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How we test carpet shampooers

A good carpet shampooer will lift dirt and refresh tired floors.

Carpet shampooer cleaning carpet

The right carpet shampooer can transform a tired, old carpet by lifting dirt and dust embedded in the pile and making it look almost brand new. 

Here's how our lab experts discover which ones perform best and are easy to use.

Our expert testers

At CHOICE, the vast majority of our product testing is done by our qualified in-house testers. Our testers are highly experienced in testing a wide range of products using calibrated equipment, and many sit on Standards committees and belong to other professional bodies.

How we choose what carpet shampooers to test

Carpet shampooers can be bought outright or hired through a range of retail outlets, and we test what you'd typically see in major retailers. Our product researcher will survey manufacturers to find out about their range of models, and our buyers purchase them anonymously to ensure they're the exact same models you'd buy yourself. This means we know they haven't been 'tweaked' in any way.

For practical and cost reasons, we may borrow rental models from manufacturers for a number of weeks during our testing process, but when it's time to conduct key carpet cleaning tests we still go out and rent them in their used form, as a consumer would, to replicate the experience.

carpet shampoo machine samples

Samples of soiled carpet are cleaned with our carpet shampooers, and results analysed using a spectrophotometer.

How CHOICE tests carpet shampooers

Our test includes carpet cleaning, stain removal, noise, ease of use and residual wetness.

Carpet cleaning and stain removal

We embed a mixture of clay, sand and canola oil spray into our test carpet and leave it to set. The aim of this concoction is to replicate months, if not years, of built-up dirt, sweat and oil – the type of stuff you want to get rid of with a carpet shampooer.

After using the carpet shampooer according to the manufacturer's instructions, we use a spectrophotometer to see how close the carpet cleaner can get the soiled carpet back to its original and new colour, then convert this into a carpet cleaning score.

We also test how well they remove wine, gravy and coffee stains using a visual assessment. This is only a small part of our testing, as most carpet cleaners don't do a good job (and don't claim to be stain removers). For any spills, you're better off using a dedicated carpet stain remover.

Ease of use

Some of the machines are very bulky and cumbersome to operate. To test ease of use, our expert assesses:

  • how easy it is to move the cleaning head over carpet, and whether it drags
  • mobility, which includes reach from the power point, weight of the unit and wand, and wand length
  • ease of accessing and using controls
  • ease of filling/emptying the water containers.

Residual wetness

Over a 24-hour period, we periodically assess how wet the carpets are after cleaning, and also check the undersides for any dampness.


Measured at operator's ear level. Many of these machines are very loud and irritating, and the use of ear protection is recommended. 

Test criteria explained

The performance score makes up 70% of the CHOICE Expert Rating, and ease of use comprises 30%. Performance includes 80% carpet cleaning, 10% noise and 10% residual wetness score.

Our test lab

Carpet cleaning tests are conducted in CHOICE's temperature controlled vacuum lab. Our labs are up-to-date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools to ensure you get the right results.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.