While you won’t use a carpet cleaner as regularly as a vacuum cleaner, it can be a very worthwhile investment for a carpeted home to keep the carpets looking clean, fresh and bright. There are some marks and stains that a vacuum cleaner or even a cleaning liquid, sponge and a lot of elbow grease just can’t get out.
This is where the dedicated carpet cleaner saves the day, drawing out the dirt with powerful suction, a rotating brush, warm water and cleaning fluid.
Most domestic carpet cleaners operate using two water tanks – one for clean water and detergent, another for holding the dirty water. Always test your carpet cleaner on an inconspicuous part of the floor, just in case it causes discolouration. You can also use this test to get an idea of the amount of water the machine releases each time you move it, because you definitely want to avoid over-wetting the carpet – not only will it take hours and hours to dry, you’ll ultimately damage the carpet with too much water and soap.
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We would also recommend setting aside a good amount of time for carpet cleaning. This is not a job that you will want to do in a rush; it requires patience and slow, methodical strokes to get the best results.
There aren’t a huge amount of worthwhile domestic carpet cleaners currently available, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble choosing the right product for your home. Once you’ve established your budget, you’ll want to consider the cleaning settings and accessories available – we tested products that could clean carpets, sofa upholstery, and even hard floors. You’ll also want to think about size and where you will be able to store the cleaner as most are quite large and heavy, taking up more space than the average vacuum cleaner, although there are a couple of more compact models on the market.
Ease of use is also key. During testing, we assessed how simple each cleaner was to set up and start using (some had quite complicated instructions), as well as if it was agile and easy to manoeuvre around the house. Most importantly, we tested each cleaner on several different carpet types and stains to judge how thoroughly it really cleaned and if it had any difficulty in lifting out the dirt and marks.
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Vax platinum smartwash CDCW-SWXS carpet cleaner
This is the latest model from Vax’s carpet cleaner range, and it definitely does not disappoint. The machine features not one but two motorised brush rollers, which we found really made the difference during testing in comparison with other cleaners – these work to loosen deep stains and dirt in the carpet, and it was quite shocking to see the colour of the liquid that came out of the dirty water tank after use!
Simple to set up, the machine comes with two bottles of antibacterial solution (this kills 99 per cent of bacteria in your carpet), as well as a bottle of pre-treatment solution, which you can use on really stubborn or dark stains before you use the carpet cleaner. We liked that there’s no need to waste time measuring the right amount of fluid for the machine as it automixes it for you – simply put your cleaning liquid in one tank and your water in the other (it holds 3.5l), and you’ll be ready to start cleaning.
This product doesn’t have a trigger, so you won’t get tired hands from constantly pulling the trigger button to release the liquid, as is the case with many carpet cleaners. Instead, it has motionsense technology which automatically transitions from washing to drying – you push forwards to wash and backwards to dry. This feature made it really easy to know which carpet areas had been covered and where needed to be cleaned next. The dedicated dry mode also stood out for us during testing, as we found doing an extra sweep of the room on this setting helped to reduce the carpet drying time to around an hour. Add to this the upholstery tool which was easy to attach and use on the sofa, it was hard not to love the effectiveness of this cleaner. The only downside we could find for this machine is that you have to use Vax’s own brand antibacterial cleaner, otherwise you invalidate the guarantee. Yes, it is an investment, but it’s incredibly effective at cleaning and it could delay the need for carpet replacement in your home, which would be much more expensive.
Buy now £299.99, Argos.co.uk
Bissell spotclean pro 1558E
The best feature of this machine is that it is portable – its compact size and comparatively low weight (6kg), means it is easy to move and carry around the house. This was by far the best machine we tested for using on carpeted stairs, and we found it also reached the corners and spots underneath the furniture that traditional upright cleaners will miss. This product comes with cleaning formula and two brush attachments, and despite its smaller size, it still holds a decent 2.8l of water – enough to clean a small room. Its cleaning power was impressive and the suction left the carpets surprisingly dry during testing. This would be the perfect cleaner choice if you’re getting a pet and want to protect your carpets from mishaps – its size means it is easy to whip out and use in an emergency, and it won’t take up too much valuable storage space in your home.
Buy now £149.00, Ao.com
Numatic George GVE370
You’ve probably seen the popular Henry vacuum cleaner in many homes, so let us introduce you to his brother, George. This one is a serious all-rounder, with the ability to clean pretty much anything. It can be used as a normal, dry vacuum cleaner by simply fitting a bag and filter. You then need to remove the bag, fill the machine with water and cleaning solution – it holds a massive 6l of clean water – and fit the wet nozzle attachment to start cleaning carpets or hard floors. We found making the switch pretty easy, once we’d worked out which attachments were the correct ones to use, as it comes with a lot of different options!
During testing, we found this machine to be very powerful, and we really liked that it effectively lifted dirt out of the carpet without leaving the carpet soaking or seriously agitating the pile, as other machines did. One downside we found was that the wet hose attachment was a little short, meaning you need to bend over while using it, which does get tiring. The upholstery attachments were effective – this product is particularly recommended for cleaning cars, and it also has an attachment for sucking up spills and unblocking the sink. Yes, it’s a large product and we found it heavy to pull around during testing, but you’re saving space on storage in the long run as it’s such a multifunctional machine.
Buy now £228.00, Currys.co.uk
Rug Doctor portable spot cleaner
As the name suggests, we found that this compact cleaner was ideal for getting spot stains out of the carpet, stairs and upholstery, making it a good choice if you’ve got pets, small children or you’re particularly clumsy! It’s quick and easy to get started – just fill the tank with water and add your cleaning solution – and we found it definitely made the carpet look brighter. However, more stubborn marks required several passes of the cleaner with its motorised brush. As this machine is designed to be portable and for cleaning up in a hurry, it’s not as effective for cleaning an entire carpet.
Buy now £149.99, Argos.co.uk
Russell Hobbs RHCC5001 lightweight carpet washer and cleaner
This was the cheapest carpet cleaner we tested out, and also one of the lightest at just under 6kg. Similarly to a couple of other cheaper cleaners we tried, this one requires some quick assembly – use a crosshead screwdriver to to attach the handle to the main body. We found it simple to use: you just need to press the trigger button to release the cleaning solution into the carpet, and the brush bar starts to lift up any dirt. Thanks to it being lightweight, it is also easy to move around the room and get to the areas you need to clean. We did find that the suction on this machine wasn’t that effective – during testing, we had to fill up the water tank several times and it left the carpet very wet, which wasn’t ideal. Taking this into account, this cleaner is better suited for use on smaller carpeted areas or rugs, otherwise you’ll be waiting a long time for your carpet to be moisture-free.
Buy now £79.99, Amazon.co.uk
Bissell Compact HydroWave 2571E
This was a firm favourite during testing and was also the lightest, at an impressively manageable 5.6kg. The instructions were slightly tricky to work out, as they provide pictures only, but after a little bit of playing around we got the hang of using the cleaner. We particularly liked that you have the option of two different cleaning settings to choose from. The deep clean mode, as the name suggests, penetrates the large brush roll deep into the carpet, providing a really intensive clean. We found this did work well – it removed dark marks in the carpet and we saw all kinds of fluff, dirt and pet hair in the dirty water tank. Use the express button, and you can clear up everyday dirt and spills without having to worry about the drying time – this mode uses less water and we found that your carpet will be fully dry in around 30 minutes. This does have a smaller water capacity compared with other products we tested out, with a 1.7l clean water tank and a 0.6l dirty water tank. However, we didn’t find this to be an issue during testing, as it seemed to use less water generally and let the brush roller do more of the hard work.
Buy now £249.00, Ao.com
Beldray carpet washer
This is another budget-friendly carpet cleaner option. There’s a small amount of assembly required but it’s very straightforward – just join the handle into the main body of the cleaner using the screws provided. It holds 1.5l of clean water, and 1.6l of dirty water, and it’s slightly different from the other products we used, in that this one holds its dirty water tank near the base of the cleaner, making it a bit trickier to remove. We found it did a good job of refreshing the carpet, sucking up the dirt and making it look brighter, and the 6m power cord came in handy, allowing for an easier clean around each room. However, we did find that this product was extremely noisy when switched on, which meant regular breaks were needed to escape the sound.
Buy now £95.00, Wilko.com
Clean Living International dry carpet cleaner
If you’re looking for a cheaper cleaning solution while you decide what is the best investment for your home, try this low-moisture, dry carpet cleaning powder. This all-natural, PH-neutral cleaner can be used on all carpet types, including wool, and it is made from biodegradable, soft, sponge-like fibres that have been moistened to dissolve grime and dirt from carpet fibres. We found this product was most effective on new stains and spills – just shake out some of the cleaner from the sachet, and use the wooden brush that comes with the pack to work the fibres into the carpet so they can start to absorb the dirt. We left it for around five minutes, then vacuumed up the fibres – we were pleased to see that no mark was left. It is slightly more work than a traditional instant carpet stain remover, but you can feel good using this product knowing it’s completely natural and just as effective.
Buy now £10.20, Cleanlivingint.com
The verdict: Carpet cleaners
For a lightweight and effective carpet cleaner, choose the Bissell spotclean pro. If you’re looking for a seriously multifunctional machine, go for the Numatic George GVE 370, and if you’re ready to make an investment in your carpets and household cleaning routine, it has to be theVax platinum smartwash.