best carpet cleaner has
- A large tank. A carpet cleaner with a large tank requires fewer refills,
but all that water makes the machine heavier and harder to push around. The
exact sweet spot depends on your personal tolerance for pushing a heavy,
water-laden carpet cleaner around.
- Extra tools and attachments. Most upright carpet cleaners and some
compact models come with an extension hose and handheld attachment for cleaning
upholstery, stairs and narrow places.
- Powered brushes to scrub out dirt. Reviewers almost universally agree that
carpet cleaners with powered brushes do a better job of scrubbing dirt from
carpet fibers. The alternative is scrubbing at the stains with a manual
- Powerful suction. If your carpet cleaner can't retrieve all that water it just
sprayed on the carpet, your floors will take a long time to dry and they'll
probably still have some dirt mixed in with that water, too.
- A long cord. The longer the cord, the larger the area you can clean
without having to stop and fuss with the cord. The best carpet cleaners we
reviewed have at least a 15-foot cord and often quite a bit longer.
- A long warranty. In the world of consumer carpet cleaners, a one-year
warranty is about as good as it gets. Once you upgrade to a commercial carpet
cleaner -- the type you can rent at a grocery or hardware store, which
typically costs $400 or more -- you should get a five-year warranty.
Know before you go
Do you plan to clean hard floors, too? If so, you may need to purchase an
additional hard-floor attachment for your carpet cleaner. Or, see our report on steam mops.
Which convenience features are most
important to you? You
can get by without an internal water heater, indicator lights and automatic
shutoff when the recovery tank is full, but all of these features make your
carpet cleaning experience easier. Put some thought into which you're willing
to pay for, as they may raise the cost substantially.
Are you okay with commercial cleaning
commercial cleaning solutions most manufacturers recommend can be pricey. Costs
vary, but most start at about $20 for a 64-ounce bottle. Some owners dodge the
cost and concerns about chemicals by using homemade cleaning solutions, but
this may void the manufacturer's warranty; check the fine print.
How close are you to a service center? If you need warranty service on your
carpet cleaner, some companies require that you take it to the nearest service
center, then leave it for repairs. Some frustrated owners report having to
repeat a round trip of up to 100 miles to collect their repaired appliance.