Are your carpets a hassle to clean? Have they dulled or collected so much dirt that a standard vacuum isn’t helping? Maybe you’re just looking for a way to restore your carpets to their former glory.
Whatever the case may be, steam cleaning is a simple and effective way to refresh soft floors. It’s not too different from vacuuming, and the reward is worth the time involved.
But how do you know which machine to pick? Which one is best for your carpets? Our guide will help you figure all of this out. By the end, you’ll have a better idea of which option is the best carpet steam cleaner for you.
Why You Need a Carpet Steam Cleaner
Some homeowners think carpet steam cleaning is more complicated than it is. Another popular misconception is that steam cleaning is an unnecessary expense. Yes, you can hire a professional to do it for you, but here are some facts you might be unaware of.
1. Kills More Germs
Steam cleaners are all the rage because of their famed antibacterial and deep-cleaning functionality. But is there any weight to this, or are they overhyped?
Science says they work. One study on the effect of steam on hay concluded that steam killed almost all bacteria and mold (1). There’s also evidence that for water to effectively kill germs, it has to be at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (2).
Based on this, steam cleaners are thought to be more effective than standard vacuums. The heat they produce wipes out almost 100 percent of bacteria and other pathogens that settle deep inside your carpets. The result is a healthier home.
2. Better Stain Removal
Cold water is indeed better for protein-based stains, but hot water shouldn’t be disregarded.
Hot water has more energy than cold water. This generates enough force to break the bonds between molecules in stains. So, from oil to paint to coffee spills, hot water is better on most fabrics than cold water.
Since steam is a by-product of this heat generation, steam cleaners are an effective solution for cleaning most carpet stains.
3. Better for the Environment
Can you believe that steam cleaning uses less water than most other cleaning methods (3)? Energy consumption depends on the product, of course. But in general, steam cleaning is an eco-friendly cleaning method.
Another point for steam cleaners is that most of them don’t use chemicals. So, you won’t have to spend money on chemical solutions, and the air will be less toxic.
If you’re conscious of the environment, steam cleaning is the best green alternative to other resource-draining tools and products.
4. They’re Affordable
Steam cleaners aren’t that different in price from traditional vacuum cleaners. Some may even be cheaper, depending on the brand, type and specs.
It’s hardly true that steam cleaners are inaccessible and expensive. On the contrary, they’re easily available and reasonably priced. Since they may even use less energy, they could save you more money than standard vacuum cleaners can.
A huge benefit to steam cleaners is that they’re also versatile. So if you choose a model with appropriate attachments, you can clean your whole home with it. From your sofa to your mattress to your tiles — steam cleaners do it all.
You’ll save more money this way because you won’t have to spend on varying tools.
5. A Must Have For Allergy-Sufferers
If you struggle with allergies regardless of how often you clean, your carpet might be the problem. Allergens like dust, pollen and pet dander cling to carpet fibers.
Unfortunately, traditional vacuuming may not always be enough. Unless you have special filters, vacuums can push allergens into the air rather than trap them.
Steam cleaners, though, don’t only kill pathogens; they tackle allergens too. They’re effective at killing dust mites, without the need to install specialized equipment (4). There’s good news for pet owners too. Steam cleaners can also kill fleas and bed bugs (5).
Boost Your Cleaning Power: For more cleaning power, consider a carpet steam cleaner that utilizes cleaning agents. Many models allow carpet shampoos in their tanks. This will give your home a more refreshing and sanitized deep clean. Beware of the added cost though.
Types of Carpet Steam Cleaners
Unlike traditional vacuuming, there isn’t too much variation when it comes to steam cleaning. Still, you do have a choice between two types of carpet steam cleaners, and the one you pick can change how you clean.
Here’s what you need to know:
These are the traditional steam cleaners, and probably the first to come to mind when you think of steam cleaning. They work by heating water and detergent or shampoo before applying both to your carpet. Much like a vacuum, a suction mechanism loosens and collects embedded dirt.
Many people prefer extractors because they’re so effective at deep cleaning. However, they’re typically intended for carpets only. So it may be rare to find one with versatile attachments.
If you ever hire a professional carpet cleaning team, chances are they will use one of these.
- Excellent deep-cleaning capacity.
- Use of detergent sanitizes floors.
- Effective stain removal.
- Carpets take longer to dry.
- Not usually versatile.
Dry Vapor Cleaners
The second type of steam cleaner is a dry vapor machine, known to some simply as a “steam cleaner.” While the mechanism is the same — water is heated, vaporized and applied to your floor — no detergents are used.
The heat of the steam is what removes dirt, germs and stains. These machines are far more versatile and can be used on almost all types of floors and fabrics. You can even use them on upholstery and glass.
If you choose one of these, you’ll pick the more environmentally friendly of the two variations. More popular than extractors for residential use, dry vapor cleaners are easier to operate and typically cost less too.
They’ll take up less storage as well since they’re generally lighter and smaller than extractors. This is a huge advantage if you live in a smaller home.
- Extremely versatile.
- No chemicals needed.
- Better ease of use.
- More affordable.
- Not as effective at stain removal.
- Lack the sanitization power of extractors.
Which One Is Right for You?
Even though there are only a couple of different variations, making that buying decision can still be tricky. Consider the following to make sure you pick one that works for you.
1. What Do You Need It For?
Don’t choose a vapor steam cleaner just because it’s fancy. Conversely, don’t go for an extractor just because it’s stronger. Your steam cleaner will be an investment, and we’d hate to see you buy one that doesn’t suit your needs.
If you need to steam clean a lot of upholstery or furniture, pick a vapor steam cleaner. This also applies if you have multiple floor types in your home and if you don’t want to use harsh cleaning agents.
On the other hand, an extractor is better if your carpets are heavily soiled. If you need to deep clean or sanitize carpets — and carpets only — you probably won’t need a vapor machine.
2. Which Chemicals Will It Use?
Should you choose an extractor, remember that there will be extra costs and efforts involved in acquiring the right detergents. Some steam cleaners can only take branded or specialized shampoos. Others might use chemicals that you’re not comfortable inhaling or being exposed to.
You’ll also have to consider the maintenance involved. How much detergent will the extractor use in a run? Are the detergents expensive or difficult to replace?
Follow the Rules
3. Does It Come with Accessories?
When picking a dry steam cleaner, pay attention to its attachments. The more you get, the higher the value for money. If you’d prefer a versatile machine, take some time to figure out exactly what you need.
The possible attachments for carpet cleaners are similar to those for a standard vacuum. You should look out for extension wands and various brushes or pads for hard floors, windows and upholstery.
Accessories aren’t guaranteed, but now you know to look for them. You’ll save money and time in cleaning if your machine comes with everything you need.
4. Where Do You Live?
This is an important consideration in steam cleaning. The climate where you live can affect how your steam cleaner works.
Both types of steam cleaners will wet your floors, but extractors will do so to a higher degree. Your carpets then need to air dry, and humidity can prolong this. So if the air around you is moist, water won’t evaporate as well into it. It will keep your carpets damp for longer, which could be a hindrance.
In comparison, the drier the air is around you, the better an extractor will work. This is not to say that you shouldn’t get one if you live in a more tropical climate. But you will need patience, so a dry vapor cleaner will probably suit you better.
Floor Drying Tip
Best Carpet Steam Cleaner Reviews of 2020
See? Understanding steam cleaning isn’t as complicated as its made out to be. Now we get to the fun part!
We put in a lot of effort into creating this list of the best carpet steam cleaners. For one, we took into account vital customer feedback and industry expert advice. We’ve also used all our tips above.
1. Bissell Big Green Professional Carpet Cleaner Machine
Why hire a professional cleaning team when you have all that power at home? Bissell claims that this professional-grade carpet steamer out-cleans the leader in steam cleaning. But it’s understandable when you look at this model’s specs.
For one, it has an extra-large power brush that drives deeply embedded dirt out from your carpet. Additionally, it has a cleaning path of 10.5 inches and is designed with sturdy, anti-tip technology. A defining feature is that two large tanks separate the clean and dirty water for more effective cleaning.
We love that although it’s a large cleaner, its ergonomic design comes in handy. It also cleans going forward and backward, so stubborn stains aren’t a match for it.
Why We Love It
Wide Cleaning Path
A 10.5-inch cleaning range is a huge deal. Think about how quickly you’ll be able to cover your floors.
To further prove how much time you’ll save, this cleaner works when it’s pushed and pulled. You’ll save energy in do-overs and will drastically reduce the cleaning time, compared to only working in one direction.
You don’t have to worry about this cleaner re-contaminating your carpets with dirty water. It has two large tanks that separate used water and fresh solution for better, refreshing cleaning.
The tanks can be dismantled easily, and disposal of used water is hassle-free. When you’re done using the machine, disconnect the tank, and dump it as you will.
This is an extractor, so we weren’t expecting Christmas with its accessories. Still, you get two great tools: a 6-inch tough stain tool and a sample of Bissell’s professional formula carpet shampoo.
These mean you can sanitize and refresh your carpets at no extra cost. They also make it easier to target stubborn stains. We think these are great additions to an already powerful cleaning machine.
Keep In Mind
Requires More Maintenance
Customers are impressed by how powerful this machine is, but some have noted faults in its design. It seems that with frequent use, its parts don’t hold up as well as expected. This, of course, adds to maintenance and replacement costs.
Users noted clogs, leaks and easy breakage of the tough stain tool. So, take good care of this model and service it regularly to prolong its lifespan.
It may seem a bit smaller than other industrial-grade carpet steam cleaners, but looks can be deceiving. This little guy weighs a surprising 48 pounds and is not so easy to push around. Consider where and how you will store it too.
|Special features||Two large tanks|
|Accessories||Tough stain tool, Bissell professional formula sample|
2. Bissell Big Green Commercial BG10
There aren’t too many differences between this and its Professional sister product. You can consider this one a more affordable alternative. You’re getting the same power, and aren’t losing any of the handy features that the Professional boasts.
It has the same 10.5-inch cleaning range and dual tanks. You can also clean both forward and backward, and it has the same ergonomic design.
The difference, though, is that this model is far more versatile. It includes an adjustable handle and two handy accessories — a dirt-lifter power brush and an easy-clean brush roller.
At 42 pounds, this model weighs a little bit less as well.
Why We Love It
We recommend this one if you’re looking for the power of Bissell’s Professional model at a more affordable price. It’s not a massive difference, but you’ll save a few bucks and get more for your money.
There are few differences between both models, and their specs are almost the same. You won’t sacrifice any cleaning power, but you will gain a little more convenience.
This feature is always a winner in our books. Extractors are rigid and often heavy, so having some control over how you use them is an advantage. You can adjust the height of this model’s handle for a more comfortable operation.
The handle fits in well with the ergonomic design of this machine. You can both push and pull it without any effect on its cleaning. As a result, it’s somewhat easier to maneuver the entire machine.
We like that this model comes with the same dirt-lifter power brush. It also includes an easy-clean brush roller to save you some time on maintenance. This accessory is a little more basic than in the Professional model, but it’ll deep-clean just as well.
We recommend this to you if you’re after a more generalized cleaning, rather than targeting stubborn or heavy soil.
Keep In Mind
Hose Sold Separately
It’s odd that Bissell chooses to sell what feels like an incomplete product, but not many customers are bothered by it. This isn’t a problem if you already have an appropriate connection for it. If not, you’ll have to spend some extra on acquiring a hose.
To counter this, you can also purchase an accessory kit for this machine. This gives it a “build-it-yourself” feel that you can take advantage of.
Doesn’t Target Dirt
It falls short compared to the professional model because it lacks tools for spot cleaning. It performs well on larger areas. But if you have problem spots on your carpet, go for the Professional model above.
|Special features||Two large tanks, adjustable handle|
|Accessories||dirt-lifter power brush, easy-clean brush roller|
3. Dupray Neat Steam Multi-Purpose Cleaner
If you’re looking for an all-purpose steam cleaner that you can use beyond your carpets, this product is a customer favorite. It’s a compact deep-cleaning solution if you don’t have space or strength to handle an extractor.
This model takes in ordinary, room temperature tap water. Then it heats up within seven minutes and gives you a run of up to 50 minutes. You can use it to combat dirt, stains, grease and even pathogens and bed bugs.
We like how it’s suitable for all surfaces. It also doesn’t hurt that it includes an 18-piece accessory kit to match your cleaning needs. This is an extremely versatile steam cleaner, and we recommend it for all-round cleaning.
Why We Love It
This model is an excellent example of the versatility of dry steam carpet cleaners. The 18-piece accessory kit covers all your needs and wants. It includes a rectangular floor tool, three microfiber pads, as well as microfiber cloth and a window tool.
You also get two extension tubes and one lance, a triangular tool and another with a bonnet and a brass brush. Also, there are five nylon brushes and a fragrance disc included. Phew!
Because of the incredible range of accessories included, you can clean almost anything with this. It’s suitable for all types of floors, windows, upholstery and even toys or other smaller objects.
This model goes above and beyond in deep cleaning your whole home.
All you need is tap water; nothing more. There’s no need to mix chemicals or shampoos, and you don’t have to heat your water first. Water added to this steam cleaner heats up in seven minutes.
It lasts a while too. You will get continuous steam for up to 50 minutes. We think that’s more than enough time to refresh your home. If it’s not, refills are a breeze because of how fast this machine works.
Keep In Mind
Users are pleased with this machine’s effect on carpets but note that it leaks quite a bit of water. Regardless of this criticism, users compliment that it dries fast. It’s worth noting, though, if you’re going to do large jobs with it, as some planning may be required.
Even though this steam cleaner is light and compact, a few customers argue that there’s nowhere to place the accessories. Onboard storage, or even an included container, would have been a wise choice on Dupray’s part.
Considering the number of attachments you receive, think about where and how you will store them. Keeping them organized might be tricky if you don’t have a designated spot.
|Special features||Heats up in 7 minutes, 50 minutes run time|
|Accessories||18-piece accessory kit|
4. Pure Enrichment Pure Clean Rolling Steam Cleaner
With this product, you get heavy-duty cleaning at an affordable price.
It keeps up with higher-end models, and we like how far its multi-purpose label goes. You can use this machine on your floors, walls, upholstery, windows and so much more — even outdoors.
It’s compact, chemical-free and includes a cool range of accessories. Included are a mop head, triangle brush, steam jet nozzle, two microfibre mop pads, a squeegee and five nylon utility brushes. You also get a brass utility brush, two extension wands, a measuring cup and a funnel.
Why We Love It
Good for Outdoor Use
Have you ever thought to clean your grill, driveway or garbage cans with a steam cleaner? We hadn’t until we found this product. It’s designed for heavy-duty use, so you can use it both indoors and out.
This versatile machine is suitable for almost all surfaces — including windows and walls. We can’t get over it.
The 18-piece accessory kit is the full package, though its components vary compared to the Dupray model. These attachments focus on multi-floor cleaning. But you also get useful tools for operating the machine, like the measuring cup and funnel.
Cleaning is made so much easier with this model, and you’ll get exactly what you need. It saves you money on the extras, and we appreciate the thought that went into including them in the package.
This cleaner was built with storage in mind. It takes up little room and utilizes cord-wrapping for hassle-free stowing.
We recommend this model if you have limited space or live in a smaller home.
Keep In Mind
Small Cleaning Path
The triangle brush works well on carpets, but users note that it’s small. So be prepared to spend a little more time on cleaning if you’re looking to keep larger areas clean. Otherwise, we recommend using this for spot cleaning.
It also has a smaller capacity than some extractor machines, but not too much of a sacrifice. This product has a 0.3-gallon tank and will last for 45 minutes of continuous steam.
Carpets May Soak
A few customers say that this steam cleaner spews out a surprising amount of water. Some leakage is expected from all steam cleaners, but this model might surprise you.
Work around this by planning your cleaning and working backward so you won’t step on your wet floor. Also, since it’s dry vapor, your carpets won’t take too long to dry.
|Multi-purpose?||All surfaces, indoor and outdoor use|
|Special features||Cord wrap, 45 minute run time|
|Accessories||18-piece accessory kit|
5. McCulloch Heavy Duty Cleaner
Sometimes all you need is a good steam cleaner that effectively cleans targeted stains and dirt. Customers are happy with this model’s power and proficiency in spot cleaning. It’s a great multi-purpose cleaner too.
No chemicals are needed as pressurized steam works against grime, grease, mold and stains. It takes only eight minutes to heat up and gives you 45 minutes of continuous steam.
A cool feature that not all steam cleaners have is a trigger lock. You’ll expend less effort while you clean, and have more consistency in your steam’s flow.
Why We Love It
This model competes with others that we’ve mentioned. It’s an affordable, heavy-duty machine with a solid run time and quick functionality. The cleaner is suitable for all surfaces and compact enough to be considered portable.
Some report this model as the full package, mentioning that it functions well as a starter steam cleaner.
Keeping up with our previous two entries, you get 18 handy attachments with this product. Included are two extension wands, two microfiber pads, a steam jet nozzle, a mop head and a triangle brush. You also get a funnel, measuring cup, squeegee, scrub pad, brass brush and five nylon utility brushes.
If you don’t want to control the steam manually, this nifty feature gives you a constant flow of steam. Your cleaning will be smoother, and you’ll exert less energy while operating the cleaner.
Keep In Mind
Better for Spot Cleaning
Customers note that this model is not intended for deep-cleaning carpets, but that it works well regardless. The triangle brush has a small path though, so it’s not so suited for larger areas.
Users are pleased with this machine’s effect on carpets and recommend it for spot cleaning.
A common criticism is that the accessories, while useful, feel cheaply made. There are few complaints of easy breakage, so we suggest you handle them with care. Regular maintenance and responsible storage should extend their lifespan.
|Special features||Pressurized steam, 8-minute heating, 45-minute run time|
|Accessories||18-piece accessory kit|
6. Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner
Extractors don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Rug Doctor is a customer favorite because it has it all: it’s affordable, powerful and versatile.
This machine uses dual cross action brushes that oscillate and rotate to drive dirt out of your carpets. Rug Doctor claims 75 percent stronger suction than its competitors for faster drying. We also like its Super Boost function, which adds more strength for heavily soiled spots.
What makes it a favorite is its usability. Unconventional extractor accessories include a removable tool caddy and an upholstery tool.
Why We Love It
Best of Both Worlds
Extractors don’t often come with handy attachments as this one does. The removable caddy and upholstery tool means that you can use this steam cleaner on smaller, vertical areas such as upholstery or car interiors.
You get all the power of extractors with the maneuverability of a dry vapor cleaner.
The dual brushes are excellent. We recommend this product if you have heavily soiled carpets that need restoring. This cleaner will actively drive dirt from your carpet fibers, thanks to its oscillating and rotation system.
Another reason why customers prefer this extractor over others is that it’s more affordable. Its power matches its competitors, but the cost knocks them out of the park. This makes an excellent starter extractor or an alternative to higher-end machines.
Keep In Mind
A few unlucky customers reported that their cleaners needed repair or replacements upon delivery. The most common complaint was that the steam wouldn’t spray. Rug Doctor attended to these complaints to customer satisfaction, and the majority of feedback doesn’t report this flaw.
We suspect it may have been a bad batch or a problem in shipping. Most customers received fully functional models.
A design flaw is that the cleaner can’t be dismantled easily for maintenance. So you’ll have to wipe the machine down after every use to prevent build-up that you may not be able to remove.
|Multi-purpose?||Floors, upholstery, car interiors|
|Special features||Dual-action oscillating and rotating brushes, removable tool caddy|
7. Wagner Spray Tech
This is a great choice if you have different types of floors throughout your home. Plus, it’s chemical-free, so it won’t mar wood or laminate and works just as well on carpets and tiles.
By heating up to 290 degrees Fahrenheit, it loosens dirt, stains, grease and grime across all of your surfaces. The 0.3-gallon tank also holds up well against competitors. This cleaner runs for a standard 45 minutes of continuous cleaning.
It comes with a 17-piece accessory kit for versatility around your home. Included are two extension wands, a microfiber towel, an angled adapter, straight adapter, jet nozzle, and a mop pad. You also get a measuring cup, funnel, cleaning brushes, a squeegee, bonnet, and microfiber cleaning pad.
Why We Love It
You can use this machine on all types of floors. This steam cleaner will come in handy inside larger homes where not all floors are carpeted. It won’t leave behind a chemical residue and refreshes carpets and upholstery.
The steam from this machine is hot enough to kill almost 100 percent of all germs, including E. coli and salmonella. So, it’s a fantastic choice if you’re looking to sanitize your home without turning to chemical extractors.
This is a small and relatively lightweight cleaner that won’t take up too much space in your home. You can store it as you would a standard vacuum cleaner — no special provisions necessary.
Keep In Mind
Better for Spot Cleaning
Customers note that while this machine works wonders on floors, it may be a little bit too small to deep clean carpets. It’s highly efficient at spot cleaning, though, so users recommend using it to target dirt instead.
This cleaner gets very hot. First, be careful when handling it, as there is an increased risk of accidental burns. Secondly, some customers say that it overheats quickly, so take care not to overdo it to preserve the motor.
|Special features||Pressurized steam, maximum 290 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Accessories||17-piece accessory kit|
Detailed Comparison Chart
|Bissell Big Green Machine||Commercial Grade||Extractor||1.75 gal.||No||Tough stain tool, Bissell professional formula sample|
|Bissell BG10||Powerful & Versatile||Extractor||1.75 gal.||No||dirt-lifter power brush, easy-clean brush roller|
|Dupray Neat Steam Multi-Purpose||Dry Steam||Dry Vapor||0.4 gal.||All surfaces||18-piece accessory kit|
|Pure Enrichment Pure Clean||Affordable||Dry Vapor||0.3 gal.||All surfaces, indoor and outdoor use||18-piece accessory kit|
|McCulloch Heavy Duty||For Spot Cleaning||Dry vapor||0.3 gal.||All surfaces||18-piece accessory kit|
|Rug Doctor Deep Cleaner||Budget Extractor||Extractor||1 gallon||Floors, upholstery, car interiors||Upholstery tool|
|Wagner Spray Tech||Multi-Floor Cleaner||Dry vapor||0.3 gal.||All surfaces||17-piece accessory kit|
Drawbacks of Carpet Steam Cleaners
Carpet steam cleaners are one of the most effective ways to manage your soft floors. They’re excellent at killing germs and restoring the condition of your carpets and rugs.
But, they’re not for everyone. Keep these points in mind before committing to a specific machine:
- Wet floors: Steam cleaning takes a while to settle, so you’ll have to avoid your own floors when you’re done.
- New stains: In some instances, steam cleaners only clean superficially. The heat drives embedded dirt to the surface, but you may not notice it before it dries. This gives the impression that new stains have formed and leads to more frequent cleaning.
- Cumbersome: Due to their nature, steam cleaners aren’t that lightweight. They’re awesome, but prepare the area for mobility purposes.
- Risk of injury: You’re going to work with scalding water, and if you do so irresponsibly, you could hurt yourself. So be careful when using a steam cleaner!
Full Steam Ahead
Steam cleaners aren’t as complicated as they’re portrayed. It’s true that they’re most commonly used industrially, but nothing stops you from investing in one of your own. They’re versatile, affordable and powerful, so come recommended by us.
What did you think of our picks of the best carpet steam cleaners? Which one do you like most? We enjoy reading your comments, so go ahead and leave one for us below.