Rid your rugs and flooring of troublesome stains and persistent dirt with our roundup of the best carpet shampoos
From dirty dogs to wine spillages, sometimes your carpets may have the look of abstract art – but it doesn’t have to be that way forever. With the help of the best carpet shampoo and a little elbow grease, you may be able to get your shagpile looking clean and pristine once more.
While even the most powerful carpet shampoo might not be able to restore your carpets back to day one freshness, our recommended products will do a very good job of erasing any built-up grime – or just handling those everyday spills and stains. Not all cleaners are created equal though and many claim to do things they’re not cut out for.
Here, we’ve rounded up the best carpet shampoo to have at hand for everyday dirt, as well as the most stubborn of stains, for when your carpet needs a bit of a refresh. If you’re looking for more general cleanining products for furniture and soft furnishings, though, then head on over to our guide to the best upholstery cleaners.
Read on, and our buying guide below will shed some light on which carpet cleaners are best for which stains, as well as what to look out for and avoid.
Best carpet shampoo: At a glance
- Best carpet shampoo you can buy: Rug Doctor Carpet Detergent | £17
- Best powder carpet cleaner: Dyson Zorb Powder | £10
- Best for pet stains: Dr Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover with Applicator | £6.39
- Best for sticky stains: De-Solv-it Sticky Stuff Glue Residue and Oil Remover | £8.99
How to choose the best carpet shampoo for you
What types of carpet shampoo are there?
There are three main types:
- Powder cleaners work fast on spot stains or more day-to-day dirt, with no need to dry out the carpet afterwards. Simply sprinkle on the powder, leave it for the specified time, then vacuum it up.
- Liquid cleaners are also made to tackle all kinds of stains, from spot stains to everyday grime. Some are made to be used in a carpet machine; others can be used by hand. In the latter case, simply apply to stain, leave it in place for a specified time, then vacuum over area.
- Spray cleaners are targeted treatments for spot stains, such as wine or tea spillages. Spray the product directly onto the stain, work it in, then wait for it to dry before vacuuming it up.
- Foam cleaner works in the same way as a spray, but comes in foam form.
- Specialised cleaners are made for certain types of stains, such as sticky ones, or for red wine.
Do I have to use carpet shampoo to clean my carpet?
It is possible to use natural carpet cleaning products to remove dirt from carpets. For example, soda water or tonic can be used to lift coffee stains, and white wine can be used to counteract against red wine stain. Salt is a particularly good natural alternative for removing dirt or soaking up fresh stains, while baking soda works well to absorb unpleasant smells.
Should I do a test spot first?
Yes. Whether you’re using a new cleaning product or a natural method, it’s wise to test it on a small area first.
What should I look out for when buying carpet shampoo?
Always check that the cleaning product is suitable for your carpet type, particularly if your floor covering is made up of more delicate fibres. Also consider whether a carpet shampoo is made to be used with a particular carpet-cleaning machine. For example, some VAX detergents are only made to be used with VAX machines.
The best carpet shampoo to buy in 2023
1. Rug Doctor Carpet Detergent: Best carpet shampoo you can buy
Price when reviewed: £17 | Check price at AmazonUnlike the majority of carpet cleaners on the market, there’s hardly any scent to this cleaner. It also stands out for drying significantly faster than other detergents – great, if you have kids or pets who you’ll struggle to keep out of carpeted rooms. In tests, rugs – including those with long piles – looked brand-spanking new on being treated with cleaner, while carpets heavily ingrained with day-to-day dirt or stubborn stains also looked as good as new.
Thoroughly impressive on every level, you can use this detergent with a Rug Doctor machine – well worth the investment, if you can afford it – or other models, plus the brand’s foam cleaner, trigger spray and carpet cleaners for specific kinds of stains are equally effective.
Key details – Type: Liquid; Quantity: 2l
2. Dr Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover with Applicator: Best for pet stains
Price when reviewed: £6.39 (2pk) | Check price at AmazonThis simple-to-use detergent that comes with its own applicator has plenty going for it. Neither new and old marks proved bothersome for it, even those on very light carpets, and it tackled pet stains with aplomb, leaving the carpet looking like new. It even works on blood stains – which is no mean feat.
Available at a decent price, a little goes a long way, particularly with the aid of a bit of elbow grease. Plus, it doesn’t have that awfully strong chemical smell of some other carpet shampoos. A good one to have ready in the cupboard for unforeseen spillages or pet accidents.
Key details – Type: Liquid; Quantity: 2 x 650ml
3. Dyson Zorb Powder: Best powder carpet cleaner
Price when reviewed: £10 | Check price at Currys
No water or scrubbing is required with this handy powder from one of the biggest names in the carpet-cleaning industry. Made up of millions of tiny sponges designed to absorb any dirt, you sprinkle it onto the affected area, leave it for 20 minutes, then simply vacuum it up. We found it worked a treat on wool and stain-resistant carpets, but the powder is liable to blow out everywhere, if you use too much; you’ll need a powerful vacuum cleaner to do the job properly.
Brownie points awarded for it being good for both stains and regularly freshening up your carpet – for the latter, sprinkle it sparingly over the area desired, and leave it on for an extra 10 minutes or so, before vacuuming up.
Key details – Type: Powder; Quantity: 750g
4. Vax Ultra+ Carpet Cleaning Solution: Best carpet shampoo for VAX carpet machines (and others)
Price when reviewed: £15 | Check price at AmazonYou’ll need a VAX carpet cleaner to get the best out of this detergent. There’s no reason you can’t use it with other cleaners – and some people do – but it’s trickier to get the quantity right, leaving you with a soaking wet carpet. We tried it out with the impressive new VAX Platinum machine and found the liquid easy to use and potent enough to do the job well on both carpets (including more delicate carpets such as wool) and upholstery. It was particularly good at getting rid of bad smells, literally leaving the area smelling of roses – it wasn’t too overpowering, mind.
We also rate it more highly than many others for pet stains, leaving carpets feeling super-soft after treatment. Vax Ultra+ works faster than most cleaners, even on large surface areas, although for really stubborn stains you might want to pre-treat the area by rubbing in a little extra shampoo.
Key details – Type: Liquid; Quantity: 1.5l
5. De-Solv-it Sticky Stuff Glue Residue and Oil Remover: Best for removing sticky stains
Price when reviewed: £8.99 | Check price at AmazonIf ever there was a moment for cursing, it’s on discovering the likes of chewing gum, glue, grease, shoe polish, paint or slime on your carpet. Rare is a carpet cleaner that can genuinely tackle such sticky nasties, but we found this one does the job surprisingly well – even with mess that’s been there a while. Simply squirt this on the substance, wait for it to dry for five to seven mins then scrape off. You can use the product on materials including fabrics, plastic, paintwork, walls, china and even hair. We put it through its paces and were impressed with the results – although it smells foul.
Key details – Type: Liquid; Quantity: 250ml
6. Bissell Wash & Refresh Carpet Cleaner: Best carpet shampoo for use with a Bissell carpet machine
Price when reviewed: £16 | Check price at AmazonWe tested this detergent on wine, coffee and animal stains – none of which posed a challenge. Only the most ingrained, old stains could be made out – and even those were faint. Its deodorising feature works well, leaving behind a light, surprisingly natural fragrance. This environmentally friendly, highly concentrated liquid does a great job of revitalising carpets too – and a little goes a long way. Bissell recommends only using it with its branded carpet cleaners, but customer reviews online suggest it works with all major brands of cleaners. We tried it with a Bissell Pro-Heat 2X Revolution and a full-sized non-Bissell machine of similar worth. The results were indeed better with the former, but that may be partly because the machine itself is impressive. It still did a good job with the latter.
Key details – Type: Liquid; Quantity: 1.5l
7. Vax Original Carpet Solution: Best Vax carpet shampoo for delicate carpets
Price when reviewed: £10| Check price at AmazonWe were surprised by the number of carpet shampoos we tested that ended up shrinking carpets and leaving them with a slightly sticky residue. No such issue with the Vax Original Carpet Cleaning Solution, which works effectively on all types of carpets including delicates such as wool, and polyester and fibre. Not only did it leave them stain-free, but it really went to town lifting even ingrained dirt. It left a neutral smell in the air, and since the liquid is highly concentrated, you only need a capful per tank of water in your machine – which, we’re afraid, does need to be a VAX.
Key details – Type: Liquid; Quantity: 1.5l