Best Carpet-Cleaning Machines

We spent more than three billion dollars in just one year on professional carpet and upholstery cleaning. You can save a lot of money if you want to tackle the task on your own.

Consumer Reports tested eight carpet-cleaning machines from Bissell and Hoover.

Prices ranged from $80-$400. Testers also evaluated a rental machine. And for comparison, they hired a professional service, too.

Testing carpet-cleaning machines is a dirty job. First, testers evenly spread a measured amount of topsoil over the carpet.

Next, they spray it with water, then use a heavy roller to press in the dirt-much like foot traffic does.

Testers then vacuum the dried dirt and use this device, a colorimeter, to measure the amount left on each rug.

Now it's time to put the carpet-cleaning machines to work.

Each one passes over the soiled area 20 times.

Last step, the colorimeter measures the difference. Some results were clearly better.

Emilio Gonzales of Consumer Reports says, "No home machines or rented ones did as good a job cleaning as the professional service. You can really see the difference when comparing the professional cleaning to the lowest scoring carpet cleaner, the $80 Bissell QuickSteamer 1770."

But nevertheless, Consumer Reports did find a carpet cleaner that delivered very good results.

It's the Hoover Dual Steam Vac All Terrain with spin scrub brushes. It costs $270-not inexpensive-but just a fraction of what you'd pay for professional cleaning jobs.

Consumer Reports also tested cleaning solutions and spot cleaners.

For carpet-cleaning machines, if a cleaning solution is not specified, try the top-rated Fresh Solutions Allergen Complete cleaner. It costs about $17.

And if you're just looking to do some spot cleaning, testers recommend the Bissell OxyPro Carpet Spot and Stain Remover that costs about $5.

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