Best Carpet Shampooers & Steamers
Walking the aisles of any appliance store might leave you overwhelmed at the wide range of carpet cleaners on the market - between carpet shampooers, carpet steam cleaners, and car and couch steam cleaners, it can be difficult figuring out which product is most suited to you and your home.
Effectively cleans carpet
Easy to fill, remove, and clean tanks
Simple to manoeuvre
Sometimes leaves excess moisture on carpets
For those looking for a one stop shop for all their floor cleaning needs, the Bissell Crosswave Max 2765F vacuums and washes floors simultaneously and works on both hard floors and area rugs - it may be just the thing you’re looking for.
Leaves hard floors squeaky clean
Reasonable noise level
Simple to carry
Wash function not as effective as vacuum
What is the difference between a carpet shampooer and a carpet steamer?
A carpet shampooer uses soapy warm water that the shampooer applies to the carpet. It usually has a rotating brush that loosens dirt in your carpet and suction that removes dirt, stains, and grime.
They come in a few different forms:
- Upright carpet cleaners are used in a similar way to vacuum cleaners, letting you use one hand to manoeuvre the machine around the room. They’re usually designed for general carpet cleaning rather than targeted stain removal.
- Spot cleaners use short bursts of power to target and lift stains.
- Portable carpet cleaners are usually hand-held, and are generally whipped out when there’s a spill or mess that’s just been made. These models are also sometimes dedicated car shampooers or steam cleaners for car seats.
- Excellent for deep cleaning. Because of the scrubbing action they use and the fact that they use detergent, carpet shampooers are a great choice for deep cleaning carpets, even those with high traffic or are dirtied often.
- Suitable for most carpet fibres. Because cleaning with a shampooer doesn’t require the use of very high temperature water, it can be used on most types of rugs and carpets.
- Versatile. Carpet shampooers often come with various attachments (or are compatible with additional attachments that you need to purchase separately) that make them able to be used for different soft surfaces, such as upholstery and car interiors.
- Can be long drying times. Carpet shampooers may leave your carpets damp, so you might have to wait for your carpet to dry before using the room. Buying a low quality machine with poor foam extraction could also overwet your carpet.
- Brush can damage delicate carpet fibres. The hard-bristled brushes on some shampooers make them unsuitable for delicate carpet and upholstery fibres, such as silk.
- May be inappropriate for high-pile rugs and carpets. If you have particularly fluffy rugs or carpets, a carpet shampooer may cause pile distortion. Check your rug or carpet’s specifications to see how well it can tolerate moisture.
A carpet steamer or a steam mop injects hot water into your carpet to kill bacteria and loosen up the dirt in the carpet fibres.
- Great for a deep clean. Like shampooers, carpet steamers are also effective for deep cleaning as they penetrate the surface of the carpet and reach fibres that are deeper down.
- Doesn't use chemicals. They don’t require cleaning solution or any other chemicals to get the job done - just water. This makes it a great option for those looking for a more eco-friendly clean.
- Great at eliminating odours, dust mites, and bacteria. The high temperature of carpet steamers make them effective in getting rid of up to 99.9% of bacteria and dust mites, which in turn can kill any unpleasant smells lurking in the fibres.
- Can be used on multiple surfaces. Carpet steamers can be used on both hard and soft flooring.
- May be a safety hazard. Because the steam can reach incredibly high temperatures, it can be a safety hazard when used improperly (or if machine breakdown occurs).
- May take a while to dry. You sometimes have to wait for up to 24 hours for a carpet to completely dry, which may be inconvenient if you’re cleaning a room that’s used often.
Is it better to shampoo or steam clean carpets?
There’s no right answer to this question, because it depends on what you want out of your shampooer or steamer.
Both are effective at cleaning, although carpet shampooers are generally better to remove tough stains and to clean a larger carpet surface, while carpet steamers are better at disinfecting carpet.
Factors to consider when choosing a carpet shampooer or steamer
There are plenty of features to look out for in a carpet shampooer or steamer, particularly when it comes to different attachments that you can use for different surfaces.
- Edge-cleaning: Some carpet shampooers have built-in edge cleaning technology or are able to be connected to an edge cleaner attachment to help you get in the nooks and crannies of your rooms.
- Rotating brushes: A lot of carpet shampooers will have rotating brushes, which better agitate the carpet to loosen up grime.
- Upholstery cleaner: This is a small attachment that lets you easily clean your furniture. You can also get dedicated upholstery steam cleaners.
- Hard floor tool: A hard floor tool is an attachment (usually long and thin) that better cleans floorboards and tiles.
- Spot treater tool: Some machines have an extra attachment that’s smaller and designed to lift stains. However, if a mess has been made, you should treat it straight away rather than waiting for your next carpet shampoo or steam clean to get rid of it.
Water tank capacity
Preferred tank capacities differ depending on how much cleaning you need to do and what kind of cleaning you need to do.
Someone who wants to spot clean or only do one room at a time may find that a smaller water tank that’s easier to carry around is more suitable for them, while those who like to clean their whole home in one go may not mind the extra machine weight if it means they don’t have to keep stopping and refilling their tank while cleaning.
Look for dual tanks where one tank is for the unused clean water the other is for the dirty water that has been vacuumed off the carpet after cleaning - this prevents dirty water being recycled for further cleaning.
A cord that’s too short can be a huge hassle for anyone trying to reach all the corners of their house, which is why you should consider how far the cleaner can reach from a power cord.
It may be inevitable that you’ll have to switch from outlet to outlet as you move across rooms, but a cord that’s long enough to be convenient but short enough to not be a tripping hazard is optimal.
Carpet shampooers and steamers can weigh anything from 5 to 20kg without the added water. A model that’s too heavy for you to use and carry around the house will cause you a lot of headache in the long run.
What constitutes a comfortable weight differs from person to person, so you may be better off going in store and physically trying to pick up different units to see how ergonomic and easily portable they are.
Cleaning and maintenance
For carpet shampooers, you’ll need to remove dirt and grime by detaching the nozzle and using a damp cloth to manually remove any dirt that’s stuck on. Some have a self-cleaning cycle that flushes out dirt and debris after each use, eliminating the need for any extra maintenance.
For both carpet shampooers and carpet steamers, you’ll need to empty and clean the water tanks after each use.
Most carpet shampooers are loud, and you might even need to wear some kind of ear protection - such as earmuffs or earplugs - while using them.
Check if the machine you’re thinking of buying has the decibels listed on the manual, or if you can get an in-store demo. The noise level will likely affect at which hours of the day you can use the machine, particularly if you have neighbours closeby.
Carpet shampooers range from $99 to upwards of $1500 for more commercial and heavy duty machines, however most cost somewhere between $250 and $500.
Carpet steam cleaners can cost you anywhere from $59 to $900 and over, with the majority of models setting you back between $150 and $400.
Commonly asked questions
How often should I steam clean my carpet?
Generally speaking, you should shampoo or steam clean your carpet once a year, however this depends on the quality of your carpet, the amount of foot traffic it gets, and whether or not you have pets.
Places like entry rooms may need more frequent cleaning because they are used heavily daily, and they also may be where people walk in with wet or dirty shoes before taking them off.
You may be able to get away with cleaning the carpet of a guest room less often, maybe every 18 months, because it’s a room that’s only used sporadically.
Does steam cleaning remove carpet dents?
Steam cleaning can remove some carpet dents by softening them and allowing them to return to their original state. Going over the steam cleaned areas with a vacuum (if you’re not already using a hybrid steam cleaner vacuum) can also help spruce the fibres back into a more upright position.
While this method seems to work for many people, it’s not guaranteed to work for all carpet dents.
Should I hire a carpet shampooer or steamer instead?
Carpet shampoo hire or carpet steam cleaner hire can be a great option if you don’t think you’ll use either machine regularly enough to warrant purchasing them, or if you don’t have the space to permanently store them.
Buying one for yourself may be a good idea if you need to use it across multiple properties, or if a lot of mess is created on your floors (think pet stains or your child using the carpet as a canvas for their Jackson Pollock-inspired artworks).
If you use your carpet cleaner or steamer enough, you could pay off the cost of the machine fairly quickly from all the money saved by not hiring a machine or having a professional steam clean every year.
Purchasing your own carpet shampooer or steamer may set you back quite a few hundred dollars, but if you can afford the upfront cost, it can be a worthwhile investment that ends up being a cost-effective alternative to having a professional carpet cleaner come to your home every year.