If your home has lots of wall-to-wall carpeting that gets lots of traffic and stains, a carpet cleaner is a worthwhile investment. If you have the storage space, owning a machine is less costly over time compared to renting or hiring a professional carpet cleaning service. Plus, you’ll have the machine on-hand to tackle stains the minute they happen and to do regular maintenance cleanings to help your carpets stay looking better longer.
The Good Housekeeping Institute Home Appliances and Cleaning Products Lab evaluates carpet cleaning machines for how well they clean pre-soiled carpet panels, how much moisture they leave behind, how long the carpets take to dry, and how easy they are to assemble, use, and store. We also test any attachments on upholstered furniture. Because we know that not all households have the same carpet cleaning needs, you’ll find recommendations from our cleaning experts for carpet cleaners that can tackle pet messes, are safe for area rugs, and fit in limited storage space. These are the top carpet cleaning machines in GH Cleaning Lab tests.
Best Overall Carpet Cleaner: Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner
Best Value Carpet Cleaner: Hoover Smartwash Automatic Carpet Cleaner
Best Carpet Cleaner for Area Rugs: Bissell CrossWave Floor and Carpet Cleaner
Best Handheld Carpet Cleaner: Bissell Pet Stain Eraser 2003T
Best Carpet Cleaner to Rent: Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3
Our Cleaning Lab’s top pick is the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner. It can clean everything from light to heavy soil and the double brush rolls help draw even the deepest dirt out of carpets. If you need to clean in a hurry, fear not: The Express Clean Mode had our test carpets clean and dry in only about one hour, one of the reasons it earned our Good Housekeeping Seal. And because the clean and dirty water tanks are stacked (rather than side-by-side or front-to-back), the appliance has a slim design and low profile that’s easy to maneuver under furniture and to store. We’re all about less bulk!
Before you buy a carpet cleaner:
Renting a carpet cleaning machine may sound convenient, but when you factor in the coordination required to pick up the appliance and drop it off, the additional cost of cleaning solution, and remember that the rented machine is probably quite used (i.e. not as efficient as as a new cleaner may be), you may want to spring for your own. Rolling up your sleeves and doing cleaning your carpets yourself will give your carpets new life and give you the satisfaction of a super clean home.
Even so, you're going to want to professionally deep clean your carpets every 12-18 months, according to most carpet manufacturers — and some even require it to uphold the carpet’s warranty!
Consider the machine's weight. Carpet cleaners are much heavier to push and more cumbersome to use than traditional vacuum cleaners. And once you add water, they weigh even more.
Look for special features, like edge cleaning, rotating brushes, a heater, and attachments. Most come with attachments to clean small areas and small bottles of detergents to get you started. Depending on your needs, they may be worth the money.
Read over the machine's warranty (many manufacturers post this information on their websites). While you're at it, check your carpet's warranty to make sure you're not using a product that will void it.
BEST OVERALL CARPET CLEANER
Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner
This cleaner is your carpet’s new best friend. This full-size machine deep cleans and works on stairs, upholstery, and can even tackle pet hair. One of this Bissell’s innovative features is a targeted spray nozzle for stains. It works with just the press of a pedal and without having to stop, bend down, and use a separate product. The 2-in-1 Pet Upholstery Tool works dry to pull out stubborn pet hair and wet to zap stains on furniture fabrics and mattresses. Carpet machines of the past have been bulky, but this one is lightweight and gets a high-five from the GH Cleaning Lab for its brush roll cover that removes for cleaning.
Weight: ~19 lbs.
BEST VALUE CARPET CLEANER
Hoover Smartwash Automatic Carpet Cleaner
The Hoover Smart Wash is a convenient full-sized carpet cleaning machine. This budget-friendly model offers convenient features to get the job done without extra hassle. To use, push the cleaner forward and it washes the carpet with a premixed combo of water and cleaning formula. Pull the appliance back and it removes the moisture to dry the carpet. By automatically dispensing the correct combination of solution and water, it’s one less thing you have to. If you’re worried your carpet is too wet, select the “dry only” setting and give it a few more passes. It also comes with a hose and attachments.
Weight: ~19 lbs.
BEST CARPET CLEANER FOR AREA RUGS
Bissell CrossWave Floor and Carpet Cleaner
Low pile area rugs are easy to clean because dirt stays mostly on the surface, so you don’t need a stiff brush to get deep down. The Bissell CrossWave gently cleans area rugs with a soft microfiber and nylon brush, so there’s no fear of damaging the short pile or fraying the loops. Best for low flat rugs, this lightweight Seal holder also vacuums dry dirt and works on bare floors. And we liked that it dispenses just enough water for cleaning, but not so much that it wets the carpet back or the flooring underneath. It’s lightweight and has easy-reach controls so you can go from vacuuming to washing without missing a step. There’s even a spot to stash the wet brush until it’s dry.
Weight: ~11 lbs.
BEST HANDHELD CARPET CLEANER
Bissell Pet Stain Eraser 2003T
The Bissell Pet Stain Eraser is a super easy-to-use (and compact!) carpet stain remover as well as a dry and wet vac. This Seal holder works indoors but is also easy to use on car-seats and anything else on-the-go. Not only is it cordless, but the battery lasted 18 minutes in our tests. That’s surely enough time to get out those stubborn stains. We applied grape juice and coffee to white carpet and the Eraser removed them easily. It even got rid of stains that had been there for over a month! It is effective at getting rid of icky pet stains like urine, vomit, or feces (yuck!). Attached on board the appliance is the cleaning solution and a brush nozzle to use for extra scrubbing.
Weight: ~4.6 lbs.
BEST CARPET CLEANER TO RENT
Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3
If you're really serious about carpet cleaning, the Rug Doctor is the next best thing to a professional cleaning. The rental option is best if you don't want to own, or don't have adequate storage space. If you purchase it, you get a hose and attachments for cleaning stairs and upholstery along with cleaning formulas. When you rent, everything is purchased separately. The Rug Doctor has earned the highest rating from the Carpet & Rug Institute — the trade organization of the carpet industry — for soil removal, water removal, and gentleness. Note it only works on the backward stroke.
Weight: ~39 lbs.
How to use a carpet cleaner
Vacuum the area thoroughly to pick up any loose dirt before deep-cleaning your carpets. When cleaning the entire floor, move furniture out of the way.
Place aluminum foil or wax paper under the legs of furniture that's too heavy to move. This prevents wood finishes from staining the carpet as it dries.
Begin cleaning at the farthest point from the doorway and work back toward it so you can step out when you're done.
Never close up a room with a wet, newly cleaned carpet; it slows down drying time and can promote mold growth. Instead, keep the air circulating by opening the doors and windows.
Once the carpet is dry, vacuum once more to pick up any remaining soil.
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