Best Carpet Cleaners 2024: Remove household stains quickly with our top picks

A great vacuum cleaner is essential, but present it with ground-in dirt, dried-up stains or a persistent odour and there’s only so much it can do. Whether you have pets, kids, short-sighted party guests or messy hobbies, you can bring carpets, rugs, soft furnishings and more back to life with one of the best carpet cleaners.

But how do you choose the one that’s right for you? The market is large and varied, ranging from full-sized, heavy-duty carpet cleaners that can refresh an entire house, down to compact, portable and battery-powered examples, designed for small rooms or localised stain removal. Here, we’re covering just regular carpet cleaners. Some steam cleaners have accessories for carpets, but they’re best suited for smaller areas.

If you’re looking to banish blotches, snuff out smells, or simply give your floors, rugs and carpets a thorough cleaning, we’ve got exactly the right buying advice. We’ll help you decide the type of model you need, the features you want and find the ideal appliance for your budget. Below you’ll find how we test, our top 10 cleaners and our guide on the features and performance to look for in your ideal model.

Best carpet cleaners at a glance

How we test

Learn more about how we test carpet cleaners

We put every carpet cleaner we review through a thorough series of tests. Where models are designed to also vacuum, we conduct all of our relevant vacuum cleaner tests, which include edge cleaning, powder clearance, hard floors and pet hair.
1. For all models, we test performance on supported floor types, using the manufacturer’s chemicals where provided, or appropriate generic ones where they aren’t.
2. We check wet-stain performance (how well the cleaner sucks up a spilt liquid) and dry stain performance (how well the cleaner copes once a stain has dried). Where supported, we test stain removal on soft furnishings, too.
3. We experiment with muddy footprints, sticky fruit juice and – that ruiner of all things carpet – red wine.
4. We also test performance on plain old household dirt. With spot cleaners, we test smaller spills of various household items on pale carpet tiles.
5. Beyond cleaning performance, we look at practicality: what accessories come with a cleaner, and are they easy to use?
6. Our reviewers will note if a cleaner is heavy, bulky or noisy, and they’ll tell you if there’s a warm-up time, or if the water tanks need frequent top-ups or draining.
7. Finally, we’ll let you know if any hoses or cables are too short, and where there’s a battery we’ll test how long it lasts and how quickly it’s recharged.

Vax Platinum SmartWash Carpet Cleaner

The best overall carpet cleaner


  • Three-tank system offers the perfect mix of cleaning solution
  • Incredible power makes carpets look like new
  • Handheld tools let you tackle spot stains

The pet version of this product is also on this list, which is effectively the same product, only with an additional sprayer for dealing with pet mess. If you don’t have pets, then you might as well save the cash and buy the Vax Platinum SmartWash Carpet Cleaner.

A solid and large carpet cleaner, this is a great model for fully deep cleaning your house. It has two brushes in the chunky floor head, which are built to agitate dirt. This model has a 1.9-litre water tank, plus a separate tank for concentrated detergent: the mixing takes place automatically, and mixed detergent is dosed automatically. That’s a brilliant combination as only the amount of detergent required is used, cutting costs on detergent costs. A 1.9-litre tank is used for dirty water. Typically, then, the dirty tank has to be emptied a couple of times for each clean.

For getting stains, there’s a plug-in hose and tools, including the automatic SpinScrub, which agitates dirt automatically.

Once the carpet cleaner has been used, it can be put into dry-only mode, to suck up as much moisture as possible, reducing drying time.

Cleaning performance is excellent. Our mud stains were gone fast, and our tricky ketchup stain dramatically reduced when using the Vax Platinum SmartWash Carpet Cleaner in normal upright mode; switching to handheld mode, we managed to clean up the rest of the stain fast.

If you’ve got a lot of carpets and want to keep them in the best condition, then this is a great tool.

Full review: Vax Platinum SmartWash Carpet Cleaner review

Reviewer: David Ludlow

Bissell PowerClean

The best compact carpet cleaner


  • Powerful cleaning
  • Quite compact
  • Easy to use


  • Loud
  • No spot cleaning tools

If you don’t have much carpet, say just one room or a couple of rugs, then the Bissell PowerClean could be for you. This is a compact carpet cleaner that doesn’t take up much room. The main downside is that it lacks handheld tools, so it isn’t ideal for spot-cleaning stains. You’ll either need a separate spot cleaner or a bigger upright if you want handheld precision.

This upright cleaner stacks the tanks on top of each other: a 2.36-litre tank for water and detergent, and a 1.72-litre tank for dirty water. Typically, a clean will mean emptying the dirty tank once before the clean tank is empty.

Detergent is manually dispensed. It’s worth squeezing while moving forwards and then releasing to clean up the mess. Carpet cleaners that auto dose are easier to use but more expensive.

Cleaning performance is good: our mud stains took a couple of swipes to clean up, but our tough ketchup stain took quite a bit of working to get out (a cleaner with a handheld tool is faster for this kind of mess).

If you don’t have much storage space or much carpet, this compact cleaner has comparable power to its bigger rivals.

Full review: Bissell PowerClean review

Reviewer: David Ludlow

Tineco Carpet One Pro

The best high-end carpet cleaner


  • Uses heat to dry carpet
  • Automatically adjusts detergent dose
  • Powerful cleaning action


  • Expensive
  • Annoying voice prompts

Tineco’s first carpet cleaner is an incredible bit of engineering, bringing some of the smarts from the company’s cordless vacuum cleaner range. The good news is that the new tech needs no complicated controls to use it, and the Tineco Carpet One Pro is just as easy to use as any other carpet cleaner.

There’s a 2-litre detergent tank, which should be filled with water and detergent, plus a 1.5-litre dirty water tank, which has a float that cuts off water flow when full. This dirty tank has a foot pedal to remove it, which keeps the tank secure in place while the carpet cleaner is in operation.

What makes the Tineco Carpet One Pro different is its LCD screen. This shows you troubleshooting information and can show you how to set up the cleaner. The ring around the outside shows how clean the carpet is: if there’s any red, the carpet is dirty; when it goes completely blue, the carpet is clean. Cleverly the cleaner auto doses: dispensing detergent when pushing forwards and sucking up on a pull-back.

Next, the cleaner heats its cleaning solution to 40°C, which is the optimal temperature for the company’s cleaning products.

To help dry the carpet, the Tineco Carpet One Pro has a dry-only mode and can blow hot air at between 70°C and 80°C. Again, the LCD comes into action, showing how dry the carpet is, using the onboard humidity sensor.

The cleaning is impressive. Our mud stain was gone almost instantly, thanks to the powerful brush agitating dirt, while the cleaner left our carpet almost dry to the touch. Our ketchup stain needed a bit more work, and we finished it with the handheld tool.

The Tineco Carpet One Pro is a lot more expensive than the competition, but it has a lot more technology. If you want the best, then this is it.

Full review: Tineco Carpet One Pro review

Reviewer: David Ludlow

Vax SpotWash Home Cordless

The best spot cleaner for simple jobs


  • No cables
  • Cleans as well as plug-in model
  • ‘Clean’ and ‘dirty’ tools


  • A fair bit more expensive than plug-in version

Designed for convenience, the Vax Spotwash is a cordless spot washer best used for removing small household stains from carpets and upholstery. 

You may worry about how powerful a battery-operated carpet cleaner actually is compared to a wired appliance, however the Vax Spotwash boasts a 4Ah battery which is the among the largest available in its bracket. We also found in our tests that the Vax Spotwash lasted for a decent 25-minutes while on standard mode.

There’s a handy boost mode which increases the washer’s power and reduces the amount of passes needed to clean. In our tests we found the battery lasted around 18-minutes when using boost mode which should be long enough to see you through the clean. 

Using the Spotwash is easy too with a large button to turn it on and off, and an equally large button for turning the boost function on and off. You can also check how much battery charge is remaining by pressing the top button which will indicate its level using LED lights.

Its 1.1L water tank has clearly marked fill lines for water and detergent, so you can be sure you’re always using the correct amount. There’s also a 700ml tank for dirty water which can be lifted out easily for emptying after washing.

The Spotwash also comes with various tools to help remove those tougher stains, including a larger handheld tool with both a soft carpet cleaning brush and stiff bristles for hard floors. You’ll also receive a smaller handheld tool with just a brush, particularly useful if you have pets, and a nifty crevice tool for getting in hard to reach areas.

We found that the Vax Spotwash removed most stains well, however deeper stains or those notoriously difficult stains, such as red wine, needed multiple passes to completely clean. 

If you want the convenience of a battery-operated carpet cleaner that you can easily take around the house then the Vax Spotwash is a great choice. 

Reviewer: David Ludlow

Full review: Vax SpotWash Home Cordless

Vax SpotWash Max Pet-Design

The best spot cleaner for messy jobs


  • Very powerful
  • Excellent range of tools
  • Clever hose clean design


  • A little bigger than other spot washers
  • Loud

At 5.5kg, the Vax SpotWash Max Pet-Design is a beast of a spot cleaner, able to run for much longer and clean faster than its predecessors, thanks to its powerful 450W suction that makes light work of tough, dried-in stains. 

You’ll find a 2.8-litre tank for clean water and detergent, plus a second 2.2-litre tank for collecting dirty water. Both are impressively large and allow you to use the SpotWash for longer before needing to add more detergent or change the dirty water.  

Despite its size (which is actually one of the largest we’ve seen on a spot cleaner), the dirty water tank is especially easy to empty and takes a matter of seconds to wash out and replace.  

Vax has also thrown in lots of useful tools for an entire home clean, including a wide head tool for everyday jobs, a soft brush for carpets and upholstery and the Messy Clean Up tool – a brush designed for those particularly nasty pet messes. 

There’s also Vax’s own Spin Scrub, a motorised tool that spins as it cleans to agitate hard, dried in stains and removes them just as quickly. 

Finally, there’s a crevice tool which has a small brush and a suction-only size, created for getting into hard-to-reach areas. 

Overall we found that the Vax SpotWash Max Pet-Design cleaned quickly, with even notoriously difficult dried-in red wine carpet stains taking just five minutes to clean entirely. It’s worth noting that some stains will naturally require more detergent than others, which can result in dampened upholstery. 

Having said that, we found in our tests that the maximum carpet humidity was around just 26% which although does feel slightly damp to touch, didn’t take long to completely dry. Just ensure you don’t saturate a delicate surface area. 

Boasting a host of useful tools, large capacity and powerful suction, the SpotWash Max Pet-Design is perfect for busy households that need that extra bit of cleaning. 

Full Review: Vax SpotWash Max Pet-Design

Reviewer: David Ludlow


Spot, shampoo or steam?

Choose the type of carpet cleaner to suit your house. Shampoo cleaners tend to be big and heavy, but they’re the best way to lift spills, deep stains or ingrained dirt from soft floor coverings in a single room – or even a whole house. A spot cleaner is for sucking up smaller spills, or dealing with localised staining; you can’t clean a whole carpet with one. Neither type is usually designed to clean hard floors.

Steam cleaners are great at cleaning hard floors, and you can usually turn them to all sorts of other jobs such as window or oven cleaning. They’ll do a decent job of lifting dirt from carpets, but it may take more work, and the carpet could end up pretty damp. If you have a mix of floor coverings, however, they could be ideal.

How much effort are they to use?

The amount of work you’ll need to put in varies greatly. A big shampoo cleaner will be heavy to lift around and push about, but with automatic soapy water dispensing, rotating brushes and a vacuum to recover the mess, they usually clean well in just one or two passes. With a spot cleaner, a steamer or if you’re using a shampooer’s detail attachments, you may need to manually add detergent, do some brushing and soak the mess out yourself.

What accessories do I need?

If your focus is carpets, the floorhead of a shampooer will cover most eventualities. Look for detail attachments that help you reach into corners, tackle stubborn stains, or clean soft furnishings. Steam cleaners can be versatile, but ensure there’s a carpet glider included or soft floors will be hard work. Don’t expect lots of gadgets with a spot cleaner, particularly a portable one. In all cases, check the photos with our review – we always show everything that came in the box. Consult the manufacturer if you don’t see everything you need, as some brands do sell additional accessories.

What else is important?

Our reviewers pay a lot of attention to practicality, and our full reviews always mention the particularly good or bad features we discover. Look for hoses that can reach high targets such as a curtain pelmet, and cables at least as long as your biggest room. Water tanks need to be big enough to support a decent run time – especially in the case of steam cleaners, which may take many minutes to warm up or cool down between fills.

What’s the best way to use a carpet cleaner?

If you have a carpet cleaner, it’s wise to use it for periodic refreshes to keep your carpets looking their best, but don’t overdo it – each pass will scrub fibre off your carpets, which could lead to them looking thinner over time. If you’re buying a spot cleaner for emergency spills, consider where you’ll put it: you’ll want it close at hand for when the kids spill Ribena on the sofa.

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