Best Carpet Cleaners

We recommend five of the highest-rated carpet cleaners we've tested, as well as some underwhelming options to avoid

By Haniya Rae, Daniel Bortz

Whether through dirty shoes, muddy paws, or daily comings and goings, our carpets take a beating over time—a carpet cleaner can help. Based on our tests, we recommend the five best carpet cleaners below. If you’re just getting started shopping, consult our carpet cleaner buying guide.

To determine which are the best carpet cleaners, we put each carpet cleaner through a three-day battery of cleaning tests. Our engineers soil large swatches of off-white nylon carpet with red Georgia clay. We run a cleaner over the carpet for four wet cycles and four dry cycles, simulating how you’d clean a particularly dirty spot on a well-trafficked carpet. Then we repeat the test on two more swatches.

These machines are powerful—a reliable carpet cleaner can remove embedded dirt and grime without leaving behind a trail of water and a soggy carpet. But they’re also heavy. Before you choose a model, take stock of the area you’ll be cleaning.

If you live in a one-story house, for instance, you might not need a model with a long hose. “On the other hand, if you have carpeted stairs, you want a carpet cleaner with a long hose so you can reach up the steps,” says Larry Ciufo, who oversees Consumer Reports’ carpet cleaner tests. “You don’t want to put the cleaner on the top step and tug on the hose; the machine could barrel down on top of you.”

Bear in mind that carpet cleaners are noisy—some are so loud that we recommend wearing hearing protection. And don’t select a carpet cleaner based on brand name alone. In our tests, we found big differences among models from the same brand. While Bissell holds the top spot in our rankings, , for example, one of its models is also at the next-to-last spot.

Keep your upright or canister vacuum cleaner at hand before you tackle a messy rug or carpeting. Carpet cleaner manufacturers typically suggest that you vacuum up loose debris before using a carpet cleaner. This ensures that you’re not wetting the carpet with excess dust or dirt, creating a bigger mess.

And if you’re looking for something smaller in stature, see our review of Bissell’s Little Green carpet and upholstery cleaners, which weigh in under 10 pounds and pack a pretty powerful punch when compared with Resolve sprays in our tests.

Is Carpet Cleaning Worth the Money?

You know the value of a clean carpet better than anyone, and maybe it’s not that high for you. To better understand the financial value of carpet cleaners, one consideration is whether you want to rent or buy a carpet cleaner, or even whether you want to hire a carpet cleaning service. In our comparison of the three options, here’s what we determined:

  • With an initially higher cost—two of our recommendations cost roughly $100—buying a carpet cleaner is about as costly as renting a carpet cleaner five times.

  • Therefore, it’s cheaper to own a carpet clear at the sixth use.

  • No matter what, buying will always be less expensive than hiring a service.

5 Best Carpet Cleaners in CR's Tests

CR members can read on for ratings and reviews of the five best carpet cleaners, based on our latest lab tests.

Worst Carpet Cleaners

Although their names might look similar to the ones that sit near the top of our ratings chart, the following three machines—the bottom scorers in our ratings—are worse than average at cleaning.

  • The Hoover Power Scrub Elite Pet FH50251 performs at two extremes. It’s one of two carpet cleaners that gets the poorest marks for cleaning in our tests. But it also gets one of the best scores for (not) leaving behind a dry carpet, earning an Excellent rating in that test. It does have some nice convenience features, such as separate tanks for clean and dirty water, a hose that’s more than 8 feet long, a carrying handle, and brush attachments. But bells and whistles don’t make up for poor performance in our ratings.

  • One of the higher-performing Bissell models on the list of top carpet cleaners has “pet” in its name. So does the Bissell DeepClean Deluxe Pet 36Z9, but that’s where the similarity ends. Unlike the Bissell ProHeat 2X Lift-Off Pet 15651 mentioned above, the DeepClean Deluxe Pet is only so-so at cleaning and worse at leaving a dry carpet behind, earning a Poor score in that test. But it costs about the same as our top Bissell pick, proving that the price-quality relationship doesn’t always bear out.

  • Another carpet cleaner with “pet” in its name that can’t compete with other models by the same brand is the Hoover SmartWash Pet Complete FH53000PC. This model struggles with both cleaning and drying. The only things going for it are that it has a carrying handle, separate tanks for clean and dirty water, and a long hose.

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