Last Updated On October 12th, 2018
In the name of research we’ve swallowed hard, rolled up our sleeves and dug into the subject of home carpet cleaners, researching the hundreds of models currently on the market – all in search of the best carpet cleaner for home use.
Determining “the best” isn’t a simple matter. Some people use their machine regularly, whether it’s because they’re overly neat (we didn’t use the word “compulsive,” you did), they believe in annual or semi-annual deep cleanings, or they have to deal with continual messes which rambunctious children and uncontrollable pets (or the other way around) make.
An easy way to choose “the best” carpet cleaner is by looking for the highest price, but we’ve found that’s a big mistake; some of the most expensive models aren’t worth their inflated cost. Many have tons of features like turbo brushes, detergent and water auto-mix, dry vacuum functions and even tank heaters, but that doesn’t mean you need any or all of them. A full list of robust features doesn’t help if a carpet cleaner can’t efficiently get rid of the mud your son ground into the rug or the “gift” your dog left deep in your carpet’s fibres.
Performance matters more than anything else, so that’s the primary focus of our carpet cleaner reviews. We’ll get to them after our detailed guide to choosing one which meets your needs.
Best Carpet Cleaners Comparison Table
Carpet Cleaner Buying Guide
If you’re accustomed to using vacuum cleaners, you’ll discover one major difference when you shop for your first carpet cleaner. Most vacuum models weigh about the same when you’re wheeling or toting them around, but the weight of carpet cleaners vary considerably – for a reason that makes sense when you think about it.
Those designed to be used in big houses will have big tanks to match, and that adds greatly to the overall weight and bulk. That’s not to say you should always opt for a smaller model, however. Using an undersized carpet cleaner in your home will force you to repeatedly stop to empty the dirty water and refill the clean water tank.
There’s one more key consideration, and that’s whether you want a carpet cleaner with a tank heater. Using heated water greatly increases the ability of the cleaning solution to break down dirt and stains wedged into your carpet’s fibres, but the heater also adds weight and bulk. Units with built-in heaters can often weigh 10kg or more.
The bottom line: a large carpet cleaner, particularly one with an integral heater, can be extremely difficult to manoeuvre. That might not be a deal-breaker if you’re just going to use it once or twice a year, but can quickly become tiresome if you clean your carpets on a regular basis. Determining how large a machine you need, and whether the heater is important to you, are the first steps you should take before shopping.
The next decision to make is whether you prefer a multi-function (sometimes called a two-in-one) model, or one that’s strictly for washing your carpets. A two-in-one model also contains a vacuum, so the same unit can clean up the loose dirt sitting on top of the carpet before shampooing. A multi-function model can save time and effort and can also be an advantage if storage space is at a premium in your flat or small home, but the vacuum in two-in-one models simply aren’t as powerful or effective as dedicated models. We’re not crazy about them.
Several other upper-level carpet cleaner functions are particularly useful and should at least be considered. The first is heated cleaning, this type blows hot air onto the carpet during the shampooing process. This speeds up drying time considerably, but may damage very delicate rugs. The second convenient feature you can choose is a auto-mix system that pre-blends water and detergent in the right proportions; that saves not only time, but the hassle of getting the combination perfectly whenever you have to fill the cleaner.
Effectiveness, of course, largely depends on the technology it uses, and the performance of a carpet cleaner is based on its cleaning heads and motor. New higher-level models typically have separate rotating brushes or brush heads (containing a number of smaller brushes) to dig deep into the carpet, while lesser ones will have a single head. You can also find some units with brush rollers which don’t penetrate as deeply, but are more gentle and ideal for use on delicate rugs. Motor size usually ranges from 500-1850 watts and is generally a good measure of cleaning performance and suction, as well as how quickly a carpet will dry on its own.
The final consideration involves attachments or powered cleaning tools. Among the most useful are air-powered brushes that provide a deeper clean, smaller brushes for spot cleaning and upholstery, and crevice tools for hard-to-reach areas.
Top 10 Carpet Cleaner Reviews
1. Vax V124A Dual V Upright Carpet And Upholstery Washer
Before you start wondering: yes, there are a lot of Vax carpet cleaner reviews on our list. That’s not because we’re lazy, though; it’s because the company makes exceptional products. We start with the V124A Dual V, which is the highest-level Vax we’ve listed. This is a real winner thanks to its brilliant suction (“Dual V” means there are two powerful paths to create even suction and extract water quickly) and its five separate and resilient brushes. It digs out copious amounts of dirt, grime, and stains that you simply can’t get to with a lesser unit. The V124A also has auto-mix, heated cleaning and great on-board tools. It’s hefty at 11.5kg, but this is our best carpet cleaner; UK-manufactured, too.
2. Vax W90-RU-P Rapid Ultra
This Vax model has a rotating brushbar which is almost as impressive at cleaning stubborn dirt and stains as the five brushes on the V124A, but what really differentiates the W90-RU-P is its pre-treatment wand and solution. This combination lets you give tough stains the extra attention they need before you hit them with the Vax’s brushbar and Dual V technology for a regular deep clean. There’s no auto-mix or heated cleaning so this is cheaper than the V124A, but it’s also 1.3kg lighter and has a longer hose and slightly larger clean water tank, handy in larger homes. For those who always seem to lose the cleaning battle against pets (and kids), the W90-RU-P is a great choice.
3. Vax W90-RU-B Rapide Ultra
The W90-RU-B is fundamentally the same carpet cleaner as the one we’ve just reviewed, except that it doesn’t come with the pre-treatment tool – so it’s listed at a lower retail price. All of the details we’ve listed for the RU-P apply, including the lighter weight and longer hose, as well as the lack of higher-level options like auto-mix. In other words, for less money you get Vax cleaning quality and reliability, except without bells and whistles. That’s not a bad deal.
4. Bissell Cleanview Proheat
Bissell is well known for its vacuums and carpet cleaners, and this is one of the best you’ll find (with a price to match). The Cleanview Proheat has one of the best built-in water heaters we’ve seen, keeping the clean water at a steady 14° for efficient cleaning; it also has one brush roller with six rows of powered brushes to provide an extremely deep clean. We rank it slightly lower than the Vax models because the brushes don’t rotate and there’s a lower tank capacity, but we do like the fact that this Bissell uses a 2-in-1 tank instead of separate tanks. The suction’s good, is sturdy (and a bit lighter than the Vax models), and although we prefer the V124A we could understand someone choosing the Cleanview Proheat Bissell instead.
5. Bissell PowerClean StainPro 6
If there’s a carpet cleaner that can live up to its name, it’s definitely the Bissell PowerClean StainPro 6! With 6 rows of Rotating DirtLifter Power Brushes and HeatWave technology, you can be guaranteed that it can not only lift dirt, stains, and allergens from your carpet and area rugs, it can also kill germs and get rid of odours.
It has a 2 in 1 tank that keeps clean and dirty water separate. It also has a hose and other tools on board for easy transition from floor to ceiling vacuuming. You’ll also get edge sweep brushes to help clean baseboards and other nooks and crannies around your home.
6. Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner
You’re probably familiar with this carpet cleaner; in fact, chances are you’ve hired one in the past for a one-off job so this is nothing new. But if you haven’t had the pleasure of using a Rug Doctor, though, it’s large, it’s powerful, and it’s a terrific performer. Despite its, it’s surprisingly manoeuvrable thanks to two large wheels and a handle that is completely adjustable. There are high-speed, dual cross-action brushes that do a remarkable job of digging deep for dirt, the suction is powerful and gets up most of the loose water, and there’s a Super Boost spray function to let you get extra detergent solution into tough-to-clean areas. It doesn’t have some of the “extra” features you might expect, but this is a cleaning monster – at a somewhat monstrous price.
7. Vax VRS5W Rapide Spring
We couldn’t stay away from Vax products forever. This lower-level unit is designed for lighter cleaning work at about half the weight, half the power and half the tank capacity of the more expensive Vax carpet cleaners. Six high-pressure spray jets get the carpet wet and the Rapide Spring’s single brushbar does an excellent job of surface cleaning, but there simply isn’t the power to get the same type of deep cleaning action shown by the cleaners we’ve previously reviewed. This is more of a unit to keep your carpets reasonably clean and smelling nice, or doing spot cleaning, at a price that’s easy to take.
8. Vax VRS802 Dual Power
A step up from the VRS5W but still quite affordable, this Vax model is slightly more powerful and has dual rotating brushbars so it will definitely find more hidden dirt, stains, and hair in your carpet fibres than the VRS5W. As with its little brother there’s a long power cord but no hose attachment, there are still no bells and whistles to speak of, and it’s not suitable for use on stairs or in cars. But it’s an interesting choice for those who don’t want to spend a lot for a carpet cleaner that will do a reliable job on their rugs.
9. Vax VRS18W Power Max
The least expensive option on our list, the VRS18W is also the smallest and lightest, making it worth checking out for small homes or flats with carpeted floors. The specs and construction are almost identical to the VRS5W, but this model is a little smaller and lighter. That makes it very easy to manoeuvre and carry from room to room, and another very reasonably-priced option for flats.
10. Vax W85-PL-T Dual Power Pro Advance
Don’t have enough Vax carpet cleaners to choose from? Here’s a final choice, and it’s quite similar to the first two of the company’s models that we’ve reviewed. The W85-PL-T, however, merges many of the functions that distinguish those models into one cleaner: auto-mix, heated cleaning, pre-treatment and Dual V technology. That means it does an outstanding job of deep cleaning (even when pre-treating stubborn spots is required), the carpet dries quickly and it is easy to use. Then why do we rank it at #10? Partially because the clean water tank isn’t as large as it should be for its size (3.5 L), and partially because it’s a little more prone to leakage than the other Vax models.
It’s Almost a Clean Sweep
We obviously love the products made by British favourite Vax (which won seven of our top ten rankings), and many of them could realistically qualify as the best carpet cleaner on the market for specific budgets and needs. And that’s the key to choosing the right one: balancing the type of rug cleaning you’ll be doing and how often you’ll be doing it, against your available budget.
Many of the features that add to the price of higher-level units, like auto-mix and heated cleaning, are valuable time-savers which those who regularly clean their carpets couldn’t live without. And large, heated water tanks are certainly a plus when maintaining carpets in large homes. Those who use theirs infrequently (or to spot clean the dog’s latest mess), though, will likely find that trading those options for greater manoeuverability and a lower price is a deal well worth making.
Our list of carpet cleaner reviews should give you the information you need to make an informed decision that’s right for your needs. Go clean up!