The Best Carpet Cleaners Buying Guide of 2015 & 2016

Carpet Cleaner Features To Look For


When you are looking at carpet cleaners, the sheer power of the machine plays a big role in its overall effectiveness. The motor powers the brushes and suction of the carpet cleaner, so cleaning and drying are affected. It is most common for carpet cleaner power to be measured in amps, which is the unit used for an electric current, so the more amps a carpet cleaner has, the more powerful it is. With a more powerful carpet cleaner, you can get out deeper stains faster and work with more powerful suction, which also helps the carpet dry more thoroughly. Some professional-grade carpet cleaners are so powerful they can be measured in horsepower, though they do not get much higher than 1-2HP. These carpet cleaners can be very expensive. Powerful but still affordable cleaners will have about 10-12 amps on average.

Tank System

Carpet cleaners use water to clean, so every carpet cleaner has a tank system. There are 2-in-1 tank systems and 2-tank systems. 2-in-1 tank systems are composed of a bladder bag that sits in a compartment. You fill the bag with clean water. As you clean, the dirty water goes back into the tank compartment, surrounding the bladder bag. One advantage of 1-tank systems is that you only have to bother emptying one tank, though it can be rather awkward. Two-tank systems completely separate the clean and dirty water. Most people prefer the two-tank system because they are more hygienic. It is also easier to empty out each individual tank than with the 1-tank system.

Tank Size

Heavy-duty, pricier carpet cleaners have large tanks that can hold up to 2 gallons, while ½-gallon to 1-gallon is more common for your standard carpet cleaner. The advantage of a bigger tank is that you can clean for an extended period of time without having to refill. On the other hand, bigger tanks make the machine much heavier, which can make transporting it up and down stairs especially difficult. When you’re looking at a carpet cleaner tank, think about how much water you’ll need to get your cleaning done, and how often you want to refill and empty the tank.

Hot-Water System

When you use your carpet cleaner, pouring in hot water is a lot more effective than using cold or lukewarm water. Hot water mixed with soap creates a powerful cleaning solution that can dissolve dirt and oily stains. Carpet cleaners are not able to actively heat water, but most are able to insulate the hot water you pour into the tank, so the water stays at a good temperature for dissolving dirt and stains. Carpet cleaners with Heatwave Technology use hot air generated from the motor to keep the water warm.


In combination with water and soap, carpet cleaners use brush systems to work out ground-in grime from carpet fibers. There are a variety of brush systems that different carpet cleaners use, like PowerBrushes, which are made of stiff bristles that vibrate to work out dirt. SpinScrub is also a very popular technology. This system uses six, multi-directional brushes that spin through carpet. When you are looking at a carpet cleaner’s brushes, keep an eye out for how the brushes actually move, since you want the brushes to surround each carpet fiber for a thorough clean. Brushes with dual-rotation, counter-rotation, or 360-degree rotation are the best for getting completely around each fiber.


Carpet cleaners dry the carpet by sucking up the dirty water with a nozzle. However, simply removing the water from the carpet it is not always enough to get the fibers really dry, so heated air from the motor is often directed to the nozzle. Surround suction is another feature to look out for, since that helps the carpet dry more evenly. Generally speaking, the more amps you have on a carpet cleaner, the stronger suction it has. Stronger suction results in more pulled-up water so the carpet is drier after you’ve completed the chore.

Ease of Use

Carpet cleaners can be very heavy. The lighter carpet cleaners tend to have smaller tanks since water adds a lot of weight. These more compact cleaners can weigh between 10-20 pounds. More heavy-duty, professional carpet cleaners can weigh over 40 pounds, but they do have wheels so moving the cleaner around one floor it is not so difficult. Adjustable handles also make carrying the cleaner up and down stairs more convenient.


With most carpet cleaners, you get at least a few accessories, like an upholstery tool or tool you can use for stairs. With an upholstery tool, you can deep-clean your couches, armchairs, and other furniture as well as your floors. Stair tools are narrower and allow you to get into tighter corners. You might also get cleaning pads that keep your floors protected when you use the carpet cleaner.

Best Carpet Cleaner Brands

Rug Doctor

Rug Doctor is probably the most famous carpet cleaner brand, and also one of the most expensive to own. When renting carpet cleaners instead of buying them was the norm, odds are the rental companies were offering Rug Doctor. Rug Doctors are most commonly used by professionals and have very powerful motors for fast, deep cleaning. They are also exceptional at cleaning up after pets, as evidenced by the Mighty Pro X3 Pet Pack. Because they are so heavy-duty, Rug Doctors are usually pretty heavy.


Known primarily for inventing the modern vacuum, the Hoover brand also makes very impressive carpet cleaners that are priced lower than Rug Doctors. Hoover holds a patent for SpinScrub technology, which consists of 360-degree, counter-rotating brushes, and MaxExtract technology, which includes heated air for drying and powerful suction. Hoover also sells multi-surface carpet cleaners you can use on both carpeted and hard floors.


Bissell has been making products since the late 19th century, and prioritizes cleaning pet stains. Since 2001, they have partnered with PetFinder and created pet-specific tools and detergent formulas to encourage pet adoptions. Bissell holds a patent for the DirtLifter PowerBrushes and Heatwave Technology, which helps speed up the drying process. Bissell is especially effective for pet owners and is able to get out set-in urine stains, though they can cost a lot depending on the amount of power you need for your stains.

Other Brands

In addition to the three major brands above, there are other brands – usually vacuum brands – that also make carpet cleaners. Shark, popular for its inexpensive stick vacuums, makes the Sonic Duo, which is a very light combination hard-floor and carpet cleaner. Dirt Devil has a series of lightweight, inexpensive carpet cleaners that would be good if you do not own pets or do not have really deep stains.

Features of Professional & Commercial Carpet Cleaners

Deep-stain tools

Not all carpet cleaners are able to handle pet stains and other stains that are equally hard, like red wine. Professional carpet cleaners include special features like Clean Surge and Cleanshot triggers, which focus a mixture of soap and water right into the stain for deeper cleaning penetration.

Pet tools

With pets, hair is also a problem. Professional carpet cleaners made specifically for pet owners include additional features like a pet hair collection basket and Stain Trapper, which will prevent pet leavings from getting into the carpet cleaner and creating a huge mess. Many pet-specific carpet cleaners also include special detergents and pre-treatment formulas you can use in your cleaning routine.

Wide nozzles

Cleaning speed is a big factor if you are a professional or have a lot of carpet. Nozzles with wide mouths, like the Dual V nozzle with its 13-inch nozzle, allow for faster, more effective drying after the carpet has been cleaned. This is especially useful since drying the carpet is often the part that takes the longest.

Rinse mode

Carpet cleaners mostly use both soap and water to clean, and you do not get to use just water. However, commercial carpet cleaners often include a Rinse Mode or AutoRinse. Rinse mode allows you to keep the detergent out of the water tank, so you can choose to use a combination of soap and water, or just water. AutoRinse shoots out a combination of water and soap as you run the carpet cleaner, and then when you roll it back, a layer of clean water comes out. Having the ability to rinse your carpet means no soap residue will be left behind, and your carpets are fresher.

Multi-surface capabilities

Carpet cleaners that can be used on both hard and carpeted floors are great for cleaning your whole house. These carpet cleaners will include different scrub modes (at least two), so you use one for carpets and one for hard floors. Additional features like a Spill Pick-Up mode allows you to get rid of messes on hard floors without rubbing them in with a brush. Generally, multi-surface cleaners are lightweight and maneuverable. They also tend to lack hardcore carpet-cleaning features, so if you really just want to focus on your carpet, you should probably get just a straight carpet cleaner.

Automatic detergent mixing

When you have a heavy-duty carpet cleaner that costs a bit more, you will probably get automatic detergent mixing. This system feeds the perfect amount of detergent into the water so you do not have to spend time measuring out soap. This can save you a lot of money on detergent, so you will not risk using more than you actually need.

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