Carpets can hold on to dirt and stains and become a hotbed for allergens and odors. Even if you vacuum weekly, over time and with daily use, carpets absorb dust and other organic materials, from pet hair to pollen. Every carpet and rug requires a thorough cleaning at some time. Doing this job yourself can save money over hiring a professional.
The best carpet shampoos deep clean dirt and stains and eliminate smells, not just mask them. Find a product that doesn’t pose a risk to your health or the environment. These quality shampoos are considered among the best for restoring freshness and beauty to rugs, carpets, and upholstery.
- BEST OVERALL: Nature’s Miracle Deep Cleaning Carpet Shampoo
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Hoover Renewal Deep Cleaning Carpet Shampoo
- BEST FOR MACHINE CLEANERS: Carpet Miracle – The Best Carpet Cleaner Shampoo
- BEST FOR PET ACCIDENTS: Hoover PETPLUS Concentrated Formula
- BEST DRY SHAMPOO: Capture Carpet Cleaner
- BEST ECO-FRIENDLY: Biokleen Natural Carpet Cleaner and Rug Shampoo
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Carpet Shampoo
Cleaning carpeting once or twice a year is an important chore. It preserves the lifespan of the carpeting and helps keep household members healthy by removing dust, dander, pollen, odors, pet hair, and bacteria that can become deeply embedded within the fibers. With a safe, powerful carpet shampoo, the job is relatively easy. Here’s what to look for when shopping for the best carpet shampoos.
Those who have a carpet cleaning machine or intend to rent one need a liquid shampoo made specifically for that purpose. Alternatively, try a dry shampoo, which works with a home vacuum cleaner. Here’s some information about carpet shampoo formulas.
Liquid vs. Powder
Liquid carpet shampoos function best when used with a carpet cleaner. According to experts at Bissell, these machines infuse a mixture of water/steam and detergent into carpeting while suctioning dirt and debris. Some liquid shampoos can be applied directly on carpeting, then removed using fresh water and a sponge. The formula is typically low-foaming and should be diluted first, according to brand instructions.
To use a dry or powder-based shampoo, simply sprinkle the product on dirty carpet or upholstery, brush it in to activate the electrically charged particles that pick up dirt and odor, then vacuum it up. Dry shampoos can be as effective as liquids at erasing smells and cleaning tough organic stains, such as blood and pet accidents.
Most liquid carpet shampoos for machines utilize surfactants, which are molecules that reduce the surface tension of water, making it easier for cleaning agents to penetrate surfaces and wash away oil and dirt. Shampoos that can be applied directly to the carpet often rely on enzyme-based formulas. Enzymes are biological catalysts made of proteins that speed up natural breakdown processes, dissolving dirt and odors. However, these active enzymes can be destroyed if cycled through a hot water-powered carpet cleaner, so use an enzyme-based formula and double-check application instructions to do the job right.
An extra-concentrated carpet shampoo can save money since it requires less product. Moreover, it’s better for the environment: Less plastic is used in its packaging, and it’s distributed via methods that emit fewer greenhouse gases. Concentrated shampoos are compatible with most commercial and residential carpet cleaners. Just check the label, which lists both the specific brand of cleaning machine it’s designed for as well as the amount of product to use.
Carpet and Machine Compatibility
Rugs and carpets are made of a variety of materials, from polyester to all-natural wool and silk. Be sure to read labels prior to purchasing a carpet shampoo. Reputable products either list the types of carpets and fabrics they are designed to clean or they document the materials they’re not intended for. In general, most commercial products can be used on artificial fiber carpetings, as well as wool and silk. For plant-fiber carpets and rugs, such as woven sisal, grass, and bamboo, contact the manufacturer or request care instructions from the carpeting brand.
Most shampoos also list the different brands of carpeting cleaners with which they’re compatible. If no specific brands are listed, be sure to use the product according to instructions. Never use more shampoo than directed on the label. Concentrated formulas require very small amounts to clean; using too much deposits excess shampoo into the fibers, which makes rinsing more difficult and time-consuming.
Application methods differ according to the type of shampoo, dry or wet. For wet shampoo, follow these steps:
- Prepare the room, moving out as much furniture as possible.
- Use a spray-on spot treatment to pretreat tough or old stains.
- If liquids can be applied directly, follow instructions for application and removal. If not, fill the machine with water and the right amount of shampoo (as specified in product instructions).
- Run the machine over the same area several times, using smooth forward and backward strokes.
- After shampooing, refill the tank with clean water and go over the carpet again, removing excess shampoo.
If it’s dry shampoo, use this method:
- Cover stains or a larger carpeted area with a thin layer of the powder.
- Activate the powder by lightly brushing the surface (no scrubbing required) with a bristled cleaning brush to ensure the electrically charged particles can absorb the dirt and odor molecules embedded in the fibers.
Wait at least 30 minutes to an hour before vacuuming the dry shampoo.
Our Top Picks
The best carpet shampoos clean without leaving a residue or an odor of heavy perfume. These recommendations are based on user-friendliness and compatibility with a wide variety of machines and carpet types. Moreover, they’re made with nontoxic formulas that use bio-based ingredients and are manufactured according to cruelty-free standards. They are safe for kids and pets.
Nature’s Miracle has all the elements for a quality carpet shampoo. It’s phosphate-free and enzyme-based, which means it uses natural proteins to speed up the breakdown of dirt, odors, and stains in a carpet.
Use it as a stand-alone treatment or with a carpet cleaner. Safe to use around pets and kids, Nature’s Miracle comes in a 64-ounce bottle. Spot-test it on a patch of carpet before applying it.
When machine cleaning rugs and carpets, this attractively priced Hoover Renewal Deep Cleaning shampoo can get the job done. Hoover’s ultra-concentrated formula costs less than some of its competitors, yet its professional-grade formula, which comprises anionic and non-ionic surfactants, lifts embedded dirt and lipid-based stains. (For deeper stains, pair the shampoo with a spray-on spot remover.)
This concentrate comes in a 64-ounce size and imparts a not-too-heavy scent described as “fresh linen.” Use it in a full-size deep-cleaning machine.
Carpet Miracle uses biodegradable ingredients and essential oils to help make dirty carpets feel soft and look almost like new again. Its non-foaming formula won’t leave suds in the carpet, upholstery, or cleaning machine, and it’s compatible with all brands of cleaning machines. Super-concentrated Carpet Miracle comes in a 32-ounce size. It’s certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny, which means it’s not tested on or harmful to animals.
Hoover has been in the cleaning business since 1908, so the company has plenty of experience tackling tough stains and bad smells. Hoover’s PETPLUS carpet shampoo is designed to lift odors that other cleaning formulas can’t erase. Intended for machine use, it’s twice as concentrated as a standard formula, and it comes in a 64-ounce container.
Hoover’s PETPLUS carpet shampoo works best on fresh stains and smells, but it also can handle dried, musty odors. If you can’t deep clean carpets immediately after a pet leaves an accidental deposit, pretreat trouble areas with Hoover Clean Plus Spot Spray. Hoover’s PETPLUS shampoo has a fresh cotton scent that’s not too heavy or perfumy.
Capture Carpet Cleaner is a dry solution that’s designed to lift even the worst dirt and stains from deep within carpet and rug fibers. Safe for all types of carpets, including wool and silk, it also removes moisture from carpets, which can lead to odor over time.
To apply, sprinkle lightly, brush to activate the dirt-attracting powder, wait 30 minutes, then vacuum thoroughly. Tip: First use Capture Carpet Cleaner Soil Release Pre-Mist on seriously stained areas to increase the shampoo’s effectiveness. This 4-pound tub can clean up to 400 square feet, and it eliminates odors without leaving a heavy scent.
Biokleen clearly lists its product’s ingredients, which are mainly plant-based surfactants, essential oils, and plant extracts, to create a nontoxic carpet shampoo. Though Biokleen’s formula is chemical- and cruelty-free, its professional-grade formula is formulated to remove stains as well as trapped odors.
Biokleen is compatible with most carpet-cleaning machine brands, including residential and commercial models. This super-concentrated formula comes in a 64-ounce container, and it has a light, natural citrus scent. This shampoo receives an “A” from the Environmental Working Group, an independent research and testing body that ensures environmental safety.
FAQs About Carpet Shampoo
Keep reading to find the answers to frequently asked questions about carpet shampoo as well as a few cleaning tips and tricks.
Q. How do you prepare carpet for deep cleaning?
Remove as much furniture as possible from the room. Spot-treat any visible stains with a specially formulated spray. Then vacuum the surface to remove loose dirt and debris before deep cleaning.
Q. How do I shampoo my carpet?
If you don’t own a carpet cleaner, you can rent one, or use a shampoo that doesn’t require a special carpet cleaning machine. Follow these easy instructions to clean the carpet.
Q. Are you supposed to rinse carpet after shampooing?
Yes. Make sure to fill the carpet cleaner tank with fresh, clean water after shampooing. Run this clean cycle over the shampooed carpet to remove any excess product from the fibers.
Q. How often should you shampoo carpets?
Once or twice a year is typically sufficient.