Best Carpet Shampooers and Upholstery Cleaners for Pets


Vacuum cleaners suck up dust, dirt, and dog hair from carpets and hard floors, but when you need a deeper cleaning, carpet cleaners (also called rug shampooers) combine suction power with cleaning sprays, rotating brushes, and rinse water to remove stains, odors, and stubborn grime.

For an overview of popular models, we checked with Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, and The New York Times Wirecutter. These organizations tested dozens of large and small carpet cleaners for pets and reported their results during the past six months.

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Full-sized or upright cleaners

Full-sized carpet cleaners are larger and heavier than vacuum cleaners because of their water tanks, which supply cleaning solutions mixed with water during treatment, and store sucked-up dirty water after cleaning. Accessories include hoses, pretreatment options, and hand-held tools. The machines’ size and weight are important considerations, and so are their price tags, which range from $100 to $500 or more. Full-sized pet-cleaning rug shampooers are a good match to physically active dog owners who vacuum often and expect to use a shampooer at least twice a year.

The laboratory tests mentioned here involved large swatches of white or off-white carpet and colorful stains like dirt, red wine, red clay, yellow ammonia (to simulate pet urine), actual urine, ice cream, chocolate, nut butters, Coke, blue Gatorade, caramel syrup, orange soda, coffee, ketchup, orange juice, tea, mustard, soy sauce, chili oil, and egg yolks. The tested machines were rated according to their stain-removing efficiency, convenience, ease of use, and noise level.  All of the models listed here are suitable for use on carpets, area rugs, and upholstery.

BISSELL JETSCRUB PET CARPET CLEANER ($260)

This machine is the top pick of Better Homes and Gardens because of its effectiveness (cleaning quickly and thoroughly) and ease of use. “Our testers used the deep clean option when tackling various stains – chocolate, wine, dirt, and coffee – and noted it only took three wet and dry passes to get each stain off of the carpet.” This model has a “clean shot” pre-treater, retractable handle, compact size, and simple assembly. It weighs 12.34 pounds and holds 60 ounces (almost 2 quarts) of water.

HOOVER POWERDASH PET ADVANCED FH55050 ($140)

Consumer Reports lists this machine as its top model. “It cleans just 5 to 7 square feet of carpet per tank of solution,” says its report, “but the 8-foot hose gives you lots of room to work without constantly moving the machine.” It weighs 16.25 pounds and holds 2 quarts (1/2 gallon) of water. Should the FH55000 model be out of stock, Consumer Reports recommends HOOVER POWERDASH PET FH50700 ($120), which has similar features.

Consumer Reports rates the BISSELL PROHEAT 2X LIFT-OFF PET 15651 ($309) as its second favorite full-sized carpet cleaner because it covers 15 square feet on a tank of solution, which is twice what some other top-rated machines can do. This model weighs 24.25 pounds and holds almost 3 quarts of water.

HOOVER SMARTWASH PET AUTOMATIC CARPET CLEANER ($249). The Good Housekeeping Institute rated this as their favorite overall carpet cleaner for pets. In addition to conducting in-lab testing, one tester used this model to clean old pet stains at home and found that it worked better than models previously tried. It cleans on forward passes and dries on back passes. An onboard wand of oxy stain solution zaps pet messes and Heatforce technology speeds carpet drying. This model weighs 18.9 pounds and holds 1 gallon of water.

TINECO CARPET ONE SMART CARPET CLEANER ($499) is the New York Times Wirecutter’s top choice. “This model operated more smoothly, tackled common household stains better, and left the carpet drier than all of tis competitors,” says its report. “We compared how our test models tackled common household stains, including dirt, urine, wine, soda, and ice cream.” The testers called the Tineco easy to operate, comfortable to maneuver, and considerably quieter than most machines. Helpful voice prompts warn of technical errors and remind you to refill or empty the tanks. An LED display shows cleaning progress and the carpet’s dryness level.  This model weighs 16.5 pounds and holds 1 gallon of water.

Portable Carpet Cleaners

Full-sized, upright rug shampooers are the workhorses of home carpet cleaning, but when the pet mess is small, a portable carpet cleaner may be all you need. These cleaners are easier to use than full-sized machines, and with appropriate attachments, can be used on carpets, area rugs, upholstery, mattresses, pet beds, and car interiors.

BISSELL LITTLE GREEN PORTABLE CARPET CLEANER ($120) and BISSELL LITTLE GREEN PROHEAT PORTABLE CARPET CLEANER ($138) earned Consumer Reports’ highest ratings. “There were few differences between the two machines,” says the CR report, “beyond the fact that the Bissell ProHeat has a stair-cleaning tool and looks a little more modern. Both are as noisy as a standard vacuum but the ProHeat is a smidge quieter.” Each weighs just under 10 pounds and holds 1-1/2 quarts of water. To use either model, spray a mixture of hot water and cleaning solution from an onboard tank onto the fabric surface, apply it for the recommended amount of time, and then vacuum it up.

Good Housekeeping rates the BISSELL SPOTCLEAN PET PRO PORTABLE CARPET CLEANER ($175) as the best portable carpet cleaner for pets, noting its special container system for pet messes, 3-quart water tank, and effective urine-eliminator cleaning solution. It weighs 13 pounds.

RUG DOCTOR’S PET PORTABLE SPOT CLEANER ($152) is Better Homes and Garden’s favorite portable carpet and upholstery cleaner because of its maneuverability (it rolls like a wheeled suitcase) and effectiveness when combined with 5-minute pretreatments. It weighs 19 pounds. The water tank, which holds 2 quarts (1/2 gallon) can be tricky to fill by yourself but easy with a helper.

Things to consider before purchasing

All of the carpet cleaners mentioned here are described in detail at their manufacturers’ and retailers’ websites, so look online for descriptions of tools, accessories, cord lengths, hose lengths, convenience, cleaning solutions, and noise levels measured in decibels. (For comparison, 80 decibels is the average noise level for carpet cleaning machines.) Someone living in a one-story home may not need a long hose or long electrical cord while someone with carpeted stairs or large carpeted rooms may need both. Large-capacity water tanks are handy, but 1 gallon of water adds 8 pounds to the machine weights listed here. Pet carpet cleaner websites feature demonstration videos, customer ratings, and comments.

Finding a machine that fits well with you and your pets is worth the time and effort involved. With the help of a good carpet cleaner, any pet mess that comes your way will be a manageable and temporary inconvenience.





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About the Author: Tony Ramos

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