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The Best Carpet Cleaners of 2023

With wildfires raging in the north and poor air quality across the country, maintaining a healthy home environment is more important than ever. If you have carpet in your home, these fibers can be a breeding ground for outdoor pollutants like dirt, mold, allergens, pet dander, and wildfire smoke particles. These substances may pose health risks, especially for sensitive groups.

Hiring a professional carpet cleaning company can be expensive, especially if your home has a lot of carpet. This is where a carpet cleaner comes in handy for spot cleaning and care.

To help you make an informed decision, we set out to compare seven of the most popular carpet cleaning machines. Our testing procedures have been carefully designed, combining basic physical principles with a great deal of patience. So let’s use some lab equipment and discover the results.

What is the best carpet cleaner?

There are so many good things about Hoover Power Scrub Carpet Cleaner. True to its name, it features SpinScrub technology with five circular rotating brushes, which have been proven to be very effective at removing dirt and stains from white carpets. Not surprisingly, the device outperformed the competition in all categories, with impressive cleaning efficiencies of 59.2 percent for wine, 46.2 percent for coffee and 30.4 percent for motor oil.

The Hoover Power Scrub features a 6-inch stair tool, 3-inch upholstery tool, 4-inch crevice tool and SpinScrub hand tool, along with tested formulas, a removable nozzle piece and brushes for quick cleaning and replacement for exceptional versatility. Its two cleaning modes, Wash and Rinse, proved particularly useful in our rigorous dirt test, earning it second place in the category with a cleaning score of 68.8.

What makes this unit even more appealing is its affordability: As of this writing, it’s on sale for $170, making it the least expensive carpet cleaning unit on this list. Despite its affordable price, the Hoover Power Scrub packs powerful cleaning performance and comes with handy attachments for cleaning hard-to-reach areas. With all these features, it’s no surprise that Hoover Strong Scrub is our clear winner.

At $310 as of this writing, the Bissell ProHeat 2X Lift-Off might be a bit pricey, but it more than makes up for it with its excellent cleaning performance and impressive versatility. In our stain removal test, it achieved 58%, 25% and 30% solid cleaning effectiveness on red wine stains, coffee stains and motor oil stains, respectively. What’s more, it passed our rigorous stain test with a clean score of 60.6.

The Bissell ProHeat 2X Lift-Off comes with a 3-inch Tough Stain Tool and two formulas tested, and the best part is that it easily converts to a portable carpet cleaner. As the name suggests, you can detach the water/solution tank from the rest of the machine, attach the aforementioned Tough Stain Tool via the included hose, and take its cleaning power with you wherever you need it. This feature is especially useful if you’re looking for an efficient carpet cleaner that you can use to clean other hard-to-reach surfaces, such as the interior of your car, stairs, crevices, and living room furniture.

With its cleaning power and enhanced portability, the Bissell ProHeat 2X Lift-Off proves to be a worthwhile investment for anyone looking for a versatile and powerful carpet cleaning solution.

The Hoover Smartwash Pet Complete retails for $270 and proved to be a solid cleaner in our tests. Its cleaning efficiency on wine stains, coffee stains and motor oil stains is 42.7%, 32.0% and 14.5%, respectively, which is more than enough. More notably, it did well in our rigorous dirt test, with an impressive cleaning score of 77.9.

The Hoover Smartwash Pet Complete is packed with a variety of useful features to ensure a thorough cleaning experience. It includes Antibacterial Pet Tool, Removable Pre-Treatment Stick, 6-Inch Stair Cleaning Tool, Removable FlexForce PowerBrushes, and Two Sample Cleaning Formula Containers. The Pre-Treatment Wand contains a tank of pre-treatment solution and features a trigger-less handle design that simplifies the process of precisely pre-treating soiled carpet.
A standout feature of this device is the button-less cleaning mode. Simply go to the front to dispense carpet shampoo (wet stroke) and to the back to dry (dry stroke). This convenient feature simplifies spot cleaning and eliminates the need to manually switch between clean and dry modes. Don’t forget to turn on the “dry only” mode to remove excess moisture for best results. The Hoover Smartwash Pet Complete is a great choice for pet owners and anyone who wants efficient, hassle-free carpet cleaning.

Here’s How We Tested Carpet Cleaning Machines
To conduct this experiment, I went to CNET’s product testing lab in Louisville, Kentucky, where, using a reflectometer and some basic physics knowledge, I compared the cleaning efficiency of the carpet cleaning machine on display to a variety of the most common types of carpet. A comparison is made to evaluate the performance of carpet cleaning machines with staining substances.

You may remember from high school physics that colors are simply our brain’s interpretation of different wavelengths of visible light. For example, red corresponds to long, low-energy wavelengths around 700 nanometers, while blue and violet represent short, high-energy wavelengths, with violet being the shortest wavelength at just 380 nanometers.

When we see a red apple, two things happen simultaneously: the apple’s skin reflects only long-wavelength light (red) and absorbs most other light. Our eyes collect this information and immediately pass it on to the brain for processing. This allows us to perceive color (in this case, red) with astonishing precision. You might be wondering why there are no black and white in the image above. This is because white means visible light in all wavelength combinations, while black means no visible light is present.

That’s all well and good, but what does this have to do with testing carpet cleaners? I’m glad you asked.

Carpet Cleaning Efficiency Test
Our eyes can tell the difference between a clean carpet and a dirty one, but how do we actually measure the difference? In theory, if we could quantify the light reflected from a carpet sample (i.e. measure its “color”), we could evaluate the cleaning performance of any carpet cleaning machine by taking color measurements on a brand new carpet and comparing them. They are determined from measurements taken after pickling and subsequent cleaning. The ratio of these two reflectance values ​​(before and after) allows us to evaluate performance. In my testing logic, the more similar the numbers, the better the rug’s original color has been restored. We can repeat this process for each UUT (unit under test) and compare the results…so, yes, that’s exactly what we did.

A reflectometer is a device used in many color matching applications in industries such as textiles and paints. Fortunately, the working principles of reflectometers are also suitable for our purposes. Our Model 577PC Photovoltaic Reflectometer has a seeker unit or “probe” that houses a tungsten lamp that emits light in all directions around the chamber and then measures how much of that light is reflected back to its photoelectric sensor. This measurement produces a voltage that is linearly related to the amount of reflected light seen by the photosensor, allowing us to quantify light and color. science!

We use the whiteness index as a frame of reference. This parameter is used to measure the “whiteness” of a sample by measuring the reflectance of the sample under two different filters (blue and green) and then using an equation to correlate and normalize these values. Since we used white carpet for this test, the before and after WI values ​​give us an idea of ​​exactly how much dirt and stains each carpet cleaner was effectively removing from the carpet.

So we divided up four 6″ x 6″ “point squares,” each of which should contain some type of soil. We placed the search device on a brand new white carpet sample and measured its WI. To ensure repeatability and accuracy, five measurements were taken at different locations within the floor square and the reflectance readings were averaged.

We selected four coloring substances:

150ml sweet red wine: a sugary alcoholic substance with proven coloring power.
150ml Black Coffee: An acidic everyday substance that contains tannins, a naturally occurring coloring agent.
150ml Motor Oil: Our choice for oily stains. Difficult to remove because it does not mix well with the water drained from the test sample.
60g Tomato Paste: An organic tomato-based substance that has proven to be the most difficult stain to remove.

We first soil the square section and let the soil settle for about an hour. Then we start the cleaning process. Do two cleaning cycles for each dirty square. A cleaning cycle consists of two wet strokes and four dry strokes. Finally, we measured the reflectance values ​​at the same five locations as before and averaged them. The ratio of the final WI value to the initial WI value indicates how effectively the carpet cleaner is restoring the carpet to its original white color.

Difficult Chaos Test

Ketchup, it turns out, is the hardest dirt to remove. Since each cleanser struggles to remove it from carpet in just two, we think it deserves its own category. Therefore rigorous measurement tests are required.

For this challenge, we set each cleaner to the “Maximum” or “Heavy Soil” setting as recommended by the manufacturer, and performed any additional cleaning steps such as: B. Pre-treatment with the included chemical cleaner , pretreatment and cleaning with steam, etc. We modified the WI equation to make it more suitable for comparison, and we followed the same procedure for color measurement and comparison of WI values.


Note that the design of this test is difficult. To ensure comparability, these devices only allow a limited degree of cleaning in a controlled manner. More importantly, the WI equation assumes that the sample under the reflectometer is fairly close to pure white. White printer paper is 91% white, while our rugs are 55% white. This is the whitest rug we could find, but it’s not that white. So don’t be surprised if the overall results look low.

Fun fact: We took a total of 700 measurements as part of this experiment in order to give you the right information so you can make an informed buying decision that suits your needs. The table below summarizes the results. Remember: the higher the value, the better.

We Test More Carpet Cleaning Machines
Bissell Hydrosteam Pet Model 3423: I had high hopes for this model, as it is one of the most expensive models on the market, but it turned out to only get the third-worst score in our rigorous measurement test. Despite using steam delivery technology to pre-treat and clean carpets, we weren’t happy with its performance.

Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Model 3587: This unit scored surprisingly high on our endurance test, finishing third in this category with a respectable score of 66.1. However, it doesn’t work as well at cleaning other types of stains—in fact It finished our test with the third-lowest overall cleanliness rating. It comes with a 2-in-1 upholstery nozzle, 3-in-1 stair nozzle, 3-inch deep spot nozzle, and a very handy tray for cleaning appliances, but we think there are better options out there.

Hoover Pro Clean Pet Carpet Cleaner: One of the least expensive models in the line, but it doesn’t perform very well. First off, this Hoover was the only device in our test that received a failing grade. It’s never a good thing for garlic and motor oil, and it even looks like dirt is spread across the carpet.

Bissell Crosswave Hydrosteam All-in-One Multi-Surface Cleaner 3515 performed worst in our cleaning efficiency test and hard soil test. Sliding the unit over our low-pile carpet was very difficult, probably due to friction on the carpet filaments preventing the cleaning brush roll. Highlights of this product include the ability to emit steam and use it to clean other surfaces such as wooden floors.

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