Best carpet cleaner 2020: 6 top machines to deep clean your carpet

The best carpet cleaners can help restore your flooring and tackle even deep set stains

Included in this guide:

best carpet cleaner
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(Image credit: Rug Doctor)

On the hunt for the best carpet cleaner? Whether you're a pet owner and want to get rid of pet hair or you're doing a deep spring clean, a carpet cleaner is a must for getting the best results.

Wondering why else you might need a carpet cleaner? A quick vacuum every week or so is simply not enough; experts recommend deep-cleaning your carpets once a month to prevent build-up of grime. If you have kids and pets, you might find yourself shocked by how much embedded dirt the right cleaning machine can pull out of even the cleanest-looking carpets.

Whether you're determined to keep a new carpet looking pristine or hoping to restore the appearance of a tired-looking floor, our picks of the best carpet cleaners can help it stand the test of time. Below, we've covered all budgets and requirements, so you're sure to find something that suits.

Need a new vacuum, too, to really up your cleaning game? Check out our guide to the best vacuum cleaners.

What is the best carpet cleaner?

We think the best all-around carpet cleaner is the Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe: It offers all the power, ease of handling and features that you'll need to deal with dirty carpet in most homes, and it suits most budgets, too. 

However, special circumstances sometimes demand special cleaning power. If you have pets, we recommend the Hoover SmartWash PET Automatic Carpet Cleaner to leave your carpets (and upholstery) looking and smelling new again. 

If you're dealing with heavy-duty messes, you may benefit from a heavy-duty carpet cleaner like the BISSELL Big Green Clean Machine.

And if you need to deep-clean both carpet and hard floors, we've got you covered there, too, with the Rug Doctor FlexClean, which can adapt to clean almost any flooring.

Want more? Keep scrolling to see what we like about each of the aforementioned models, any unusual quirks you should be aware of, and our top picks for express cleaning, budget cleaning, and an industrial-strength model for the largest and most serious cleaning jobs.

The best carpet cleaners 2020

best carpet cleaner

(Image credit: Hoover)

1. Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Cleaner Machine

Best carpet cleaner you can buy: this multi-functional model covers all your carpet-related needs

Specifications
Clean Capacity: 1 gallon
Width of cleaning path: 11.25"
Cord Length: 20 ft.
Weight: 18.5 lbs.
Reasons to buy
+Wide cleaning path+Multi-tasking+Lightweight+Under $150
Reasons to avoid
-Smaller tank capacity than heavy duty models

The Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Cleaner Machine lightweight carpet cleaner packs the cleaning power of heavy-duty versions, plus a long list of options and features more often reserved for higher-priced models. Its value price-point and pro-grade results make it our top pick overall.

What we like about it

Considering its price point, this model is packed with features. A few highlights? Automatic detergent mixing, an 8' hose for reaching hard-to-clean areas with the handheld attachment, and a forced-hot-air mechanism for shorter drying times. 

The 11.25"-wide cleaning path is impressive, given this machine's relatively compact size — so you won't have to do as much back-and-forth cleaning as with some of the competition.

Whether your intention is to clean stairs, carpets, or upholstery, this model will do the trick. It comes with three attachments to help you tackle every inch of your home.

The 20-foot cord means you can clean large rooms without having to switch plug-ins halfway through. And at under 19 lbs., this carpet cleaner is one of the lightest on our list. 

Ultimately, the Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Cleaner is both easy to handle and a great value.

Things to note 

Although this carpet cleaner does almost everything well, it does have a smaller tank capacity than most heavy-duty models. If you plan to deep-clean your carpets frequently, it's worth considering an upgrade to something with larger capacity.

Rug Doctor Rug Doctor FlexClean Carpet Cleaner

(Image credit: Argos)

2. Rug Doctor FlexClean Carpet and Hard Floor Cleaner

Best dual-clean carpet cleaners: this carpet cleaner will leave your carpets and hard floors spotless

Specifications
Cleaning capacity: .9 gallon
Width of cleaning path: unclear
Cord length: 22 ft.
Weight: 35 lbs.
Reasons to buy
+Compact and portable+Motorized brush+Works for carpet and hardwood floors
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy

Looking to save on space? Skip the steam mop, because the Rug Doctor FlexClean is the only cleaner you'll ever need for your floors. It can adjust to almost any type of flooring.

What we like about it

Whether you're deep-cleaning a carpet, a wooden floor, or kitchen tiles, this cleaner is up to the task — and you don't even have to change cleaning solution when you switch from cleaning one type of flooring to another. 

This carpet cleaner is also powerful: It has twice the suction power of other machines, which makes getting down into your carpet's pile easy. It's also one of only a few cleaners on the market with a motorized brush, which helps it maneuver like a vacuum; and the 22-foot cord means you won't have to constantly switch electrical outlets as you clean.

Need to clean more than just floors? The excellent upholstery tool on this machine helps you clean your sofa or mattress, too.

Things to note

The dirty water tank on this machine will hold up to .9 gallons. Although that's enough to clean a good-sized area, it's relatively small in comparison to this substantially large and heavy carpet cleaner. 

best carpet cleaner

(Image credit: Bissell)

3. BISSELL Big Green Clean Machine - 86T3

Best heavy-duty carpet cleaner: professional quality carpet cleaning

Specifications
Clean capacity: 1.75 gallons
Width of cleaning path: 10.5"
Cord length: 25 ft.
Weight: 42 lbs
Reasons to buy
+Powerful+Large tank size+Long cord
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy-Expensive

The large-capacity BISSELL Big Green Clean Machine – 86T3 will mop up spills, suck up dust, and clean even the most stubborn stains.

What we like about it

Designed to rival the best professional carpet cleaners, the BISSELL Big Green Clean Machine features powerful suction, and two extra-large DirtLifter brushes to loosen dirt and stains. It can clean both when you push it and when you pull it, so even big jobs go by faster than they would with another machine. 

It's also great for cleaning upholstery, and removing stains and odors from your sofas, arm chairs, ottomans and more; and a 25' electrical cord means you won't have to constantly switch outlets as you clean.

With an impressively large capacity, there's no need to worry about constantly refilling this machine — it'll keep going almost twice as long as some of the other models in this guide. 

Things to note

As great a cleaner as the BISSELL Big Green Clean MAchine 86T3 is, it weighs in at 42 lbs. — which can make big cleaning jobs into a workout. It's cleaning path is also, surprisingly, almost an inch narrower than that of our top pick, the Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe.

Rug Doctor x3 mighty pro professional

(Image credit: Rug Doctor)

4. Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 Commercial Pro

Best industrial carpet cleaner: for the largest carpet cleaning jobs

Specifications
Clean capacity: 3.9 gallons
Width of cleaning path: 10.8"
Cord length: 27 ft.
Weight: 39 lbs.
Reasons to buy
+Enormous capacity+Industrial cleaning power+5-year guarantee
Reasons to avoid
-Very heavy-Expensive 

While any of the carpet cleaners in this guide can tackle tough jobs with aplomb, the Rug Doctor X3 Mighty Pro is designed to handle even commercial-level grime smoothly. 

What we like about it

This is the sort of carpet cleaner that an industrial cleaning service would bring in. Although it's a substantial investment, for those with a lot of carpet to clean, or consistently high levels of grime to get out of the carpet, it quickly pays for itself in terms of results. And it packs the sort of power you need to really transform old, tired carpets into something you'll actually enjoy looking at and walking around on. 

One of our favorite things about this powerful machine is its ability to clean thoroughly in one sweep — so you won't have to waste time pushing and pulling the machine across the same patch of carpet. Its powerful vacuum action cuts down on drying time, and a triple-action vibrating brush loosens ground-in dirt for a superior clean. 

The 27-foot cord is also the longest of all the models we've evaluated — so this machine gives you the best chance of making it down a long hallway and into the next room before you need to change electrical outlets.

Things to note

As you might expect, a machine this powerful is also large and heavy — so make sure you have a place to store it. It's also expensive, but it's still cheaper than paying someone else to do the heavy cleaning jobs for you.

Best industrial carpet cleaner: Rug Doctor X3 Mighty Pro

4. Rug Doctor X3 Mighty Pro

Best industrial carpet cleaner: for the largest carpet cleaning jobs

Specifications
Clean Capacity: 3.9 gal
Cord Length: 27 ft.
Weight: 39 lbs.
Reasons to buy
+Enormous capacity+5-year guarantee
Reasons to avoid
-Very heavy-Expensive 

While any of the carpet cleaners in this guide can tackle tough jobs with aplomb, the Rug Doctor X3 Mighty Pro is designed to handle even commercial-level grime smoothly. 

What we like about it

This is the sort of carpet cleaner that an industrial cleaning service would bring in. Although it's a substantial investment, for those with a lot of carpet to clean, or consistently high levels of grime to get out of the carpet, it quickly pays for itself in terms of results. And it packs the sort of power you need to really transform old, tired carpets into something you'll actually enjoy looking at and walking around on. 

One of our favorite things about this powerful machine is its ability to clean thoroughly in one sweep — so you won't have to waste time pushing and pulling the machine across the same patch of carpet. Its powerful vacuum action cuts down on drying time, and a triple-action vibrating brush loosens ground-in dirt for a superior clean. 

The 27-foot cord is also the longest of all the models we've evaluated — so this machine gives you the best chance of making it down a long hallway and into the next room before you need to change electrical outlets.

Things to note

As you might expect, a machine this powerful is also large and heavy — so make sure you have a place to store it. It's also expensive, but it's still cheaper than paying someone else to do the heavy cleaning jobs for you.

best carpet cleaner for pets

(Image credit: Hoover)

5. Hoover SmartWash PET Complete Automatic Carpet Washer

Best carpet cleaner for pets: A pre-treater wand and scrub brush tackle stains with ease

Specifications
Clean capacity: 1 gal
Width of cleaning path: 12"
Cord length: 22 ft.
Weight: 20.5 lbs.
Reasons to buy
+Integrated pretreater tool +Scrub brush releases pet hair+Superior suction+Wide cleaning path
Reasons to avoid
-Can be slow

The Hoover SmartWash PET Complete carpet cleaner is perfect for anyone who loves their pets but hates the mess they leave behind. Not only did it suck up pet hair we never knew was buried in our carpets, but it has a pre-treating wand built in to tackle pet stains, and it works with specially designed cleaning solutions that neutralize odors. 

We'd also call this a good buy for parents, or anyone who regularly finds themselves treating spots on rugs and upholstery. 

What we like about it

Our favorite part of this carpet cleaner is the Spot Chaser stain removal wand, which is built into the handle of the machine. You load the wand with stain-removal solution, then use it like a squirt gun (fun!) to pre-treat tough stains. 

In addition to the Spot Chaser, the Hoover SmartWash PET Complete comes with a rubber brush-style attachment that's meant for scrubbing out stains, but also does an awesome job of releasing pet hair that's woven itself into upholstery. 

In our hands-on testing, one of the biggest surprises from this machine was how much pet hair it sucked up. We vacuumed our carpets right before using this cleaner, but it still managed to pull furballs from every surface we tried it on. 

We also like its easy, automatic switch from clean mode (when you push the machine) to dry mode (when you pull it back); its wide, 12" cleaning path; and a 22-ft. cord that lets you clean large rooms without changing electrical plugs.

Things to note

We love the Hoover SmartWash PET Complete for tackling any tough stains and cleaning jobs, whether they came from a pet or not. But the fact that it only cleans on the push and dries on the pull means that you have to cover the same ground at least twice, which can make this machine a little slow to work with despite its relatively wide cleaning path. 

best carpet cleaner

(Image credit: Bissell)

6. Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Carpet Cleaner 1551

Best express carpet cleaner: Express clean mode dries carpets faster

Specifications
Clean capacity: 1 gal.
Width of cleaning path: 12"
Cord length: 22 ft.
Weight: 17.5 lbs.
Reasons to buy
+Great for pet stains+Express mode+Easy to empty+Lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-Large to store

The Bissell ProHeat 2X does a top notch job of cleaning carpets, especially for its price. It's also good at removing pet stains.

What we like about it

Our favorite feature about the Bissell ProHeat 2X is its Express Clean mode; if you don't have all day to stay off wet carpets, it sets them up to be dry in about an hour. It also has a deep-cleaning mode for tackling tough jobs, and proprietary HeatWave technology to keep your water and detergent at the optimal temperature for stain removal. 

Good news for pet lovers: This carpet cleaner also has a dedicated pet stain removal tool, although for serious pet messes we recommend the Hoover SmartWash PET Complete.

Things to note

Although this machine is light and easy to move around, it's relatively bulky to store.

How to buy the best carpet cleaner 

When it comes to buying the best carpet cleaner to suit your needs, there are a few factors worth considering if you're looking to get the most for your money. We recommend keeping the following in mind:

Capacity
If you're planning on cleaning a large, completely carpeted home, on a regular basis, or have a lot of carpets to clean — perhaps you're an Airbnb or vacation rental owner — look for something with a large capacity that won't require constant refills. Similarly, if you're simply looking to clean a small area of carpet on an irregular basis, pick something that's small and light enough to move around, then store in a closet when you don't need it. 

Cord length
The same things can be said for cord length. The longest cord possible is a must in a large space, but it becomes less of a priority in small homes or where there's only one carpet that requires cleaning — say, in the bedroom. 

Attachments
Do you need your carpet cleaner to multi-task by treating tough pet stains or cleaning unusual surfaces like upholstery, stairs, car interiors, mattresses or curtains? Check to make sure it has the appropriate attachments to get the job done. Sometimes you can purchase additional attachments to expand your existing machine's capability. 

Which is the best carpet cleaner to buy?

We feel the best carpet cleaner on the market is the Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe, thanks to its power and versatility. Lightweight yet impressive, the machine features a large water tank and attachments that let you clean virtually any surface in the house. It's an all-in-one investment that will leave carpets, kitchen floors, and even mattresses like new.

Check out more cleaning tips...

While we recommend using a carpet cleaning machine to give your soft flooring a new lease of life, for small clean-ups and quick jobs, a carpet cleaning product may just do the trick instead. For all the best carpet cleaning products, see our guide.

Kaitlin Madden
Kaitlin Madden

Kaitlin Madden Armon is a writer and editor covering all things home. In addition to Real Homes, she's written for Architectural Digest, Martha Stewart Living, Refinery29, Modern Luxury Interiors, Wayfair, The Design Network, and lots more. She graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism and currently lives in Connecticut with her husband, two sons, and black lab.

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