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.
Renting carpet cleaners is extremely expensive, though. You also have to be close enough to a big hardware store to go and get one. That’s not even getting into the hassle of fitting one into your car, or the nightmare of getting it home only to find that the last renter left the machine filthy.
That’s why it’s so exciting to have a large variety of consumer carpet cleaner machines on the market right now. There are lots of options that allow you to clean your carpeted flooring whenever you want or need, without any hassle!
You’ll need to find the right one, though! Poorly designed carpet cleaners can be extremely messy to use, which completely defeats the purpose of owning one! We’ve looked for models to recommend that work well without making a mess or causing frustration. Check them out below!
Know more about the differences between a carpet cleaner and a vacuum.
Best Carpet Steam Cleaner Reviews
Our top-rated carpet cleaner recommendations:
- Bissell TurboClean PowerBrush Pet
- Hoover FH50251PC Power Scrub Elite Pet
- Bissell 17N4P Deep Clean Professional Pet
- Bissell Big Green Machine
1. Hoover FH50251PC Power Scrub Elite Pet
This Hoover is one of the best-selling carpet cleaners ever! 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.
Hoover’s Power Scrub Elite Pet is our most budget-friendly recommendation for a carpet cleaner. It’s a capable machine with plenty of conveniences to add to the value factor! This is the least expensive model we recommend to the average buyer. It’s big and powerful enough to tackle several rooms of carpeting. It’s also effective enough to tackle homes with pets or
We recommend it to people on a tighter budget, or those with only a room or two of carpeting to handle.
This is very inexpensive, coming in well under $200. We think it’s the cheapest model that won’t leave you wishing you’d been able to afford something pricier. It’s more effective, convenient, and reliable than other inexpensive options.
One of the best things about the Hoover is the fact that it has two different cleaning modes:
Deep Clean is basically your average carpet cleaner setting. It uses lots of water and detergent, then sucks it all back up. You can reach right to the bottom of your carpet fibers, and pull up ground-in dirt or tough stains.
The Quick Clean setting is what makes this more versatile, compared to your average carpet cleaner. It’s meant for smaller messes or less severe cleanups. The Quick Clean mode still does a good job distributing water and detergent, but it doesn’t reach as deep. And once you’re done the scrubbing and rinsing stages, the machine uses hot air in the extraction cycle to help accelerate drying.
Thanks to the shallower penetration and the hot air integration, you can get your carpets dry much faster with the Quick Clean mode. Hoover advertises a 45-minute drying time! Your results will depend on your carpet and how much soapy water you apply, but it’s certainly much less of a time commitment than the Deep Clean mode (or another carpet cleaner).
We think the Quick Clean mode is an excellent option to have onboard. It’s particularly good for fast surface cleanups. We’d use it for food spills, for instance, as opposed to pet messes which require a more intense treatment.
The Hoover’s actually more versatile and convenient than our midrange pick in some ways. The fact that it has so many extra features and conveniences definitely makes it seem more expensive than it is!
For one thing, it has a separate rinse function! This is great if you’re one of those people who wants to get all the detergent out of your carpets. Unlike many other carpet cleaners, detergent and clean water are kept separate in the Hoover until they’re applied. So, you can choose whether or not to use the detergent.
Having the clean water and detergent tanks separate means you can do a “rinse” wash cycle, using just the clean water. So, it’s far easier to get detergent out of your carpets than with others. With Bissell machines (and most other brands), you’ll have to start with a new tank of clean water to do a rinse, since the “clean” tank usually contains both water and detergent.
Another benefit of the Hoover’s design is that you don’t have to measure or mix detergent into your tank. You can just fill the water and detergent tanks, and the machine mixes for you.
We found that the Hoover is super straightforward to take care of when you’re done using it. It’s very easy to clean everything, and the nozzle and brush head remove for cleaning.
There’s an attachment tool for things like upholstery or carpeted stairs. It’s attached to an 8-foot hose, so you get a decent amount of range. We really like the combination tool design. You swap out two different inserts (rubber nubs or stiff bristles) depending on the specific material/mess you’re dealing with.
Having the option of rubber nubs is a lifesaver for dealing with animal messes in particular, since using bristles on poo can get unsanitary in a hurry.
The Hoover’s very good in that department, too. The brushes and the attachment tool are treated with an anti-microbial coating, so it won’t develop anything icky when you’re keeping it in storage.
It’s nearly 10 pounds lighter than our midrange pick! There are handles practically everywhere on the body, too. We found that it’s by far the easiest cheap carpet cleaner to carry around.
Unlike a lot of other inexpensive options, it has decent warranty coverage. This one’s covered by a 2-year warranty out of the box.
Hoover machines aren’t known for their reliability. This model has a good track record, and that’s why we recommend it over the more popular Deluxe model. We don’t know of any common durability or reliability issues with the Elite. Still, Hoover’s disc scrubbers don’t have a history of holding up as well as Bissell’s roller brushes.
It’s also worth noting that our Bissell recommendations come with longer warranty coverage.
The downside of having two separate water tanks is you have to lug them both around, and deal with stacking them into the machine. It’s one more thing to latch and lock into place.
You also can’t control the detergent ratio, since the machine does the mixing for you. While that’s a matter of personal preference, we do like being able to use different amounts depending on the issue at hand.
The Bissell might not have the rinse function, but you can fine-tune the ratio and have a more convenient package to carry around.
This is our suggestion to buyers on a budget, but it’s certainly not the cheapest on the market. We think this is the least you can pay for something that will handle an average amount of carpeting effectively.
If you’re stretched for cash, and don’t have more than a room or so of carpeting, you might consider the Bissell in our “See Also” section below! It’s smaller and a bit less powerful, but it’s also considerably cheaper.
2. Bissell DeepClean Professional Pet Carpet Cleaner
Bissell’s DeepClean Professional is our midrange pick for a carpet cleaner. We’re actually calling this the “best value” here, despite the fact that it’s more expensive than the Hoover. That’s because this machine offers much better long-term value than the Hoover. You’ll get more use out of it, and it’s a lot more capable!
You’ll notice that the DeepClean doesn’t have as many extra features and conveniences as the Hoover, but we’ve found that it’s a better workhorse. It has more dependable brushes, a sturdier design, and it’s a better overall performer!
Our recommendation to the average buyer. It’s ideal for pet-owners, or folks whose carpets see lots of foot traffic.
It has a much bigger cleaning head than other home carpet cleaners. The Bissell has dual roller brushes, with 12 rows of bristles each. That’s a key reason we prefer it over the Hoover. In practice as well as on paper, it does twice as much in one pass!
Not only is it really thorough with the area it covers, but it goes right to the edges of the cleaning width. The Bissell’s has a pair of horizontal spinning brushes brushes, which actually protrude from the edges, so you can scrub right to the baseboards! They’re a really smart design tweak which sets this above other midrange options.
The same is true on the tail end as well, since the suction goes right to the edges, too! This doesn’t have the problem we’ve run into with so many other carpet cleaners, where you can only dry a narrow section in the center of the cleaning path. The DeepClean does a really good job drying consistently across the width of the nozzle.
This is well-designed for folks with pets. It has a basket to collect pet hair, which works a lot like the dust compartment in a vacuum. All the fur ends up in the basket, so it’s easy to throw in the trash. With a lot of others, you have to pick out the hair by hand to avoid clogging your drain.
You can cover lots of ground before you have to refill. The DeepClean has a large 1.25 gallon bladder, paired with a rigid collection tank. Short of the Big Green, it’s the best choice for folks with lots of carpeting to clean.
This is a very different design to our other recommendations, since the bladder actually sits inside the collection tank. Most other carpet cleaners have two separate tanks. We think this is a better design, since it takes up less space. The bladder shrinks as the tank fills, so you never have to worry about flooding, either.
The most convenient thing is being able to remove them both at once! You don’t have to bother with stacked tanks or lugging two separate compartments around.
Like the Hoover, the Bissell keeps water warm once it’s in the machine. It won’t heat water for you, but it does a good job keeping the tank at the original temperature while you clean.
It’s versatile! You get two different attachments to use with this one: a 6” upholstery tool for furniture and carpeted stairs, and a “stain-trapper” attachment for spot-cleaning.
The “stain-trapper” is our favorite. It’s a clever design, with its own little tank. The stained cleaning solution stays in the tool’s tank, so it doesn’t cycle around the whole brush head on your machine. It’s a nice way to keep things contained!
It’s all pretty user-friendly and convenient. The brushes turn automatically when the handle is reclined, so all you have to do is control the trigger for the cleaning solution.
You can also get a hard floor attachment to use this as a super-powered mop. We haven’t tried it, but that’s a nice thing to keep in mind if you have a mix of carpeting and tile!
It’s covered by a 3-year warranty. This one also has a better long-term track record than other midrange models. The brushes in particular do better over the long haul than Hoover’s.
Like a lot of Bissell’s, it doesn’t have a perfect reliability record. In our research, we found that the vast majority of buyers didn’t report any issues. And since this thing has been on the market for a few years, we think it’s safe to assume there aren’t any design flaws. However, we have seen a few isolated reports from people who seem to have gotten lemons. Make sure you have free returns, and test yours to make sure you’ve gotten a good unit!
There’s no extra rinse compartment, so you will need to load a tank of just water if you want to rinse detergent out of your carpets. In our experience, Bissell machines usually have just one “cleaning” compartment, where the detergent is combined with the clean water. That’s different from Hoover’s, which usually have separate clean water and detergent compartments. Hoover’s is the better system in a lot of ways, but we don’t think their machines perform as well in practice.
It can be a pain to clean thoroughly, given the bladder design. There are also a lot of nooks and crannies inside, so we found that it’s easiest to wash in the bathtub, as opposed to the kitchen sink. It’s also harder to get to the rollers on this one, compared to some of the smaller Bissell’s.
One design quirk: you can’t use it with the brushes off. They engage automatically when the handle is reclined. That’s not a bad thing most of the time, but it does mean that this isn’t the best choice for particularly delicate rugs/carpets. Don’t use this on anything that can’t handle them!
This is a great carpet cleaner for the average person, but it’s not quite the best you can buy. The suction isn’t quite as good as the Big Green, and that model does a more thorough job. However, since this is so much more compact and convenient, it’s our top recommendation to the typical buyer.
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.
You’re also going to need the space to store the Bissell. It will require a walk-in closet, unless you can carry it into the basement or garage. In any case, this is one of the largest machines on the market!
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. Bissell customer support is nowhere near the best in the market.
Some reviewers said there were hair and sediment deposits on their floors after they cleaned. However, this should be only a first-time cleaning problem. As with any cleaning project, you first have to take up years of accumulation before you can maintain perfect cleanliness. 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. When we take everything into account, e.g. affordability, power, and versatility, the Hoover FH50251PC Power Scrub Elite Pet is the best carpet steam cleaner. However, the company has a mixed durability record and this 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 DeepClean 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 dual brush rolls and see-through nozzle. This thing covers ground quickly, and does a thorough job. Plus, it’s a great value for the money, with all the attachments in the box.
Best carpet cleaner on a tight budget
If you’re on a tighter budget and only have a small amount of carpeting to deal with, check out this other Bissell! It didn’t make our normal picks, since it’s too small to be practical on a large scale. It’s not quite as powerful as our other recommendations either. Having said all that, it’s a compact, convenient solution for people who don’t want to spend as much as our budget pick costs.
The Turbloclean is great within its limits. As long as you know what it’s capable of, we think you’ll be impressed by how well it works. If you’ve got more than one room of carpeting, heavy traffic, or one particularly large room , you don’t want to go this route. However, this is a capable, compact option for those who don’t need something bigger or brawnier.
This is a great tool for area rugs, carpeted entries, and single rooms. It’s only 12 pounds, and we love that it has a collapsible handle for easy storage. If you’ve ever been put off by the sheer bulk of other carpet cleaners, this could be just the ticket. It’s no bigger than a typical upright vacuum.
Plus, we don’t think you’re sacrificing much for the smaller frame/price tag. The Turboclean has a lot of the same features we like on the pricier Bissell’s, like a removable brush cover, and edge bristles, even if these don’t spin like the bigger ones do. It’s covered by a 1-year warranty.
Best steam mop for spot-cleaning on carpets
All our recommendations above are carpet cleaners, so they’re technically not steam cleaners. That’s because steam cleaners aren’t really the best choice for carpets. You need something that can actually cycle water through the fibers, rather than just steaming from the top down.
With that said, steam mops can be convenient for quick touch-ups and refreshes on carpets. Our favorite for doing just that is the Reliable Steamboy 300CU:
The Reliable Steamboy is currently our top-quality steam mop recommendation for all types of hard flooring. It’s also a stellar tool to have around the house for carpet touch-ups! It includes a carpet glider attachment right out of the box. You can’t expect any steam mop to do as thorough a job as a shampooer, but the Reliable will allow you to handle all those smaller cleaning tasks that you really don’t want to haul out a big machine for.
For instance, you can use this to deodorize and sanitize spots on your carpet after a pet mess. You can also freshen and brighten patches of carpet, simply by gliding the Reliable over the top. It’s also a good thing to have around for killing dust mites, fleas and other nasties lurking in your carpet fibers.
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!