Learn how to choose the best carpet cleaner with our handy buying guide and bite-size reviews
If you have a lot of carpets to clean, a carpet cleaner is a total game-changer. The best carpet cleaners are far more effective than scrubbing away on your hands and knees with nothing more than a bucket and sponge. Carpet cleaners aren’t just for occasional stains either – they’re especially good at removing ingrained dirt and knotted-in animal hair on a wider scale and are an essential tool come spring-cleaning time.
We will be specifically targeting powered carpet cleaners in this article, but if you’re looking for carpet cleaning products, then have a read of our guide to the best carpet shampoo. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for cleaning products that are more suitable for furniture and soft furnishings, then make sure to have a read of our guide to the best upholstery cleaners.
Best carpet cleaner: At a glance
|Best for a deep clean||Vax Platinum Power Max ECB1SPV1 (~£199)||Check price at Amazon|
|Best carpet cleaner under £300||Bissell StainPro 6 Carpet Cleaner 20096 (~£237)||Check price at Amazon|
|Best cordless compact carpet cleaner||Vax ONEPWR SpotlessGo Cordless Spot Washer (~£150)||Check price at Vax|
How to choose the best carpet cleaner for you
How easy is a carpet cleaner to use?
Well, let’s just say it’s not rocket science. True, chances are you will look into the box of parts you’ve just received and wonder how on earth you will put it all together (most carpet cleaners require some form of assembly), but get past that bit and you will find it almost as easy to use as a vacuum cleaner. Just remember that cleaning carpets isn’t like vacuuming – everything has to be done very slowly and methodically with an inch or so of overlap to prevent streaking.
To avoid over-wetting the carpet, never use more than four shampooing strokes on a single section and, as a precaution, be sure to test-clean a small hidden patch of carpet first just in case the detergent causes discolouration. When it’s dry, slide your foot over the carpet to ensure all areas of the pile are facing in the same direction or it may look a little odd.
Domestic machines such as the models below use relatively small water tanks (usually around 3.5l) and this water is used up so quickly that you will be back at the tap for another refill in no time. Most domestic carpet cleaners use a two-tank system: one for the clean water/detergent mix and the other to collect the dirty stuff. You can safely expect them to clean about ten square feet of carpet per tank.
Do I really need a carpet cleaner?
Domestic carpet cleaners are much bigger than vacuum cleaners so storage can be a real issue. However, whether you actually need one is solely based on how much carpet you have installed in the home and whether you have animals or clumsy kids about the house.
Odd spot stains can be dealt with the old-fashioned way – on hands and knees with a scrubbing brush, a bucket of hot water and some specialised carpet-cleaning detergent – but if you have a household full of cream carpets, a pair of dogs and two messy sprogs then a domestic model will save a lot of hassle and time.
READ NEXT: The best hard floor cleaners to buy
Is there an alternative to spending good money on a carpet cleaner?
If you only ever expect to use a carpet cleaner once in a blue moon, consider renting one. Companies including HSS Hire, Rug Doctor and Homebase hire out various models for around £22 per day, plus £10 for detergent. But if you need the whole house doing or have a badly soiled carpet or a stubborn stain, your best option is to call in a specialist carpet-cleaning service.
These companies invariably use professional cleaning machines that cost in excess of £2,000 (the average domestic model is around £250). The machines themselves not only have much large water tanks (35l compared with 3.5l), but the people operating them know exactly what they’re doing. Professionals will have experience in recognising the type of stain, the best chemical detergent for the job and whether or not the stain is removable in the first place. As a rough ballpark figure, you will find that professional companies charge around £65 for an average-sized bedroom.
Can I use a carpet cleaner on my wooden floors?
Not advisable, especially if you have laminated flooring installed. The amount of water administered during the process will seep into the cracks and expand the floorboards, leaving them permanently warped. However, they’re fine to use on tiled and vinyl floors, although a standard squeegee mop will be just as effective and far less hassle.
READ NEXT: The best wood floor cleaners to buy
The best carpet cleaners to buy in 2023
1. Vax Platinum Power Max ECB1SPV1: Best for a deep clean
Price when reviewed: £199 | Check price at AmazonThis Vax is perfect for dog owners, large families, clumsy folk and anyone with lots of carpet that needs regular maintenance. At 9.6kg, it’s big and heavy, so you will need to have somewhere to store it when it’s not in use. However, despite its size, it’s relatively easy to manoeuvre and efficient at dealing with wide-scale grubbiness.
The carpet cleaner’s main brush bar is accompanied by seven additional brushes, making it well equipped to tackle even the most deeply ingrained dirt with ease. It also has two wash settings – quick and deep-clean – and the powerful suction delivered by its Dual-V technology means quicker drying carpets. If you regularly find yourself having to tackle stubborn stains, the Platinum Power Max’s handy pre-treatment wand lets you treat the area in advance of cleaning, while the SpinScrub tool is perfect for tackling your stairs, car and other difficult-to-reach areas. As a bonus, it also comes with a squeegee bar for use on hard floors.
We tested this deep-cleaning model on a bedroom carpet and a very dog-soiled rug and it tackled both with ease. Yes, we had to move slowly with several back-and-forth movements over the same spot, but the end result was hugely impressive. The SpinScrub tool was equally brilliant at dealing with one particular dog stain that required a great deal of elbow grease.
This is a top-tier carpet restorer that not only deep cleans but removes up to 93% of bacteria while it’s at it.
Key specs – Weight: 9.6kg; Cable length: 9m; Cleaning width: 37cm; Tank capacity: 3.5l; Hose: Yes; Heater: No; Warranty: 6 years
2. Bissell StainPro 6 Carpet Cleaner 20096: Best carpet cleaner under £300
Price when reviewed: £237 | Check price at AmazonThere are newer, more expensive Bissell models, but the StainPro 6 is an excellent performer and, at its new low price, it’s a very worthy contender.
The StainPro 6 is best suited to households with two or three carpeted rooms. Despite its cumbersome dimensions, it’s surprisingly easy to manoeuvre, although you will need to have the storage space for it.
After filling the 3.7l tank with hand-hot water, we found Bissell’s HeatWave technology kept the water at optimum temperature during the cleaning process and this warmth made cleaning much more efficient. The six rows of cleaning brushes, meanwhile, do stalwart work at agitating the dirt. It then sucks up the moisture, leaving the carpet slightly damp for a couple of hours or so.
It had no impact on old, dried-in stains, but easily dealt with a new spill of red wine after just three passes. Aside from one mishap when the water lid’s catch inadvertently popped off and spilled slightly, this top-tier cleaner performed with aplomb.
Key specs – Weight: 9kg; Cable length: 8m, Cleaning width: 30cm; Tank capacity: 3.7l; Hose: Yes; Heater: Yes; Warranty: 5 years
3. Vax ONEPWR SpotlessGo Cordless Spot Washer: Best cordless compact carpet cleanerPrice when reviewed: £150 | Check price at VaxIf you have pets or messy toddlers, consider this cordless, light and small option from Vax. Its size makes it perfect for occasional mishaps or giving the car seats a whizz, and it’s small enough to store in a cupboard. Granted, it only runs for about 15 minutes per charge, but that’s enough time to clean up a few pet or wine accidents.
The SpotlessGo is equipped with two scrubbing brushes (a nylon one for general duties and a rubberised comb for cleaning up after pets), a short 80cm hose, a small 28ml water tank and a much larger 400ml dirty-water reservoir.
The Vax ONEPWR SpotlessGo is very effective on small stains as long as you catch them early. It’s also a doddle to use, although your arm will almost certainly ache after a minute or two of scrubbing back and forth.
Key specs – Weight: 2.8kg; Cable length: Cordless; Cleaning width: 10cm; Clean capacity: 28ml; Hose: Yes; Heater: No; Warranty: 3 years
4. Rug Doctor Portable Spot Cleaner: Best compact carpet cleaner
Price when reviewed: £159 | Check price at Robert Dyas If you have dogs or messy toddlers and just want a stain-removal alternative to a bucket of water and a sponge, consider this small, easily stored portable option from the carpet-cleaning ninjas at Rug Doctor. Its small, 11.5cm motorised hand wand is excellent at dealing with one-off stains and perfect for keeping the car’s interior spick and span. However, it does require a good deal of energetic back-and-forth scrubbing action to do its work.
The two water tanks (one for clean water, the other for dirty) are clearly visible and easy to handle, although filling the main water tank is a bit fiddly since it requires careful measurements of both water and the detergent solution.
The Rug Doctor isn’t an especially light machine at around 8kg, but thankfully it comes with wheels and a pull-about handle for relatively easy mobility. Many owners have reported exceedingly good results when dealing with spot stains, and some users have found it a godsend at cleaning up after puppy accidents.
Key specs – Weight: 8.2kg; Cable length: 4.6m; Cleaning width: 11.5cm; Clean capacity: 1.9l; Hose: Yes; Heater: No; Warranty: 2 years
5. Bissell HydroWave: Best upright carpet cleaner for easy storage
Price when reviewed: £230 | Check price at AmazonThe Bissell HydroWave is crammed with well thought-out touches. One of our favourites is its collapsible handle, which drops down behind the main unit at the push of a button and makes it easier to store than regular upright models.
It also comes with a rinse tray: fill this with water, place the cleaner on it when you’ve finished, and set it off. The HydroWave will suck up the water, cleaning its own tubes and brushes as it goes, and your floor is protected from stray drips afterwards.
As for carpet cleaning, this is excellent. The cleaning head is composed of a single roller but it’s crammed with bristles. This has a transformative impact on dirty carpets, agitating and shampooing them thoroughly, particularly if you set it to its Deep Clean option, although this does leave carpets a little damp.
If you would prefer to use less water and get your carpets dry sooner, there’s an Express Clean option that’s not quite as thorough but leaves carpets dry within 30 minutes. There’s even a spot wash option that squirts an extra dose of cleaning fluid from the front so you can efficiently target a stain before you set it washing.
In our tests, the HydroWave lifted a significant amount of dirt out of our test cleaning area, even after we would been over it with a top-rated vacuum cleaner. It left the carpet looking and feeling significantly cleaner and fluffier.
Read our full Bissell HydroWave review for details
Key specs – Weight: 5.6kg; Cable length: 6m; Cleaning width: 19.5cm; Clean capacity: 1.7l; Hose: No; Heater: No; Warranty: 5 years
6. Vax Platinum SmartWash: Best premium carpet cleaner
Price when reviewed: £300 | Check price at John LewisAn upgrade over the Platinum Power Max Carpet Cleaner, Vax’s Platinum SmartWash improves over its predecessor in several areas. For one, it no longer requires a trigger to deploy water and cleaning solution onto the floor. Instead, a sensor automatically deposits a suitable amount as the unit is moved forward, and picks the dirty liquid up as it rolls back. It also has a separate tank for cleaning fluid, is lighter, and no longer comes with a pre-treatment wand.
A spinning brush head massages stubborn stains on rugs and carpets as you move the vacuum-like cleaner, and the device also comes with a 2.5m hose along with an antimicrobial tool for manually scrubbing upholstery. To help with the drying process, the Vax Platinum SmartWash has a ‘dry only’ setting, which stops adding more water when pushing it forward and instead only lifts liquid out of the carpet. In our experience, you will still need to wait a few hours after use for carpets to be dry enough to walk on, but it certainly helps suck up the worst of the moisture that comes from cleaning.
We tested it on a dirty, 15-year-old rug, and were very impressed by the results. It looked newly bought, and the cleaned area was fresher-smelling and softer to walk on. We were also able to tackle a particularly stubborn stain with the cleaner’s rotating attachment. It’s pricier than the Power Max, but the extra cost may be worth it if you’re looking for smart settings that can streamline the amount of manual work needed for a clean.
Read our full Vax Platinum SmartWash review for details
Key specs – Weight: 7.4kg; Cable length: 9m; Cleaning width: 32.5cm; Clean capacity: 3.5l; Hose: Yes; Heater: No; Warranty: 6 years
7. Bissell PowerClean: Best upright carpet cleaner under £150
Price when reviewed: £149 | Check price at AmazonThe Bissell PowerClean falls at the cheaper end of the carpet cleaner camp, although it still has all the key basics you would expect, including a rotating brush, and two tanks to hold clean and dirty water.
The design is simpler than you might find on more expensive models, however. The dirty water tank, for example, is held in place by two clips, one on either side of the machine, which requires some fiddling to release, where more expensive models tend to release both tanks with a smoother, single-handed operation.
It’s an effective carpet cleaner, however. Switching the machine on will set its rotating brushes and suction off, while a trigger on the handle releases a 2% mix of Bissell’s cleaning fluid (of which 236ml is supplied) and warm water. Squirt a bit of that into the carpet, then let the brush do its work. It wasn’t as hard-working in our tests as more expensive models, but it does an excellent job for the price.
Read our full Bissell PowerClean review for details
Key specs – Weight: 5.6kg; Cable length: 6m; Cleaning width: 18cm; Clean capacity: 2.36l; Hose: No; Heater: No; Warranty: 2 years
8. Henry George GVE370: The friendliest carpet cleaner
Price when reviewed: £300 | Check price at Henry Have a peek into the janitor’s room of any commercial premises and you will likely spy a happy-faced Henry vacuum cleaner smiling away in the corner. The Henry is one of the most reliable and toughest vacs on the market, and certainly the most simple in terms of design and function. Well, meet his brother George, who not only deals with the vacuuming but is a dab hand at dealing with wet stuff too. That doesn’t make George a top-tier carpet cleaner but it does make him the best all-rounder on this page.
George is a true do-it-all machine capable of general day-to-day vacuuming, cleaning hard floors, carpets and stains, and sucking water out of blocked sinks and boat bilges. Granted, it’s never going to perform as well as a genuine carpet cleaner, but it makes a fair fist of it and is especially good at dealing with spot stains and general spillages. If you’re looking for one easy-to-stow option that’s laudably efficient at dealing with most of life’s domestic mishaps, George is your man.
Key specs – Weight: 8.8kg; Cable length: 10m; Cleaning width: 30cm; Clean capacity: 9l; Hose: Yes; Heater: No; Warranty: 1 year
9. Dr. Beckmann Pet Stain & Odour Remover: Best manual stain remover for pet owners
Price when reviewed: £2.52 | Check price at AmazonThis spot stain remover doesn’t have a mains plug attached or even a battery. In fact, it’s just a bottle of fluid with a sponge surrounded by bristles. But, by Jove, it’s miraculous at removing pet stains.
The great thing about electric carpet cleaners is that they have a suction system for sucking up excess solution, leaving carpets much less damp than manual methods such as this. This system requires a towel to blot up the excess fluid, and you need to be gentle with your grip pressure when using it or the carpet will get drenched. Tip: make a really small hole in the foil under the lid when first using it.
We tested the Dr Beckmann Pet Stain & Odour Remover on two recent pet-induced mishaps and the result was exceptional – the stain was completely gone, save for a very damp carpet. It also made a good job of getting rid of the smell. We even tried it on an older stain and it performed better than some of the big cleaners on this page. There’s no point in telling you how easy it is to use because the image alone tells you everything you need to know.
If you’re after something cheap and cheerful to occasionally clean up after your dog or cat, this one will do the trick and do it well. If you don’t have pets but could still do with an emergency spot stain cleaner for wine spills and other misfortunes, go for the Dr Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover instead. You won’t be disappointed.
Key specs – Weight: 750g; Cable length: N/A; Cleaning width: 10cm; Tank capacity: 650ml; Hose: No; Heater: No; Warranty: N/A