The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification recommends a deep carpet cleaning at least once every 12 to 18 months in high-traffic areas. Carpet cleaners can help you maintain that deep-clean feeling in between professional cleanings as well as help remove spills and stains throughout the year. Pronto’s Carpet Cleaner Buying Guide will walk you through the ins and outs of getting the best carpet cleaner for your home.
Be familiar with the kind of carpet you own and what cleaning methods are best to use. Refer to your warranty to make sure a wet-extraction carpet cleaner won’t void the terms, especially when it comes to stain resistance.
Although they’re sometimes called steam vacs or steam cleaners, carpet cleaners use hot water and are not carpet steamers. Carpet cleaners work best for lightly soiled areas or to maintain cleanliness between professional cleanings.
Choose an upright carpet cleaner if you have large, wide areas to clean. Look for wider, 12-inch cleaning paths to cut down on cleaning time. Multiple water tanks may reduce time spent emptying and refilling, but the more water the carpet cleaner holds, the heavier it will be. Look for self-propelled models for greater ease of use.
Canister and portable carpet cleaners are best for stairs and tight spaces. If you’re considering a cordless model, check the average run time at a full battery charge as well as how long the unit takes to recharge fully.
Look for carpet cleaners that feature heating mechanisms to keep water and cleaning solutions hot throughout the cleaning process. Rotating brushes clean deeper than fixed brushes but can damage carpet fibers with heavy use. Look for easy-to-reach power switches and controls that let you set the amount of solution sprayed so you don’t over wet your carpet. If you hate to mop, get a carpet cleaner that works on bare floors or includes a bare-floor attachment.
These carpet cleaners have a canister tank and sit closer to the floor. An attached hose extends from the machine to do the cleaning.
This carpet cleaning method consists of applying a powdered cleaning agent to the rug with a brush (sometimes a foam or spray is used), and then removing it with a vacuum cleaner.
These carpet cleaner brushes stay in place and clean the carpet as the operator moves the machine over the cleaning surface. These loosen surface dirt, but don’t extend deep into the carpet.
Also called mechanical brushes, these carpet cleaner brushes move separately from the back and forth motion of the cleaning machine and help get deep-rooted dirt out of the carpet.
A carpet cleaner design similar to an upright vacuum, with tanks mounted in the main body. With this design, the entire carpet cleaner is pushed around on a handle.
This carpet cleaning method uses a machine to inject a combination of hot water with or without cleaning solution into rug fibers. The carpet cleaner’s brushes loosen the dirt, which is then vacuumed out with most of the water.
Carpet cleaners are often marketed as steam cleaners or steam vacs, but these machines use a mixture of hot water and special detergent—not steam—to clean carpets. Carpet cleaners disperse the water solution onto the carpet, use brushes to agitate carpet fibers and loosen dirt, then vacuum the dirt and the cleaning solution from the carpet. before extracting it, along with the cleaning solution, from the carpet.
True carpet steamers, by contrast, use superheated water and high-pressure to clean carpets with or without detergents and chemicals. Both systems have their advantages, but carpet steamers are expensive to own and difficult to operate, which makes them useful only to professionals. For home use, choose a carpet cleaner to clean soiled areas in between professional deep cleanings. Try to get to spills and dirt quickly, as carpet cleaners are less effective on tough, set-in stains.
Improper cleaning can discolor, shrink or damage carpet fibers. Before you buy a carpet cleaner, make sure the fibers in your carpet can handle wet extraction. Refer to your carpet’s warranty before cleaning; some warranties on stain resistance are voided if the wrong cleaning method is used.
Upright carpet cleaners are similar to upright vacuum cleaners, where the cleaning unit stands upright and brushes in the cleaning unit’s base do the dirty work. Upright carpet cleaners are the most effective carpet cleaners and, with the exception of stairs, perform well on a variety of carpets and surfaces. Upright carpet cleaners typically feature 8.5- or 12-inch cleaning paths. You’ll pay more money for a wider cleaning path, but the time it saves you may make it a worthwhile investment.
When shopping for an upright carpet cleaner, you’ll have the option of models with three tanks for clean water, dirty water and detergent; two tanks for water-detergent mixture and dirty water or a single tank that does everything. Triple-tank carpet cleaners save you the bother of mixing detergent with water.
Both triple-tank and double-tank carpet cleaners can save time, especially if they have large-capacity tanks. While this may make your cleaning go a bit faster, it will also make your carpet cleaner heavier and more cumbersome in small spaces. No matter which carpet cleaner style you choose, it’s a good idea to read online reviews of the models you’re interested in to make sure they have well-constructed tanks that aren’t prone to leaks.
Look for carpet cleaners with self-propelled motion to reduce stress on your body. If weight is a concern, compare the shipping weights of carpet cleaners, then add eight pounds for each gallon of liquid a carpet cleaner can hold to determine its working weight.
Canister carpet cleaners and spot carpet cleaners are less effective than upright carpet cleaners at cleaning floors, but they’re the best choice for carpeted stairs, tight corners or other small spaces and for cleaning upholstery on furniture or in your car.
Canister carpet cleaners have base units that stay low to the ground, and hoses that extend from the base unit to do the cleaning. Canister carpet cleaners can be used on area rugs and wall-to-wall carpeting, but the hose offers the added flexibility of being able to take on stairs and small spaces—provided the hose is long enough to get the job done without having to lug the unit with you.
Portable carpet cleaners may be corded or cordless. If you choose a cordless model, pay attention to the time it takes to recharge the battery and the maximum run time at full charge. Look for portable carpet cleaners with powered brushes that agitate carpet fibers—they clean better and require less elbow grease than carpet cleaners without them.
Carpet cleaners vary in the features they offer, but there are some features you should look for no matter which type of carpet cleaner you’re buying.
Better carpet cleaners offer a way to keep water hot during use. Some carpet cleaners heat water using the heat generated by the motor while others have built-in heaters to help heat water and maintain the optimal temperature for cleaning.
You’ll also want your carpet cleaner to have rotating or mechanized brushes. The powered action of these brushes reaches deeper into carpet fibers and removes more dirt. Be aware that mechanized brushes can be tough on some types of carpet with frequent use. Fixed brushes are easier on your carpet’s fibers, but they clean closer to the surface than rotation brushes. Make sure that the brushes turn off when the carpet cleaner is in its locked upright position, otherwise you’ll need to turn it off each time you need to refill water to avoid damaging your carpet.
Look for a carpet cleaner that lets you adjust the flow of water during cleaning. Too much water can damage a carpet’s backing and warp the floorboards underneath. Make sure that power switches are easy to reach while you’re using the carpet cleaner, and look for tanks that snap firmly into position.
A few carpet cleaners offer the ability to clean bare floors as well as carpet, which is a nice plus if you hate to mop. These carpet cleaners have built-in squeegees that help to dry the floor, but their floor-safe brushes won’t dig quite as deep into carpets. If you want a carpet cleaner that can handle bare floors, look for removable brushes or a separate bare-floor attachment.