Tuesday, August 16, 2022

    Remove dirt and stains with the best carpet cleaners in 2021

    Remove dirt and stains with the best carpet cleaners in 2021

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    • Carpet cleaners allow you to remove stains and dirt without having to call in a professional.
    • We tested six carpet shampooers to determine how they hold up to everyday use and on tough stains.
    • The Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro is easy to use and clean, and it gets the job done.
    • Find more information about how Insider Reviews tests home products here.

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    It doesn’t matter how often you vacuum or how careful you are, carpets get dirty. Hiring a professional carpet cleaner isn’t cheap, and the cost of renting a carpet shampooer machine adds up over time. Investing in your own carpet cleaner, particularly if you have kids or pets, can save time and money in the long run.

    We’ve evaluated the best carpet cleaners for their overall performance, durability, ease of use, and value. We tested each in a home with a toddler and a German shepherd. The toddler even caught a stomach bug in the midst of our testing, giving the cleaners an extra challenge. We chose cleaners that can tackle stains and are easy to operate, at a variety of price points.

    In addition to testing products, we spoke to experts about what to look for in a carpet cleaner. You can learn more in our FAQ section.

    Here are our top picks for the best carpet shampooers


    To learn more about what to look for in a carpet shampooer and to inform my testing, I spoke to the following experts: Brian Sansoni, senior vice president of communications, outreach, and membership at the American Cleaning Institute; Jotham Hatch, VP of training and business development at carpet-cleaning company Chem-Dry; and Kenneth Mendez, president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

    While my house certainly smelled cleaner after using each machine, I also used objective measures to determine each machine’s effectiveness and overall quality.

    Cleaning-ability test: I used each cleaner on carpet to clean 100 grams of ground coffee and one ounce of red wine, egg, and Sharpie. Before cleaning, I allowed the wet items to dry for 24 hours. I also used each cleaner in everyday scenarios to clean spills and in heavy-traffic areas. Because my daughter unfortunately caught a stomach bug during testing, the cleaners also saw their fair share of vomit.

    Drying-ability test: After using each cleaner, I tested the carpet dryness every hour until it was completely dry. The carpet was considered dry when a paper towel blotted on the area came away dry.

    Comfort and ease of use: I noted the weight of each machine and how tiring it is to use, as well as other features that affect the performance. I also considered how easy it is to move each cleaner around and whether each has a functional carrying handle.

    Attachments test: If a cleaner came with attachments, I used each attachment according to its instructions. I used attachments on both flat carpets and furniture with a lot of crevices and corners.

    Dirty-water disposal: I emptied each dirty water tank and noted the cleanliness and ease of disposal. I evaluated whether the dirty water tank came off the machine easily, whether the water was easy to pour out, and whether there was access to clean inside the tank if needed. I also noted whether I needed to touch anything dirty to dispose of the water. 

    Storage: None of the machines were collapsible, and the Crosswave was the only one to come with a dock. I noted the average closet size each machine would fit into.

    Warranty and customer service: I noted the type of warranty for each machine, how easy it is to register for the warranty, and how easy it is to contact customer service.

    The best carpet cleaner overall

    A woman using the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro to vacuum under the couch


    The Bissell ProHeat 1986 2X Revolution Pet Pro Full-Size Upright Carpet Cleaner is easy to maneuver and is versatile thanks to its three attachments.

    Pros: Easy to maneuver, cleans stains well, includes three attachments, express clean mode 

    Cons: Power button in odd spot, pet tool rough on upholstery

    The Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro was easy to use and maneuver, and we were impressed by its cleaning capability. In our spill tests, this carpet cleaner did one of the best jobs against red wine and egg spills — the two spills that were the toughest for all cleaners.

    For everyday use, this was the machine we kept opting for to clean everyday spills and stains. The fact that it comes with three different attachments means you can tailor the machine to stains in any area. The pet upholstery tool works well to clean pet hair, but the tool itself is a bit rough on upholstery. If you need to clean a pet stain, opt for one of the other included attachments.

    Another reason this machine is better than the rest is its express clean option that dries in under one hour. You won’t be treading on wet carpets all day long. 

    While the machine was easy to maneuver, we did find that the power button was in an odd spot on the side of the machine. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but I found myself searching for the button almost every time I turned it on.

    Cleaning this machine after use is a breeze. The dirty tank water pours out of a small hole, and there is also a larger opening if you need to get in and deep clean the dirty water tank. Additionally, the plastic over the brush roll pops off, so you can quickly clean off all that hair and dirt after each use.

    $279.99 from Amazon

    Originally $299.99Save 7%

    $279.99 from Bissell

    The best carpet cleaner on a budget

    A woman using the Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner to clean a stain on her carpet


    The Hoover FH50700 PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner is lightweight and was a top performer in our stain tests.

    Pros: Lightweight, one of the best performers in stain tests, compact

    Cons: One-year warranty, no attachments, difficult to clean interior of dirty water tank

    Lightweight and simple, the Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner is our top pick for those on a budget. Even though it’s smaller than some of the other models, the machine was a top performer in our stain tests. It got almost all of the egg stain out and put up a fair fight against the red wine, and it was one of the few machines to clean any of the Sharpie stain.

    In addition to being a good pick for people on a budget, this cleaner is also ideal for people who live in small spaces. It’s smaller than many of the other models, so you won’t need a huge closet to store it properly. If I were looking for a shampooer that I could easily grab to do a quick clean of my living room, this is the machine I would choose.

    Although this shampooer is marketed as a product for people with pets, it isn’t our top pick for dealing with lots of pet hair and stains. It’s smaller than some of the other models we tested, and it doesn’t come with attachments. This makes it less than ideal for spot cleaning and for getting pet messes out of furniture.

    Emptying the dirty water tank is easy and sanitary; the water easily pours out of a small spout. One drawback of this model is that there is not a larger opening for deep cleaning the interior of the dirty water tank.

    $89.99 from Amazon

    Originally $99.99Save 10%

    $84.99 from Best Buy

    Originally $109.99Save 23%

    The best carpet cleaner for area rugs

    A person vacuuming up a mess on a white carpet in their living room


    Versatile and easy to use on both area rugs and hard floors, the Bissell 2554A Crosswave Cordless Max will save you time and money.

    Pros: Lightweight, easy to maneuver, dries quickly, works on multiple surfaces

    Cons: Small tank capacity, hard to maneuver on high pile carpet

    If you have a mixture of hard floors and area rugs in your home, the Bissell Crosswave Max is ideal. Because it’s not a traditional carpet cleaner, the Crosswave is a bit difficult to maneuver on high-pile carpet. This shampooer is better suited to area rugs.

    This machine was by far the quietest of any we tested, and it was the only one that came with a charging dock. This means you can clean your whole house sans cord, and the charge lasts for 30 minutes of use.

    In our cleaning tests, the Crosswave cleaned some of the wine stain, but it didn’t do much to the egg stain. It doesn’t come with any attachments, although there are multiple brush roll options depending on the type of surface you’re cleaning.

    The plastic over the brush roll pops off easily for cleaning. When you’re ready to dump your water, the dirty water tank pulls out nicely and has a catch for hair and debris.

    In our drying test, the carpet dried in under one hour, making it one of the fastest drying machines we tested.

    $399.99 from Amazon $411.99 from Target

    The best carpet cleaner for large spaces

    A person using the Hoover FH50150NC Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Cleaner to clean a white carpet ini a living room


    The Hoover FH50150NC Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Cleaner has a wide cleaning head and comes with three versatile attachments, making it ideal for cleaning the whole house.

    Pros: Wide cleaning head, includes three attachments,

    Cons: Machine design takes getting used to, takes a long time to dry 

    We recommend the Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Cleaner for when you have big cleaning jobs. This machine works well for people who have a lot of carpet in their homes. In addition to having one of the widest cleaning heads, it also comes with three attachments, so it can stand up to just about any job.

    This machine did the best against red wine, getting almost all of the stain out. However, it did not do well against egg or Sharpie. We found that the attachments worked well for spot cleaning and upholstery.

    The biggest drawback of this machine is that it is a bit cumbersome and difficult to use. When you tilt the machine to begin use, the water tank shifts forward with the brush roll while the handle reclines back. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it is a bit awkward.

    Emptying the dirty water requires an extra step that the other machines didn’t have; two release handles need to be undone before the tank is free. Once you release the tank, emptying and deep cleaning inside the tank is easy.

    Expect to stay out of the area you cleaned for quite a few hours; this machine left our carpet wet for seven hours. To speed up drying, you could try opening windows and turning on fans.

    $125.00 from Amazon

    Originally $219.99Save 43%

    $186.17 from The Home Depot $175.43 from Wayfair

    Originally $209.99Save 16%

    The best carpet cleaner for pet stains

    A closeup of the Hoover FH52000 SmartWash Automatic Carpet Cleaner cleaning a carpet


    The Hoover FH52000 SmartWash Automatic Carpet Cleaner comes with an antimicrobial pet tool, which is ideal for cleaning stains. It also has a dry-only mode.

    Pros: Comes with an antimicrobial pet tool, dry-only mode 

    Cons: Automatic dry feature has a frustrating delay

    Although not a carpet shampooer designed specifically for pets, the Hoover SmartWash Automatic Carpet Cleaner is our top pick for cleaning pet stains. Some of the pet shampooers we tested didn’t come with attachments, which we think are essential to cleaning pet stains on furniture. This machine comes with an antimicrobial pet tool, so you can spot clean pet stains quickly.

    When it came to our stain tests, this machine got out some of the wine, egg, and Sharpie. Some of the machines didn’t even touch the Sharpie, so we were impressed by this performance.

    While it’s excellent in theory, we weren’t huge fans of the automatic dry feature. When you push the machine forward, it automatically goes into wet mode, and when you pull back, it automatically switches into dry mode. Unfortunately, the wet mode takes a few seconds to kick in when you start moving forward, so you either need to wait each time you start a new cleaning or know that the machine is going to miss the first few inches you clean. We also found that the wet mode kicks off if you move too slowly.

    Cleaning the dirty water tank is simple, and there is a large opening so you can rinse and deep clean inside the tank when needed. The plastic over the brush roll also pops off to clean hair and dirt.

    $198.00 from Amazon

    Originally $249.99Save 21%

    What else we tested

    A long carpet with a bunch of different stains we used to test the different vacuums

    Alicia Betz/Insider

    In total, we tested six carpet shampooers. Here’s what didn’t make the cut:

    What else we recommend and why

    Bissell Turboclean Powerbrush Pet: This carpet shampooer was pretty comparable to the Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner Machine. It’s lightweight and easy to maneuver, and it’s great for people on a budget. The biggest area where this machine fell short was in emptying the dirty water tank. There were holes in the tank, and I found it difficult to empty the dirty water tank without spilling dirty water on either myself or the carpet.

    What we look forward to testing

    A woman kneeled down on her knees using the Bissell Spot Clean to clean up a stain on the carpet


    For a future update to this guide, we’re looking forward to testing the following carpet shampooers:

    Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Cordless Portable Carpet Cleaner: If you have a pet that makes stains often, you don’t want to drag out a full-size carpet cleaner every time. We want to test this handheld pet stain eraser on both pet stains and other substances.

    Bissell SpotClean ProHeat Portable Spot and Stain Carpet Cleaner: Another spot cleaner, this machine uses heatwave technology to tackle tough stains. It comes with two tools, both designed to tackle stains. We plan on comparing it to the Pet Stain Eraser.

    Bissell Big Green Professional Carpet Cleaner: This cleaner is a heavy-duty one that would be great for tough and large jobs. It’s purported to provide professional-grade cleaning results. The tank capacity is almost double the other machines we tested, but it’s pricey. We’re looking forward to seeing whether it’s worth it.

    Carpet cleaner FAQs

    Are carpet cleaners worth it?

    Buying a carpet cleaner rather than renting one could save you money in the long run, depending on how often you use it. If you have pets, kids, and a lot of carpet, a shampooer is worth the investment.

    “The best way to maintain your carpet is to vacuum a few times a week while also developing a longstanding relationship with a professional that you trust who can provide more specialized cleanings or stain removal,” Hatch explained. If you don’t have room in your home to store a carpet cleaner, consider finding a professional carpet cleaner who can help you keep your carpets in good shape. 

    What kind of detergent should I use?

    Most machines come with a trial size of their recommended detergent. Check your machine’s manual for guidance on which detergent is compatible with your machine.

    How long does it take to clean a carpet?

    Carpet cleaning times vary based on the size of the room and the number of obstacles. A quick clean of a large room without moving furniture can take as little as 15 minutes from start to finish. Deep cleaning that involves moving furniture may take much longer.

    How long does it take carpet to dry after shampooing?

    It takes at least 30 minutes for the carpet to dry. Most machines take much longer — upwards of two hours. Keep this number in mind when moving furniture, as you shouldn’t place furniture back in place until the carpet underneath is dry.

    Hatch explained that a carpet should dry within a few hours. Otherwise, the area may be oversaturated, which can leave behind harsh chemical residue.

    What kinds of stains can carpet cleaners remove?

    Carpet cleaners are designed to work on many stains, from pet messes to food spills. Generally, the quicker you clean a stain, the better chances you’ll have at complete removal. In our tests, none of the cleaners were able to clean red wine that had fully dried. However, they were able to clean fresh stains such as ketchup or washable marker.

    How often should you clean your carpet?

    If you regularly vacuum, you should still use a carpet cleaner every 12 to 18 months. For those with dust mite or pet dander allergies, Mendez recommends cleaning carpets three to four times per year. 

    “There are exceptions to this recommendation,” he said. “If you live in an area that has high humidity or it’s too cold to dry the carpet quickly, then AAFA recommends only doing a carpet cleaning during the time of year when it can dry quickly.”

    He explained that too much moisture can support the growth of mold and dust mite populations, so don’t overdo it with your carpet shampooing.

    Alicia Betz

    Freelance Writer

    Alicia Betz is a freelance writer for Insider Reviews, where she specializes in parenting and education. She researches and tests products from the hottest new toys to the most tried and true parenting products. Alicia tests products in the field with her daughter. She earned her bachelor of science degree in education from Penn State University with concentrations in English and communications. She earned her master of arts degree in education from Michigan State University with concentrations in literacy and technology. Alicia holds a certificate in online teaching and learning and is licensed to teach in Pennsylvania. She was a teacher from 2012 through 2019 and has been writing professionally since 2016. Alicia’s writing has been featured in Scholastic, Brighter Higher Ed, Popsugar, AARP, and Yahoo News.  Learn more about how our team of experts tests and reviews products at Insider here.

    More: Features Vacuum Cleaner carpet stains Pets

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