When it comes to spills and stains from pets, kids, and life itself, we're well aware that our carpets can get pretty nasty (read: very nasty). Sometimes mess is unavoidable, which is when we pull our secret weapon out: carpet shampoo. From spot cleaning pet accidents to giving our carpets a deep clean, carpet shampoos are truly a life saver when it comes to protecting and preserving.
But before we dive too deep into our picks, here's a little bit about the types of carpet cleaners you'll find on the market.
Types of Carpet Cleaners
When it comes to cleaning your carpet and upholstery, there are a few different routes you can take. For small spills and messes, you can use a spot cleaner. These come in sprays most often, but foam and powder formulas are also options depending on what type of carpet you have. The specific formula type you use will depend on your preferences and the carpet type, but Carolyn notes that sprays should not be used directly on carpet. "I never apply the cleaner directly to the carpet, no matter what the label says." she advises. "I think you should spray a cloth and dab the stain because what happens is you saturate and over-wet the carpet and you'll have to rinse it a lot to get it out, particularly if it's a sudsy formula. If you don't get it all out, then you risk attracting future soil."
You can also use an all-over carpet cleaner. Many of the aforementioned solutions can be used as a spot treatment or as a deep clean for carpet, though it's best to check the label. Another way to deep clean your carpet would be with a carpet cleaning machine. Carolyn recommends using whatever cleaning formula is recommended by the manufacturer in your machine, and you can find her top cleaning machine and portable cleaner picks by following the links.
How to Use Carpet Shampoos
The application method will vary based on the type of carpet shampoo you're using, and we always recommend following the manufacturer's instructions, but there are a few key tips to help your stain remover work at its best. As Carolyn recommended, sprays should be applied to a cloth first and then applied to stains. Though many spray and foam cleaners don't need to be rinsed, we recommend following up with a damp cloth and quick vacuum to be sure all residue is gone.
Also, for enzyme-based cleaners, leaving a moist cloth atop the treated stain for at least 12 hours can help eliminate odors. According to Bissell, "Once the spray is released from the bottle, the probiotics are activated and begin working. If kept moist, they’ll continue to multiply and remove the material until it’s gone. That’s why keeping a moist towel on the stain and giving it plenty of time to work will ensure that the stain is thoroughly removed."
To ensure the best use of powder cleaners, be sure your vacuum bag or cup is completely empty before using. Debris and powder can clog your vacuum otherwise.
Finally, always test in an inconspicuous spot before treating your entire carpet. Even if you're using a solution you've used before on other carpets, you never know how different fibers will react to different cleaners. This is especially important on vintage rugs and those made from wool and other luxury materials. We recommend testing a cleaner on all different carpets and rugs in your house immediately after buying so when a spill does happen, you can spray at a moment's notice without worry.
1) Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover
Folex works so well, you could fool us into thinking it's magic. A few dabs into a stain and it begins to disappear. For most stains, there's no need for laborious scrubbing or reapplication—it's just that good. Folex doesn't need to be rinsed, but we recommend gently rinsing any cleaner with water to make sure all residue is away. It's can be used on both on carpet and upholstery and is safe around kids and pets.
The one downside to Folex is that as well as it works on stains, it doesn't eliminate any type of odors. So, if you're using it to tackle a particularly stinky mess, you're going to want to follow up with another cleaner with an enzyme-based formula to make sure the smell is gone.
2) BISSELL Professional Stain & Odor
This Bissell spray cleaner is Carolyn's top recommendation for removing both smells and stains. When it comes to eliminating odors caused by urine, vomit, and other accidents, you'll want to look for a carpet cleaner that has an enzyme-based formula. The enzymes in the solution essentially "eat" bacteria-causing odor. This is especially important with pet urine stains, because if animals smell urine, they'll continue to go to the bathroom in that same spot.
But this Bissell cleaner is good for so much more than just pet stains. It has professionally packed power to lift stains from food, drinks, and other liquids. Bissell recommends to cover any particularly tough stains with a moist towel for 12-72 hours after spraying to ensure everything is completely eliminated.
3) Resolve Ultra Fast-Drying Carpet Powder
Powder carpet shampoos work well for any carpet or rug, but they're especially useful to have on hand for more delicate rugs, like vintage or wool. Because this shampoo is a powder formula, it works to not only eliminate odors and bacteria but also to absorb the initial pet mess, making it a great spot treatment to keep on hand at all times.
When working with powder cleaners, you should always be sure to start with a vacuum cleaner with a clean bin or bag to avoid damage. Start off sparingly when distributing the powder onto the carpet or rug
4) Arm & Hammer Extra Strength Carpet Cleaner
Arm & Hammer
If you've ever moved into a home with a carpet that smelled musty, smoky, or soiled, then you know how difficult those odors are to get out. When you need to clean your entire carpet or rug, you'll want a shampoo like this that can penetrate the entirety of the fibers.
This Arm & Hammer formula mainly consists of baking soda (a cleaning queen), but it also includes a few other ingredients like Oxi Clean to lift all that dirt and grime to the top of the carpet. You can either sprinkle and leave it for a few minutes to work its magic, or, if your carpet needs a truly deep cleaning, get a clean, dry brush and scrub the formula in gently. As mentioned before, use powders like this sparingly so as to not damage your vacuum cleaner.
5) BISSELL Pet Power Shot Oxy
This Bissell foam formula was designed for pet stains and odors, but it works well on just about any mess you might make on your carpet. The oxygen-activated formula quickly works to lift stains and odors within just one minute of application.
Because it works so quickly, we'd recommend only using it as a spot treatment shampoo instead of an all-over shampoo for your carpet or rug. Also, this powerful formula should be suitable for most rugs and carpets, but it shouldn't be used on wool or other delicate fibers as it can lift the color out of the rug.
6) Carbona Oxy-Powered 2-in-1 Carpet Cleaner
If you want to tackle your entire rug or carpet or specific high-traffic areas with a foam cleaner, then we'd suggest this option from Carbona. It also uses oxygen-activated ingredients combined with a sponge/bristle applicator head to both chemically and physically remove stains. We love using this Carbona cleaner on high-traffic areas that can accumulate dirt and grime and it's also safe to use on upholstery. It's a gentle cleaner that's still high-powered enough to remove even the toughest of stains, albeit with just a tad more labor. Just like with the Bissell foam formula, you'll want to avoid delicate fabrics with this cleaner.
7) Bodhi Dog Pet Carpet Powder
As far as natural and plant-based formulas go, some can fall short when it comes to effectiveness, but that couldn't be father from the truth with this Bodhi Dog powder. It's great for both spots and stains as well as all-over deep cleaning, though you'll want to use sparingly as with any powder. Cat owners will especially appreciate the formula as it uses ground corn cobs instead of baking soda, which can be used in some litters and can actually lead cats to soil on cleaned carpets and rugs. The formula is also gentler than baking soda-based powder solutions, so those with extremely delicate carpets or rugs will most likely have luck with this product.
We tested tons and consulted a cleaning expert to narrow down this list of the best carpet shampoos on the market in 2022, from spot treatments to deep cleans.