In this buying guide, we take a look at the various carpet cleaner types and models available. This guide has been put together following our own extensive research into choosing the best carpet cleaner for our house.
The main things you notice straight away when researching carpet cleaners is the type of carpet cleaner or washer model, the limited brands available and the price ranges. So let’s take a looks at each one of them in turn.
Carpet cleaner type
There are basically 3 types of carpet cleaner:
- Upright models which look like modified vacuum cleaners.
- Portable, handheld versions. These are great for having around the house when you need to clear up a quick spill or clean a particular stained patch of carpet. Due to their size, you’re going to struggle to do a whole room with one of these though.
- Heavy-duty models. These are the type that you can hire from supermarkets or DIY stores (these are Rug Doctors mainly). They are pretty heavy-duty models and, due to their price, would require you to do a lot of carpet cleaning in order to get a decent return on your investment. Might be more suitable for those households with messy pets that require you to constantly clean your carpets.
For quick reference, these are our recommendations for each type of carpet cleaner:
- Best upright carpet cleaner: Vax Rapid Power Plus
- Best portable/handheld carpet cleaner: Bissell SpotClean Pro
Later in this guide, we take a look at the best selling models of each type plus highlight what you should be looking for when researching and purchasing each carpet cleaner type.
Carpet cleaner brands
The UK carpet cleaner market is dominated by two (or three if you count Rug Doctor) main brands – these are Vax and Bissell. At the time of writing, Vax “only” have three models in their UK carpet cleaning range; the Platinum Power Max, Rapid Power Plus and Rapid Power Revive. A good selling (budget) model is the Vax Compact Power Carpet Cleaner but although this is widely available it’s not currently listed on Vax’s website.
In comparison, Bissell has a large range and choice of carpet cleaners from upright models to portable cleaners to the heavy-duty Big Green. Price-wise, they are similar to Vax but in general, we have found they are slightly more expensive. One of the most popular Bissell carpet cleaners is the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution.
Lastly, Rug Doctors two main products are quite contrasting. At one end you have the portable Spot Cleaner and at the top end the familiar Deep Carpet Cleaner. There is also a more heavy-duty X3 Professional but this is a serious bit of kit and at around £600 is mostly going to appeal to professional carpet cleaners and is the sort of equipment utilised by companies such as carpet cleaning Wandsworth.
Carpet cleaner price ranges
Just a quick word on carpet cleaner prices. You are unlikely to get and model for under £100, in fact, the smaller portable models are usually around £130 and at this price, you can also get one of the cheapest upright models, the Vax Compact Power Carpet Cleaner.
The majority of Vax and Bissell upright models are approaching the £150 to £200 mark and you will also find some better-equipped models in the £200+ price bracket. For heavy-duty carpet cleaners expect to pay around £300+.
Below is some further information on the reasonably priced Vax Compact Power Carpet Cleaner model (plus we also have a more detailed review in this article):
- Tackle everyday stains and pet messes with Aquaspin brushbar
- Vax's lightest carpet washer weighing only 5.7 kg
- Narrow floor head is elegant for reaching small spaces
- The twin tanks ensure clean and dirty water is kept separate
- Compact design for easy storage
Last update on 2023-12-08 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
In the following sections of this guide we take a look at the three main carpet cleaner models, compare and review each model plus we provide some buying tips and advice.
Best Selling Upright Carpet Cleaners: Compared and Reviewed
We have pulled data from several sources to give an idea of the current best selling models of upright carpet cleaner. Here are the top 5 (we review this data every few months to check for up and coming best selling models):
Vax Compact Power
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Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution
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Vax Rapid Power Plus
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Vax Rapid Power Revive
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Bissell StainPro 4
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Vax Compact Power Carpet Cleaner Review
As we’ve mentioned previously in this article, the Compact Power carpet washer from Vax is one of the cheapest available (in fact, it’s similarly priced to most portable carpet cleaners!). No surprise then that it’s one of the best selling models right now in the UK (despite not being listed in Vax’s current range).
At this price point, you only get one brush bar (compared to two or more on expensive models) and the tanks are a little on the small side with a capacity of 1.8 litres for the clean water tank and 1.5 litres for the dirty water tank, so be prepared to make more frequent trip to the sink to both fill up with water and empty the dirty water.
You’ll also have to do without any tools on this model but the plus sides are its lightweight (coming in at 5.7kg) and its compact size that allows you to get into tighter spaces. However, the most appealing feature of this carpet cleaner is the price!
Want to know more? We’ve reviewed the best selling budget carpet cleaner in this article here.
Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Carpet Cleaner with HeatWave Technolgy (18583) Review
The ProHeat 2x Revolution carpet cleaner from Bissell is nearly £100 more than the Vax Compact but thankfully it’s clear to see where the extra money is going.
With this model, you get two brush bars which help to loosen up the dirt and get deep into the carpet fibres. The water tanks on this model are considerably larger than the Vax Compact, with a capacity of 4.5litres (each) for both the clean and dirty water tanks. Plenty of water to save you refilling and emptying every few minutes.
At this price, you also get some onboard tool including a long 7 foot hose and tool for cleaning areas such as stairs. The ProHeat 2x has two cleaning modes – one for quick cleaning that leaves most carpets dry with an hour and anther “deep clean” mode for a more thorough clean. The water in the clean tank is also maintained at a constant temperature so you should get pretty consistent cleaning results from start to finish.
Although this carpet cleaner has a relatively low profile for getting under furniture it’s also on the heavy side at 8kg, so may not be as easy to move for some people. Overall though this is a great quality, high-performance carpet cleaner and one suited to those who require their carpets to be cleaned on a more regular basis.
Vax Rapid Power Plus Carpet Washer Review
The Power Plus carpet cleaner from Vax is the most expensive (just) of the three Vax carpet cleaners reviewed here and is usually available for the same price as the Bissell StainPro 4 reviewed below. Although its quite expensive, the Power Plus in our opinion offers very good value for money.
This Vax has 5 brushes that rotate in opposite directions to give the carpet a deep clean (on the Bissell, the brushes are mounted on a bar). There are also brushes on the side of the carpet cleaner that allows you to get right up to the edge of the carpet.
The water tanks on this model are some of the largest around with a 4.7 litre capacity so plenty of water available between trips to the sink. Identical to the Bissell ProHeat 2x, this Vax also has two cleaning modes – quick clean for fast (under 1 hour is quoted) carpet drying time and a more thorough deep clean mode. All this adds to the weight though with the Power Plus coming in at a hefty 8.4kg.
What impressed us on this model however is the range of tools that are supplied. Along with the 2.5m / 8.2ft hose, you also get a 2-in-1 anti-microbial hand tool, crevice tool and SpinScrub motorised hand tool. This kit allows you to tackle most household carpet cleaning jobs as well as upholstery and car interior cleaning.
This carpet cleaner offers excellent value for money and is certainly one we would recommend. If you would like to learn more, go ahead and read our Vax Rapid Power Plus review.
Vax Rapid Power Revive Carpet Washer Review
The Vax Rapid Power Revive carpet cleaner is the mid-priced model of the three Vax cleaners reviewed in this article. It’s usually around £20-£30 cheaper than the Vax Power Plus model but ultimately the differences come down to accent colour (orange versus blue) and the number of hand tools supplied. That’s it.
The Power Revive is pretty much an identical model to the Power Plus with the same 5 scrub brushes, 4.7 litre water tanks and twin (quick and deep clean) cleaning modes. It even ways the same at 8.4kg! The only difference is the number of hand tools supplied. With the Power Revive you get the same length (2.5m) hose and crevice tool but the microbial upholstery hand tool is replaced by a standard upholstery hand tool and you’ll have to do without the motorised SpinScrub tool.
In our opinion, we would just pay the extra to get the additional motorised hand tool as this is probably one of the more useful of the available tools. We have reviewed the Vax Rapid Power Revive carpet cleaner in detail and you can read more in this article.
Bissell StainPro 4 Carpet Cleaner (20686) Review
The StainPro 4 carpet cleaner from Bissell sits just below the Bissell ProHeat 2x when it comes to price and is usually around the same price as the Vax Rapid Power Revive. So what’s it like versus its Vax competitor?
Bissell state that the StainPro 4 has four rotating DirtLifter PowerBrushes, however, this is actually 4 rows of brush on one single brush bar. Slightly confusing but they still do a good job of agitating the carpet fibres for a deep clean. There are also brushes on the edge of the cleaner head so you can get right up to the skirting board.
The StainPro 4 has a 2-in-1 water tank so the clean and dirty water is in separate chambers. Each tank has a capacity of 2.8 litres which is lower than the separate Vax tanks (4.7 litres each). In fact, we are not 100% convinced as to why you would want the tanks in one unit apart from being able to empty and fill at the same time.
The supplied hose attachment is 1.8m (5.9ft) which is smaller than the 2.5m long hose supplied with the comparable Vax models. The only tool you get is a 3″ hand tool but this is still very useful for upholstery or car seat/carpet cleaning. At 7.9kg is slightly lighter than Vax models but you probably won’t notice the 500 gram difference.
In summary, though we would choose one of the Vax models, mainly due to the longer hose and the cleaning modes on the Vax (plus on the Power Plus you get extra tools). Some may prefer the Bissell design and 2-in-1 water tank system over the Vax though.
Things to consider when buying an upright carpet cleaner
If you decide to go down the upright carpet cleaner route then there are a few things that you need to consider:
As shown in the reviews above, the entry-level price for an upright carpet cleaner is around the £130 mark, but this only gets you a basic model (although it’ll still be suitable for less frequent cleaning). To get a well-equipped carpet cleaner you are looking at the £180-£200 price point. You can spend well over £200 but you are really not getting that much more for your money.
Uprights carpet cleaners work using rotating brushes and these are either mounted on one or two brush bars or on multiple circular units. It’s also worth seeing if the carpet cleaner has side brushes on the head as these are useful for getting in tight up against skirting boards.
All carpet cleaners have clean and dirty water tanks. Usually, these are separate tanks but some Bissell models (e.g. the StainPro 4 range) have a 2-in-1 tank that holds the clean and dirty water in separate chambers. Capacity does vary for these tanks but with smaller tanks, you’ll be returning to the sink more frequently to fill up and empty the dirty water.
Hoses and accessories
If you want to clean stairs, upholstery or car interior then you want a carpet cleaner with a hose attachment (most have decent hose lengths but a longer one will make your job just that bit easier). Accessories include crevice tools and handheld cleaning heads. A good feature is a motorised cleaning head for extra cleaning power (although these are usually reserved for more higher-priced models).
The only other extra feature that’s worth considering is dual cleaning modes. Carpet cleaners with this feature have two settings: one for quick cleaning where the carpet doesn’t get too wet and will dry within one hour and a deep cleaning setting for a more thorough carpet clean.
Weight is also worth considering as carpet cleaner are generally heavier than upright carpet cleaners, especially when filled with up to 8 litres of water! Most of the carpet cleaners reviewed above are around 8kg in weight with the cheaper Vax Compact weighing in at a comparatively light 5.7kg
Best Selling Portable Carpet Cleaners: Compared and Reviewed
In contrast to the upright carpet cleaners reviewed above, the choice of portable (or handheld) carpet cleaners is fairly limited. There are three similar models available from Bissell, one from Rug Doctor and none from Vax.
The table below shows all four of these best selling portable carpet cleaners.
Bissell SpotClean Pro
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Rug Doctor Portable Spot Cleaner
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Bissell SpotClean Pro Portable Carpet Cleaner Review
The SpotClean from Bissell is the current best selling portable carpet cleaner by far. It’s competitively priced at around the £130 mark (RRP), and strangely, is the same price as the “standard” SpotClean model.
This Pro model does have a bulkier appearance than the standard model and weighs an extra 2kg at 6kg, which starts to make it quite heavy for a portable cleaner. With portable models, cable length and hose length are important as this makes the unit far easier to use by not having to move the cleaner as often during cleaning. The SpotClean Pro has a 7 metre power cord and 1.5 metre long flexible hose. The hand tool itself is 6″ wide although it’s not motorised on this model, unlike the Rug Doctor portable model.
The feature that makes the SpotClean Pro stand out from the standard SpotClean model though is the increasing power rating of the motor: 750 watts versus 330, which is almost double motor power on the Pro version. The SpotClean Pro does have separate water tanks for clean and dirty water, with a capacity of 3.5 litres and 2.9 litres respectively. However, the SpotClean Pro model does not feature Heatwave technology (to maintain constant water temperature in the tanks) like the standard SpotClean model.
The SpotClean Pro from Bissell has a lot to offer for the price, so it’s easy to see why it’s such a best seller. It is also a lot better specified than the standard, but same price, SpotClean model. The only thing that may put people of the Pro version is the extra weight.
Bissell SpotClean Carpet Cleaner (36981) Review
The Bissell SpotClean carpet is a lower specced version of the Pro model reviewed above. Its the same RRP as the Pro model at around £130 but weighs 33% less and is less bulky in size, meaning that this model is easier to manoeuvre and store.
There are a few features that distinguish the SpotClean from its Pro counterpart. The first is the motor is rated at 330 watts versus 750 watts for the Pro. This is quite a big difference and will be noticeable when it comes to suction power. This model has a 4.6 meter cord (the Pro is 7 metres) and a narrower 3″ (compared to 6″) handheld brush tool.
The tank on the SpotClean for the clean water is 1.4 litre and 1.1 litres for the dirty water tank. This is significantly less capacity than the tanks on the pro which means you’ll be making more frequent trips to the sink between cleanups.
We summarised the SpotClean Pro model above by saying that the only reasons to choose this standard SpotClean model over the Pro are the smaller size and lower weight – if this is your requirements, then the Bissell SpotClean is certainly worth a look. If not, choose the SpotClean Pro.
Rug Doctor Portable Spot Cleaner Review
The Rug Doctor Spot Cleaner is the only real main competitor to the Bissell branded products, and although it has a listed price of £155, you’ll often find it on sale for around the same price at the Bissell models. So how does it stack up?
In terms of size, the Rug Doctor is a larger unit than its Bissell competitors (even the Pro model) and weighs a lot more at 7.5 kg. Rug Doctor at least acknowledges its size by adding some plastic wheels and a retractable handle (think travel suitcase). At least it still technically classes as portable!
The Rug Doctor is actually quite a decent piece of carpet cleaning kit. The motor is by far the most powerful at 1,100 watts (the Bissell Pro can “only” manage 750 watts) so you’ll have plenty of suction power for ensuring that your carpets dry quicker. You also get a motorised handheld brush tool which is quite unique on a portable carpet cleaner.
The length of the power cord on the Spot Cleaner is 4.6 metres, which falls short of the 7 metres on the Bissell Pro. The hose length, however, is slightly longer at 1.7 metres (versus 1.5 meters). This model comes with separate tanks for both clean and dirty water, with the clean water tank having a 1.9 litre capacity, which is a lot less than the 3.5 litre tank on the Bissell Pro.
With its high-performance motor and motorised clean brush, this is a very effective carpet cleaner but its size and weight will be off-putting for some users. Certainly worth considering if you need a more heavy-duty portable carpet cleaner.
Things to consider when buying a portable carpet cleaner
Handheld, portable carpet cleaners are great for spot cleaning and for quickly cleaning up messes and spills. They are also very handy for upholstery and car interior cleaning. Due to their design though they have limited features, but there are still some important points to consider when choosing a portable carpet cleaner.
Size and weight
You need to be able to easily move your portable cleaner around and it should also be easy to store. The Rug Doctor and Bissel SpotClean Pro are big, heavier models so it might also be worth looking at smaller models if storage space is restricted. If its a pain to get out and use, it’ll get left forgotten in a cupboard.
Cable and hose length
These are other features required for portability. Cable lengths vary but the Bissell SpotClean Pro has the longest one. A long hose is useful as you can then leave the portable cleaning unit in place while you clean around it (the Rug Doctor has a long 1.7 metre hose).