A good carpet washer can give new life to a carpet with years of dirt and sweat build-up. But some simply won’t clean your carpet and others can make your carpet overly wet and vulnerable to mould.
Over time, carpets build up with grime that isn’t removed through regular dry vacuuming. That build-up is likely to be more if you have pets at home. Buying or hiring a good carpet washer can remove a lot of that grime.
But some models are a waste of time or leave your carpet overly wet. Check out our test results to see which perform best and leave your carpet driest.
What is a carpet washer?
A carpet washer – sometimes called a carpet shampooer or carpet cleaner – is a machine that’s sole purpose is to shampoo your carpet (and upholstery, in most cases). It squirts water and detergent into the carpet, agitates it with a spinning brush, then sucks the dirty water back out.
A carpet washer is not a wet & dry vacuum. Wet & dry vacs are designed to be used for vacuuming up dirt (dry) and spills (wet). Most carpet washers are not suitable for dry vacuuming, and a wet & dry vac won’t shampoo your carpet.
Types of carpet washers
- Domestic carpet washers are suitable for use at home. They’re typically smaller and lighter than commercial carpet washers, with smaller water tanks.
Commercial carpet washers can be used at home, but they’re also
suited to larger jobs and more frequent use. These are the models
you’ll find available for hire. Some commercial machines have
different warranty periods for domestic and commercial use.
What to consider before buying a carpet washer
Should you buy or hire?
If you’ve got the storage space and will wash your carpets and upholstery frequently, it’ll be convenient to have a carpet washer at home. Otherwise, you can hire a commercial carpet washer for as little as $40 for 4 hours. Not all hire machines are equal, though. Check our test results to compare models.
Most carpet washers don’t do a good job of tackling stains. They typically require specialist cleaning treatments. Only one model we tested performed well, so make sure you compare test results if stain removal is important to you.
If your carpet stays wet for too long, it can grow mould and develop a musty smell. It can also get water stains or brown stains from the carpet backing. Our test results show which models have the shortest carpet drying times.
If you want to clean couches and car seats or similar, choose a model with an upholstery tool. A crevice tool is handy too, for getting into narrow spaces. Most models also have a brush tool, which is sometimes called a ‘deep reach’ or ‘tough stain’ brush tool. And some have a hard floor cleaning head.
Some models have on-board storage. This means tool attachments don’t have to be carried or stored separately – they’re always right where you need them.
Water tank capacity
Small water tanks require emptying and refilling several times when cleaning larger areas. But the large water tanks typical of commercial grade carpet washers are heavier when full and may be awkward to empty.
Models with large water tanks are heavier than smaller models. Water weighs about 1kg per litre. That means a machine with an 8L tank will be carrying an extra 8kg in water on top of the machine’s weight. It’ll require more effort to move and carry up and down stairs than a smaller machine.
Carpet washers with more reach allow you to clean more of your house before having to move power points. Power cord and handle lengths vary. Our test measures the total distance from the power point to the cleaning head.
Some carpet washers are especially noisy. Consider ear protection for models that make 80dBA of noise or more – we think ear protection is essential at 85dBA and above. Our test accurately measures noise levels at the user’s position.
Warranty periods vary, typically from one to three years. And some manufacturers’ warranties are not transferable, so they’re not valid if you buy or sell the machine second-hand.
Tips for using a carpet washer
- Prepare your carpet. Clear the area and thoroughly vacuum your carpet. But don’t use a carpet washer for dry vacuuming – use a standard vacuum cleaner instead.
- Don’t use overly hot water in the clean water tank. Doing so could damage the machine and void your warranty. Check the user manual – most take water 40–60oC.
- Use the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning solution. Others may stain or bleach your carpet, damage the machine and/or void your warranty. There are also different solutions for cleaning carpet and upholstery.
- Dilute concentrated cleaning fluid as the manufacturer directs. Insufficient dilution could make a foamy mess. It might then be difficult to remove the excess detergent.
- Avoid over-wetting the carpet and suck out as much moisture as you can. Go over the carpet slowly in vacuum mode several times after cleaning. It’ll shorten drying time, reducing the chance of stains, mould and musty odours developing.
- Don’t put furniture on the carpet until it’s completely dry. Otherwise, the furniture might stain your carpet.
We've tested 9 carpet washers.
Find the right one for you.