A Bissell carpet cleaner.

You can rent a carpet cleaner at your local home improvement store, but if you have a busy household with lots of carpet, you might want to buy one instead.

For a little more than $100 you can get one of the top performers in Consumer Reports’ latest carpet cleaner tests. Take note that these machines are powerful—and heavy. The best easily remove embedded dirt and stains without leaving a trail of water and a soggy stretch of carpet behind.

Below, CR members can find reviews of the five top picks from our tests, as well as two carpet cleaners to skip. Or go straight to our carpet cleaner ratings for details on even more options.

It takes three days to put one carpet cleaner through our battery of cleaning-performance tests. Our engineers soil large swatches of off-white nylon carpet with red Georgia clay. We run a cleaner over the carpet for four wet and four dry cycles, simulating how you’d clean a particularly dirty spot on a well-trafficked carpet. Then we repeat the test on two more swatches.

More on Carpet Cleaning

Before you choose a model, take stock of the area you’ll be cleaning. If you live in a one-story house, for instance, you might not need a model with a long hose.

“On the other hand, if you have carpeted stairs, you want a carpet cleaner with a long hose, so you can reach up the steps,” says Larry Ciufo, who oversees Consumer Reports’ carpet cleaner tests. “You don’t want to put the cleaner on the top step and tug on the hose—the machine could barrel down on top of you.”

Keep in mind that carpet cleaners are noisy; some are so loud that we recommend wearing hearing protection. And don’t buy by brand name alone. In our tests, we found big differences among models from the same brand. Bissell, for example, holds both the top and bottom spots in our ratings.

Keep your upright or canister vacuum cleaner at hand before you tackle a messy rug or carpeting: Carpet cleaner manufacturers typically suggest that you vacuum up loose debris before using a carpet cleaner—this ensures that you’re not wetting carpet with excess dust or dirt, creating a bigger mess.

5 Top Carpet Cleaners

Read on for ratings and reviews of five of the best carpet cleaner models, based on CR’s latest tests. And below those, you’ll find details on two worse-than-average performers.

Top Picks

1

Cleaning
Convenience
Dryness

2

Cleaning
Convenience
Dryness
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2 Models Not Worth the Storage Space

Although their names might look similar to the models that sit near the top of our ratings chart, these two machines—the bottom two scorers in our ratings—prove worse than average at cleaning:

The Hoover Power Scrube Elite Pet FH50251 performs at two extremes. It gets the poorest marks for cleaning of all the carpet cleaners in our tests but one of the best scores for leaving behind a dry carpet, earning an Excellent rating in that test. It does have some nice convenience features, such as separate tanks for clean and dirty water, a 100-inch hose, a carrying handle, and brush attachments. But features don’t make up for poor performance.

Both of the higher-performing Bissell models on this list have “pet” in their names. So does the Bissell DeepClean Delux Pet 36Z9, but that’s where the similarity ends. Unlike the two Bissells mentioned above, the DeepClean Deluxe Pet is only so-so at cleaning and worse than that at leaving a dry carpet behind, earning a Poor score. The ironic part? It costs more than our two top Bissell picks, proving that the price-quality relationship doesn’t always bear out.

 

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