: Best carpet cleaner for pets

Best carpet cleaners: Home carpet vacuums with professional results

(Image credit: Amazon)

Bissell PowerLifter PowerBrush

This is the best carpet cleaner for those with pets

Auto detergent mix: No | Water capacity: 0.75 gallons | Weight: 16 Lbs | Motor warranty: 1 year

Quietest machine we tested
2-in-1 Pet upholstery tool
8' hose and 25' power cord
Average stain removal

The Bissell PowerLifter PowerBrush carpet cleaner offers relatively quiet operation.
The PowerBrush was still less noisy than most, reaching just 80 decibels – close to the noise level of city traffic. There were competitors that produced more than 90 decibels – about the noise level of a lawnmower

It comes with a 2-in-1 Pet upholstery tool to tackle fur and odors. The PowerLifter takes on dirt, dust, hair, debris and harmful allergens, and it's also one of the more budget-friendly options. It’s also relatively compact and easy to move around, which can be helpful for awkward jobs. Bulkier machines get hard to drag around after a while.

5. Hoover Smartwash Automatic: Best carpet cleaner for stain removal

Best carpet cleaners: Home carpet vacuums with professional results

(Image credit: Walmart)

Hoover Smartwash Automatic

This is the best carpet cleaner for stain removal

Auto detergent mix: Yes | Water capacity: 1 gallon | Weight: 19 Lbs | Motor warranty: 5 year

Powerful and convenient for stain removal
Large tank and long cord
Trouble with water extraction

The Hoover Smartwash Automatic is a carpet cleaner designed for ease of use. Despite being on the heavier side for a carpet cleaner, this machine was easy to control and almost glided across the carpet. Its ease of use is aided by the fact that it is self propelling, taking a lot of the strain and effort out of carpet cleaning - making it an ideal model for people who struggle with lifting heavy objects. This combined with the large tank also makes it ideal for large scale carpet cleaning.

The water and detergent loading system is simple and easy to use. The triggerless design makes using this carpet cleaner as easy and natural as vacuuming. It is equipped with sensors for an automatic soap dispensing system, that deploys more soap in areas that are heavily stained. However, we experienced mixed results with this system, and it needed to be over-rode often to ensure it was drying the carpet.

The Hoover Smartwash Automatic is also the best carpet cleaner for removing stains from carpets. The downside is that its powerful, deep cleaning action leaves carpets wetter than other models, meaning the carpet takes a lot longer to dry.

How a carpet cleaner works

Carpet cleaners work by spraying a solution of detergent and warm water into the carpet to loosen dirt, and wash away stains. Most machines have two separate tanks, one for clean water to wash the carpet and a second tank to suck the dirty water from the carpet. A lot like a standard vacuum cleaner carpet cleaner has brushes. The brush design of the carpet cleaner is the most important factor in determining the effectiveness of the carpet clean. Some of these brushes are static on a brush bar, while others are motor-powered and will rotate or move side to side. Our tests demonstrated that the powered brushes provide a deeper clean than static brushes.

What kind of carpet cleaner do I need?

There is confusion over the difference between carpet cleaners and steam cleaners. Steam mops and carpet cleaners operate differently and clean in different ways. There are a few different styles of carpet cleaners to consider: 

  • Shampoo Cleaners: Most of the cleaners feature in this review are shampoo based cleaners. These cleaners used heated water and soap to clean old and worn carpets, and treat them chemically to bright them up a little. They are generally a surface level clean and do little to remove the bottom layers of dirt. 
  • Steam Cleaners: Steam cleaners operate on a different principle to carpet cleaners, and are not limited to cleaning carpets alone. They heat water into steam to create pressure and release jets of steam that penetrate deeper than a carpet cleaner, shaking loose the underlying dirt. They generally don’t use chemicals to bright up or treat carpet, just remove dirt. This means they don’t give carpets a nice new sheen. There are less models available to buy, and they have smaller tanks due to pressure creating mechanics. 
  • Spot Cleaners: Spot cleaners are smaller, handheld versions of a full sized shampoo carpet cleaner. These small machines don’t offer the same level of deep cleaning or whole carpet cleans as a full sized model but they are great for cleaning up after puppies or kids on a daily basis. They are also fantastic for sprucing up the upholstery in a car with the right attachments.  
  • Multi-Surface Cleaners: Multi-Surface cleaners are not as dedicated as a shampoo carpet cleaner for washing carpets. However, these multi-surface cleaners can be used more regularly, across a range of sealed hard surfaces in addition to carpets while doing the vacuuming. They are just not as good for giving a carpet a bright, new lease of life as a shampoo based carpet cleaner. 

How often should you clean your carpet? 

How often you clean your carpets depends on the household.  For a household that has low wear on the carpets we recommend that you clean your carpets every six months or so. Shampooing your carpet wears down the fibres and so frequent washing can attract more dirt. For households with high wear on the carpets, due to children or pets, clean the carpet every three or four months. Don’t clean your carpets every day or even every week unless you really have to. Cleaning carpets so regularly may lead to carpet damage or increase the chances of mold because the carpet doesn’t get a chance to dry out completely.

What features to look for when buying a carpet cleaner

When trying to decide on the best carpet cleaner for your home, it is important to keep your intended use for the cleaner in mind. Here we’ll break down the common features, how they vary and the impact they will have on how the machine is used.

  • Carpet cleaner tanks: The first feature to consider is the number of tanks and their capacity. The more practical carpet cleaners have a tank for both detergent and water. This is a handy feature as it means you don’t have to work out tricky ratios with the detergent. The weight of carpet cleaners vary greatly. The lightest in our guide weighs just 12 pounds, while the heaviest is 58 pounds.The heavier cleaners will need two people to operate comfortably, so won’t be ideal for some people. The base weight of the machine will increase with the amount of water that is placed in the tank, so bigger tank capacities means it can get very heavy. Weight affects maneuverability. The heavier it is, the harder it is to move around. 
  • Carpet cleaner hose length: Hose length varies greatly from machine to machine. Some of the more basic models do not have a hose attachment. If you have a lot of awkward steps to clean, or want to shampoo carpets tucked away in awkward nooks a model with a longer hose would allow you better access. A stand up only model might not be the most suitable solution to this. 
  • Carpet cleaner accessories: There are a lot of accessories, mostly featured around hose attachments that extend function and usability, similar to vacuum cleaner attachments. 
  • Crevice Tool: A crevice tool is a taper attachment to fit to the end of the hose that allows you to get to all those small, tight places that a stand-up cleaner can’t reach. This is a great attachment to have if you are cleaning out small areas, like your car. 
  • Upholstery Tool: An upholstery tool is a small brush head that you can attach to a carpet cleaner’s hose to give you greater control over both the flow, and area that you are cleaning. This allows you to concentrate on removing stubborn stains from your favourite chair, cushion or soft furnishings without drenching it. 
  • Stair Tool: A hose attachment that makes cleaning the carpets on stairs easier. This is a pretty important tool to have with a stand up cleaner that are not designed for narrow strips of carpet that are not laid flat. 
  • Noise: A standard vacuum cleaner, on average, is 70 dBA, whereas the average for a carpet cleaner is 80 dBA. It is recommended that earplugs or noise muffling safety equipment are used in conjunction with carpet cleaners that go above 80 dBA as long term usage could impair hearing.

What can I use my carpet cleaner on?

One of the biggest considerations is whether your carpet cleaner is fit for the purpose you intend to use it for. One of the biggest concerns and questions we are asked is on what surfaces the carpet cleaner can be used on? The most common questions we are asked are:

Can I use my carpet cleaner on mattresses? 
We would recommend against using a carpet cleaner on mattresses as a carpet cleaner can leave the mattress extremely damp. A damp mattress can attract mold and take a long time to dry out. 

A steam cleaner with an upholstery tool would be better suited to clean mattresses as the jets of steam offer a more penetrative clean, while leaving your mattress slightly less wet. But not all mattresses can be cleaned using steam, and it best to check the warranty label. 

So, a plain old vacuum cleaner might be the best tool to use to ensure you don’t damage your mattress. 

Can I use my carpet cleaner on upholstery?
A lot of carpet cleaners come with upholstery attachments, like the Rug Doctor Deep Cleaner. If you are buying a carpet cleaner with this purpose in mind, please check that there is a relevant accessory for this function. 

Can I use my carpet cleaner on wooden floors?

We wouldn’t recommend using a carpet cleaner on any type of wooden flooring. The soap and chemicals can have a detrimental effect on the wooden finish, often striping off the vaneer and finish. We would recommend a chemical free cleaner like a steam mop for water-sealed floors only. Never use a steam device on an unsealed floor, such as natural wood, as this could result in water damage. 

Can I use my carpet cleaner on linoleum or vinyl floors?

We wouldn’t recommend using a carpet cleaner on linoleum floors. Water can get trapped under the linoleum which can cause bubbling and the floor to slip out of place. The brushes would also not clean a flat hard surface like they would a carpet. Steam mops are a better option, as long as they have a dial to adjust the amount of steam, as heat and condensation can also affect the adhesive holding the linoleum to the floor.

Sophie Bird

Sophie is Home Editor at Top Ten Reviews. Starting off her career in print journalism, Sophie then moved to digital and now specializes in lifestyle, home interiors and social media. While she has scooped awards for her journalism, Sophie likes to whip up a storm in the kitchen when she's not writing.