Best Carpet Cleaner for Pets

Cleaning up after our pets doesn’t have to be a tough task. With the right tools and a good plan in place, you can stay one step ahead of your pets and be sure your carpets are always ready for company! Our top picks for carpet cleaning machines include:

Bissell Big Green Machine Professional Carpet Cleaner
Bissell Big Green Machine Professional Carpet Cleaner
$284
on amazon
8/10
  • What we Like
  • Powerful suction
  • Hot water extraction
  • Cleans both directions
  • Large cleaning solution tank
  • What we Dislike
  • Heavy
  • Longer dry times
  • Higher price point
  • Noisy
Product Details
Carrying Handle

Length of Hose 9.5'
Weight (Empty) 43 lbs
Weight (Full) 58 lbs
Attachments Hose
6" stair tool
Our Review

The Big Green Machine is Bissell’s take on the classic Rug Doctor-esque design. This machine does not administer a little steam to the carpet, it uses hot water extraction. That means it puts down extremely hot water with a cleaning solution (read here for our favorites), agitates the carpet and solution with powerful brushes, and then uses power suction to draw the dirty water back into a tank. The Big Green cleans moving both forward and backward, so you can get two passes in one motion. The suction is so good that you can do a few more additional passes (not holding down the trigger) to extract more of the water from the carpet. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it was even extracting more pet hair from the carpet, and we thought we’d already done a good job with our daily driver Shark Duoclean vacuum.

The Big Green stacks up pretty well against the competition. We’re fans!

Bissell ProHeat 2X Lift Off Pet Carpet Cleaner 15651
Bissell ProHeat 2X Lift Off Pet Carpet Cleaner 15651
$300
on amazon
6/10
  • What we Like
  • Liftoff function for spot cleaning
  • Portable
  • What we Dislike
  • Small tank
  • Poor suction
Product Details
Carrying Handle

Length of Hose 6'
Weight (Empty) 24 lbs
Weight (Full) 30 lbs
Attachments 2
Our Review

This is a very popular model with a 12-inch wide cleaning path that allows the user to “lift-off” the cleaning unit for use as a spot cleaning style cleaner on stairs or in smaller areas. This is great for cleaning rugs, upholstery, and other smaller areas. However, there are some issues we have with this unit. The lift-off spot cleaner doesn’t have the suction or agitation the base of the unit has.

Yes, the brushes on the base of the unit are strong and agitate your carpet, but after this machine puts down water and cleaning solution, it has a hard time with enough suction to extract it again (with the dirt and stains) from your carpet. So it appears to be doing quite a good job because many users’ carpet hasn’t been vacuumed or agitated with brushes that powerful, but it’s not truly getting a deep-down clean.

This is a decent enough cleaner for light cleaning but we’re just not feeling like it’s powerful enough to tackle tough messes and stains on carpets with a thicker pile or larger areas.

Best Mid-Range
Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Max Clean Pet Pro Full-Size Carpet Cleaner
Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Max Clean Pet Pro Full-Size Carpet Cleaner Best Mid-Range
$203
on amazon
7/10
  • What we Like
  • Brush roll easy to clean
  • Handles like a vacuum cleaner
  • Upholstery tool
  • What we Dislike
  • Does not heat water
  • Less sturdy construction
  • Quality control issues
  • Small tank
Product Details
Carrying Handle

Length of Hose 8'
Weight (Empty) 19
Weight (Full) 27
Attachments 2
Our Review

This is a lightweight machine that handles and feels like a mid-grade vacuum. Lower profile and easy to get under the coffee table. Right off the bat, we were kind of ticked that Bissell calls it ProHeat because none of the vacuums in this range heat their own water, the warmth comes from adding hot tap water.

However, this is still a decent mid-range carpet cleaner for moderately-sized areas of the home. The upholstery attachment on the hose snaps neatly into the base of the vacuum for wet/extraction cleaning

There’s a little “Cleanshot” pretreat function but it sprays in a straight line and not really effective at nailing a bigger area without moving around the vacuum, like trying to cover a big square of carpet with a really big heavy watergun. We would not recommend the Bissell Pretreat products anyway, so kind of a useless feature. After using a carpet cleaner, you should clean out the bristles and moving parts. On the ProHeat Revolution this is much easier to do than other Bissell units. Nobody wants to have to reinvent the wheel after spending all day cleaning carpets, so this was a great feature.

On carpets with higher/thicker pile, this unit may struggle as the brush rolls are not very sturdy or strong.

Best Overall
Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 Commercial Carpet Cleaner
Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 Commercial Carpet Cleaner Best Overall
$526
on amazon
9/10
  • What we Like
  • Huge tank
  • Commercial strength suction
  • Versatile
  • What we Dislike
  • Heavy
  • High price point
  • Noisy
Product Details
Carrying Handle

Length of Hose 13'
Weight (Empty) 39
Weight (Full) 52
Attachments 2
Our Review

Rug Doctors are legendary, and there’s a reason why they are one of the top choices for rental units- solid performance that stands up to the brutal life of cleaning many, many households. They are easy to service and find parts for, and have an excellent warranty. Now you can buy one for around the same price as a full-house carpet cleaning. If you have wall-to-wall carpet in your house, we recommend a unit that is meant for cleaning a lot more square footage, and these are meant for entire rooms and homes!

They are noisy and heavy when loaded, but you could do a decent-sized room without filling and emptying tanks. With the hand tools you can easily tackle stairs, furniture, and anything else needing a good cleaning after your pet has been there. The suction on these units extracts a lot of water, and multiple passes without holding down the “trigger” will pull up quite a lot. The tanks can be easily cleaned out when you’re done because you can actually reach inside them if need be. Nothing was more frustrating to us with some of the smaller carpet cleaners than to see dirt, sediment, or gobs of pet hair that somehow made it to the bottom of a tank that we had a hard time getting out. We’ve used vinegar, enzymatic cleaners, and standard carpet shampoos in ours with resounding success.

Rug Doctor is our top pick for pet owners who want clean carpets. If you purchase a Rug Doctor without cleaning attachments, we highly recommend the Rug Doctor Upholstery Tool or the Rug Doctor Universal Hand Tool. These will add even more versatility to your new favorite cleaning device.

Best Budget
Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner
Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner Best Budget
$100
on amazon
6/10
  • What we Like
  • Low price point
  • Strong suction
  • Easy to use
  • What we Dislike
  • No attachments
  • Small tank
  • Loud
Product Details
Carrying Handle

Length of Hose N/A
Weight (Empty) 13 lbs
Weight (Full) 18 lbs
Attachments N/A
Our Review

The Hoover PowerDash performed well for its size and class. It is a no-frills spot cleaner in a vacuum cleaner’s body with no attachments. For spot cleaning and small areas, it does the job, especially after an area has been pretreated with an enzymatic cleaner. The instructions needed to be more specific about the usage of the tanks but once we got the hang of it, we did not experience leaks from the solution bottle. Just know that you will be refilling the tanks a lot for more than a small room or hallway. Like every carpet cleaner, you have to clean this after every use. The dirty water tank must be thoroughly cleaned and both tanks allowed to dry out before putting it away.

Otherwise, it’s a good choice for buyers on a budget.

Hoover Smartwash Automatic Carpet Cleaner
Hoover Smartwash Automatic Carpet Cleaner
$172
on amazon
5/10
  • What we Like
  • Lightweight
  • Simple function
  • What we Dislike
  • Smaller tank
  • Does not do well on upholstery/stairs
  • Shorter hose
Product Details
Carrying Handle

Length of Hose 108"
Weight (Empty) 17
Weight (Full) 18
Attachments 1
Our Review

The Smartwash is a good choice for cleaning a moderately sized area, such as several rooms and hallway in a home. We included this option because it was so highly rated, however, we found a lot of shortcomings. It has a 1 gallon tank. The hose attaches easily at the base of the unit. The Smartwash’s function is automatic- forward motion applies the clean water and cleaning fluid, and pulling it backward extracts the moisture from the carpet. You are not able to manually control it with a trigger, and this was frustrating. It’s relatively easy to take apart for cleaning or removing clogged nozzles. Like most carpet cleaners, it does best on low-pile carpet. We like the “Dry Only” function that allows you to extract more moisture from the carpet if need be, but that mode is problematic as well because the machine keeps trying to go back to clean mode. The tanks sometimes leak if not lined up perfectly

Best Wet/Dry Extractor
Vacmaster Wet Dry Shampoo Vacuum Cleaner 3 in 1 Portable Carpet Cleaner
Vacmaster Wet Dry Shampoo Vacuum Cleaner 3 in 1 Portable Carpet Cleaner Best Wet/Dry Extractor
$229
on amazon
8/10
  • What we Like
  • Filtration
  • Excellent suction
  • Huge tank
  • What we Dislike
  • Complex assembly
  • Heavy
Product Details
Carrying Handle

Length of Hose 8'
Weight (Empty) 31 lbs
Weight (Full) Varies
Attachments 6
Our Review

Included in the “Beast” series of Vacmaster’s lineup is this versatile carpet cleaner. It’s geared more for detailing and spot cleaning, so don’t try to take this and do an entire 3000 square foot house or you may not be able to move the next day. However, for smaller areas, furniture, rugs, and other trouble spots, this is an outstanding product. It does best on low-pile carpets in order to keep suction. Using the smaller nozzle works better on thicker carpets but obviously the cleaning path is then reduced. The handle has a valve that allows you to control the amount of suction if you’re working on something that needs less of it.

It works like a shop-vac only it has separate clean and dirty water tanks. The dirty water tank can be drained with a plug at the base- so easy! For indoor use or if you don’t have a floor drain, you can’t let it get too full or you may not be able to lift it. The Vacmaster has a HEPA filter as well as filters inside to keep pet hair and whatever else you’re vacuuming up in the wastewater tank.

This vacuum is an extremely useful tool with many uses. It really is a beast. The incredible suction allows you to extract a lot of water with multiple passes. It’s got us wondering about what else we can clean with it.

Best Carpet Cleaner for Pets
Product Name Best for Rate
Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Max Clean Pet Pro Full-Size Carpet Cleaner Best Mid-Range 7
Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3 Commercial Carpet Cleaner Best Overall 9
Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner Best Budget 6
Vacmaster Wet Dry Shampoo Vacuum Cleaner 3 in 1 Portable Carpet Cleaner Best Wet/Dry Extractor 8

How To Choose:

Besides adding warmth, creating a soft surface underfoot, and reducing noise, carpeting within the home can help act as a passive air filter by trapping pollutants that may be circulating in your air. Pet hair, dander, and dust eventually settle within the home, and gravity will bring most of it down to the floor. Most carpet will then trap those particles. This is not necessarily a bad thing if you regularly vacuum and clean your carpets.

If carpets are not cleaned regularly, they eventually become a reservoir of all the bad things that affect air quality in your home: dust, pesticides, dirt, pet dander, and worse. Over time,  VOCs (volatile organic compounds) released into the air from common activities such as cleaning,  use of hair and cosmetic products, cooking, burning candles or a fireplace, painting, etc. will begin to build up in your carpet as well. Pets in the home mean the particles in your carpet will dramatically increase along with the potential for other contaminants such as urine, vomit, blood, or feces. These substances can be a challenge to remove even in the best of circumstances.

You may not realize how toxic your carpets have become. And while you walk around your home a little higher up from the carpet, your pets are at ground zero, with no way to escape contaminants that exist at ground level.

The Best Way To Clean Carpets for Pet Owners:

Above all, we recommend you stick to a regular maintenance/cleaning schedule for your home. Not only will this help you stay ahead of any pet hair build-up, you will spot any hidden accidents your pet might have had with plenty of time to intervene before lasting damage occurs.

Always use the right tools for the job. Never use a steam cleaner on pet stains.

For daily/incidental cleaning, our strategy includes:

  1. A good daily or weekly-use vacuum that’s meant for pet hair on both carpets and hard surfaces with wand and attachments. You can read our top picks for vacuums for pet hair here.
  2. Mats or rugs at the doors to your home to reduce the amount of dirt your pets bring in on their feet. It should be easy to clean. We chose one we can take outside and hose off if need be.
  3. An “oops” kit with everything you need to clean specific kinds of stains such as blood, urine, vomit, and feces. Having everything you need already on hand will make it a snap to get the problem taken care of right away. Our guide for removing these kinds of stains can be found here.
  4. An enzymatic cleaner- here’s our top 3:

For deep cleaning/extraction of pet-related stains, here’s our strategy:

If you want it done right, do it yourself. You may know a great carpet cleaner or the phone number of a reputable company to do it for you at least once a year, but keep in mind that you’ll pay more for the convenience. We don’t like most commercial carpet cleaning services, the chemicals they use, and the results. Many of them rush through a job. You may not know the job was inadequate until weeks later when stains and odors return and by then, it’s too late. Different stains and odors need different approaches and chemical treatment. A pro team rushing to finish a big job may not have the time to ask what specific stains are and use the appropriate kinds of cleaners on them.

With a little hard work, the right tools, and a little patience you can get professional results for about the price of one or two pro jobs and still have your carpet cleaner around for next time!

Choose the right cleaning solution. We’ve spent years dealing with the frustration of carpets that had been cleaned with oily cleaning solutions that make the carpet feel soft for about a week after cleaning but invite the stains, dirt, and odors right back. Look for a carpet cleaner with enzymatic or oxy cleaning. You may even want to use vinegar, it’s a universal cleaner that achieves outstanding results. It can be used in many carpet cleaning machines.

Choose a carpet cleaning machine that meets your needs. And pretreat those stains before you even turn on a machine.

Categories of Carpet Cleaner:

Heavy Duty Rental or “Pro” Style

Our favorite carpet cleaners are the professional style that are similar to the ones you can rent at the hardware store. They may not have the best ratings as far as noise and how dry the carpet is immediately after use, but multiple passes pick up more water and we find the extraction level is unmatched. These giant tank-like machines can’t be beaten when it comes to extraction. For the price of a professional carpet cleaning, you can get a professional-grade machine that allows you to utilize the water extraction method with the cleaning solution you choose in a large tank so you aren’t spending half your day running back and forth refilling a tiny little tank. This means a heavy, bulky machine.

However, the level and depth of cleaning achieved is far superior to what you’ll get with a lightweight little machine that puts down more carpet conditioner than it removes dirt. If you don’t believe us, these types of machines are available for rent at many grocery and hardware stores, most of them under the Rug Doctor name. The amount of deep-down dirt they pull up is gloriously… disgusting.

Occasional Use/Vacuum Style

For a smaller home or space, or if you don’t have a lot of carpet and have really well-behaved animals this type of carpet cleaner is likely adequate.

We say casual use because we just don’t think these are made for whole-house cleaning. Yes, you could feasibly do a lot of surface area with one but with smaller tanks, you’ll spend a lot of time filling, emptying, etc. Buyer beware- Some of these are little more than a wet-dry vacuum with a water reservoir. Just like most mid-grade vacuums out there, it can be a challenge to find one with decent suction that has a little more to it than cheap plastic and components. Some of them can be frustrating to take apart and clean and if they break it may be harder or more expensive to find parts than to replace them.

Spot Cleaning

The third type is spot cleaner-style. These are essentially a small canister style vacuum with hose that you can use to clean small spots. Most of these vacuums rely on elbow grease to be effective, so do not consider buying one of these if you think you may want to clean more than just small areas here and there.

Considerations for choosing a carpet cleaner:

  • Is your carpet still under warranty and there are specific types of cleaning or treatment that could void your warranty?
  • Are the carpet cleaning machines you’re considering light enough for you to use when filled with water and cleaning solution?
  • Will the carpet cleaner you’re considering only work with brand-name cleaner and if so, is that a product you want to use on your carpets?
  • If you have stairs, is the hose long enough on a carpet cleaner to do them?
  • Is the machine you’re considering loud enough where you’ll need to consider wearing hearing protection?
  • Does the cleaner you’re using have enough suction to remove most of the moisture it puts down?

In conclusion:

Carpeting is convenient and can make all the difference in how cozy and warm your home feels, and keeping it clean and well-maintained doesn’t have to be an impossible task. With a good routine and regular care, you can stay ahead of the curve and keep your home welcoming, fresh, and healthy for both you and your pets.