If you have even a small amount of carpets, you'll have to consider how to clean it regularly or remove that occasional spill. Although you can often remove occasional stains with carpet cleaner, warm water and a scrub brush, this method is not advisable for a whole carpet. Professional carpet cleaner rental units are heavy, bulky and sometimes difficult to use and their costs can add up. But having a home steam carpet cleaner means you can clean carpets when they need it, at your own convenience.
Types of Carpet CleanersFor home use, there are upright steam carpet cleaners and smaller, portable or handheld spot cleaners that are more suited to spot removal, rather than for an overall carpet cleaning. These appliances are designed for carpet cleaning and should not be confused with portable steam cleaners. These are not designed for cleaning carpets, but rather for other applications around the home. For purposes of this article, these buying tips will apply mostly to upright steam carpet cleaners. Though vacuums and carpet cleaners are types of cleaners, they are totally different appliances.
Carpet Spot Cleaner Buying Tips
Steam vs Hot Tap Water SprayWhile most models are called 'steam' carpet cleaners, only some units actually heat the carpet to produce a steam when water is applied; most just use hot tap water in the cleaning cycle. Heating to generate steam is a great feature to have, and usually results in a more efficient carpet cleaning. But even models without a heated feature can perform well and deliver a clean carpet, depending on the condition of the carpet and design of the machine.
Performance FeaturesSeveral factors can influence performance: Power, heated cleaning, whether a spray is auto-released or controlled, suction, the design and activation of the brushes, one water tank or two and size or path of the head. But the most influential is the spray and brush design and effective suction. A lightweight basic model might deliver an adequate cleaning, but the design and lack of features might not be as convenient as a larger full-featured model. Lack of adequate suction may not impact cleaning, but delays drying. A 12-amp motor is comparable to most upright vacuums and generally adequate for carpet cleaning.
Best FeaturesDual tanks - one for the hot water spray and a separate one for dirty water/solution removal is the best design. With a single tank, once the water has been discharged, suction must be initiated and the tank emptied before continuing with clean water. Heated cleaning is more effective than hot tap water and a wide cleaning path saves steps. Several brushes work better to loosen and lift deep dirt, than 2 or 3. Being able to control the spray and activate the cleaning solution allows you to rinse the carpet or concentrate on certain areas. Good suction means quicker rug drying and variable speeds are preferred.
Accessories That MatterA powered (rotating brush) hand tool is extremely handy for concentrating on stains or cleaning stairs, upholstery or vehicle interiors. The length of the hose for the hand tool and the cord for the cleaner are also worth noting. Of course, good suction is best for the hand tool to remove most of the dirty water and solution.
When Your Needs Are SmallIf you have just a few entrance mats and runners, rather than paying for a full-featured steam carpet cleaner that may be difficult to handle and store, you may want to consider a more affordable, lightweight model with enough features to adequately meet your needs. And when a spot cleaner is all you really need for removing occasional spills from upholstery, mats, carpets or vehicle seats, consider a handheld steam spot cleaner rather than a full-size carpet cleaner.
Consumer TipsLearn why it's important to read your product manual, keep your receipt and what you should do when things go wrong with your new purchase.
Related ResourcesMore about floor care products and read reviews
Vacuums and Floor Care, Reviews, Buying Tips