HomepageHomeAppliancesThe Best Carpet Cleaners
Last updated on Nov 19, 2019

The Best Carpet Cleaners

Show those stains who's boss ​
We recommend products and services based on unbiased research from our editorial team. We may receive compensation if you click on a link. Read More.

How We Found the Best Carpet Cleaners

related highlight icon

4 experts interviewed

related highlight icon

10 cleaners tested

related highlight icon

3 top picks

The Best Carpet Cleaners

Whether it’s for tackling the mud your kids trailed in or just annual touching up, a carpet cleaner is designed to remove deep stains and bacteria, and preserve your carpet. There’s not a great deal of variety in the home carpet cleaner field — most models are made by the same big brands, and each brand produces several fairly similar cleaners. So to find the best, we spoke to four cleaning experts, wantonly ruined some pristine white carpet, and embarked on a cleaning spree with 10 carpet cleaners. Our top picks for the best home carpet cleaner knocked out tough stains while being easy to operate and hassle-free to maintain.

Analysis paralysis? Subscribe to our newsletter.

The 3 Best Carpet Cleaners

    The Best Carpet Cleaners: Summed Up

    Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Washer FH50150PC
    Bissell Big Green Professional Grade Carpet Cleaner 86T3
    Bissell PowerLifter 1622
    Best for Everyday Cleaning
    Best for Deep Cleaning
    Best Budget Pick
    Weight
    18 lbs
    40 lbs
    16 lbs
    Warranty
    2 years
    5 years
    1 year
    Tank Size
    1 gallon
    1.75 gallons
    0.75 gallons

    Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Washer FH50150PC

    Best for Everyday Cleaning
    Hoover

    Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Washer FH50150PC

    Pros

    Light and simple
    A satisfying clean

    Cons

    Tough to clean the cleaner

    Why we chose it

    Easy to use

    At 18 lbs, the Power Scrub was one of our lightest contenders and has the maneuverable heft of the average upright vacuum. Its clean-water tank holds solution and water in separate compartments, which is a pretty nifty feature when compared to the manual (read: messy) measuring out of specific quantities required by other cleaners. The Power Scrub was also one of only two contenders (the other being the Hoover Dual V) with an auto-rinse feature that didn’t require us to trudge back and forth over damp carpet to refill the clean water tank.

    Simple to clean

    In addition to being the easiest machine to clean with, the Power Scrub was also the simplest to clean out. The nozzle and the brushes popped out easily for rinsing, which felt like a blessing after having to kneel on the floor and dig around in the other Hoovers’ and Bissells’ dirty brush rolls (the Bissells’ unique side bristles also actually just rubbed any loose dirt and debris into the carpet during cleaning).

    Abundance of accessories

    During assembly (which simply required screwing in the cord holster), we were surprised to see the Power Scrub came with a veritable army of cleaning tools. Most of the other machines came with one or two (an extended hose and upholstery tool being the most common), but the Power Scrub’s mesh bag contained: an extended hose, upholstery tool, crevice tool, stair tool, and powered scrubbing hand tool.

    Points to consider

    Unimpressive “heated cleaning”

    The only feature that flopped was the much emphasized “heated cleaning” capability that claimed to quickly dry the carpet with heated air. We didn’t feel any real differences in carpet dampness post-cleaning, so this feature seems somewhat irrelevant and ineffective.

    Bissell Big Green Professional Grade Carpet Cleaner 86T3

    Best for Deep Cleaning
    Bissell

    Bissell Big Green Professional Grade Carpet Cleaner 86T3

    Pros

    Combats deep stains
    Pre-assembled and simple to use

    Cons

    Heavy and expensive

    Why we chose it

    Combats deep stains

    As we rinsed out the last water tank and surveyed our weary carpet, it was clear that the Bissell Big Green Professional Grade Carpet Cleaner 86T3 had met the challenge of our malicious staining. Where light orange and brown spots clung stubbornly to the other test patches, the Big Green impressively eliminated all traces of marinara sauce and chocolate syrup within five minutes. To our surprise, it did even better than the Rug Doctor, which was disappointing considering that brand’s reputation for deep cleaning.

    Pre-assembled and simple to use

    The Big Green’s large, smooth surfaces and clear-stacked clean and dirty water tanks (1.75 gallons each) made cleaning a breeze. It also won bonus points in a few other categories: It came fully assembled, and included a 12-foot hose and six-inch-wide tool for scrubbing upholstery, stairs, and weaker stains by hand.

    Points to consider

    Heavy and expensive

    However, the Big Green’s pure stain-lifting power comes with a few serious trade-offs: At 40 pounds and an average price of around $400, it is both the heaviest and most expensive of our contenders (compared to the overall averages of 25 lbs and $242). The Big Green is definitely the Hulk of carpet cleaners, and at that size and price point, we think it might make more sense to rent when needed rather than buy. If you often need to tackle deep stains (especially greasy or sticky horrors), though, the Big Green is up for the challenge.

    Bissell PowerLifter 1622

    Best Budget Pick
    Bissell

    Bissell PowerLifter 1622

    Pros

    Easy to use
    Simple to clean
    Abundance of accessories

    Cons

    Unimpressive “heated cleaning”

    Why we chose it

    Light and simple

    The Bissell PowerLifter 1622 is a barebones machine that will clean your carpet without being too heavy on your arms or pocketbook. At just 16 lbs, the PowerLifter was easy to push around even for petite testers (who, by contrast, struggled to continually push the Bissell Big Green and Rug Doctors around even for a few minutes). Testers agreed that it was about as hefty as “a lightweight vacuum,” and didn’t cause discomfort with extended use.

    A satisfying clean

    We were pleasantly surprised to find that despite its size, the PowerLifter cleaned about as well as the more expensive Hoovers and Bissells (although none came close to the Big Green). As long as your main concern is just lifting light to moderate stains from your carpet, the PowerLifter will do a decent job for a great price (about $100).

    Points to consider

    Tough to clean the cleaner

    While the PowerLifter’s nozzle popped off easily for rinsing, we found a bunch of fuzzy, dirty gunk caked on the roof above the non-detachable brushes that was hard to access and pretty gross. We didn’t bear too much of a grudge against the PowerLifter for this, though, since we discovered that cleaning almost all carpet cleaners can be unpleasant and difficult and we were able to scrape most of it off.

    How We Chose the Best Carpet Cleaners

    Cleaning power

    To really put our contenders to the test, we bought the whitest carpet we could find (Mohawk SmartStrand, made of synthetic triexta fibers) and treated it horribly. We purposefully picked the gnarliest and most headache-inducing stains carpet owners referenced online, from viscous syrups to chunky sauces. In all, we dumped 20 cups of garden soil, two jars of marinara sauce, six bottles of nail polish, one bottle of chocolate syrup, two bottles of red wine, and 10 cups of coffee into the carpet. And we let it sit in a warm room for four days. We did stop in once or twice to scrub the stains with water — a common first response in the aftermath of a stain — since this doesn’t actually remove stains but tends to set them further.

    Though all of the contenders left the carpet whiter than before, most failed to get out the last few smudges of greasy marinara sauce and sticky chocolate syrup. None of our contenders were able to clean up the dried nail polish — almost all, with the exception of Big Green, didn’t lighten this stain in the slightest. A convincing advertisement for your local nail salon, but also a good reminder that some especially tough stains need professional attention.

    Ease of use

    The best carpet cleaner needs to be simple to operate. Some water tanks, like the Hoover Power Scrub, were a breeze to fill, while others were just plain awkward. The Dirt Devil’s tank, with a tiny opening located in the center of the back, meant we had to keep closing and flipping the tank upright to see if we had reached the fill line. We paid attention to special features that would make our lives easier, like included rinse modes that didn’t require us to refill the tank.

    After setup, the worst offenders either required another person to help position the tank, or spilled water and solution on the carpet, hallways, and our shoes (we’re talking about you, again, Dirt Devil). Fortunately, we found setting up the Hoovers, Bissell Big Green, and Rug Doctors to be straightforward and spill-free.

    Machine maintenance

    After cleaning the carpet, we also needed to clean the machines — much easier said than done. This is when the great vs. not-so-great designs really became apparent. Many didn’t have removable brushes or nozzles for cleaning out built-up gunk from the machine itself, so we had to tip them over, get down on the ground, and poke around in all the nooks and crannies with… whatever we could find.

    The worst models took way longer to clean off than they took to clean the carpet, while the best, such as the Hoover Power Scrub and Bissell PowerLifter, came with detachable parts for easy rinsing, or extra tools for cleaning difficult areas.

    Guide to Carpet Cleaners

    How to get the most out of your cleaner

    Vacuum first and last

    For a deeper clean, vacuum your carpet before cleaning. Jeff Bishop, Director of the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), told us it’s important to begin the cleaning process with “dry soil removal – vacuuming carpet to remove as much hair and lint, and particle soils (e.g., sand, quartz, gypsum, limestone, carbon, clay) as practical.” After the carpet has been cleaned and is completely dry, vacuum again to pick up any remaining debris.

    Slower is better

    Move the carpet cleaner slowly and deliberately. The slower you go, the more thorough the cleaning process will be.

    Blot, don’t rub

    If you get a deep stain on your carpet, quickly blot off the excess (don’t rub it in with water, which will spread the stain and embed it more deeply into the carpet fibers). Vacuum off any remaining loose debris, and then run over it with a carpet cleaner as soon as possible.

    Always finish with rinsing

    Rinse your carpet after cleaning to remove any traces of detergent, which can leave your carpet hard and sticky if it dries. Some machines auto-rinse while cleaning, but make sure to read your user manual carefully to see if you have to refill the clean water tank.

    Clean your cleaner

    To keep your machine running properly, clean the brushes regularly. Make sure it isn’t clogged up with debris, especially hair.

    Keep it consistent

    Angie’s List suggests deep cleaning your carpet every 12-18 months, depending on the size of your household and how heavy soilage tends to be. For higher-traffic areas, you may need to clean more often.

    Carpet Cleaners FAQ

    About the Authors

    The Reviews.com staff is dedicated to providing you with all the deep-dive details. Our writers, researchers, and editors came together from Charlotte, Seattle, San Juan, Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, San Diego, and Chicago to put this review together.