While the right vacuum cleaner can do wonders for removing the surface dirt and grime that clings to your carpets, stubborn stains and embedded dirt can't always be dealt with easily. Particularly where pet hair, large families and communal spaces are involved. For the ultimate clean, you'll want to invest in a great carpet cleaner.
A high-quality carpet cleaner can leave your carpet up to ten times cleaner than your average vacuum or steam cleaner and the technology behind them has become better over the years. Most of the best carpet cleaners act as all-in-one cleaners, doubling up as rug cleaners, car upholstery cleaners, and even bathroom-friendly suction tools to un-clog drains.
How to use a carpet cleaner
Though there are many different variations available, most carpet cleaners function in the same way. You start by loading the appropriate tank with water and a dash of cleaning solution (many machines come with a starter pack of the brand's own).
When turned on, the solution is dispersed evenly across the carpet on a forward stroke, and vacuumed up on a backwards stroke. Most good machines have triggers that can override either action and, when complete, will let you rinse everything clear.
Finally, the solution is sucked up with the dirt and grime, entering a second water tank that can be emptied easily (many people choose to do this in a toilet).
As the name suggests, standard carpet cleaners are only capable of washing and rinsing the carpet, meaning you'll need to go over the space with a vacuum to pick up any loose dirt beforehand. On the other hand, all-in-one machines could replace your vacuum altogether (just bear in mind that all carpet cleaners are corded, meaning they'd be pushed to rival a cordless or robot vacuum cleaner).
Either way, we've rounded up a list of the very best carpet cleaners on the market to make that final decision just a little bit easier:
1. Vax Platinum Power Max Carpet Cleaner
This is the creme de la creme of carpet cleaners — if anything could deserve such a label. Studies suggest this lightweight machine actually cleans better than the leading rental carpet cleaner on the market and removes 93 per cent of bacteria, fungi and allergens lurking where traditional vacuums can't reach. The carpet cleaner is loaded with patented tech, too — the XL brushbar and SpinScrub technology agitate the carpet in two directions, pushing the 'Automixed' solution everywhere it needs to be, then sucks all dirt and bacteria away with ease.
Additional features like its pre-treatment wand, quick clean setting, upholstery tool, long-reach stretch hose and hard floor squeegee also allow you to target spills, stains or general wear and tear almost everywhere. To our delight, its ability to let you control the liquid released and dry as you go means you can go from freshly cleaned to dry carpet in just one hour.
2. Bissell SpotClean Pro
As portable as it is powerful, Bissell's compact SpotClean Pro carpet cleaner is ideal for homes without a lot of extra storage space. It is slimmer than many of its competitors – you're able to store it under the sink with space to spare – but doesn't lose out on any of the key features required of a carpet cleaner.
Where stairs are concerned, few carpet cleaners can compare. The machine can sit on a single step securely, without the fear of being knocked over (common with large carpet cleaners), and its large 'tough stain' tool can spray, scrub and lift spills in seconds. Need to clean car upholstery or hard-to-reach areas? Just connect its long-reach, 6.5m power cord.
3. Numatic George GVE370 Carpet Cleaner
The Numatic George – sibling to the iconic Henry Hoover – is an 'all in one' carpet cleaner designed to serve all your vacuuming, shampooing and hard floor cleaning needs. When vacuuming, it has the same suction power as Henry himself, but the real joy comes from George's deep-cleaning capabilities.
For carpet cleaning, the machine boasts a massive six litre clean water tank capacity and nine litre dirty water tank capacity. You use one hose for the first wet run-through and another hose for dry cleaning. The same applies for hard floors (a massive benefit, rivalling any good steam cleaner) and upholstery cleaning, but many people also use the wet vacuum to clean hair out of drains with ease. Unsurprisingly, it is heavier than other models, but it feels like a fair trade for getting two machines (carpet cleaner and vacuum) in one.
4. Rug Doctor 93306 Carpet Cleaner
Much like the Bissell SpotClean Pro, this tiny carpet cleaner is incredibly portable, but both have individual strengths. For the Rug Doctor, that strength lies in the suction power of its handheld brush. With up to twice the suction of other carpet cleaners, it is especially effective in pulling up spills from carpets, mattresses, cars and more.
Though it feels slightly more 'industrial' than the average home carpet cleaner, its wheels help you manoeuver the machine with ease while removable tanks keep the cleaning-up process fast and simple. Ideal for families that need a strong and convenient solution for spills and stains.
Yet another all in one machine, this Vax carpet cleaner is billed as a vacuum, carpet washer and an accidental spill cleaner. It's not quite as belled-and-whistled as the Platinum Power (number one on the list), but it does come with an 11-piece accessory kit which allows you to tackle small crevices and upholstery with ease.
The 6131T has impressive suction power, picking up dirt and grime easily, and it is definitely the best carpet stain remover available at its price. While heavy, the cleaner has five wheels which make it much easier to move around than some carpet cleaners half the size.