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 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 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 soggy carpets can lead to mold growth, and 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
$129.99 Amazon Warehouse
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
$198 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
$83.52 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
$228 Discount Bandit
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
$9.99 Wal-Mart
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
$130.99 GoDiscount.Net
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
$232.99 Wal-Mart
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
$124.67 Bonanza
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
$94.1 Bonanza
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 many high-tech features to get the clean carpets they want.
The Power Scrub is a great price and doesn’t go overboard with features you don’t need. It also 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 as well. The Hoover Power Scrub isn’t the lightest machine we tested, but it’s 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. The machine also 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 an 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, but it 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. We also found it 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. Additionally, this carpet cleaner doesn’t have many extras. There isn’t room for a hose or the other accessories that usually come with carpet cleaners, and 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 need to 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 still removed stains, but it took longer. 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 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; however, 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, though. 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 carpet cleaner offers relatively quiet operation.
Quiet for a carpet cleaner isn’t necessarily very quiet, but the PowerBrush was still quieter than most, creating just 80 decibels of noise – close to the noise level of city traffic. There were competitors that produced more than 90 decibels – about the noise level of a lawnmower. The PowerBrush was only average for stain removal and it lacked any additional accessories to help clean things like upholstery and stairs; however, it was one of the more budget-friendly options. It’s also relatively compact and easy to move around, which can be helpful for bigger jobs. Bulkier machines get hard to drag around after a while.
Pros
  • Quietest machine we tested.
Cons
  • No upholstery attachments.
$75.99-
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Easiest to Maneuver
The Hoover Smartwash Automatic 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 areas of flooring quickly. You have complete control over how fast the carpet cleaner moves when it’s extracting water, which is good because it needs to move slowly and steadily during that step. Even with slow and steady movements, this Hoover model struggled somewhat with water extraction. However, waiting a little longer for your carpet to dry is a small trade-off considering how well the Smartwash Automatic cleans and maneuvers.
Pros
  • Self-propulsion.
Cons
  • Trouble with water extraction.
-
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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 most likely to come across in your search, we narrowed our list to the 10 best carpet cleaners for our testing.

Since you may prefer to rent a commercial carpet cleaner from a big-box store, we tested a few of those as well, including a Rug Doctor and a Bissell Big Green Machine. They extracted water better than the household models we reviewed, but 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 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 that they don’t have enough suction and they overuse soaps and detergents. Payne also said that nothing can replace a professional cleaning every six months to a year.

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

You either need to switch out that filter or have it thoroughly cleaned. Even frequent vacuuming is not enough to maintain carpeting properly, because it only picks up loose dust. Vacuuming can't remove the sticky stuff that accumulates, such as cooking oils, body oils, mud etc. In addition to these sticky substances getting stuck in your carpet, dust and other residue can then stick to them as well.

Payne 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 makes your carpets stickier.

How Often Should I Shampoo My Carpet?

Payne was adamant that you need 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 the fibers of your carpet 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, 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 considered the amount of noise each machine made while it was running. 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 to cover 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. 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 don’t 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 professional and home cleaning, 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.

How Long Do Carpet Cleaners Last?

You can expect your carpet cleaner to last about seven years. We arrived at this estimate after spending hours researching. We asked a couple of the manufacturers, but they said the lifespan really depends on how you treat your machine.

There isn’t much data on how long consumer carpet cleaners last, but we found a handful of sites that give estimates for commercial carpet cleaners and vacuum cleaners. The sites that listed estimated lifespans on these similar products gave similar numbers – all in the range of five to eight years.

Additionally, Consumer Reports periodically surveys owners of certain types of products about the products’ reliability. The last time they did one for vacuum cleaners, the result was a median of eight years.

Cleanfax, a publication that serves cleaning and restoration professionals, also estimated that commercial carpet cleaners last anywhere from five to seven years, so we figure you can expect about that long of a lifespan from your consumer-level one.

Things to Look for in a Carpet Cleaner

Performance
It is pretty difficult to gauge how well a carpet cleaning machine is going to perform while shopping. Most of the numbers on the boxes don’t indicate what its performance is going to be like. For example, manufacturers use phrases like "2X cleaning power" but never really give information to back that up or on what that actually means.

However, one number that impacts performance is the width of the cleaning path. The width of the cleaning path doesn't vary widely between machines, but you want a model with a large cleaning head if you are going to be using your carpet cleaner to clean large areas 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 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 provide you with 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 if a heavy vacuum also has a tank that is difficult 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. 

On the other hand, 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 your carpets. We considered all of these factors, and a few others, to come up with our overall convenience score.

Accessories
With most manufacturers recommending that you clean your carpets twice a year, it makes sense to get more use out of your new machine than just carpet cleaning to get more value from your purchase. That's when accessories come in handy.

Some carpet cleaning machines offer long hoses that help you reach corners without moving the machine constantly. You should also look for tools that will be helpful for your specific household. For example, some machines come with a 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, but it could be a helpful addition if you have pets.

Ultimately, accessories are only useful if you can find them. Look for machines that store some of the tools on the main body or that have a storage bag with a hook.

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?

Most manufacturers will indicate on their packaging that you have to use the associated brand-name cleaning solution with their carpet cleaners, while some carpet cleaning experts recommend cleaning only with water. Other cleaning experts recommend making your own cleaning solution for the best results. Whatever works best for you is the right answer. Experimenting with your own carpeting to find the best solution is worth the 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 amount of soap recommended by most manufacturers. 

In order to level the playing field, we followed the manufacturer instructions exactly, which included using too much soap. In most cases the manufacturers' soap was effective at removing stains, but it left our carpeting with a subtle stickiness, regardless of which brand we were using. This could attract more dust and require you to clean more often, which can lead to overcleaning your carpets and frayed carpet fibers. This can lead to attracting even more dirt and eventually require you to replace your carpet.

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 were pretty effective, even on pet stains, but there are some solid homemade options as well. All you need for a homemade cleaner is vinegar and baking soda. This combination works well for just about any kind of pet stain. It requires some patience, though. You have to pour vinegar over the stain (without letting it get too soggy) and cover that with a layer of baking soda. Then, wait 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, 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 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 – 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.

Since those are the people selling the soap, though, it makes sense to be a little skeptical about their answers. However, in our experience, the plastic used to construct the home version of carpet cleaners was not very sturdy, 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 the 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 of the 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 suck a bucket of clean water through the hose. 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 should 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 it at least once a week, and thoroughly clean it at least once a year, though preferably twice. Those with allergies may want to do so 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 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. 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 your 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 but only for minor mold. If you have a major mold problem or 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 it out. Then, make a paste with warm water and baking soda. Apply it to the moldy area, and leave it for another hour. Lastly, remove it 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 the area and leave it overnight. Scrub the area and repeat.

How Long Does Carpeting Last?

Regular vacuuming and carpet cleaning can do a lot to maintain the beauty and cleanliness of your flooring. Most experts agree that the typical lifespan of a carpet is 5 to 15 years. At some point, all carpet needs to be replaced. Deciding when that point is can be a matter of personal preference, but if you need help deciding, consider these factors:

  1. Physical damage: Frayed areas and holes in your carpeting might not bother you, but they can become tripping hazards. That makes those flaws not only unsightly but also unsafe, especially for the elderly.
  2. Allergens: Carpet cleaning goes a long way toward reducing pollen and dust. But if you notice yourself sneezing and wheezing more often, that can be a sign that it's time to replace your carpets.
  3. Flattened areas: This is more of an aesthetic issue, but it can affect the way you feel in your home. Matted carpeting can be even more annoying when it is in high-traffic areas. Other parts of the carpeting may still look fluffy and new, making the bad areas look worse by comparison.
  4. Color changes: High-traffic areas may appear darker or stained compared to the rest of the carpeting, and the contrast can be unsightly. If the carpet cleaner can no longer extract stains from certain areas, it might be time to replace the carpet.
  5. Unpleasant odors: If you’ve shampooed your carpets and had them professionally cleaned and the odors remain, it is probably time to replace the carpeting.

Carpet Cleaning Roots

Cleaning is not what it used to be, and in most cases, that's a good thing. Some old techniques for cleaning carpets were a little strange; we read one piece of advice from 1827 that involved rubbing a hot loaf of bread on wet carpets to clean them.

Many older cleaning methods are more recognizable, however, and they represent the roots of modern cleaning techniques. Others are more geared towards avoiding dirt in the first place. Druggets are one example. Also called crumb cloths, these heavy woolen fabrics were spread over rugs, under dining tables and in high-traffic areas to protect these areas from spills, sun damage and other wear and tear. An 1829 painting called "The Young Trio" shows a drugget spread over a rug where children are playing. You can also see examples of druggets in other 1800s paintings depicting domestic life at the time. Druggets were removed when visitors came over so that the full carpet design could be on display.

In some cases, people would do the opposite, covering their carpets when guests came over. In Cranford, an 1851 novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, some of the characters sew together pieces of newspaper in order to form paths to different chairs so new carpet couldn’t be ruined by guests.

Carpet Rental

People still cover existing floors for special events, but they do it for style, not to protect. There are lots of companies that offer special events flooring, and it goes way beyond a red carpet pathway here or there. You can rent or buy huge swaths of carpeting that can cover what you don’t like about the venue for your event. They make it easy to create a dance floor, for example, or to cover one up that you don’t like. You can carpet over a gym floor temporarily or carpet large swaths of parking lot to dramatically change the look for a special event. If ugly flooring is set to ruin your wedding’s vibe, The Knot had some good ideas.