In this Guide
Traditionally, carpet cleaning has only been available through companies. More recently, machines have been available for home rental. Now, many home carpet cleaners have hit the market, offering comparable performance to professional services!
Carpet cleaning machines range from portable spot cleaners, canister models, upright cleaners with scrubbing brushes, to full-size commercial-grade models. While there are only a few major brands on the market, they each produce many different models. It can be pretty confusing to figure out which are worth your money.
We did the research for you, and compared dozens of carpet cleaners from the leading brands. We looked at price, durability, user-friendliness and, most importantly, cleaning power.
You’ll find full reviews of all our choices below. We’ve broken down how each one will benefit you, and explained why these cleaners made our cut!
Here’s a quick look at our top three picks:
Why you need a carpet cleaner:
If you have a good vacuum, you’ll know how much grime gets trapped in between carpet threads. Vacuuming can get a great deal of dirt and hair out of carpets, making them look and feel cleaner. However, vacuuming can only do so much!
Carpet cleaners can remove years of ground-in dirt, pet stains and odors, and all kinds of filth from your flooring. You’ll be shocked by how gross the cleaning water can be after a pass over a seemingly clean carpet. After deep cleaning, your carpets will look better than they have in years! It’s a great way to help them to last longer and perform better.
Know more about the differences between a carpet cleaner and a vacuum.
Best Carpet Steam Cleaner Reviews
1. Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe
This Hoover is Amazon’s number one best selling carpet machine! It’s popular for a reason: it’s simple to use, versatile enough to clean anywhere, and powerful enough to compete with much larger models. We love the adjustable cleaning levels, and the full set of accessories in the box. It comes with just about everything you need to clean all your carpets and rugs easily. We recommend it to people on a tight budget, or those with only a room or two of carpeting to handle.
The scrubbing brushes on this model really set it apart from the competition. Most carpet cleaners work like vacuums, with a brush roll. In the Hoover, there are many smaller brushes scrubbing across the floor in alternating directions. This helps agitate the solution, working it into the fibers.
The counter-rotating brush system scrubs in both directions, no matter which way you’re going. It works its way down into fibers, instead of spinning across the top in only one direction. Previous buyers said it does wonders on both deep and low pile carpeting.
There’s a separate tank for the cleaning solution. This allows you to adjust levels as you go, and also allows you to use separate wash and rinse settings. You can switch between these settings using a dial on the front–and it’s easy to switch mid-cleaning. Buyers said it packs serious cleaning power. They said it easily removed some stains that older cleaners wouldn’t touch.
The special nozzle design makes sure the Power Scrubber cleans all the way to the edges of the head. We love this, because many cleaners have a hard time getting close to the edges of your carpet. On the way back, it also forces hot air to circulate over the whole cleaning area. This makes drying time a lot faster, and prevents damp streaks.
The 8-foot accessory hose gives you plenty of reach for cleaning upholstered furniture and stairs. Plus, this machine comes with plenty of additional tools to tackle all of your fabric needs. There are three heads included with the hose. One features a powered scrubbing brush, one features a pet hair brush and blade, and another is a simple, wide nozzle for maximum soap and water power.
It’s designed to be user-friendly. At under 19 pounds, this models isn’t too much of a pain to lug up stairs. The dirty water tank comes with a special spout for easy emptying. It’s designed to make sure you don’t get any dirty water on you while you’re disposing of grimy sludge.
All the parts are easy to access for cleaning, and are simple to reassemble.
It’s very inexpensive.
Hoover’s customer service has a pretty mixed reputation. Reviewers said that Amazon was very helpful with returns and exchanges, but that Hoover was fairly discouraging. To resolve issues, most customers had to bring their units to an authorized service center. Also, the warranty is only for 2 years.
We found a few well-known flaws in this model, based on online reviews. The handles on the tanks have a bad reputation, and the brushes have a tendency to get stuck. However, since this model has been around a few year, there’s been time for a few key updates. The handles are now reinforced, and Hoover has put out a guide for unclogging the brushes.
From what we’ve read, we’d recommend you make sure everything’s in place before using it. When things are slightly misaligned, you could end up with streaks or leaking dirty water. Also, be sure to check the brushes for clogs frequently, before things become a problem.
2. Bissell ProHeat Revolution Pet
Our top value pick isn’t our cheapest recommendation, but it packs the most punch for the price. It has multiple cleaning modes, included accessories, and a special heating system for keeping your hot water at temperature while you work. Previous buyers report tremendous success in dealing with older, stubborn stains and residue. We love the powerful brush head–its two scrubbers will make quick work of pet dirt and stains! It’s ideal for pet-owners, or folks whose carpets see lots of foot traffic.
There are 2 cleaning modes. Express Cleaning mode allows you to do spot stain removals, and will result in your rugs drying more quickly (within about an hour). For tough, deeply embedded dirt, there’s a full Deep Cleaning mode. This uses more water, more fluid, and is more aggressive on the carpet fibers.
We love these settings as they allow you to choose what’s best for each floor and each cleaning session. You can do intense, all-day cleaning, or a quick spot check before guests arrive–with less drying time.
Under the bonnet, two alternating power brushes scrub grime out. The brushes are spaced to provide alternating rows, so you’ll have maximum scrubbing contact at any given time.
There’s also a detachable hose with accessories for cleaning your furniture and upholstery. It comes with a special pet stain tool. There’s also a tool for cleaning out the brush head, which opens up for maintenance. All the attachments and the hose fit into a mesh bag, included with the machine.
The machine comes with 2 types of cleaner. One is Bissell’s Professional Deep Cleaning solution, which is meant to be used for intense, full-room jobs. The other is an Antibacterial scrub. This is perfect for light cleaning and spot work, and also eliminates pet odors and body fluids. Whether or not you use both regularly, we appreciate that you have the option to try both.
A special heating and insulation system maintains water temperature, to make sure you’ve always got maximum cleaning power. While it won’t heat the water on its own, it certainly makes a difference over the course of a cleaning session. It works by directing the heat from the motor to the reservoir–without using any additional electricity!
There are plenty of user-friendly features built in, which we love:
The dirty water tank is easy to empty without getting dirty in the process. It has a little rubber stopper, which you pull out to let everything drain. No splashy sludge while you’re emptying this one.
The low profile head makes it easy to fit under and around furniture. It’s also fairly narrow, so it’s perfect for homes with smaller rooms and furniture. Plus, the housing on the power head is clear. That’s great because you can see water cycling through the brushes. When it’s dirty, you’ll know to spend more time cleaning that area. If it comes back clean, your job is done!
It’s easy to assemble. It ships in two parts, which snap together with only one screw required.
It doesn’t come with a motorized turbo head attachment. That’s sold separately. However, we’ve seen similar attachments sold standard with less expensive cleaners.
The cord is a bit short, and the dirty water tank is relatively small. Previous buyers also said that the auto-shutoff for the dirty water tank kicks in at about the halfway mark. These two factors make it a bit less convenient than it could have been.
It’s a bit awkward to clean and disassemble. Buyers were disappointed by the small opening on the dirty water tank. It’s easy to empty, but hard to rinse out with soap.
Detergents are expensive. And Bissell says that using detergents from other brands will void the warranty. While many reviewers said they’d used other brands without problems, we obviously wouldn’t recommend compromising your warranty coverage.
3. Bissell Big Green Machine
Our top quality choice for carpet cleaners is designed and tested to outperform the leading rental machines. It’s a professional-grade carpet cleaner for your own home! Its big, powerful motor scrubs carpets clean of grime, and has the suction power to get them drier, faster. This is a cleaner that gets the job done right, in one pass. It’s far more powerful than other household models, and has a nice big footprint to help you work quickly. Best of all, it’s designed to fit in your home with a foldable handle and packable hose. If you have wall-to-wall carpeting in most or all of your rooms, this is the ultimate solution for keeping them fresh.
When it comes to power, the Big Green’s size is a major plus. The motor inside this carpet cleaner is powerful enough to clean carpets on the first few passes. You won’t have to spend nearly as much time working over a given area as you would with a regular machine. Plus, there’s wider coverage with each pass.
The tanks are also jumbo-sized. This means longer cleaning time with less time wasted refilling and emptying the tanks. It comes equipped with flow monitor and gauges for the cleaning solution. The tanks are removable for emptying and refilling. They stack together like a lego set, and are labeled to help you remember where they go.
It really cleans. In addition to the water and soap injection system, this model has wide, powered scrubber brushes to lift grime and gunk from your carpets. Reviewers said it tackles stains and dirt easily. They said that even years-old carpets came away from the Big Green’s cleaning looking brand new.
In fact, it’s so powerful that Bissell advertises it as better than the leading rental machine. Many buyers agreed, saying that their first endeavor with this machine did a better job than several previous professional jobs combined. Extra suction power also means your carpets will dry faster.
There’s an extra-long accessory hose. At 9 feet, it has the reach to go anywhere you need it to go. And at the suction end, there’s a 6-inch nozzle for tough stains and hard-to reach corners. This allows you to get deep cleaning results on upholstered furniture, rugs, and stairs.
While it’s a full-size, industrial model, it’s designed for home use. The adjustable, ergonomic handle makes it easy to maneuver. The handle also folds down, so the carpet cleaner stores in the space of a box–without awkward protrusions.
We appreciate how easy it is to use. The user manual has handy pictures, and the water tanks are labeled. It comes ready to use out of the box, and it’s covered by a 5-year warranty.
Because of its size, some users might find the machine too heavy for frequent use. It’s also not ideal for homes with lots of furniture, or limited maneuverability. You’ll have to move coffee tables and couches to clean under them.
There are a few inconvenient features:
- It doesn’t heat the water itself, and some users found that the larger tank loses heat simply because it lasts so long.
- The hose can’t be stored on the machine itself.
- It’s not good for edge cleaning.
While this model seems to stand up much better than other Bissell machines, it has a mixed track record for longevity. Some reviewers updated their posts to say that the machines were running well after a few years, while others had leakage issues.
Most reviewers ended up having their issues resolved, but it wasn’t always convenient or easy.
Some reviewers said there were hair and sediment deposits after they cleaned. However, this should be only a first-cleaning problem. Bissell also recommend vacuuming thoroughly before using the Big Green.
Which carpet cleaner is right for you?
The Bissell Big Green Deep Clean Machine is our highest-quality choice. However, it might be overkill if you only have a small area of carpet in your house. It’s powerful, effective, and efficient, but it also requires a fair amount of storage space. We’d recommend it if you have lots of carpeted floors and a reasonable amount of closet space.
The Hoover is the least expensive option. It’s got all that you need for basic cleaning. We love its effective brushing system and independent rinse function. However, it has a mixed durability record and probably isn’t best for frequent, intense cleaning. We’d suggest the Power Scrubber if you want an inexpensive but effective carpet cleaner. It’s best for people with a few carpeted rooms, who need a maneuverable, versatile cleaner without too much bulk.
The Bissell ProHeat is our recommendation for everyone in the middle. It’s got more power and a better build quality than the Hoover, and it’s not as expensive as the Big Green. We especially love the heating system and see-through nozzle. If you’re a pet owner, this one is great because there are special tools and solutions to eliminate odors and kill bacteria. Plus, it’s a great value for the money, with all the attachments in the box.
Decide on Your Budget:
Carpet cleaners have a similar price range to vacuums ($100 to several hundred dollars).
Less expensive models have the same basic features as the premium units. However, they won’t have as many accessories or added amenities. You’ll miss out on advanced scrubbers, gauges, or automatic fluid dispensers. These features result in a deeper clean, with less effort required from you.Not having them means you won’t clean as deeply, and you’ll need more elbow grease.
More expensive carpet cleaners have better warranties (up to 5 years), and generally have better build quality. They’ll have more accessories and better scrubber brushes that stay free of clogs and snags. Plus, they’re more of a pleasure to use. Their ergonomic features save you strain and make your work much easier to get through.
If you’ll only be using a carpet cleaner occasionally, it might not be worth it to buy a $300 top-of-the-line model. You can make do with something in the budget range. If you have pets and lots of carpeting, you should consider spending more for something more powerful and more reliable. Think about how frequently you’ll be cleaning, and how much carpeting is in your home as you decide on how much to spend.
The size of a carpet cleaner is important for a few reasons. First, a larger carpet cleaner with a wider cleaning path can cover more ground in a shorter time. Larger machines are more powerful, and tend to be more effective on tough stains. They also have bigger tanks, which means fewer trips back and forth from the sink.
However, they’re harder to maneuver around furniture. Using a larger carpet cleaner will probably involve moving all your furniture out of the room when you clean. And it’s a lot harder to use a larger carpet cleaner for spot checks.
Smaller cleaners are easier for frequent, smaller jobs and working on furniture and upholstery. They’re more maneuverable, easy to use on stairs, and keep water warmer longer. Keep in mind that their tanks are generally smaller, and will require more frequent refills. They’ll also be less powerful overall.
You’ll also want to consider size when you think about where you’ll be storing your new carpet cleaner. A full-size, professional-grade machine will take up more closet space. Thankfully, most full-size models (like the Bissell Big Green) have foldable handles. This makes them a compact box. That said, they’re bigger than other models, which can be the same size as an upright vacuum.
Look at Features and Functions:
Carpet cleaners vary quite widely in terms of their onboard features and their cleaning capabilities. When you’re choosing between them, consider cleaning power as your top priority in the function department. You want the most cleaning power in the least bulky footprint. Then, look at extra features. These will help you cater the machine to your specific needs. However, you shouldn’t choose a carpet cleaner solely based on extras. Make sure you have as much power as you need before you invest in fancy extras.
In terms of basic features, you’ll want to weigh power versus flexibility. Bigger motors have better suction power, and will scrub harder. However, industrial carpet cleaners are hard to fit under furniture, or close to the walls. Smaller machines are more adaptable, but will have trouble with major stains or large amounts of grit due to their smaller motors and weaker brushes.
There are lots of special features out there. You’ll want to think about which ones will make the most difference to your cleaning experience.
Some models have pet hair equipment onboard, which can theoretically make deeply embedded hair easier to deal with. However, these features tend to get mixed results in tests. We don’t think pet hair features are a good substitute for vacuuming. Look instead for odor elimination and stain removal tools. Other extra functions on the market are powered accessory heads for stairs, and all kinds of upholstery brushes.
This is a major weak spot for many carpet cleaners on the market today. While we found that more expensive machines held up better over time, there are still quite a few lemons being shipped out. Also, reviewers said all the major companies (Bissell, Hoover, Rug Doctor) were fairly frustrating to deal with.
Our research tells us that the customers who noticed problems right off the bat did best. Carpet cleaners are easy to ship back and exchange while you’re within the return period. After the return window, things get dicey.When machines are in their warranty period, you may be asked to take your carpet cleaner to a service station. This can be a pain for customers in some areas.
We really recommend checking your machine for damage when you unbox it, and testing it soon after.
We also found that it’s of utmost importance to follow the user manuals, and take care to use your carpet cleaner properly. For more on this, see our Tips section below.
Tips for Making Your Carpet Cleaner Work for You:
1.) Vacuum first.
While carpet cleaners can handle pet hair, they can clog up if you don’t prep the surface. Plus, excess pet hair can be discharged in goopy clunks behind the machine.
Make sure you do as thorough a vacuuming job as possible beforehand. Your carpet cleaner will probably pull out more deeply embedded hair afterwards, but it’ll be less of a mess.
Plus, the less surface dirt your cleaner has to pull up, the less passes you’ll need to make (and fewer trips to the sink to empty dirty water).
2.) Pre-treat stains.
While you’re choosing a machine and cleaning solution, make sure both are compatible with your carpet. Some natural fibers don’t do well with carpet cleaners, and some detergents can harm certain carpet materials.
Read your carpet warranty, and look online for other creative solutions. Savvy bloggers have posted all sorts of tips online, such as using vinegar on stains before carpet cleaning.
3.) Check frequently for clogs.
Most problems that users encounter with carpet cleaners involve the scrubbing brushes. Check them regularly for loose threads, pet fur, or other debris. Some models feature detachable brushes for easy cleaning. In any case, you want to check frequently, so you can deal with snags before they cause any real damage.
4.) Follow the manual.
Some carpet cleaners look deceptively simple. Because they ship ready to go, it seems like you can figure everything out with common sense. However, they all have their idiosyncrasies. It’s important to take the time to get to know the manual before you use it.
5.) Take your time.
Most carpet cleaners have scrubbing brushes, and they work best if you give them time to work the cleaner into the carpet fibers. You’ll also get better drying results if you let the hot air reach further into the floor.
6.) Make it easier for yourself.
Try going over your carpet with plain hot water first, then doubling back with detergent. According to a buyer review, this draws detergent to the already damp fibers, like a watercolor paintbrush.
We love this tip. Buying brand name detergent is important, and it’s the only cleaner that won’t void a machine’s warranty. However, it can be quite expensive. This is a great way to save some money, and get an even deeper clean.
If you’re interested in our other recommendations for steam cleaners and steam mops, check out our other review pages!