The Best Carpet Cleaners for Pets to Eliminate Odors and Stains, Tested

Pets are cute and cuddly, but their messes are far from it. Remove stains and eliminate odors from carpets with a lean, mean, carpet-cleaning machine.

Best Overall

The Best Carpet Cleaners for Pets Option: Bissell ProHeat 2X Lift-Off Pet Carpet Cleaner

Bissell ProHeat 2X Lift-Off Pet Carpet Cleaner

See It

Runner-up

The Best Carpet Cleaners for Pets Options: Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner

Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner

See It

Best Bang For The Buck

The Best Carpet Cleaner for Pets Option: Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner

Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner

See It

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Carpet cleaners for pets are machines specially designed to clean those pesky stains and messes left by our furry friends. Having a pet can have many perks, but pet stains on carpets are not one of them. When considering the best carpet cleaner for pets, there are many factors to keep in mind, such as the machine’s type, size, power, and suction capability. By investing in the right one, shoppers can spend less time cleaning and more time enjoying their furry loved ones.

We tested 10 carpet-cleaning machines to see how well they’d perform on stubborn pet stains. Through testing, we came up with a curated lineup of the best carpet cleaners for pets so shoppers can browse our selections and learn more about what to consider.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Bissell ProHeat 2X Lift-Off Pet Carpet Cleaner
  2. RUNNER-UP: Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner
  4. UPGRADE PICK: Bissell Big Green Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner
  5. BEST COMPACT: Bissell Little Green HydroSteam Pet Carpet Cleaner
  6. BEST UPHOLSTERY CLEANER: Hoover CleanSlate Plus Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner
  7. BEST MIDRANGE: Hoover SmartWash+ Automatic Carpet Cleaner
  8. BEST HANDHELD: Bissell Pet Stain Eraser PowerBrush Carpet Cleaner
  9. BEST FOR STAIRS: Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner
The Best Carpet Cleaner for Pets Option
Photo: Beth Cranston for Bob Vila

How We Tested the Best Carpet Cleaners for Pets

To determine the best carpet cleaners for pets, we tested each machine on a variety of stains: pet urine, dirt/mud, red wine, tomato sauce, chocolate sauce, coffee, and cooking oil. These stains were tested on an 18-inch-by-18-inch carpet square with a medium pile. Additional stains, especially pet urine, were tested on both medium- and low-pile carpet fibers around the tester’s home.

Each machine’s performance in various categories was ranked on a scale of 1 to 5. Those categories included how easy the machine was to set up and use, how long it took to remove pet stains, and how effectively it removed each stain. We also factored in how wet or dry the carpet fibers were after cleaning and whether the machine efficiently suctioned excess liquid. We tested any additional features each carpet cleaner had, such as steam function and any attachments that clean upholstery. Finally, we asked ourselves whether we would want to use the machine again and if the carpet cleaner is a good value for the money.

Our Top Picks

There are many scenarios where one might need to use a carpet cleaner for pets, so this list includes standout options that we tested ourselves for various needs and uses. Read on to learn more about some of the best carpet cleaners for pets that effectively deodorize carpets and wash away dirt.

Best Overall

Bissell ProHeat 2X Lift-Off Pet Carpet Cleaner

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Upright and portable hybrid
  • Corded vs. cordless: Corded
  • Power usage: 804 watts

Pros

  • Can remove stains, pet hair, and odors
  • Multiple built-in cleaning modes allow users to adjust cleaning power for heavier stains
  • Comes with multiple tools and includes two 8-ounce bottles of cleaning solution
  • Dual use as both an upright and a portable

Cons

  • Heavy weight as an upright makes it hard to carry up and down stairs, making it a little cumbersome to use
  • Expensive price point compared with other carpet-cleaning machines
  • Handle of the upright feels a little flimsy when in use

Both an upright carpet cleaner and a portable carpet cleaner in one, this machine is designed to remove pet hair, stains, and odors using hot-water extraction, shampooing, and bonnet cleaning via a dual DirtLifter PowerBrush that digs into carpet fibers to remove stains. The portable pod machine locks into a base that allows it to function as an upright cleaner, then using a simple unlatching mechanism, converts into a portable unit. This makes it easy to use in corners, on upholstery, and even cars.

As an upright, the machine proved 100 percent effective on all of the stains in less than 5 minutes except for the red wine stain and a pre-existing pet urine stain. We popped it off the base and used the tough stain tool attachment and were able to remove both stains completely with another 5 minutes of scrubbing. We also tested this tough stain tool on a separate square to see how it did with the range of stains and found that after 10 minutes of scrubbing, the carpet square was pristine and nearly dry to the touch. Overall, the machine left carpets dry to the touch within an hour of cleaning.

The only trade-off of the two-for-one machine is that the base of the machine doesn’t feel quite as sturdy as some of the other upright-only models we tested. Additionally, it’s a little heavier for a portable—this model weighs about 26 pounds, with 24.25 of those pounds dedicated to the portable section, without the added water or cleaning solution. However, both of these are minor complaints compared with the versatility and cleaning power of the machine itself.

Read our full review: Bissell ProHeat 2X Lift-Off Pet Carpet Cleaner

Get the Bissell ProHeat 2X Lift-Off carpet cleaner at Amazon, Wayfair, or Target.

Runner-up

Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Upright
  • Corded vs. cordless: Corded
  • Power usage: 816 watts

Pros

  • Intuitive design enables users to start cleaning almost immediately after assembly
  • Can easily replace the need for a carpet cleaner rental or a professional cleaning
  • Easy to clean all compartments on the machine from top to bottom
  • 25-foot-long cord and 8-foot hose enable uninterrupted cleaning of expansive rooms

Cons

  • Balance of weight tilts to the front of the machine, which makes carrying it awkward
  • Large machine that takes up a good amount of storage space
  • Dirty tank requires frequent emptying during larger jobs

Engineered to target tough stains, the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro carpet cleaner is a hefty machine with a clean-water capacity of 1 gallon. It has three cleaning settings: express, deep, and max. It also features a CleanShot spray nozzle to directly target stains and has two attachments, a cleaning tool for the brush roll cover, and a tool bag.

In testing, this model did not disappoint, both for whole-room cleaning and spot-cleaning. When we cleaned heavily trafficked living areas, the Bissell improved the dingy appearance of the carpet, eliminated dark spots, and lifted and softened the carpet overall. We did have to empty the dirty-water tank a handful of times when cleaning a 300-square-foot room on max clean, but the results were worth it.

For spot-cleaning, not only did the ProHeat 2X Revolution eliminate urine stains, but it also easily lifted mud, ketchup, and even red wine from our carpet remnant. Though the tougher stains (red wine and urine) required more than one pass with the machine, they were significantly improved after just one pass. Had we cleaned immediately after a spill or accident, the Bissell very likely would have removed the messes thoroughly in one cleaning.

For busy households with accident-prone occupants, the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro is a powerful spot cleaner and carpet cleaner that can give floors a much-needed refresh.

Read our full review here: Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner

Get the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution carpet cleaner at Amazon or Target.

Best Bang For The Buck

Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Upright
  • Corded vs. cordless: Corded
  • Power usage: 840 watts

Pros

  • HeatForce power is a convenient feature that speeds up dry time
  • Trial-size bottle of cleaning solution included; mixes easily with water in tank
  • 20-foot power cord can reach many rooms
  • Lightweight and small design is portable and functional for tight spaces

Cons

  • Some users report loud operation volume, which can be tiresome during big jobs
  • Lacks additional tools for more customized cleaning of tight spaces
  • Removing and rinsing dirty tank water can be a little tricky

Removing pet messes from carpets doesn’t need to break the bank. The affordable PowerDash by Hoover is compact and lightweight at 12.5 pounds, yet it’s powerful enough to clean high-traffic areas. And thanks to its small size, it can easily get into tight spaces. This upright pet carpet cleanerhas a 20-foot power cord and a half-gallon water tank.

The base of the machine boasts Hoover’s PowerSpin Pet Brush Roll system that lifts and suctions pet messes easily, and the built-in HeatForce Power technology speeds up the drying process. A trial-size bottle of Hoover carpet cleaner is included and can be mixed directly into the clean-water tank before use.

This compact upright cleaner impressed us with how quickly it removed all the stains. It was also one of the easiest carpet cleaners to use. Setting it up was simple, and because it features a lightweight, upright design, it is well suited to those with limited mobility. It also worked fast: This unit removed all the stains from the carpet square in three passes, which took less than 5 minutes. We used it for 2 more minutes without distributing any water to help dry the carpet. Of all the cleaners we tested, this machine left the carpet square the driest to the touch.

The only downside with this portable carpet cleaner is that it does not come with an attachment hose, so getting into small spaces or corners may be difficult. The process of removing the dirty water was a little awkward compared with some of the other carpet-cleaning machines we tested, but this is a minor issue considering the value offered for the price. This is an excellent choice for those in the market for a carpet cleaner that gets the job done with no fuss and at a great price.

Get the Hoover PowerDash carpet cleaner at Amazon or Walmart.

Upgrade Pick

Bissell Big Green Pet Pro Carpet Cleaner

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Upright
  • Corded vs. cordless: Corded
  • Power usage: 1,440 watts

Pros

  • Long 25-foot power cord can travel farther than those of many other carpet cleaners
  • Specially designed pet upholstery tool is great for pet beds and furniture
  • PowerBrush with 8 rows of bristles gets deeper into carpet fibers than some smaller models have the ability to
  • Includes full-size bottle of cleaning solution specially formulated for pet stains and odors
  • Powerful suction leaves carpets relatively dry after use

Cons

  • One of the most expensive carpet cleaners on the list
  • Heavy, cumbersome, and more difficult to store than smaller, more compact cleaners

Having pets can present unique challenges when it’s time to clean carpets. The Bissell Big Green Pet Pro carpet cleaner is designed to provide heavy-duty, professional-grade cleaning that may be even more thorough than what cumbersome rental models can provide. It comes with a full-size 48-ounce bottle of Bissell Pet Pro Oxy Urine Eliminator formula that tackles tough pet stains and odors.

This model also includes a two-in-one pet upholstery tool that works great on stairs, pet beds, furniture, and other hard-to-reach areas where pets may leave unwelcome surprises. One drawback is that it weighs 44 pounds, so this heavy machine is one of the least portable and most cumbersome in the lineup. Its larger size can also make it more difficult to store when not in use.

While this is a great option for users who regularly rent carpet cleaners, it’s important to note that this is not a small carpet-cleaning machine. It is industrial-size, and as such, it does a pro-quality job. It lacks maneuverability, but it makes up for that in effectiveness. It was heavy to push, and we had to go much slower than with other models, but after 20 minutes of testing, the Bissell Big Green had removed all of the stains and then some. We had some older stains on a low-pile basement carpet that we thought would never come out, but this machine removed them without the need to use any advanced spot treatment. For those who want to feel like their carpets have been professionally cleaned, this machine won’t disappoint. While it won’t replace a

vacuum cleaner for removing pet hair

, it did an excellent job of removing pet hair from floors and upholstery.

The biggest downside to this machine is its weight. Even with both tanks empty and off, we struggled to carry it up and down any stairs. The base for cleaning is 10.5 inches wide, so we used the narrower stair-tool attachment to get corners and other narrow areas and spot scrub. The hose is a generous 9 feet long and was very easy to snap into place and use without much effort—essentially exactly like a standard vacuum cleaning hose. We even used the attachment on some stains on a couch, which it took out in less than a minute. This is a great pick for those living in homes that have a lot of carpets and not many stairs. Overall, the suction power left the carpets surprisingly dry to the touch and completely dry within about 4 hours.

Get the Bissell Big Green carpet cleaner at Amazon, Wayfair, or Bissell.

Best Compact

Bissell Little Green HydroSteam Pet Carpet Cleaner

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Portable
  • Corded vs. cordless: Corded
  • Power usage: Not listed

Pros

  • Weighs 13 pounds, making it easy to move up and down stairs
  • 5-foot hose enhances maneuverability and reduces need to bend or kneel
  • Its 3 different modes allow for versatility of use, including on hard surfaces such as tile grout
  • Effective at cleaning most stains without excessive scrubbing

Cons

  • Somewhat less effective on older pet stains, tomato sauce, and dirt
  • Best suited for spot-cleaning versus whole-house cleaning because the tools are small

A small steamer and portable carpet cleaner in one, the Bissell Little Green HydroSteam packs a lot into a small machine. Designed for spot-cleaning stains, it boasts three different cleaning modes: SteamWash for oily messes or stubborn stains; Steam for draperies and for cleaning tile and grout; and Wash for enzyme stains such as pet urine, grass, and blood. Weighing just 13 pounds, it is a smaller portable machine; despite its smaller size, though, it’s equipped with a dual-tank system that consists of a 64-ounce clean-water tank and an easy-to-remove dirty-water tank. It comes with an 8-ounce bottle of Bissell Pet Pro Oxy Spot & Stain Urine Eliminator.

Although the machine is not upright, the 5-foot-long hose attachment is generous in length. This makes it possible to use without getting on one’s hands and knees, which is a bonus for those with limited mobility. It also includes two hose-end attachments: a 5-inch tough-stain attachment and a multipurpose brush. The steam mode also doubles as a sanitizer for shoes, gym equipment, and more.

We spent nearly an hour testing this unit’s functions. The first test on the stained carpet square resulted in significant stain removal, although it did take more time. With many of the uprights we tested, the stains came out in less than 5 minutes; this unit required a solid 10 minutes of scrubbing at all of the stains. Still, except for the tomato sauce, they all came out well.

Removing the tomato sauce required scrubbing for an additional 5 minutes. The steam function seemed to help boost the stain-lifting power to get the darker stains (such as chocolate) out of the carpet fibers. This machine was highly effective on older pet stains, removing most of the stains in a matter of minutes without excessive scrubbing.

We also used this to effectively remove pet hair and light dirt stains from a couch cushion. And we especially liked that it could be used in steam-only mode to sanitize or freshen drapes and curtains. Despite its small footprint, this device proved to be a dynamic, multipurpose tool effective at cleaning various surfaces, including carpet and upholstery.

Get the Bissell Little Green carpet cleaner at Amazon, Best Buy, or Bissell.

Best Upholstery Cleaner

Hoover CleanSlate Plus Carpet u0026 Upholstery Cleaner

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Portable
  • Corded vs. cordless: Corded
  • Power usage: Not listed

Pros

  • Ultralight and portable unit is easy to carry and store
  • One of the only portable cleaners that features a dual-tank system
  • 7-inch tool features changeable inserts for different types of messes
  • Tight-spot tool is ideal for baseboards and corners
  • Excellent for cleaning furniture and fabrics

Cons

  • 15-foot power cord is shorter than most
  • Cleaning larger rooms or area rugs takes longer than when using a full-size model
  • Not as effective on stubborn pet stains or on tomato sauce and chocolate stains

This versatile and powerful portable carpet cleaner handles more than just pet messes. The Hoover CleanSlate weighs only 9.4 pounds yet features a dual-tank system that many compact cleaners lack. The machine also features a hose-rinse tool that helps to flush out dirt and debris that might be left behind after cleaning.

This unit comes equipped with a 7-inch WidePath tool, which is almost or more than double the size of other portable carpet cleaners, making it a good choice for larger messes. Plus, there’s a tight-spot tool for hard-to-reach areas. Its power cord is only 15 feet long, though, which is shorter than the cords on most of the other carpet cleaners we highlighted.

Easy to use and fairly lightweight, this portable carpet cleaner removed red wine and coffee without any issue in under 5 minutes. However, tomato sauce, chocolate, and dirt stains required significantly more effort to remove from the carpet sample. We had to scrub at these stains for about 10 extra minutes. Pet urine came out easily on the higher-pile carpet, but when it came to the older stains on the low pile, this machine was virtually ineffective—even with 10 minutes of additional scrubbing.

While this article is focused on the best carpet cleaners for pets, this machine stood out to us as an excellent tool for cleaning upholstery and more immediate spills or messes. It’s compact enough that it can be set up and used quickly. We were able to clean pet hair and stains off of cushions, including several throw pillows that could not go in the wash.

Get the Hoover CleanSlate carpet cleaner at Amazon, Walmart, Menards, or Hoover.

Best Midrange

Hoover SmartWash+ Automatic Carpet Cleaner

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Upright
  • Corded vs. cordless: Corded
  • Power usage: 1,200 watts

Pros

  • Automatic cleaning technology integrated; switches between wash and dry functions
  • Built-in FlexForce PowerBrushes are gentle on fibers yet effective on stains
  • Comes with a cleaning solution sample, which the machine mixes automatically
  • Additional tools and long cleaning hose are quite useful
  • Dry-only mode helps remove excess moisture and speeds up drying time

Cons

  • Some users report issues with the machine picking up cat hair
  • Other users complain that it doesn’t hold up as well over time as they would like

Engineered with automatic cleaning technology, the Hoover SmartWash+ is a quality midrange pick with convenient features. This sturdy, upright machine weighs 18.49 pounds and has a dual-tank system. FlexForce PowerBrushes at the base are gentle on carpet fibers but work hard to remove pet dander, dirt, and messes. It boasts the ability to switch between wash and dry functions with a simple change in direction: Simply push forward to wash and pull back to dry.

The built-in Auto-Mix function takes the guesswork out of mixing cleaning solution with water, doing so automatically. This pet-worthy carpet cleaner has a 1-gallon water tank, a 22-foot-long power cord, and an 8-foot hose. The triggerless handle is a nice touch, and this model comes with an upholstery pet brush tool and a sample of cleaning solution.

This carpet-cleaning machine is versatile, as it functions as an upright unit but includes a hose and attachments to get into corners effectively. It also has a bit of a learning curve. Users don’t have to press any buttons to distribute the cleaner—all that’s needed is to simply push forward to clean and pull backward to dry. It also features a dry-only mode, which is extremely helpful for removing moisture and also suctioning up all the dirt and grime. Within a few short passes and in less than 5 minutes, this machine had removed all of the stains and left our carpet square nearly bone dry. It was so good at drying areas that the next day, we used it to suction excess water from a couple of still-wet spots we had tested.

Once we got used to the machine, we found it to be one of our favorites. It was lighter than similar models, which resulted in more maneuverability. The one issue we did have was with the part of the unit that the hose attaches to. We had no problem attaching the hose, but once we removed it, the plastic pieces near it came off, and we struggled to get them back into place. Additionally, we removed the brush cover and the brushes for cleaning and found them a little less than intuitive to snap back into place. This is a minor complaint, though, compared to the value offered by this effective carpet cleaner.

Get the Hoover SmartWash+ carpet cleaner at Amazon or Target.

Best Handheld

Bissell Pet Stain Eraser PowerBrush Carpet Cleaner

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Handheld
  • Corded vs. cordless: Cordless
  • Power usage: 7.2-volt lithium-ion battery

Pros

  • Built-in rotating DirtLifter PowerBrushes loosen stains and hair
  • Additional stationary pet tool and 2 cleaning solutions included
  • Lightweight handheld unit is still powerful enough for dirt and messes

Cons

  • Limited runtime compared with similar options
  • 8-ounce tank; may require frequent refilling for tough stains and large areas
  • Bit of a learning curve

To handle minor pet messes that don’t require hauling out a big machine, consider Bissell’s Pet Stain Eraser PowerBrush, a handheld device that spot-cleans stains effectively. It uses rotating DirtLifter PowerBrushes to loosen dirt and pet dander, and strong suction then removes it from the carpet. As a lightweight cordless model, it’s extremely portable, so it’s an especially good choice for cleaning the car should a pet have an accident in transit.

This cordless carpet cleaner is powered by a 7.2-volt lithium-ion battery with an extended runtime of approximately 20 minutes between charges. This carpet-cleaning device weighs 4.4 pounds, and its small size makes for easy storage.

Despite its compact size, it proved surprisingly effective on all stains with moderate scrubbing. We tested this scrubber for 20 minutes straight. Initially, it removed about 75 percent of the stains after 5 minutes of scrubbing on the carpet square, but we found it necessary to work at both the red wine stain and the coffee stain with a little extra effort. After 10 minutes, the stains were 99 percent gone. We spent close to 10 minutes using it to remove the excess liquid, which is done by tilting the cleaner at just the right angle to suck up the water. We are happy to report that the battery charge lasted longer than the manufacturer stated it would. After 20 minutes of constant use, we still had battery power left and were able to run it an extra 10 minutes without recharging it.

Though this unit took some time to get used to, we were impressed enough with what it was able to achieve for such a small device. It’s a great alternative to a larger portable and ideal for stairs, car upholstery, and minor stains.

Get the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser carpet cleaner at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Best Buy.

Best For Stairs

Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Portable
  • Corded vs. cordless: Corded
  • Power usage: 1,100 watts

Pros

  • Built-in wheels and retractable handle make this heavy machine more portable
  • Effectively tackles pet hair as well as odor from pet messes
  • Dual water tanks; clean and dirty water are kept separate
  • Extra-long cord convenient for cleaning stairs

Cons

  • Meant for spot-cleaning only; not good for large areas
  • Heavy when water tanks are full
  • Included cleaner had very strong perfume smell
  • Not as much suction as other models

Lugging a large unit up and down stairs can be dangerous and difficult, making a cleaning routine longer and more challenging. Fortunately, pet owners with carpeted stairs can rely on this portable carpet cleaner from Rug Doctor. Although it weighs about 19 pounds, this portable carpet cleanerhas built-in wheels and a retractable handle for maneuvering on steps. Plus, it boasts a handheld dual-action power tool with rubberized bristles to dig in gently and remove pet hair and odor.

The unit has a 4-foot hose as well as a 15-foot power cord, which should be ample enough for longer staircases. This Rug Doctor model features a dual-tank system that keeps clean and dirty water separate for an enhanced cleaning job.

This powerful portable model essentially wheels around like a suitcase. Because of the extra-long power cord, this machine shines when it comes to cleaning stairs. Although it is a little heavier than other portable carpet cleaners, its sturdy carrying handle makes it easier to lift up and down. When we tested it on the different types of stains, we found that it lifted red wine, oil, chocolate, coffee, and tomato sauce with very little effort in under 5 minutes.

The dirt stain and pet urine both lingered after my initial pass, requiring about 10 more minutes of scrubbing to remove. While it did take a little more elbow grease to remove all these stains, this is understandable, given that it is a spot cleaner rather than a general-purpose carpet cleaner. The only downside was that when we finished, the carpet square we tested was significantly damper than the others. This portable carpet-cleaning machine offers a decent amount of suction, but if it’s necessary to have to scrub something for more than 10 minutes, the carpet will likely end up pretty wet.

Get the Rug Doctor carpet cleaner at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Walmart.

ALSO TESTED

McCulloch MC1275 Canister Steam Cleaner

We really liked this cleaner; however, it’s designed for hard surfaces and upholstery, not carpet. The attachments don’t move well on carpet, and the machine barely removed any of the stains on our test carpet. It’s clearly a high-quality steamer, but for removing pet messes on carpet, there are many other options that are better suited for the job.

Jump to Our Top Picks

What to Consider When Choosing a Carpet Cleaner for Pets

Before selecting a carpet cleaner for a home with pets, there are many features for shoppers to consider. These include the type of machine, power, suction, tank capacity, portability, whether it’s corded versus cordless, and more. These details can help users determine which is the best carpet cleaner for pets for their needs.

Type

There are different types of carpet cleaner designs for homes with pets, including upright, handheld, and portable machines.

  • Upright carpet cleaners vary greatly, ranging from simple, low-tech carpet sweepers to more traditional vacuums. Typically a large machine, an upright carpet cleaner stands vertically and has a push handle and base wheels for maneuvering over carpets.
  • Handheld carpet cleaners are much smaller and lighter than upright models. They are often cordless and have a rechargeable battery. Handheld cleaners typically weigh less than 5 pounds and are much easier to carry than upright machines, which can weigh 20 pounds or more.
  • Portable carpet cleaners are not always handheld or cordless, but they are more compact. They’re suitable for tackling both small messes and tough carpet stains. Portable machines often weigh less than 15 pounds, are less than 2 feet tall, and have built-in wheels for easy maneuvering.

Corded vs. Cordless

Another important shopping consideration is whether a corded or cordless carpet cleaner is best for a household. A cordless machine can usually reach difficult places far from electrical outlets more easily. However, a cordless carpet cleaner must be charged before use and has a limited runtime, which is typically about 30 minutes between charges.

A corded carpet cleaner is usually a more powerful machine with sustained power and charge. When shoppers are considering a corded carpet cleaner, the cord length is important. A cord at least 15 feet long is usually ideal to conveniently reach every corner of an average-size room.

Power and Suction

The air wattage rating of a carpet cleaner represents its suction power. The higher the rating, the stronger the suction. A standard upright carpet cleaner may have 100 air watts of suction, whereas a more professional machine may have as much as 220 air watts. The cleaners with the highest suction tend to be corded machines that receive power directly from an electrical outlet. Stronger suction means a deeper clean and more thorough water suctioning, which results in a cleaner, quicker-drying surface.

Handheld and cordless carpet cleaners for pets that are powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are a little less powerful but are still well suited for spot-treating stains. Handheld carpet cleaners have a limited supply source with a runtime that rarely exceeds 30 minutes between charges. Lithium-ion batteries are powerful, but they cannot rival the strength of suction provided by corded machines with a more substantial power source.

Carpet cleaners for pets may also feature different cleaning settings to meet different needs. For example, a carpet-cleaning machine may have a deep-clean or a heavy-duty setting that employs a more rigorous scrub, or a quick-clean setting that uses less water so that the spot dries more quickly.

Tank Capacity

Tanks vary in size, and their size is largely determined by the design of the cleaner. The average upright carpet cleaner has a water tank that can hold about 1 gallon or more of water, whereas a portable carpet cleaner may hold a half gallon, and a handheld carpet cleaner may hold about a quarter gallon.

Some carpet cleaners designed for homes with pets have two separate tanks to hold clean and dirty water. Other machines may feature a solution tank in which the carpet-cleaner formula is stored separately and then automatically dispensed into the clean-water tank during use. However, not every machine has a separate solution tank and may instead instruct users to mix the solution in the clean-water tank when preparing it to clean.

Portability

Portability can be a major convenience feature in a carpet cleaner. The various factors that contribute to a carpet cleaner’s portability are the size, handle design, hose length, wheels, and weight.

The size and weight of a carpet cleaner affect its portability. A handheld machine typically weighs about 5 pounds and is not usually longer than 24 inches. A lightweight upright machine typically weighs less than 20 pounds and can be as tall as 45 inches. A heavy-duty upright carpet cleaner can weigh 40 pounds or more.

Upright carpet cleaners with wheels and a long handle are easier to move around and store when not in use. If a carpet cleaner has a hose, the extra length from the hose can help clean hard-to-reach places.

Accessories

Accessories may be included with the purchase of a new carpet cleaner for pets. Many come with a specialized cleaning brush for pets that can be used to spot-treat carpet or upholstery for targeted removal of odor, stains, and pet hair. Some cleaners may come with an attachment hose to reach areas where a bulky machine may not fit. Bonus carpet cleaner accessories may include trial-size bottles of cleaning solutions or shampoos.

FAQs 

Although you now know more about carpet cleaners for pets, you may have new or lingering questions. Here are some of the most common questions and answers about shopping for the best carpet cleaner for pets.

Q. Are carpet cleaners bad for my carpets?

While these machines can be pretty powerful, the suction power of most models should not rip or otherwise damage carpeting.

Q. Is an upright model better than a portable carpet cleaner?

That depends on your needs. Upright carpet cleaners are ideal for cleaning large carpet surfaces, whereas portable carpet cleaners are best for spot-cleaning or removing pet stains from smaller carpet surfaces.

Q. Can I use a pet carpet cleaner with just water? 

Though using a cleaning solution in a carpet cleaner’s water tank for tough stains is recommended, you can certainly use water alone for everyday carpet cleaning. Anyone concerned about exposing their family and pets to harsh chemicals can check out some healthy DIY solutions online.

Q. Does a pet carpet cleaner need hot or cold water? 

For best results, hot or warm water should be used in a carpet-cleaning machine. Boiling water should never be used.

Q. Should I vacuum after cleaning my carpets?

Vacuuming should be done before and after cleaning a carpet to ensure that dust, debris, and larger materials do not end up in your carpet cleaner’s water tank.

Q. How often should my carpets be cleaned?

Carpets in homes with pets benefit from carpet cleaning approximately three or four times per year. Vacuuming at least twice a week will help pick up loose pet hair and dander between cleanings.

Q. Can I walk on my carpet after using a carpet cleaner?

While some carpet-cleaning machines feature a heated drying function, other models may leave the carpet wet for over 6 hours after use.

Q. How should a carpet cleaner be stored to prevent the growth of mold of bacteria?

To prevent mold and bacteria growth, ensure the carpet cleaner is fully dry before storing it away. Carpet cleaners can be air-dried or wiped clean.

Why Trust Bob Vila

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.

Meet the Tester

Amber Guetebier is a writer, editor, and creative writing instructor who began writing for the Bob Vila team in 2021. Before becoming a freelance writer, she was a landscape designer and nursery professional. She is also a mother of one active son and four pets, all of whom track in dirt, make messes, spill things, and generally wreak havoc on her carpets year-round. She writes about home and garden, parenting, travel, and more for various outlets, including CNET, Angi, ParentMap, and Scary Mommy.

Share

Lisa Conant Avatar

Lisa Conant

Contributing Writer

Lisa Conant is an eclectic writer with a diverse repertoire including everything from health care to automotive topics, travel, household-related subjects, leadership blogging, and more. Originally from Canada, she currently hangs out in New Hampshire with her two kids and two freeloading cats.

WHY YOU CAN TRUST BOB VILA