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How to buy the best carpet cleaner

By Haddi Browne

Expert tips on how to choose the best carpet cleaner for lifting muck and leaving carpets fresh and bright again

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A good-quality carpet cleaner can give your carpets a new lease of life and keep them looking spic and span. 

But as well as making sure you get one that does the job right, it's also worth thinking about whether it's the right fit for your home. Some are large and bulky, and will be a struggle to carry upstairs or store, others have features that aim to make regular cleaning easier, or tackle tough everyday spills.

They can cost hundreds of pounds, so use our guide to get the lowdown on what to think about and the useful features to look out for.

In this guide:

Just want to see which models we recommend? See our pick of the best carpet cleaners.

Video: how to buy the best carpet cleaner 

Watch our quick carpet cleaner buying guide:

Types of carpet cleaner 

Carpet Cleaners

These spray water and detergent on your carpets, scrub them and then suck dirty water back up into the machine. Some also have attachments for cleaning hard floors. They aren't designed to pick up debris and loose dirt, so you'll need to vacuum carpets first before cleaning for the best results.

Multi-function, or two-in-one cleaners

These usually have a dry vacuuming function as well as a washing mode, so you don't need to get out two gadgets when it's time to do the cleaning. You'll save on storage space too. 

However, they don't tend to vacuum as effectively as a standalone vacuum cleaner. Some just spray water onto carpets and don't do any scrubbing either, which means they can be less good at washing carpets too.

See our pick of the top five best vacuum cleaners.

How much do I need to spend on a carpet cleaner? 

Carpet cleaners are typically priced between £75 and £350, and our tests show that it's worth spending more than the bare minimum to ensure you get a model you can rely on.

Most carpet cleaners we've tested that cost less than £100 have failed to make an impact in our lab tests.

Spending more doesn't guarantee pristine carpets though. We've tested pricey carpet cleaners costing hundreds of pounds that do an awful job of lifting grime and leave carpets grubby.

To avoid disappointment and to get the best for your budget, check our carpet cleaner reviews to find out which carpet cleaners we recommend

What are the most useful carpet cleaner features? 

The main things to consider when buying a carpet cleaner are:

  • Weight - some models are really heavy and large. If you're short on storage space, or have lots of stairs, look for a lightweight and compact model.
  • Type of carpet - how often you should wash your carpets depends on the type. Check the manufacturer's instructions to ensure a carpet cleaner is suitable.
  • How dirty your carpets get - high traffic households, such as those with pets, smokers or children, may need more frequent cleaning.

Other handy features to consider are:

  • Quick-dry mode - this setting uses less water for a lighter clean and faster drying times, typically within an hour. It's good if you want to do regular light cleans to keep on top of grime.
  • 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 stairs, upholstery and other carpeted surfaces.
  • Water tank heater - to increase the effectiveness of washing by keeping the water warm.

Carpet cleaner hire - is the Rug Doctor any good? 

If you'd prefer not to shell out on a carpet cleaner to keep, or simply want to try before you buy, you can hire one instead.

The Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 is one of the most popular rentable models, and costs around £33 to hire for 24 hours (correct as of July 2019).

The price includes a litre of carpet detergent, which Rug Doctor says is enough to clean up to two rooms and protect them against future spills. The Rug Doctor is available to hire from stores across the UK including Asda, Homebase, B&Q, Morrisons, Johnsons Cleaners, Tesco, the Co-operative and the Range.

See how well the rental Rug Doctor and other Rug Doctor carpet cleaners do in our Rug Doctor carpet cleaner reviews.

Can carpet cleaners be used on hard floors? 

Some carpet cleaners can be used on hard floors, but make sure you check the specification before you buy if you want one that can be used on multiple surfaces.

It's important not to use carpet washers or multi-function machines on unsealed laminate or wooden floors though, as these surfaces can be damaged by the water.

Now find the perfect carpet cleaner for you by checking out our carpet cleaner reviews

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