A Guide to the Best Home Carpet Cleaners

Carpet and rugs add comfort and aesthetic balance to a room, but they also tend to get dirty quickly, particularly in homes with kids or pets. Although spot cleaners and sprays can help, a dedicated machine is often needed to really clean your carpets well. That’s why owning a residential carpet cleaner is a wise investment, especially for those who need to tackle pet stains and food spills on a regular basis.

While there are portable carpet cleaners you can rent, they’re typically not as effective as full-size machines. The best residential carpet cleaners can also be much more affordable in the long run if you’re someone who uses them frequently. This guide to the best home carpet cleaners will help you find the right one for your needs, based on our expert testing and reviews of various products.

A carpet cleaner works by dispensing an automatically-mixed combo of water and cleaning solution into the carpet through rotating brushes. This breaks down dirt and stains, and the machine then vacuums up the solution and dirt into its tank. There are plenty of special features to look for depending on your needs, including built-in heaters to help the process go faster and extra hose attachments for reaching stairs or other hard-to-reach areas. A “dry-only” mode that doesn’t dispense cleaning solution but instead emits heat to dry the carpet as you move it forward is another great option for busy households.

The Good Housekeeping Institute’s senior appliance tester and home care expert Carolyn Forte analyzed the results of our in-house tests of portable carpet cleaners, as well as those from the lab, to come up with this list of the best. Her team focused on the machines’ effectiveness, portability and ease of setup and use as well as how quiet they are (the CDC warns that prolonged exposure to sounds over 85 decibels can damage your hearing).

Unlike shampoo cleaners, which used heated water and soap to clean carpets and only removed surface-level dirt, the best home carpet cleaners will actually deep clean the fibers by using both hot and cold water to remove ground-in soil and grime from your carpet. These models feature either a rotary or counter-rotating brushing system that is powered by either a petrol or electric motor. They can also be equipped with a power or suction brushing mode to accommodate different types of carpet, as well as a turbo setting that increases the intensity of their cleaning for heavily soiled carpets and rugs.