We Tested Popular Carpet Cleaners To Find The 3 That Are Worth Your Money

We Tested Popular Carpet Cleaners To Find The 3 That Are Worth Your Money

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Pets — they may be your best friend, but they’re your carpet’s worst enemy (and if you have young kids, you know they’re a close second). If your children or pets are constantly dirtying up your carpet, you might want to add a carpet cleaner to your regular cleaning routine.

Carpet cleaners are wet vacuums that use cleaning sprays, brushes, and suction power to remove stains and odors from your carpet. To help keep your floors looking clean and smelling fresh, we tested out nine of the most popular portable and upright carpet cleaners to find the best models for any home.

Best upright carpet cleaner overall

The Hoover SmartWash+ is built around simplicity thanks to its automatic carpet spraying system.

Best premium carpet cleaner for pet hair

The Bissell ProHeat 2x Revolution Pet Pro is pricey, but you’ll also get excellent features like a heated clean water tank and a specialty hose attachment for removing pet hair.

Best portable carpet cleaner overall

Thanks to the Hoover CleanSlate Pet’s seven-inch vacuum head and compact design, you won’t have to sacrifice performance for portability.

From top to bottom, the Hoover SmartWash+ has been designed around one idea: simplicity. Its intuitive triggerless spraying system automatically sprays your carpet when you move it forward and dries the carpet when you pull it backwards. It’s much more like using an upright vacuum cleaner and unlike most of the competition, which required us to hold down a spray trigger (which often left us worrying about under- or over-washing our carpet). Most notably, however, it performed just as well as the Bissell ProHeat throughout our testing despite selling for nearly $100 less.

The SmartWash+ performed excellently during our stain test and other hands-on usage. Thanks to the cleaner’s auto-spray system, we simply ran the SmartWash+ back and forth over our carpet samples until the carpet’s soy sauce, red wine, and dirt stains disappeared. After a few passes with the Hoover, our carpet looked good as new, without any trace of our test stains.

The SmartWash+ has dual dedicated solution and clean water tanks and automatically mixes from both tanks as you clean, so unlike many of the other carpet cleaners we tested you don’t have to worry about mixing too much or too little solution together or having water sit in a tank for too long. You can easily refill water once your clean water tank runs out without having to mix a new batch of solution. The SmartWash+ also has a convenient Dry Only mode that lets you “vacuum” your carpet without triggering its forward spraying function. A handy backlit display tells you when the SmartWash+ is in spraying or drying mode.

If anything goes wrong with your cleaner, the SmartWash+ comes with an extended five-year warranty. It has one of the widest cleaning heads we tested, at 12 inches an inch wider than the Bissell ProHeat, and it’s ½-gallon dirty water tank was a bit larger than the Bissel’s 0.4 gallon tank. A 22 foot power cord and 8-foot attachment hose give you plenty of room to work.

That said, the SmartWash+’s lower price compared to the Bissell ProHeat means you’ll sacrifice some convenience for affordability. If you want to spot treat tougher stains in advance with the Hoover, you’ll need to attach its eight-foot hose attachment and manually spray them. With the Bissell ProHeat’s integrated spray head, you can quickly spot treat individual stains and won’t need to carry around a separate spray bottle or a hose carrying bag.

But overall, the SmartWash+ earned its spot as our top carpet cleaner for a simple reason: it cleans carpets just as well as the Bissell ProHeat and costs $100 less. The Hoover SmartWash+’s automatic spraying system and stress-free design makes it a great option if you’re looking for an affordable upright carpet cleaner that’s effective and easy to use.

During our testing, the Bissell ProHeat 2x easily handled dirt, soy sauce, and fruit punch stains on our carpets and ample amounts of direct embedded in a large area rug, thanks to its 11-inch vacuum head and twin roller brushes. For straightforward carpet cleaning it was just as effective as the Hoover SmartWash+, but its effective pre-soaking feature and Swiss Army knife-like range of attachments made it even more versatile, and the ProHeat’s longer 25-foot power cord and 10-foot attachment hose gave us more range to work, which we appreciated while cleaning stairwells and large carpeted rooms.

Our favorite feature on the ProHeat was Bissell’s CleanShot spot treatment system. When you press the CleanShot button above the Bissell’s ProHeat’s rear wheel, a sprayer shoots out a Super Soaker-like stream of cleaning solution (a second press shuts it off, so you can control the length of the application). Although it took us a second to get comfortable aiming the CleanShot, we liked using it as a quick spot treatment tool. On the other models we reviewed, the only way to quickly pre-treat stains was by connecting an attachment hose and sprayer head to the cleaner. When we tested out the Bissell on a kitchen runner rug, we hit baked-in grease stains with the CleanShot, cleaned the rest of the carpet, and easily removed them later once the solution soaked in.

The ProHeat also uses Bissell’s Heatwave system, which relies on a small fan to heat up the cleaner’s clean water tank. By comparison, some Hoover upright cleaners vent warm air to help dry out your carpet, but none do the same for their water tank. In our testing, the heated water tank wasn’t a huge game changer — the ProHeat and Hoover SmartWash+ performed just about the same during our carpet stain removal testing, though the ProHeat lets you work for longer stretches since you don’t have to refill with warm water as you do with the SmartWash+. If you’re deep cleaning a whole floor with the Bissell, its heated water tank is a nice convenience, but we wouldn’t call it an essential feature.

The Bissell is versatile, with a strong selection of tools for a variety of carpet and upholstery cleaning tasks. Along with the 10-foot hose (2 feet longer than the Hoover SmartWash+) that attaches to the cleaner, the ProHeat also comes with a general brush head and a specialized brush head that’s an excellent fit for pet owners. The ProHeat’s Pet Upholstery tool catches hair and debris before it reaches your cleaner’s water tank. After a cleaning session, you can unlock the cup and empty any hair that’s inside or wrapped around the tool’s filter. We had no problems using the attachment, and if your home has animals that frequently shed everywhere, you’ll appreciate the tool.

Cleaning your carpet means ending up with a tank full of dirty water, and though upright carpet cleaners are generally harder to clean than portable cleaners, Bissell tried to make the process as painless as possible. The ProHeat’s water tanks can easily be washed out and Bissell includes a hooked plastic tool for fishing out hair and other debris in the nozzle. You can also pop off the ProHeat’s nozzle housing by holding down two clearly marked buttons on the cleaner’s frontside.

We do wish Bissell made it easier to remove the brush heads if you want to do a deeper cleaning. In order to remove the rollers, you’ll need to disassemble the cleaner’s front housing with a screwdriver and pull off the gear belt. On the competing Hoover SmartWash+, you can simply remove the nozzle cover and pop out each roller brush. Bissell does offer a cleaning tray designed for power washing the ProHeat’s brushes, although it’s sold separately for $29.99.

Considering the narrow performance gap between the Hoover SmartWash+ and the Bissell ProHeat, the $100 price premium makes sense if you’re regularly cleaning lots of pet hair or stains off your furniture and want to use the cleaner’s specialty hair catcher tool. Otherwise, convenience features like the ProHeat’s sprayer are nice, but for most households, they’re not must-haves.

If you’re not planning on doing any full room or rug deep-cleaning and just want a tool that will let you take care of pet messes or spills, a portable carpet cleaner makes a lot of sense. The Hoover CleanSlate Pet was the most convenient to use and effective of the models we tested. During our testing, the CleanSlate dealt easily with salt-crusted car mats, stained kitchen rugs, and dirt and food stains and sucked up dirt without missing a beat. Thanks to the CleanSlate’s 4.5-foot hose, we had the range to comfortably reach stains and didn’t have to constantly drag the cleaner across the carpet.
The design is well-thought out, and every feature and tool is easy to reach. On top of the CleanSlate, you’ll find a carrying handle, water tanks, and a removable hose cleaning tool. To use the tool, you simply attach it to the top of the hose and hold down the solution trigger — it’ll spray cleaning solution down your hose and flush any grime right into the water tank.

Along the CleanSlate’s backside, you’ll find its power cord, hose, and narrow head attachment. Unlike a lot of vacuum extension heads, the CleanSlate’s tapered attachment includes a spray head and brush, which makes it perfect for cleaning out tight spots like nooks and seat corners. As with the hose cleaner head, you can store the attachment right on the CleanSlate and it’s a convenient touch that enhances the cleaner’s portability — you won’t have to sift through a bag or drawer every time you need to switch cleaner heads.

The CleanSlate’s jumbo-sized cleaning tool is a key reason why it earned its spot as our top portable cleaner. At seven inches wide with swappable bristle and rubber tipped-heads, the cleaning tool is gigantic compared to typical portable cleaners with tools that top out at around four inches. By comparison, the Bissell Little Green Pro has a middling three-inch cleaning attachment. The wider tool let us get more cleaning done more quickly.

With the CleanSlate’s large cleaner head, we could cover more territory at once and didn’t have to repeatedly double back to finish cleaning stains. When we were cleaning out a car floor mat, it only took a few pre-soak sprays — the CleanSlate sprays cleaning solution downward in a wide triangular pattern — and swipes to finish cleaning the mat. With the Bissell Little Green Pro, it took us twice as long to finish cleaning the same mat because of the cleaner’s smaller head. The CleanSlate’s larger head gives it the versatility to tackle more types of carpet jobs compared to other portable cleaners — it’s not simply for spot cleaning.

The CleanSlate also comes with a two-year warranty, along with sizable 23-ounce dirty water and 40-ounce clean water tanks. Although the CleanSlate’s tanks are smaller compared to the Bissell Little Green Pro’s heftier 3/4-gallon tanks, they’re also far easier to clean. The Bissell’s dirty water tank has a small plastic lip that occasionally catches sediment along with nooks that require multiple rinses to be fully cleaned out. By comparison, the Hoover’s tank has a simpler layout and it’s easy to rinse out with some hot water and a paper towel.

If your biggest needs for a portable carpet cleaner are price, portability, and performance, the Hoover CleanSlate is a tough act to beat.

If you have carpeting or rugs in your home — and especially if you have pets or kids along with them — you’ve probably spent some time trying stain removers of various kinds to deal with spills, pet messes, and the grime that guilds up with everyday wear. But sprays and scrubbing will only get you so far.
You’ve likely seen professional carpet cleaning systems for rent at supermarkets and big box stores, and you may even have hired (or considered hiring) a service like Stanley Steemer when you’ve moved into a new place. But owning your own smaller unit can make a lot of sense, especially if you have pets or

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