5 Best Carpet Cleaners of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Find the best carpet cleaners for your home by shopping our editor-tested picks. We sucked up spilled wine and smeared peanut butter in search of the best, most powerful machines out there.

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Updated on February 28, 2024

Photo by: Photo by Brigitt Earley

Photo by Brigitt Earley

Our Top Carpet Cleaner Picks

Tested by HGTV Editors

Even if you don't have kids or pets, carpets and rugs get dirty quickly. And sometimes—like when your glass of red wine tips or the dog bounds in the house with muddy paws—the best vacuum cleaners just aren’t enough to get the job done.

Sure, you can rent a carpet cleaning machine from your local hardware store or call up your old pal Stanley Steamer, but that’s not a practical (or cost-efficient) approach for regular maintenance, especially if you have a house or apartment full of carpets. Thankfully, there are many great residential machines that can help you tackle spills and stains between professional cleans.

Photo by: Photo by Brigitt Earley

Photo by Brigitt Earley

How We Tested

Our editorial team has tested dozens of carpet cleaners over the years to find the very best ones. We've tested both portable and upright models, as well as sprays, shampoos, and other carpet detergents. In our most recent evaluation of carpet cleaning machines, we ran the appliances through a series of tests like sucking up spilled red wine and cleaning up smeared peanut butter from a high-pile carpet. Our testers consider factors like weight, maneuverability, and efficacy when choosing our top-rated carpet cleaners to ensure the best carpet cleaners work for most spills and stains. We also consider pricing and availability when making our final choices. These are the best carpet cleaning machines we've tested to date.

What We Like
  1. Fully automated
  2. Easy to read LCD display
  3. Lightweight and easy to maneuver
What We Don't Like
  1. Very expensive

Tineco’s Carpet One Smart Carpet Cleaner boasts incredible technology that blew our testers away. The carpet cleaner, which has an easy-to-read LCD screen and voice prompts that walk you through the cleaning process, automatically adjusts water flow and suction power according to how much of a mess it detects. The voice will also alert you when you need to empty the dirty water tank, refill the clean water tank, and even when the surface is fully clean. The appliance also has a built-in heater to dry carpets post-clean, so you walk away with a clean, dry carpet in record time.

In our tests, this was—hands down—the most efficient model. It sucked red wine up in less than two minutes and cleared smeared peanut butter in less than three minutes. (Other models required five or more minutes.) At 16.5 pounds, the machine is lighter than most, making it exceptionally easy to maneuver, even as the tank fills. It also has a smaller footprint than most upright models, so it’s easier to store. Yes, it’s more expensive than most, but if spills and stains are frequent in your home, this machine is definitely worth the investment.

  1. Weight 16.5 lbs
  2. Cord length 21.3 ft.
  3. Accessories Handheld tool
$499 | Amazon $400 (reg. $500) | Best Buy
What We Like
  1. Sizable clean and dirty water tanks
  2. Comes with multiple attachments
What We Don't Like
  1. Relatively bulky footprint

If you can’t stomach the thought of spending hundreds of dollars on a carpet cleaner, Hoover’s PowerScrub Deluxe offers excellent bang for your buck. In tests, it eliminated a red wine spill in two to three minutes and was one of the only machines to fully clear up smeared peanut butter. While regular passes with the suction brush largely tackled the latter stain, the handheld SpinBrush was very useful for getting up any lingering traces of peanut butter.

The appliance is rather bulky which affects maneuverability a bit, plus makes it harder to store. On the upside, the machine is largely made from plastic, so it’s not all that heavy—it clocks in around 18 pounds, which is similar to most of the carpet cleaners we tested. It also has very sizeable 128-ounce clean and dirty water tanks. Our tester loved that the entire lid on the dirty tank popped off to allow for more thorough cleaning, too.

  1. Weight 18.5 lbs
  2. Cord length 20 ft.
  3. Accessories 360 degree SpinBrush powered hand tool, crevice tool, stair tool, upholstery tool
$212 (reg. $240) | Amazon
What We Like
  1. Maneuvers under furniture
  2. Large tanks
  3. Removable nozzle and brush cover to tackle pet hair
What We Don't Like
  1. Dirty water tank is hard to clean
  2. Upholstery nozzle doesn’t work very well

BISSELL’s iteration of the upright carpet cleaner is designed with pet owners in mind, and our tester, a parent of two border collie mixes and two young adults, has relied on this machine for years, noting it expertly removes stubborn stains and general dinginess from rugs. The 17.5-pound machine features two 128-ounce tanks, one for clean water and another for dirty water, making it one of the largest machines on our list. Our tester said that doesn’t affect maneuverability, though. In fact, our tester says the appliance has no trouble reaching underneath furniture—something most models can’t do.

A nozzle and brush cover pop off with ease, so you can remove built-up pet hair, a huge pro for our tester who said combing out fur and dirt is essential to keeping the machine running smoothly. The biggest downside is that the dirty water tank has a very small opening, making it difficult to fully rinse out. We weren’t all that impressed with the upholstery nozzle, either—it's finicky and uncomfortable to use.

  1. Weight 17.5 lbs
  2. Cord length 25 ft.
  3. Accessories Tough stain tool, two-in-one pet upholstery tool
$259 (reg. $309) | Amazon $259 (reg. $309) | Best Buy $259 (reg. $309) | BISSELL $309 | Walmart
What We Like
  1. Equipped with wheels and a retractable handle
  2. Powerful suction
  3. Large tanks
What We Don't Like
  1. Dirty water tank is hard to clean
  2. Bulkier than other portable models

This pick might throw you for a loop. What about the BISSELL Little Green Machine, right? While we did really love the Little Green Machine for its small size and portability, we ultimately had more success lifting stains with the Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner. And even though the Rug Doctor is larger and heavier (it weighs as much as many upright models), it was still highly portable thanks to a retractable handle and wheels that allow you to cart it around the house with minimal effort.

In tests, the Rug Doctor outperformed all portable models we evaluated. It cleared red wine in a matter of minutes, leaving no visible signs or odor behind. Cleaning peanut butter required a bit more effort, but ultimately got the job done in about five minutes. On the downside, the large-capacity 128-ounce dirty water tank has a small opening that makes it hard to thoroughly rinse.

  1. Weight 18.96 lbs
  2. Cord length 28 ft.
  3. Accessories Handheld dual-action pet tool
$149 (reg. $190) | Amazon $149 | The Home Depot $149 (reg. $190) | Walmart
What We Like
  1. Incredible suction power
  2. Long hose attachment for tight spaces
What We Don't Like
  1. Very large, heavy, and hard to store

This is not your everyday carpet cleaner—it’s a big, serious machine for big, serious cleaning jobs. But if you want the kind of results that mimic a professional job and have the space to store a machine this large, then we can’t recommend BISSELL’s Big Green enough. The hefty price and size (It weighs more than 50 pounds!) are intimidating, but the suction power is unrivaled.

Despite the weight, our tester remarked on how effortlessly it glided across her carpet. It worked wonders on an area where dogs regularly snooze and soil. In fact, our tester noted the shampooed area was a completely different shade of beige than the rest of her rug. Unfortunately, you will have to move furniture to clean wall-to-wall. Because the tank is so large, the machine doesn’t fit under furniture. It does, however, come with a 9-foot hose attachment that can help you reach stairs, tight spaces and tackle upholstery. If you frequently rent commercial machines for deep cleaning, this will be a worthwhile investment. It’s perfect for very large, open rooms with wall-to-wall carpet or area rugs and for homes with accident-prone pets or kids.

  1. Weight 51.1 lbs
  2. Cord length 25 ft.
  3. Accessories Tough stain tool
$412 | Amazon $412 | Walmart

What to Consider When Shopping for a Carpet Cleaner

Style: For occasional spills on rugs and furniture (or even in your car), a portable carpet cleaner is suitable. Though less powerful, they’re much easier to store—especially if you live in a small space. Upright carpet cleaners more closely resemble upright vacuums. They’re bulky, heavy, and loud machines, but have more cleaning prowess than their portable counterparts, thanks to larger tank sizes and more power. If you have a home with lots of carpets and kids or pets who often create stains, an upright cleaner is worth the expense and the hassle of storing.

Weight: Most portable machines weigh 8 to 10 pounds, though some are as light as 4 pounds. Upright carpet cleaners are much heavier—most we tested were about 18 pounds, though some were as light as 11 pounds and some were as heavy as nearly 29 pounds. Remember that the weight of the machine increases as the tank fills with dirty water, which makes it more difficult to carry the appliance up and down stairs. The good news: In tests, we didn’t notice a difference in maneuverability on flat surfaces when the dirty water tank was full.

Accessories: Many machines come with extra tools, like a spin brush or crevice attachment, for targeting tough stains on cushions, car seats or in corners. In tests, we also found these attachments particularly useful when vacuuming was largely unsuccessful, since they allow you to put a little more muscle into the task.

Maintenance: For hygienic reasons and the longevity of your appliance, it’s important to rinse the dirty water tank and clean any debris from brushes after use. Our testers preferred machines that had tanks with fully removable lids, since this allows for a more thorough clean.

Cleaning solution types: Some machines automatically dispense the cleaning solution as you go; others have a trigger to manually release the solution as needed. Our testers preferred machines that dispense the solution for you. It’s worth noting that the user manuals for most carpet cleaners instruct you to only use their own branded cleaning solutions. (They typically come with a trial-size bottle.)

FAQs

How do carpet cleaners work?

Carpet cleaners have two tanks: one you fill with clean water and cleaning solution and another that collects dirty water as you clean. Some machines automatically dispense the cleaning solution; others require you to pull a trigger to manually release the cleaning solution. Either way, a rotating brush (much like that of an upright vacuum) works the detergent into the carpet’s fibers while the machine sucks up the stain. Some carpet cleaners also have a drying function.

How often should you clean your carpets?

Though you should vacuum your carpet weekly, you should limit professional cleaning to once per year. The chemicals, water, and equipment can wear down the fibers in your carpet, damaging it and making it get dirtier faster. If you own a household carpet cleaner, you can do more frequent deep cleans to tackle any stains.

Are carpet cleaners kid- and pet-friendly?

Carpet cleaners are kid- and pet-friendly, but because they require cleaning solutions, you shouldn’t allow kids and pets to come into contact with any wet areas post-clean. Wait until the spot has fully dried.

What materials do carpet cleaners work on?

Most carpet cleaners can be used on carpets and upholstery, including the carpets and upholstery in cars. Some multi-surface cleaners can even be used on wood or laminate floors.

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