Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed products and single out the most convincing ones. (You can learn more about our rating system and how we pick each item here.)
And while we’ve written about lots of vacuums and cleaners before — including standing vacuums, handheld vacuums, and robot vacuums — here, we’ve rounded up the best carpet steam cleaners, as praised by the most enthusiastic reviewers on Amazon.
Best-rated carpet steam cleaner
Over 9,000 customers gave this Hoover carpet cleaner a five-star review, including one reviewer who used this during a “fecal nightmare” involving his Great Dane. “This cleaner scrubbed like there was no tomorrow. I had to do a little more than the manual recommended passes but not only do I not see any evidence from the crime committed, I can lay my face on the crime scene and SMELL NOTHING,” he reports. Few reviewers had such dramatic stories, and it’s still effective for smaller, more mundane experiences. One customer has two messy kids — “a 2-year-old chocolate milk junie and a 6-year-old food-spilling champion” — and this machine helped make their carpet look so much better. “‘Wow,’ that’s what my wife said when she first saw the carpet after I finished.” While he felt the “steam” option was a “gimmick” at first, he changed his mind after testing it out: “I feel it helps the carpet dry faster.”
Best-rated (less expensive) carpet steam cleaner
“Holy moly! It picks up a CRAZY amount of deeply embedded debris, dirt, stains, and hair,” says one customer who runs a doggie day care and boarding service out of her home. Her “carpet sees high traffic regularly and potty accidents on occasion from the puppers,” and this Hoover cleaner made a big difference in managing the problem. “You can’t deny the results when cleaning out the dirty water tank either,” she says, now with a spotless carpet. Nearly 600 other customers also call out how lightweight this cleaner is. One describes it as “the same size as a Shark vacuum,” which is our best-rated vacuum pick, so it’s not as bulky as some other carpet steam cleaners. While it may not have the same power as some of the more industrial picks, she says she doesn’t “mind the smaller size.” But another customer says the smaller size doesn’t affect how powerful it is. “The amount of cat hair this thing sucks up is insane,” she says. “I freaking love this thing. It’s small but extremely powerful. It snaps together easily to fill and change water.”
Best automatic carpet steam cleaner
This carpet cleaner is “automatic,” which means that instead of having to press any buttons, all you have to do is push it forward to clean and push it back to steam. And lots report that this makes cleaning much more simple. “This thing flat out works,” says one customer, who adds, “The dry-only mode is the key to success,” so you should always “use that mode after rinsing — nice slow passes and your carpet will dry out in no time.” Another customer almost didn’t buy it because of the automatic feature — “I wasn’t sure how it would work compared to how I used my old machine,” he says — but after testing it out, he reports, “In practical use, it has been great and requires less thought.” If you need any assistance, he also shares his “technique”: “I like to pass over an area with the soap in place. I pull the soap dispenser and do a second pass with just clean water to rinse more of the soap off. I then switch to water extraction mode and do a final pass to suck up as much water as possible so it dries faster.”
Best portable carpet steam cleaner
Many of these carpet steam cleaners are bulky, but this Bissell cleaner is designed to be portable, so you can easily move it between each room. And while it won’t work for large carpeted areas, customers say it’s great for cleaning upholstery and area rugs. “I was hoping this more portable version would save me the hassle of taking the big machine out for small jobs,” explains one customer. Within just a few weeks of use, he says it’s “taken the milk and snack stains out of my carpets in seconds, removed a pet accident completely with no odor or stain remaining, and removed stains from my car’s seats and carpets that I couldn’t get out no matter when I tried.” Another perk of the portable size is that it’s easy to store. “I can have it out and ready to go in a matter of seconds and storage is just as quick. By far one of my favorite cleaning tools,” one reviewer says.
Best carpet steam cleaner for spot cleaning
Much like the portable Bissell cleaner above, this Bissell SpotClean isn’t a full-size carpet steam cleaner, but customers say this one is a bit more heavy-duty, especially when it comes to deep, difficult to remove stains. In fact, nearly 800 customers take this steam cleaner by its name and use it to spot clean. “Um, this is AMAZING. I shouldn’t be this excited about a vacuum, but I really am,” writes one customer. She lives in a small apartment and doesn’t have room for a large, bulky machine, so she needed something very efficient. This fit the bill: “All the spots and stains (from a variety of wine spills, food spills, cigarette ash, dissenters of my no-shoes rule) are gone, and the carpet looks basically BRAND NEW.” Another customer is “incredibly stunned by the quality of cleaning this machine does.” He needed to “remove pet stains and odor from a heavily used section,” and this steam cleaner did the job and was lightweight enough to move from spot to spot. Plus, it comes with a “small bottle of professional cleaning solution to be added into the water.”
Best professional carpet steam cleaner
“Probably one of the best purchases I’ve ever made,” says one reviewer, who says this is their second steam cleaner. “This thing smoked the hell out of the Hoover consumer carpet cleaners by a landslide.” And over 500 more reviewers describe this carpet steam cleaner as “professional” — some even say it’s better than a professional cleaner. “If you own a home with carpets, this is a must own,” says one customer who calls this a “rare product that exceeds expectation.” He used to use a professional service but decided to save some money for the long run and buy a cleaner himself. And as it turns out, “The professional service used before didn’t do near the job this machine did,” he says. Some worry about the price, but he assures it is worth it. “While $300-$400 for one seems like a lot, it is a great investment since these have a long warranty and rentals cost about $30 PER DAY at many places. This machine will pay for itself and still look brand new unlike those gross dirty rental units with who knows what germs and filth residue hidden within.”
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