Best Carpet Cleaners
We looked at professional carpet cleaner reviews and consumer ratings to find the best cheap carpet cleaners, steam mops, steam cleaners, and spot cleaners from Bissell, Hoover, Shark, and other top brands. You don't have to spend more than $150 to buy one of these tools and keep your floors looking their best.
What We Considered
Carpet cleaners are reviewed extensively by several expert sites, including Consumer Reports, Reviews.com, and Top Ten Reviews. All three make their picks based on hands-on testing. In an older report, Wirecutter tests and recommends two portable carpet and upholstery cleaners. Although one has been discontinued, the top recommendation, the Bissell SpotClean Pro, is still available and still very highly rated in more recent reviews. Wirecutter also tests steam mops, as do Top Ten Reviews and the home product review site Your Best Digs. We also consulted owner reviews on major retail sites like Amazon and Walmart, where the best carpet cleaners get tens of thousands of ratings that exceed 4 stars.
We Looked At
Carpet cleaners need to do one thing well: clean carpet. You shouldn't have to make a zillion passes or pretreat too much (although that will always be necessary for particularly bad pet messes or red wine spills). The suction on the carpet cleaner should be sufficient to leave the carpet dry enough to walk on within a fairly short period of time. The biggest complaint we saw with low-rated carpet cleaners was that the carpet was left sopping wet. Steam mops and steam cleaners need to be able to heat water efficiently and produce enough steam to loosen dirt quickly and thoroughly.
Bells and whistles are less important in this category than in many others, mostly because carpet cleaners, steam mops, and steam cleaners are pretty straightforward. While it might be nice to have a hose and attachments for a carpet cleaner so you can clean upholstery, as well, these aren't a must-have for many consumers. Steam mops usually don't include accessories at all, while even the least-expensive steam cleaners generally come with a decent selection of hoses or nozzles.
Consumer product experts are near-unanimous in their praise of this Hoover carpet cleaner. In testing, the Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe FH50150 performed very well on even the toughest food stains, including grape juice, marinara sauce, and red wine. Testers also found that carpet dries more quickly with its powerful water extraction. Not only does this Hoover model clean carpets well, it also includes accessories to clean upholstery, stairs, crevices, and more. Ease of use is superior, right down to taking apart and cleaning the carpet cleaner itself (an often-yucky necessity).
A top carpet cleaner in testing by Reviews.com and Top Ten Reviews.
Leaves carpets dryer than competing models.
Separate container for detergent and a rinse setting to release clean water only (recommended for removing residual cleaning solution from carpets), a terrific bonus at this price.
Relatively long 8-foot hose.
Water reservoir holds 1 gallon, requiring frequent refills, some owners complain, but models with bigger tanks often cost more.
Scattered reports of leakage or other durability issues in the first year.
Earning kudos for its performance in professional testing and "real world" use, the Bissell SpotClean Pro portable carpet cleaner is described by some as a "lifesaver" when it comes to cleaning up pet messes from carpet, refreshing upholstery, and even cleaning cloth car seats. Simple as it is — just a basic, hot-water extraction machine — this Bissell carpet cleaner makes short work of even the toughest stains, like chocolate, red wine, and coffee, reviewers say. We didn't spot a lot of complaints, although some say it's larger than they thought it would be. A few disappointed reviewers say the hose split just after the warranty expired.
Top performer in testing by Wirecutter.
96-ounce water tank is large for a portable model and requires fewer refills.
5-foot hose and 22-foot cord give it a generous reach.
Some users complain about the hose splitting or breaking.
A bit bulky to store, some reviewers note.
Pet owners are enamored of the Bissell SpotBot Pet portable carpet cleaner. It features two cleaning modes: a hands-free option, which sprays, scrubs, and suctions stains of up to 7 inches, and a hose with a brush attachment, like a traditional portable carpet cleaner. The hands-free mode has two cleaning cycles, deep and express, although users say the deep-clean cycle leaves the carpet wet. Some solve the problem by either blotting the spot with a towel or using the hose/nozzle mode to soak up more water.
Versatile; cleans hands-free or with a hose.
2 cleaning cycles: express and deep.
Water tank is easy to fill, users say.
Some owners consider the hose and nozzle hard to clean.
Heavy-duty cycle leaves the floor wet, according to some reviews.
Rather large footprint for a portable model.
If you like to keep your bathroom floors squeaky clean, the Bissell PowerFresh Steam Mop 1940 makes that a breeze. It heats quickly, in about 30 seconds in testing, and then supplies about 20 minutes of continuous steam. Given the size of the water tank, it's not suited to larger areas. But it's very easy to use, reviewers say, and does a good job getting into smaller nooks and crannies. Experts praise its performance, as do users, saying it really loosens up grime and leaves the floor sparkling. Just don't expect it to clean carpets; testing suggests that's not gonna happen. Check out one of our recommended carpet cleaners instead.
Variable steam control with 3 settings.
Lightweight, at 6 pounds; highly maneuverable.
Removable water tank is easy to fill, reviewers say.
Continuous steam; no need to hold down a trigger.
15-ounce tank is relatively small.
Carpet glider does not actually clean carpets, just "refreshes" them.
Think of the McCulloch MC1275 as a canister vacuum for the rest of your house. It comes with every accessory you need to tackle grout, tile, grills, car engines, floors, upholstery, and more. Users say it works better on some things than others, of course, but there doesn't seem to be any consensus on that; for every user who says it worked great on floors but not grout, there is another who states the opposite. One thing most do agree on: Some of the smaller accessories don't hold up well for heavier cleaning jobs.
15 cleaning tools and attachments.
Can tackle even heavy jobs, like car engines and grills.
Provides 45 minutes of continuous steam, users say.
Water heats to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit to sanitize and clean.
Some owners say it takes up a lot of storage space.
Users say some of the accessories are flimsy.
The Bissell PowerLifter PowerBrush upright carpet cleaner is a reliable choice for basic carpet cleaning, refreshing high-traffic areas, and giving carpeted rooms regular touch-ups. Many owners rave about how well the four rows of scrubber brushes remove dirt and pet stains, making carpets look almost brand new. Unlike some upright carpet cleaners, the Bissell PowerLifter is very easy to maneuver around furniture, reviewers say. With a water tank that holds less than a gallon, this model cycles through water too quickly for some consumers. We also read a handful of user complaints about cleaners that broke soon after purchase.
Cleaned a variety of stains well in testing by Reviews.com.
Weighs 16.4 pounds, less than most carpet cleaners.
Water tank is easy to fill and empty, users say.
Nozzle can be removed for cleaning.
No accessories for upholstery or spot cleaning.
96-ounce water tank needs frequent emptying and refilling.
Bissell Little Green 1400B Review
A portable carpet cleaner comes to the rescue after those inevitable spills and spots, and reviewers say the Bissell Little Green is up to the task. This small, lightweight spot carpet cleaner is the tiniest in the well-respected Bissell Green line of carpet cleaners. It comes with a handheld scrub brush for tough stains but no other tools (some are available for an added cost). Owners seem unabashedly in love with it, giving it very high ratings for how effectively it handles spills and stains on carpet and upholstery.
Lightweight and portable, at 12 pounds.
Relatively large 48-ounce reservoirs for clean and dirty water.
Tanks are easy to fill, empty, and clean, owners say.
3-inch brush is a bit small, some users say.
Dirt accumulates in the nozzle, and it doesn't come apart for cleaning.
Some reviewers report leakage from the nozzle after a few uses.
If you have hard floors that need thorough scrubbing, the Shark Steam Pocket Mop can handle sticky messes with ease. In expert tests, it heated quickly and did a good job cleaning floors, which dried in about 2 minutes. Owners particularly like the design of the "flippable" microfiber pad, as they can clean longer before having to change it out. The 15.2-ounce tank on this Shark steam mop holds enough water for about 12 minutes of steam, but you have to hold the trigger down; there is no continuous steam function.
Weighs less than 5 pounds, making it easy to maneuver.
Users report excellent performance on sticky floors.
Heats quickly and provides up to 20 minutes of steam, owners say.
Doesn't stand up by itself.
No on/off switch.
Some users report leaking.
If you're tired of the amount of elbow grease you have to expend to clean grout or tile, the PurSteam Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner makes a handy addition to your cleaning arsenal. It heats quickly and, according to users, produces about 10 minutes of steam, although some report shorter or longer run times. While it's not meant for heavy-duty jobs, like cleaning grills or baked-on grime, it does loosen tough-to-scrub soap scum so you can just wipe it down. The happiest owners are those who understand this handheld steamer's limitations.
9 accessories for a variety of cleaning tasks.
Owners say it does a good job steam cleaning grout and tile.
Good reviews for responsive customer service.
Doesn't clean heavy stains well, reviewers say.
Need to wait for the cap to cool before refilling.
Other Products We Reviewed
People with a lot of pets (or just really hairy, messy pets) appreciate the convenient features on the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner. It has a button you press with your foot to spray pretreatment fluid on stains as you go. The detachable tank is easy to fill, and the water is heated throughout the cleaning cycle to maintain its temperature. The brush roll disassembles to make it easy to clean out accumulated pet hair and other yucky stuff, another nice touch. This Bissell carpet cleaner is just as good for cleaning entire rooms as it is for targeted pet messes, too.
Deep-cleans very effectively, owners say.
Integrated pretreater for the heaviest stains.
Powered upholstery tool.
25-foot cord, longer than those found on similar cleaners.
Can leave carpets wet, some users say.
No rinse setting or separate container for cleaning formula, which we'd like to see at this price.
If you find yourself renting carpet cleaners a lot, why not just buy your own? If a rental costs $30 a day, this model will pay for itself after 12 or so uses (based on the retail price at the time this report was compiled). If you choose the Bissell Big Green Machine Professional Carpet Cleaner, you'll be the proud owner of one of the most effective carpet cleaners on the market, according to experts and users. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles here, but it's fast and it's effective. Just be sure you can wrangle its heft.
Provides a superior, deep clean.
Cleans with both backward and forward motion.
Includes an upholstery tool.
9-foot hose and 25-foot cord make for a long reach.
Large and very heavy, at 40.6 pounds.
Experts and users report that it's very noisy.