Best Carpet Cleaners of 2019

Angela Parkinson ·
Home & Appliance Editor
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We spent more than 120 hours researching and testing the most popular carpet cleaners. Based on our results, the Hoover Power Scrub is the best one for deep cleaning your home. This machine was great at removing stains during our tests, and it left our carpets drier than most. In fact, the Power Scrub performed above average in all the important areas we tested: stain removal, maneuverability, water extraction, ease of use and maintenance. Finally, it’s set at a fair price.   

Best Overall
Hoover Power Scrub
The Hoover Power Scrub performed well in our stain removal and suction tests and costs less than $150 – just a couple of reasons why we believe it’s the best carpet cleaner.
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Best Value
Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact
The Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact has decent cleaning power and costs less than $100. However, there are definite drawbacks to buying a machine this small.
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Best Water Removal
Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner
Having saggy, soggy carpets is annoying and poses a danger for mold growth. In our tests, the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner had strong suction and left our carpets dry.
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Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Performance
Price
Convenience
Accessories
Warranty & Support
Stain Removal
Maneuverability
Water Extraction
Motor Power
Cleaning Path
Rotating Brushes
Ease of Use
Maintenance
Weight
Noise
Cord Length
Tank Capacity
Detergent Tank
Heated Air Drying
Edge Cleaning
Carry Handle
Stretch Hose
Upholstery Tool
Pet Tool
Crevice Tool
Tool Storage
Warranty
Manufacturer Support
Service Centers
Online Tutorials
$2.88 M&D Mower and Appliance
5 4.2 4.7 5 3.8
85
95
28 Ounces
10 amps
11.25 Inches
90
90
18.1 Pounds
84 Decibels
20 Feet
4 Quarts
8 Feet
2 Years
$229 Wal-Mart
4.2 3.4 4.4 5 5
1
1
8 Ounces
10 amps
12 Inches
1
0.95
18.5 Pounds
87 Decibels
22 Feet
4 Quarts
8 Feet
5 Years
$84.97 Amazon Marketplace
4.2 4.9 4.8 0 3.4
60
100
24 Ounces
7 amps
10 Inches
100
100
13 Pounds
84 Decibels
10 Feet
2 Quarts
0 Feet
1 Year
$229.99 Wal-Mart
4.8 2.7 4.3 3.8 5
85
100
24 Ounces
6.8 amps
11 Inches
90
100
19 Pounds
88 Decibels
25 Feet
4 Quarts
8 Feet
5 Years
$88.9 Amazon
4.2 3.9 3.5 3.8 3.4
70
95
16 Ounces
12 amps
11.25 Inches
75
80
20 Pounds
91 Decibels
20 Feet
4.2 Quarts
8 Feet
1 Year
$78 mysticartcreations.net
3.9 4.9 4.4 0 3.4
60
80
22 Ounces
6.25 amps
11 Inches
100
75
16.4 Pounds
80 Decibels
20 Feet
3 Quarts
0 Feet
1 Year
$90.99 Wal-Mart
4.2 2.7 4.2 3.9 3.8
60
80
24 Ounces
10 amps
13 Inches
90
100
21.85 Pounds
90 Decibels
20 Feet
4.6 Quarts
9 Feet
2 Years
$246.12 Home Depot
4.5 2.5 3.4 3.7 3.8
0.4
0.9
33 Ounces
11 amps
12 Inches
60
90
25 Pounds
83 Decibels
28 Feet
4 Quarts
7.7 Feet
2 Years
$117 Bukoos
3.9 3 2.9 3.9 4.3
60
65
24 Ounces
6.2 amps
12 Inches
60
65
24.4 Pounds
89 Decibels
22 Feet
5 Quarts
9 Feet
3 Years
$99 Wal-Mart
2.3 5 5 0 3.4
30
100
12 Ounces
3.4 amps
9.5 Inches
90
100
12 Pounds
85 Decibels
20 Feet
2 Quarts
0 Feet
1 Year
$89 Wal-Mart
2.2 4.9 5 0 3.4
30
100
8 Ounces
6 amps
11.75 Inches
95
100
13.2 Pounds
85 Decibels
20 Feet
3 Quarts
0 Feet
1 Year
Best Overall
We tested flashier machines than the Hoover Power Scrub, including some with smart features. However, most people don’t need that much machine.
The Power Scrub is a great price and doesn’t go overboard on features you don’t need. Further, it performs well in all the ways a carpet cleaner should. For example, it did an excellent job removing stains and extracting water during our tests. In addition to leaving our test floors clean, fresh and close to dry, the Power Scrub was refreshingly easy to use, maneuver and maintain. You just fill the tank to the water line, fill the detergent to the correct line and get going. All the pieces are easy to pull apart when it is time to empty the tank and clean the other parts. The Hoover Power Scrub isn’t the lightest machine we tested, but it is lighter than average. We found it easy to maneuver around furniture and other obstacles. The machine is also relatively compact, unlike some of the giant carpet cleaners we tested that might need their own closets for storage. Also, the machine comes with a hose and a host of attachments, so you can clean more than your carpets.
Pros
  • Removes stains quickly
  • Costs less than $150
  • Includes a hose and attachments for cleaning furniture and stairs
Cons
  • Doesn't include a tool for pet messes
  • Comes with a just average warranty
  • Has a shorter hose than some machines
$129.99Amazon
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Best Value
The Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact is limited compared to full-size machines. However, it impressed us with its cleaning power and may be useful in a small home or a home with pets.
When we tested the PowerDash Pet Compact, it was about average at removing stains and did a great job of extracting water. Also, since this machine is so compact and light, it is easy to carry up and down stairs. During our testing, we found it is easy to maneuver around furniture. However, we wished the PowerDash had a longer cord, wider cleaning path and bigger water tank – because of its size, large jobs take a long time. In addition, this carpet cleaner doesn’t have many extras. There isn’t room for a hose or the other accessories that usually come with this type of machine, so the PowerDash Pet Compact can’t clean upholstery or stairs. Still, its compact size is part of what makes it easy to use. You don't even measure detergent – you just fill the tank with water to the appropriate line, then add soap until you hit the next line. That simplicity is great if you just need to clean up after a pet.
Pros
  • Easy to carry and maneuver
  • Simple to set up
  • Costs less than $100.
Cons
  • Has a short cord
  • Requires more passes to complete big jobs because of its size
  • Doesn't include a hose or attachments
$99.99Amazon
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Best Water Removal
The Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner extracted more water from our carpet than any other machine we tested, so we didn’t have to wait around for the floor to dry.
However, it struggled in other tests. For example, it took a long time to remove stains. The machine removed them all, but it took longer to do so. The Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner is also relatively large and bulky, which makes it difficult to store. This is the heaviest machine we tested, which was noticeable at times as we maneuvered around furniture. Still, it moves well for its size. This carpet cleaner is user-friendly, and its tanks are easy to remove and clean. At times, it was hard to figure out how much detergent to use – other machines make measuring simpler. The Deep Carpet Cleaner is better suited to big cleaning jobs than other models we tested – it has a long cord, large tank and wide cleaning path, so it covers ground quickly. It also comes with a hose and attachments to clean furniture and stairs. This large machine is a pretty significant investment. In fact, the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner is the most expensive machine we tested.
Pros
  • Superior water extraction
  • Long cord and large tank
  • Hose and attachments included
Cons
  • Most expensive machine we tested
  • Slow stain removal
  • Heavy and bulky
$249.98Amazon
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Best for Quiet Operation
The Bissell PowerLifter PowerBrush Upright Carpet Cleaner offers something you do not expect from any carpet cleaner – relatively quiet operation.
None of these machines are whisper-quiet, but the PowerBrush was closer than most. Creating just 80 decibels of noise means it was more in line with city traffic. There were competitors that produce more than 90 decibels, like a typical lawnmower. The PowerBrush was only average for stain removal and it lacks the added tools that competing machines have for upholstery and stairs, although it was also one of the more budget-friendly options. It also is relatively compact and easy to move around. That can really matter for the bigger jobs. The bulkier machines get hard to drag around after a while.
Pros
  • The PowerBrush was the quietest machine we tested.
Cons
  • With no upholstery attachments, it is only helpful for floors.
$75.99-
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Easiest to Maneuver
The Hoover Smartwash Automatic Upright is a little more expensive than other carpet cleaners we reviewed. However, it was excellent at removing stains during our tests as well as easy to move around, even on thicker carpets.
It actually propels itself forward the way some lawnmowers do – something no other carpet cleaner we tested can do. The self-propulsion seemed a little too powerful in some situations, but it was mostly useful and made it easy to cover large swaths of flooring quickly. You have complete control over how fast the carpet cleaner moves as it extracts water, which is good because it needs to move slow and steady during that step. This Hoover model struggled somewhat with water extraction, no matter how slowly we passed over carpets. However, waiting a little longer for your carpet to dry is a small trade-off considering how well the Smartwash Automatic Upright cleans and maneuvers.
Pros
  • The self-propulsion feature makes it easy to cover a lot of ground quickly.
Cons
  • Other machines extracted more water and left carpets drier.
-
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Why Trust Us

We spent hours poring over articles about cleaning carpets and removing stains as well as reading reviews of popular carpet shampooers. After we homed in on the products you are likely to come across in your search, we narrowed our list to the 10 best carpet cleaners and purchased them to test hands-on.

Since you may prefer to rent a commercial carpet cleaner from a big-box store, we tested a few, including a Rug Doctor and a Bissell Big Green Machine. They extracted water better than the household models we reviewed. Still, some left behind stains. Also, the cost of renting adds up after a while – as does the residue from all that soap, said Doug Payne, owner of the Utah-based Payneless Floor Care.

Payne has more than 30 years of professional carpet cleaning experience. He said the problem with both the store-rented and the store-bought machines we compared is they don’t have enough suction and overuse soaps and detergents, most of which are completely unnecessary. Payne said nothing can replace a professional cleaning every six months to a year, depending on your budget.

"Your carpet is the largest filter in your house," said Payne.

You need to switch out that filter, like any other, or at least have it thoroughly cleaned. Even frequent vacuuming is not enough to maintain carpeting properly because it only picks up loose dust. Vacuuming can't release the sticky stuff that accumulates – cooking oils, body oils and other stuff dragged in on your feet. Dust and other residue then sticks to that.

He concedes that the machines we tested might be useful for maintenance between professional cleanings and for spot cleanings, especially if you have pets in the home. However, he recommends using very little soap because it just makes your carpets stickier, which attracts more dirt.

How Often Should I Shampoo My Carpet?

Payne was adamant about a professional cleaning at least once a year, and that is the answer generally given by cleaning experts. But how often should you shampoo your carpets yourself if you own a machine? The answer depends on a lot of factors, including whether you have kids or pets. There are also high-traffic areas in your home that could use a cleaning more often. 

With that in mind, we checked with a few manufacturers whose products we reviewed, including Bissell, Hoover and Rug Doctor, for their general recommendations. Rug Doctor recommends every six months, with spot cleaning more often. Hoover leaves it entirely up to the user, based on individual need.

Alyssa Lett, upright deep cleaning marketing manager at Bissell, recommends shampooing every six months, with a few caveats.

"How often you clean carpets really depends on the amount of wear your carpet gets," she wrote in an email. "We recommend cleaning carpets at least every six months, but would step that up to every 3-4 months for a home with kids and pets." She had a good tip for remembering when to shampoo, too. "A good way to remember when to wash carpets is to get it done when the seasons change," she wrote.

With the input from all three of these manufacturers in mind, we recommend shampooing at least twice a year and more often if you have pets and kids. You want to shampoo somewhat sparingly, though. It wears down fibers over time, which can attract more dirt, so you don't want to shampoo every day, for example. You also have to let carpets dry thoroughly between cleanings, every time, to avoid the risk of mold.

How We Tested

I took all the machines to my home, assembled them and used them to clean a variety of messes.  For one test, I piled potting soil onto light-colored carpet, moistened it, ground it in and then vacuumed it the next day. I also poured grape juice on the carpet and left it to dry. The machines that cleaned those messes off the carpet with the fewest passes scored the best.

I also measured how much dirty water each carpet cleaner extracted after running the tests. The more water the machine extracted, the better it scored.

In addition, I scored the carpet cleaners based on maneuverability and maintenance. These scores account for how long it took me to perform basic maintenance, such as emptying and cleaning the tanks, as well as how easy the machines were to maneuver around furniture.

Finally, I consider the amount of noise each machine makes while it runs. Quieter machines were preferred.

Professional Carpet Cleaning vs. Carpet Cleaning Machines

If you're deciding between professional carpet cleaning and carpet cleaning machines, there are a few factors to consider, including cost and effectiveness. Over time, buying a carpet cleaning machine is less expensive than hiring a professional carpet cleaning service. When we compared carpet cleaning services, we got estimates for three rooms of carpet cleaning from 10 companies serving an area of California. The average cost came out to about $128 per cleaning. Although the average price of the home machines we tested was $172, you can reuse the machines, and thus you'll get your money's worth after just a couple of cleanings.

But are carpet cleaning machines as effective as professional carpet cleaning services? People in the carpet cleaning industry say home machines do not clean as thoroughly, but people who sell the home machines disagree. We did not do microscopic-level testing to see whether carpets were cleaner after using a cleaning service or a home machine, but the carpets looked dramatically cleaner after both types of cleaning.

We recommend a combination of both, especially if you have pets and kids. Get a professional service to come in once a year and a home cleaning machine for maintenance, spills and accidents. 

Things to Look for in a Carpet Cleaner

Performance
It is pretty difficult to gauge how well a carpet cleaning machine performs as you shop. Most of the numbers on the boxes are meaningless to performance. For example, manufacturers use phrases like "2X cleaning power" but never really give information to back that up. However, one number that impacts performance in a small way is the width of the cleaning path. Cleaning path width doesn't vary widely between machines but you want a model with a large cleaning head if you do more than remove pet stains on a regular basis.

The two things that matter most – stain removal and water extraction capabilities – can really only be determined through testing and comparison. That's why our hands-on testing is so important. We compare how popular products perform in real-world situations. The user reviews found on lots of shopping websites can also help you predict a carpet cleaner's performance.

Convenience
Consider factors that can improve overall convenience as you shop for your new carpet cleaner. For instance, you probably wouldn't notice a huge difference between a machine that weighs 16 pounds verses 18 pounds. But you might notice it if a heavy vacuum is combined with a tank that is hard to empty. You might not notice something minor like cord length either, unless it is combined with other less convenient features like a tiny tank that you have to empty constantly. Heated air drying is not necessary but it might be nice if you need to be able to walk on your flooring soon after cleaning carpets. We considered all of these factors, and a few others, to come up with our overall convenience score.

Accessories
With most manufacturers recommending you clean carpets only twice a year, it makes sense to get more use out of your new machine than just carpet cleaning. That's when accessories come in handy. The best carpet cleaning machines offer long hoses that help you reach the farthest corner of your long stairway and every inch of your couch without moving the machine constantly. You should also look for the tools that would be the most helpful for your specific household. Some machines come with a specific tool for cleaning pet stains. It is usually just a crevice tool that has some special brushes that are better at getting pet stains clean. Accessories are only useful if you can find them. Look for the machines that store some of the tools on the main body, or that have a storage bag with a hook. That makes it easier to get some use out of whatever attachments are included in the price.


Warranty & Support
A carpet cleaner is a significant investment for most households, so we recommend finding one that’s covered by a long warranty. Also, consider how easy it is to contact customer service representatives. 

What Can I Clean My Carpet With?

Manufacturers will indicate on packaging that you have to use the associated brand-name cleaning solution, in very specific amounts, with their carpet cleaners. Some carpet cleaning experts recommend cleaning only with water. Other cleaning experts recommend making your own cleaning solution for the best results. What works best for you is the right answer. Experimenting with your own carpeting to find the best solution – literally – is worth an investment of your time.

One thing we can recommend is lessening the quantity of soap. It became apparent during our testing that you do not need the quantity of soap recommended by most manufacturers. In order to level the playing field, we followed manufacturer instructions exactly. The manufacturers' soap was effective at removing stains but it left our carpeting with a subtle stickiness, regardless of which brand we were using. That means attracting more dust and cleaning more often. Cleaning it too often can lead to frayed carpet fibers, which can lead to attracting even more dirt. It can also lead for carpet replacement, which is a huge expense. We recommend lessening the amount of solution you use, or trying some of the recipes for homemade carpet cleaning solutions available online.

How Do You Make Homemade Carpet Cleaner?

The commercial carpet cleaning soaps we tried are pretty effective, including on pet stains, but there are some solid homemade options. All you need for one of the best homemade cleaners is vinegar and baking soda. This works well for just about any kind of pet stain. It requires some patience, though. Pour vinegar over the stain (without letting it get too soggy) and cover that with a layer of baking soda. Then wait for a day or two for everything to get dry. Remove the bulk of the baking soda with a dustpan and vacuum up the rest. This process removes unwelcome odors and colors. Doing this for the occasional pet stain – of any kind – in combination with regular professional cleanings will help maintain your carpeting.

Can You Put Vinegar in a Carpet Cleaner?

The blogosphere is packed with ideas on using vinegar not just as a spot treatment but as a substitute for soap in your carpet cleaning machine. The idea of using fewer chemicals in the home is always so inviting. But vinegar may not be the best idea for your cleaner. Hoover gave us an unequivocal no, saying the vinegar is acidic and will damage the machine. Bissell folks said the same thing basically – the machine needs the manufacturer's recommended soap to really do its job. A Rug Doctor representative also said to avoid putting vinegar in their machines. Those are the people selling the soap, though, so it makes sense to be a little skeptical about their answers. But the plastic used to construct the home version of carpet cleaners was not very sturdy, in our testing experience, so it might be wise to heed the manufacturers' warnings or risk shortening the life of your machine. Vinegar is decent at a lot of cleaning jobs, but use caution if you try to use it as a full replacement in your machine.

Carpet Cleaner Maintenance

Carpet cleaners have moving parts that can wear out over time, so a little maintenance makes sense. Follow these tips to ensure your machine is working at its best:
  • Go by the Book: Take time to familiarize yourself with the maintenance section of your machine's manual. They all vary slightly.
  • Wash Everything: Accessories and the main water tank should be rinsed under hot water to remove all dirt after each cleaning. Let everything dry before putting it into storage. If the parts of the machine stay dirty it can impact the level of suction.
  • Don't Forget the Hose: Turn on the machine and suction a bucket of clean water. Move the hose around to make sure you drain all the water afterward and let it dry.
  • Brushes Need Brushing: In many cases the rolling brushes can be removed for cleaning, and even those that can't be combed to free them of hair and other debris. They don't spin as well if they are clogged with hair.

Carpet Cleaning for Those With Allergies

To maintain carpeting, you should vacuum at least once a week and clean with water at least once a year, though preferably twice. Those with allergies may want to do so even more than that, though. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends people with allergies clean their carpets three or four times a year. However, it doesn't necessarily recommend doing it yourself. It can be really tricky, especially with the machines you rent in a store. You can inadvertently introduce another allergen in your attempt to eliminate the ones in your carpet.

"You end up drenching your carpets, soaking wet, and now you're going to deal with mold," said AAFA Director of Marketing Michele Ann Cassalia.

There are even some risks when using a professional carpet cleaning company. Cassalia recommends doing your research in general and to be especially careful with the deodorizers some companies use.

"You need to be really careful if you have asthma and allergies," Cassalia said. "Deodorizers can actually trigger an asthma attack. You've got to find out what is in the company's deodorizers."

The AAFA recommends professional carpet cleaners that it has certified over the years. It also recommends certain machines that clean carpets with water. You can find more information about the products it certifies here

How do you Get Rid of Mold in Carpet Naturally?

If you misuse a carpet cleaner or if you have too much water on carpets for too long it can lead to mold growth. The Carpet and Rug Institute recommends opening windows and doors and using fans to speed drying times after cleaning carpets. If you already have moldy carpets, though, because of carpet cleaning or any other reason, you have a few options for getting rid of it, including some natural remedies. We recommend trying the natural remedies first, and only for minor mold. If you have a major mold problem, call in the professionals. If natural remedies don't work, call in the professionals.

  • Vinegar and Baking Soda – There are lots of ideas on how to use these two ingredients to combat mold but our favorite is to soak the area with vinegar, leave for an hour and rinse out. Then make a paste with warm water and baking soda. Apply to the moldy area and leave for another hour. Remove all with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner.
  • Tea Tree and Grapefruit Seed Oil – Fill a spray bottle with a cup of hot water and 10 drops of tea tree oil or grapefruit seed oil. Spray area and leave overnight. Scrub area and repeat.