The 7 Best Carpet Cleaners of 2024, Tested & Reviewed

We tested 21 of the best carpet cleaners to determine which are the best for every purpose, from spot treating to deep cleaning.

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The 7 Best Carpet Cleaners of 2024, Tested & Reviewed

Investing in a carpet cleaner gives you the ability to clean your carpets and rugs on your own schedule, without the hassle of renting a machine or hiring a professional. Whether you’re dealing with wall-to-wall carpeting or small area rugs, there are countless models designed with different needs in mind. 

To determine the best carpet cleaners, we rounded up 21 of the most popular carpet cleaners on the market and put them through thorough testing in our Lab and in our homes, evaluating them for their ability to remove various types of stains, as well as their noise level, design, and overall value. We also consulted David Ragsdale, production manager at SERVPRO, for expert tips on how to choose the best carpet cleaner for your specific needs. 

“If purchasing a carpet cleaning machine you must determine if you are going to be using it for a large area on a regular basis, or if it is only for spot treatments between professional cleanings,” says Ragsdale. “If planning to tackle the project of cleaning an entire home you will want a machine with a large capacity holding tank and availability of attachments for upholstery or drapes.”

Ranging from portable spot cleaners to powerful machines for whole-home use, our favorite carpet cleaners are the next best thing to a professional cleaning.

You don’t have to bend down to push the machine along, and the ergonomic handle makes steering smooth and comfortable.

It requires ample storage space to keep the machine and its accessories out of the way when not in use.

The Bissell Big Green Pet Pro completely rid our carpet of wine stains, fresh coffee, and chocolate syrup with the help of its powerbrush and numerous cleaning attachments. And after two months of consistent use, it has significantly brightened white carpeting and eliminated lingering pet odors. As a full-size, commercial-style carpet cleaner, this machine is best for those with wall-to-wall carpeting, especially pet owners and those with kids who make frequent messes. 

This carpet cleaner features two tanks, one for clean water and one for dirty water collection, both of which hold up to 1.75 gallons, so you’ll seldom need to stop to refill or empty the tanks. But it does come equipped with a flow indicator that monitors water and solution levels and lets you know when you need to check the tank. The 10.5-inch cleaning path makes quick work of large, open spaces, plus it’s outfitted with a 6-inch stain tool, a pet upholstery tool, and a 9-foot hose for getting into hard-to-reach areas. 

One advantage of its size is you don’t have to bend down to push the machine along, and we found it easy and comfortable to steer, thanks in part to the ergonomic handle. This is no small machine, so make sure you have ample storage space to keep it out of the way while not in use (it doesn’t come with on-board storage for the accessories, either). But if you’re someone who finds yourself regularly renting or hiring professionals for carpet cleaners, the Big Green Pet Pro will save you money and hassle in the long run.

Weight: 44 pounds | Cord Length: 25 feet | Hose Length: 9 feet | Dirty Water Tank Size: 1.75 gallons | Clean Water Tank Size: 1.75 gallons | Cleaning Path: 10.5 inches

At just over 12 pounds, it’s easy enough to carry up and down the stairs with one hand and has a wide cleaning path.

It can drip a bit when rolling over the carpet, and it's somewhat louder than the competition.

This upright carpet cleaner proved to be more effective than its price might indicate. It managed to remove long-standing stains and left our carpets smelling fresher and looking brighter—even in high-traffic areas. 

We particularly like that, despite the fact that it’s an upright unit, it weighs just over 12 pounds, so it’s easy enough to carry up and down the stairs with one hand. Its wide cleaning path makes quick work of wall-to-wall carpeting, but it also comes with an 8-foot hose and a pet attachment, so you can easily clean stairs and upholstery or spot-treat stubborn stains. And its low profile easily slides under higher furniture, such as kitchen tables or beds (although you’ll need to move any low-lying furniture out of the way). 

The two large tanks are easy to fill and empty; one full tank of clean water and solution is enough to tackle an entire bedroom. And they are easy enough to rinse out after each use, too. Our biggest complaint is that they did drip a bit when the cleaner was rolled over the carpet, though not so much that it ruined our cleaning job. And despite its compact size, it’s one of the louder machines we tested. But given the price, we think this is a small sacrifice to make.

Weight: 12.5 pounds | Cord Length: 20 feet | Hose Length: 8 feet | Dirty Water Tank Size: 10 ounces | Clean Water Tank Size: 21 ounces | Cleaning Path: 10 inches

This model uses no water, only a cleaning solution, which can be stored in the tank while not in use. 

It often requires that you bend over or get on your hands and knees to use it.

For those with less carpeting or anyone who just doesn’t want to lug a full-size machine out for every minor spill, the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Plus is the perfect solution. It has a cordless design and weighs just over three pounds, so you can take it with you wherever you go. It was able to remove all of the coffee and wine stains in our testing, though it wasn’t as effective as some of the other models on our list when it came to removing dirt and chocolate stains. However, it was able to clean pet stains that had long since dried, and eliminated pet odor entirely during our at-home tests. 

Unlike the other carpet cleaners we tested, this model uses no water, only cleaning solution, which can be stored in the tank while not in use. And it’s the quietest machine out of all those on our list. Just keep in mind that, while the compact design allows you to get into small nooks and crannies (including in car interiors and on upholstery), it also often requires that you bend over or get on your hands and knees, making it less accessible than upright machines.

Weight: 3.3 pounds | Cord Length: Cordless | Hose Length: N/A | Dirty Water Tank Size: 8 ounces | Clean Water Tank Size: 8 ounces | Cleaning Path: 3 inches

The LED headlights illuminate hard-to-see stains, and the CleanShot Pretreater boosts its ability to remove stains, while the rotating brush helps to lift embedded stains and solids. 

It doesn't do as well at picking up hair and doesn't come with any additional attachments.

Gone are the days of getting on your hands and knees to scrub pet stains out of the carpet—this spot cleaner is designed to tackle tough stains from an upright position, making it ideal for pet owners or parents who find themselves frequently cleaning up large messes. 

This carpet cleaner requires almost no assembly, and is very easy to fill. The amount of grime it pulled out of our “clean” carpet was a bit humbling, and it was able to lift tough stains in just one to two passes. We particularly loved the LED headlights that illuminate hard-to-see stains and the CleanShot Pretreater that made a difference in the machine’s ability to remove stains. Plus, the rotating brush helps to lift embedded stains and solids. 

This carpet cleaner also features an Express Clean Mode, which dries in 30 minutes, so you can do some last minute carpet cleaning prior to company arriving. Even better? The carpet cleaner itself is lightweight enough to carry up and down stairs with ease when there are accidental spills and messes, and the collapsible handle makes it easy to store. 

On the downside, this carpet cleaner didn’t do as well at picking up hair, so you’re better off using a regular vacuum for that purpose. It also doesn’t come with any additional attachments, such as a hose or crevice tool. But for the pet owner who finds themselves constantly tackling stains and odors, this powerful carpet cleaner allows you to clean large stains without even bending over. 

Weight: 12.3 pounds | Cord Length: 20 feet | Hose Length: N/A | Dirty Water Tank Size: Not listed | Clean Water Tank Size: 48 ounces | Cleaning Path: 9.5 inches

The rubberized bristles help to grab loose pet hair as you shampoo the carpet. 

The dirty and clean water tanks only hold about a half gallon each.

This portable spot cleaner is perfect for those with kids or pets (or just accident-prone adults), because its compact, rolling design makes it easy to whip out as needed. It was able to remove serious pet stains and odors—both new and old—from our carpet, as well as food spills on an area rug. 

We especially love the portable design, which features a retractable handle so you can roll it from room to room, much like a suitcase. The dual-action pet tool attaches to the hose so you can easily tackle stains on hard-to-reach places, including stairs, upholstery, mattresses, pet beds, car interiors, and more. Plus, it’s equipped with rubberized bristles that help to grab loose pet hair as you shampoo the carpet. 

Both the dirty and clean water tanks are removable for easy cleaning. Just keep in mind that they only hold about a half gallon each, although this is likely more than enough for spot treating individual stains.

Weight: 18.3 pounds | Cord Length: 28 feet | Hose Length: Not listed | Dirty Water Tank Size: 64 ounces | Clean Water Tank Size: 64 ounces | Cleaning Path: Not listed

It features powerful jets, vibrating scrub brushes, and pro-grade suction power.

It's extremely loud to operate and somewhat difficult to steer.

Out of all the commercial-style carpet cleaners we tested, this one was the most effective at removing stains, and left our carpets smelling fresher and looking cleaner. With a dual-tank design and a whopping 3.9-gallon clean water capacity—over double that of the carpet cleaner with the next highest capacity—it’s ideal for a home or business with large amounts of carpeting. It was able to remove all the stains on the first pass, except for the ketchup, which came up after a few additional passes. 

It’s also one of the most expensive carpet cleaners we tested. But if you find yourself frequently renting a carpet cleaner or hiring a professional carpet cleaning service, this machine might just save you money in the long run. 

Features include powerful jets that inject cleaning solution into the carpet, vibrating scrub brushes to lift dirt and stains, and pro-grade suction power that help to aid in stain removal and drying time. But keep in mind that with all this cleaning power comes more noise—this carpet cleaner had one of the highest decibel measures of all those we tested. 

For the price, we would have liked to see included attachments for spot treatment, but you can purchase a hand tool sold separately. And we did find it somewhat difficult to steer—getting around a staircase landing was near impossible (which is where the separate attachments might come in handy). But if you’re looking to regularly deep clean a space with wall-to-wall carpeting, there are few carpet cleaners that can compete with the power of this commercial-style model. 

Weight: 39.5 pounds | Cord Length: 22 feet | Hose Length: 12 feet | Dirty Water Tank Size: 3 gallons | Clean Water Tank Size: 3.9 gallons | Cleaning Path: 10.8 inches

It has an automatic cleaning solution dispenser and detachable pretreat stain remover wand and can automatically switch between wet and dry cleaning.

It's on the heavier side for an upright model.

You don't need to have pets to make use of this versatile upright carpet cleaner—although pet owners will certainly appreciate its ability to tackle pet stains and odors. It received high marks in our testing for its ability to remove tough stains, in part thanks to the included pre-treat wand. 

This carpet cleaner comes with a number of special features that set it apart from the competition, including an automatic cleaning solution dispenser that mixes and dispenses the cleaning solution as you go and a detachable pretreat stain remover wand for removing set-in stains. Plus, it automatically switches between wet and dry cleaning—simply push forward to wash, pull back to dry. You can also give it a few more passes with the "dry only" setting to remove as much moisture as possible, which is particularly useful for area rugs that can hold onto a lot of water (though we did find the vacuum-like design would sometimes catch on the corners of area rugs). 

Finally, the dual tank system keeps the water and cleaning solution separate from the dirty water tank, so there's no need to constantly empty and refill. In terms of attachments and accessories, this carpet cleaner comes with an 8-foot hose and a pet tool for spot treating stains or tackling hard-to-navigate areas such as stairs or upholstery. 

Keep in mind that it's on the heavier side for an upright model. But for households with wall-to-wall carpeting, the trade-off is well worth it for its ability to wash and dry large areas in less time.

Weight: 18.9 pounds | Cord Length: 22 feet | Hose Length: 8 feet | Dirty Water Tank Size: 64 ounces | Clean Water Tank Size: 1 gallon | Cleaning Path: 13 inches

Our top pick is the Bissell Big Green Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner because it noticeably brightened white carpet and eliminated pet odor after just two months of use. Plus, it features two large water tanks, so you can tackle wall-to-wall carpeting without constantly stopping to refill or empty the tanks. 

For a more budget-friendly option, we like the Hoover PowerDash Pet Advanced Carpet Cleaner because it’s effective yet lightweight enough to carry up and down stairs.

We gathered 21 of the best carpet cleaners on the market, including commercial, upright, and portable machines, and spent three days rigorously testing them in our Lab before bringing them home for additional testing over a two-month period. During our Lab tests, we started by evaluating the ease of setup by using a stopwatch to measure how long it took to unbox and assemble each carpet cleaner.

Then it was time to test each machine’s effectiveness at removing stains: Prior to testing, we added potting soil, chocolate syrup, red wine, and coffee to a section of medium-pile carpet. Everything was left to dry for 72 hours, and on the day of our stain testing, we added a fresh coffee stain to test how effective each carpet cleaner was at removing fresh stains, too. We evaluated how well each carpet cleaner removed the stains, and let the clean samples sit out to dry and checked if they were still wet after one hour. During testing, we used a decibel meter to record the noise level of each machine.

We also assessed the design and portability of each machine, included attachments, and ease of emptying and cleaning. Finally, we decided on overall value, considering each product’s price relative to their performance. Once Lab testing was complete, we used the carpet cleaners in our homes and provided feedback as to how well they held up to regular use over two months.

David Ragsdale, production manager at SERVPRO, says it’s important to first determine whether you’ll be using your carpet cleaner to regularly clean a large area or to spot-treat in between professional cleanings. Do you have pets or kids that make big messes? Look for a carpet cleaner with a powerful motor that can tackle tough stains and a large tank that can cover large areas. 

For cleaning area rugs, it's important to purchase a carpet cleaner with good water extraction so you don’t over saturate your rug. Area rugs also have a tendency to hold onto dirt and dust, but a machine with a powerful rotating brush will help to lift these out with ease. 

Finally, if you’re shopping for a carpet cleaner for spot cleaning small areas, cleaning upholstery, or cleaning car interiors, look for a portable carpet cleaner that is lightweight and easy to maneuver.

Carpet cleaners generally come in three different sizes: upright, portable, and commercial.

An upright carpet cleaner, which resembles an upright vacuum cleaner, is designed to tackle wall-to-wall carpeting. They generally have large tanks with more cleaning capacity and more powerful motors. However, their build and heft can make them difficult to maneuver around small spaces. 

Portable carpet cleaners are much smaller and feature narrow cleaning pathways for spot cleaning carpets, furniture, car interiors, etc. They’re lightweight and designed to clean up messes like spills or pet stains in between deep cleanings. Some households may choose to own both an upright carpet cleaner for deep cleaning entire rooms and a portable carpet cleaner for spot cleaning. Some upright carpet cleaners can be used for both deep cleaning and spot cleaning, but portable carpet cleaners tend to be much more convenient to use for small spills and stains. 

Finally, a commercial carpet cleaner is a big machine meant for big cleaning jobs. If you’re someone who frequently rents carpet cleaning machines or hires professional carpet cleaners, investing in a commercial-style carpet cleaner can save you money in the long run. However, they’re big, bulky, and difficult to store, not to mention pricey. For homes or businesses with a lot of carpet, they can make a great investment, but for the average person, an upright or portable carpet cleaner may be easier to use and more economical.

Extra tools like an extended hose or a crevice cleaning tool can be helpful for maneuvering around stairs, furniture, car interiors, etc. Some attachments may be included with the carpet cleaner, while others must be purchased separately. More attachments make for a more versatile device, but it also means there will be more setup and cleaning involved.

Upright carpet cleaners will generally have large tank capacities, which means they’ll have more cleaning power and require fewer refills. However, this also means they’ll be heavier, and the weight will only increase as they fill up with dirty water. Most carpet cleaners feature a dual or two-tank design, meaning there’s one for clean water and another for dirty water. This means you won’t have to keep emptying and refilling the tank because the water is dirty.

Most quality carpet cleaners come with extra features that set them apart from the competition. These could include things like a cleaning agent dispenser that automatically adds cleaning solution to the water, dry-only settings that suck up water to speed up dry time, an internal water heater to help you heat or maintain the temperature of the water, a rotating brush for lifting dirt, stain pretreatment, and more.

Bissell Big Green Machine Professional Carpet Cleaner: This is a more basic version of our best overall pick, the Bissell Big Green Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner. It gave an impressive performance, but we missed the advanced features of the Big Green Pet Pro, such as the flow indicator that monitors the water and solution levels, as well as the ergonomic handle. 

Bissell SpotClean Pet Pro Portable Carpet Cleaner: This is another great portable cleaner for spot treating stains. We love the handle that makes it easy to tow, although the shape of the brush attachment can make it a bit tricky to get into tight spaces.

According to Ragsdale, most commercial carpet cleaners use what's known as "hot water extraction" to clean carpets. "To clean carpet, soils must be suspended in a solution and then extracted," he says. "Soil suspension is achieved by using heat (hot water), cleaning product, and agitation to separate the soils from the carpet fibers… Once soils are separated from the carpet fibers they can be 'washed' out of the carpet with hot water, leaving the carpet free of soils and cleaning product residues." Many carpet cleaners also feature a powerful suction to remove moisture for quicker drying.

Carpet cleaners are sometimes referred to as "steam cleaners," but this is actually a misnomer. The difference between the two largely comes down to the use of a cleaning agent: "A carpet deep cleaner is going to perform a shampooing action," says Ragsdale. "Shampooing is achieved with aggressive agitation of a product into the carpet which will create a shampoo/foam and that is then extracted."

A steam cleaner, on the other hand, relies solely on steam and water to loosen dirt, and then vacuums it up into a holding tank. The high temperature can act as a disinfectant and help get rid of pests, germs, and allergens. Some steam cleaners can work on both carpets and hard surfaces, while others might have a steam output that’s too powerful and can damage carpet fibers. And, without the use of carpet cleaning solutions, steam cleaners may struggle to remove set-in stains.

In general, steam cleaners can help to refresh your carpets, but for heavily soiled carpets, a carpet cleaner is the better choice.

Ragsadle suggests deep cleaning your carpets every six months to a year, depending on the foot traffic of the area. However, owning a home carpet cleaning machine—as opposed to renting one or hiring a professional service—means you can achieve a deeper clean as often as you think necessary, whether it be monthly or even weekly. If you have pets, kids, or other sources of build-up, you may want to do more frequent cleanings. It's important to note that in addition to periodically deep cleaning your carpets, you should also learn how to give your vacuum cleaner a thorough cleaning to prevent mold- and bacteria-laden dust from disseminating into the air. In between deep cleanings, you can use a portable carpet cleaner or the crevice/upholstery attachment on your upright carpet cleaner to spot treat any stains and spills.

This article was written by Melanie Fincher, associate commerce editor for Real Simple with three years of experience writing product reviews and lifestyle content. To compile this list, we tested 21 carpet cleaners over the course of three days in our Lab and two months in our homes and evaluated each model on its ease of setup, effectiveness, versatility, noise level, design, portability, and overall value. For expert tips on how to buy a carpet cleaner, Melanie consulted David Ragsdale, production manager at SERVPRO.

Next to each product on this list, you may have noticed a Real Simple Selects seal of approval. Any product appearing alongside that seal has been vetted by our team—put through tests and graded on its performance to earn a spot on our list. Although we buy most of the products we test, sometimes we do get samples from companies if purchasing a product ourselves isn’t an option. All products go through the same rigorous process, whether they are purchased or sent by the company.

Love our recommendations? Check out more products that have earned the Real Simple Selects, from humidifiers to cordless vacuums.

The 7 Best Carpet Cleaners of 2024, Tested & Reviewed

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