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Vax, Bissell or Rug Doctor: which carpet cleaner is best?

Our 2019 carpet cleaner reviews reveal one model that had cleaning results head and shoulders above the rest

If your carpets are looking tired and grey a good clean can give them a new lease of life, as long as you buy the right machine for the job.

We’ve put popular carpet cleaners by Vax, Bissell, Rug Doctor and Numatic to the test, and found just one model that leaves carpets clean enough for us to recommend it as a Best Buy.

Nine carpet cleaners, ranging in price from £200 to nearly £500, were put to work clearing mud, wine stains and other grime from carpets. Several were mediocre, underwhelming us with their lacklustre cleaning power. Others were really poor – leaving soiled carpets almost as dull as they were before we cleaned them.

But one model triumphed, effectively lifting muck and leaving carpets looking bright and renewed. It did a good job of sucking up dirty water too, so your carpets won’t stay soggy for hours after cleaning.

Discover our top pick by heading to our round-up of the best carpet cleaners.

Why buy a carpet cleaner?

Aldi Easy Home carpet cleaner

You can rent a carpet cleaner from a number of places across the UK, including big supermarket chains and DIY stores. It currently costs around £33 to hire a Rug Doctor carpet cleaner for 24 hours.

Whether you rent or buy depends on how often you need to clean your carpets, and what kind of home you have:

  • Type of carpet – carpet manufacturers usually recommend washing your carpets twice a year. But, for light traffic households, once a year may suffice.
  • How much you need to clean – if you have lots of rooms to clean, owning might be better, so you don’t have to rush through it all in a set time frame or pay more to hire over several days.
  • How dirty your carpets get – high traffic households, such as those with pets or children, are likely to need more frequent cleans. This also applies if you smoke, wear shoes inside or have dust allergies.

If your carpets are regularly patrolled by mucky paws, you may want to clean them more frequently. In this case, owning a carpet cleaner is likely to be a more cost-effective option.

Some models now come with a ‘quick clean’ mode, for when you want to do more regular light refreshes rather than the full whack. This isn’t as intense and usually comes with quicker claimed drying times too.

Whichever option you choose, you’ll want to ensure the carpet cleaner you’re using is up to the job. We’ve tested the Rug Doctor carpet cleaner you can rent, alongside other models you can buy, to see which option gives you the best clean. Get our expert verdict in the The Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 review.

Vax vs Bissell vs Rug Doctor

We look at what the top brands in the world of carpet cleaners bring to the table (or floor) with their latest models.

Bissell carpet cleaners

Bissell StainPro 6 20096, £249

This Bissell has six rotating brushes designed to remove dirt from deep within carpets. Its recommended carpet shampoo – Wash and Remove Pro – is designed to remove tough stains permanently and protect your carpet against future stains.

We test how well each carpet cleaner tackles dried-in red wine, coffee and mud stains, and we’ve found that many really struggle with this job. Read our Bissell StainPro 6 20096 review to find out if it can live up to its name and banish the blights on your carpet.

Bissell CrossWave 1713, £249

The CrossWave is a multi-functional floor washer designed to wash, vacuum and dry both carpets and hard floors. The idea is to save time and space by eliminating the need to own multiple appliances. It’s also much lighter and smaller than most traditional carpet cleaners.

Can a 3-in-1 machine that does so many things clean carpets as well as a dedicated carpet washer? Find out by reading our full Bissell CrossWave review.

Vax carpet cleaners

Vax Platinum Power Max ECB1SPV1, £249

This Vax has five spinning scrub brushes which rotate in different directions to agitate ingrained dirt and remove it from carpets.

If you need your carpets to be dry as quickly as possible, there’s a Quick Clean mode which is supposed to have your carpets dry in under an hour.

We measure how dry each carpet cleaner leaves carpets after cleaning, so you know which ones will leave you with soggy socks for days afterwards, and which will have your carpets near-dry as quickly as possible. Read the full Vax Platinum Power Max review to see if this model cleans and dries effectively.

Rug Doctor carpet cleaners

As well as testing Rug Doctor’s beefy rental model (which you can also buy), we’ve also tested two of its other models.

The Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner (£299) has an industrial, bottom-heavy look, and a handy booster spray for pre-treating stains. By contrast, the Rug Doctor FlexClean All-in-One floor cleaner (£299) is smaller and lighter, designed for a more nimble trip around the home. It can also tackle all floor types.

Compare scores for all these models in our carpet cleaner reviews.

Carpet cleaner features to consider

While the main thing you’ll want is a carpet cleaner that does it’s job well, these are some of the extra features to look out for:

  • Quick-dry mode – this setting uses less water for faster drying times. It should have carpets dry within one hour. But if your carpets need a thorough deep-clean, use the full setting.
  • Auto-mix – some carpet cleaners mix the water and detergent automatically, saving you time.
  • Crevice tool – for cleaning in narrow spaces and tight corners.
  • Detergent spray – used to pre-treat tough stains before washing.
  • Dry vacuuming – a feature of multi-function cleaners, to pick up debris before washing.
  • Handheld scrub brush – for cleaning smaller areas such as stairs and upholstery.
  • Water tank heater – to increase the effectiveness of washing by keeping the water warm.

Find out more in our full guide to buying a carpet cleaner.

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