We updated this article in October 2022 to add more information about each featured product and three new carpet cleaner picks, based on extensive testing done by the Good Housekeeping Institute Home Care and Cleaning Lab.
Sure, vacuum cleaners remove the dry dust, hair, lint and grit from carpets and furniture, but what about the stains from spilled wine, food mishaps and kid and pet messes? For that, you’ll need a carpet cleaner.
A wet carpet cleaner or carpet shampooer washes carpets and upholstery using water, a cleaning solution and suction to dissolve stains and remove the stuck-on dirt that regular vacuuming can’t. You could call a professional cleaning service, but if your home has lots of carpeting and upholstery, a carpet cleaner is a worthwhile investment that is less costly over time. Plus, you’ll be able to tackle messes as they happen so stains don’t set in and become tougher to remove.
In the Good Housekeeping Institute Home Care and Cleaning Lab, our experts clean a lot of carpets and floors every year while evaluating the best vacuum cleaners, robot vacuums, steam mops and more. Most recently, we tested four new carpet cleaners that were submitted for the latest Cleaning and Organizing Awards. We have also collected data from 14 other carpet cleaners, 21 carpet stain removers and several in-home professional carpet cleaning services. To test carpet cleaners we use each machine to clean a pre-stained, industry-standard white carpet. We record color measurements before and after cleaning, weigh the carpets to determine how much water is left behind and time how long it takes for carpets to dry after each cleaning session. We also take a look at each cleaner’s user manual and score how easy they are to assemble and use.
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.
Our top picks:
BEST OVERALL CARPET CLEANER
Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner
BEST VALUE CARPET CLEANER
Bissell Pet Stain Eraser PowerBrush Plus
BEST CARPET CLEANER FOR PETS
Hoover SmartWash Automatic Carpet Cleaner
BEST PROFESSIONAL HOME CARPET CLEANER
Bissell Big Green Professional Carpet Cleaner
BEST CARPET CLEANER FOR AREA RUGS
Bissell CrossWave All-in-One Multi-Surface Cleaner
BEST CARPET CLEANER FOR STAIRS
Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner
BEST CARPET CLEANER FOR CARS
Hoover ONEPWR Spotless Go Cordless Spot Cleaner
BEST CARPET CLEANER BRAND FOR RENTAL
Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 Commercial Carpet Cleaner