There's nothing like the feeling of a just-deep-cleaned carpet to make your home seem completely refreshed. Owning your own upright carpet cleaner makes it easy to keep even high-traffic areas as clean as can be, and can be a rug-saver when it comes to spot disasters such as pet stains and tracked mud. A carpet shampooer also makes it convenient to do a whole-house cleaning once or twice a year.
If your carpet messes are just confined to a couple of spots here and there, though, you may be better off with a portable or spot carpet cleaner, both of which we discuss elsewhere in this report. Or, if you only need a one-time carpet cleaning and don't want to pay a professional, see what we have to say about rental carpet cleaners.
Few carpet cleaners get the kind of glowing reviews that we see for the Hoover Power Scrub FH50150 (Est. $160). Owners say it removes even stubborn, older stains and that it works well on most types of carpets, including light-colored ones. This machine has a row of five spinning brushes that can easily handle ground in dirt or oil stains, and pet stains are no match for its power. The suction on the Power Scrub is powerful enough to remove almost all the water, so that drying times are quite fast. They're sped up even further by the built-in, forced air heat. The Hoover FH50150 also includes a well-reviewed powered hand tool, a crevice tool, a stair tool and an upholstery tool. A mesh bag to hold the accessories also comes with this package.
The most popular feature on the Hoover Power Scrub FH50150 is its wash/rinse selector. It's an optional step that you can use to get even more of the solution out of the carpet, and is as simple as turning a dial. Reviewers not only don't mind the extra step of rinsing, they love it. Many say that it makes them feel as if they really have a deep-cleaned, fully rinsed carpet with no soapy residue left behind.
The Hoover Power Scrub is reported as very easy to use, just fill and set the tanks; solution is mixed automatically. However, although it's considered light at 18.1 pounds, some users note that it's actually about 8 pounds heavier when the tanks are full. The machine turns off when it's time to refill the tanks, so you're not cleaning away only to realize that you're out of solution. You can also use this carpet cleaner with water only if you prefer to not use a carpet cleaning solution.
For a bit less money, the Hoover SteamVac F5914900 (Est. $140) gets kudos from both experts and owners for its good performance on carpets. The F5914900 was our former Best Reviewed, but it didn't make it to our top spot this go-round because, unlike the Hoover Power Scrub, it doesn't have a rinse option -- and that's a feature that users seem to prize highly.
On the plus side, the SteamVac includes a signature Clean Surge feature that dispenses an extra squirt of detergent at the push of a button to tackle tough stains. It also has a three speed brushroll control, which the FH50150 lacks. The F5914900 does a very good job of sucking water back out of the carpet, say owners, and, like the Power Scrub, it also applies heat to the carpet, helping it dry that much faster. It only includes a powered hand tool, but other accessories are available as options. Both Hoovers have an 11.25-inch cleaning path and get excellent reviews for durability.
In addition to Hoover, Bissell leads the pack when it comes to home carpet cleaning machines, and Bissell shines with a feature that many people wouldn't do without -- heated water technology. Among carpet cleaners with that feature, the Bissell ProHeat Premier 47A23 (Est. $180) is a top choice thanks to its stellar owner reviews. In fact, the only reason that it's not our Best Reviewed pick overall is that it's a beast of a machine, weighing nearly 25 pounds (without water) and with a large footprint. Be sure you have ample storage space and the strength to push it around.
Having said that, its size also means that it cleans larger areas more quickly, with a 12-inch cleaning path and a tank capacity of 1.25 gallons, as opposed to the Hoovers' one gallon capacity and 11.25-inch cleaning path. The Bissell ProHeat also features a 10-brush spinning technology that some reviewers say is more effective than Hoover's five spin brushes. However, what reviewers don't like as well is Bissell's tank-within-a-tank bladder technology that they say is not as easy to fill, empty, and clean as Hoover's dual tank design.
But let's get to the heated water feature. Like all carpet cleaners, you fill the Bissell with hot water from the tap, but unlike many machines, the ProHeat Premier keeps it heated as you clean, rather than letting it cool down. Users say they feel as if this constant supply of hot water offers a more sanitary level of cleaning than other systems -- although Bissell does not claim that this carpet cleaner's water reaches the temperatures that would be considered sanitizing. In fact, Bissell does not offer any information on the temperature at which the water is maintained -- they were not even able to tell us when we called customer service -- but users say "it's hot, but not scalding." Still, picky cleaners, especially those with pets, love this feature.
In addition, the Bissell ProHeat Premier 47A23 gets very good reviews for its powerful suction; owners say it doesn't leave the carpet so wet that it takes forever to dry. The ProHeat Premier includes a hose and stain tool attachment for upholstery and hard-to-reach areas like stairs.
It costs more, but if you're a pet owner you may want to consider the Bissell DeepClean Deluxe Pet Carpet Cleaner 36Z9 (Est. $240). It's specially designed for pets, with a hair collection basket and 12 rows of brushes, rather than the 10 rows of the ProHeat. The Deluxe Pet carpet cleaner also has the heated water technology, plus an odor control technology that, when combined with the recommended cleaning solution, Bissell 2X Pet Stain & Odor Cleaning Formula ($10 for 32 oz.), is supposed to both neutralize odors and keep pets from soiling the same area.
Owners say that the Bissell 36Z9 works as advertised. It gets glowing reviews from users -- especially those who have multiple pets -- who say it's a top performer and has completely renewed their carpets. They also say it has very powerful suction and they love the heated water technology, many feel that it brings a higher level of cleaning to the process. The 36Z9's effectiveness in sucking up pet hair that people didn't even know existed gets particular kudos. Even the upholstery brush is said to work very well, an attachment that often gets mixed reviews on the Hoover carpet cleaners.
However, be warned, the Bissell 36Z9 is big and heavy. We saw a few comments from people who are either rather small or have back, shoulder or upper-body strength issues who say that it's difficult or exhausting for them to use. This Bissell carpet shampooer is also the priciest model in this category, but, as a number of owners point out, it will pay for itself after about two uses compared to hiring a professional carpet cleaning service.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Reviewed Carpet Cleaners: Whether you need a full-sized carpet cleaner, a portable or spot cleaner, or want a great rental, these are the best carpet cleaners for any task.
Best Portable and Spot Cleaners: Small spills and pet accidents can ruin an otherwise clean carpet. These top portable and spot cleaners will quickly wipe out with those messes.
Best Rental Carpet Cleaners: Renting a carpet cleaner is a highly affordable option for cleaning all of the carpets in your home. It may even save you from having to buy new carpeting. These are the best choices.
Buying Guide: These are the top considerations you need to think about before buying a carpet shampooer. We even offer tips on hiring a professional carpet cleaner.
Our Sources: These are the expert and user tests, comparisons and reviews we used to determine the best carpet cleaners. They are ranked in order of their credibility and usefulness.