Carpet Cleaner vs. Vacuum: How to Choose

Learn what carpet cleaners are, how they're used, whether to rent or buy, and how they clean differently than vacuums.

Determine whether you need a carpet cleaner or a vacuum... or both!

If you’ve been keeping up with your vacuuming and still find your carpets to be in need of a deeper clean, then a carpet cleaner may be in your near future. Carpet cleaners provide a much deeper clean than your typical vacuum cleaner, and their quality is reflected in their price. Fortunately, when it comes to carpet cleaners, there are multiple options to help get the job done.

Not sure whether you should be investing in a quality vacuum or saving for regular carpet cleanings? We’re here to hopefully make that decision easier for you.

What Are Carpet Cleaners?

Don’t be fooled by the name — carpet cleaners are actually quite different than your typical upright vacuum cleaner. In fact, carpet cleaners provide such a deep and thorough clean that the instructions for many of them suggest vacuuming your carpet before you even begin using the carpet cleaner. This is because carpet cleaners work to remove deeply embedded dirt, debris, and stains.

While vacuum cleaners are great for average, day-to-day messes, carpet cleaners should be used for long-term, ground-in dirt and debris that most vacuums have no chance of removing.

How Do You Get Them?

Unlike vacuum cleaners, which fall within a wide range of price points and are available at nearly any major household store, carpet cleaners are much more of an investment for those who wish to buy them. They’re also not regularly sold in household stores at the basic consumer level. For this reason, many people actually rent them instead of purchasing them.

There are three ways to have access to a carpet cleaner: hire, rent, or buy. Firstly, you can hire a professional to use a carpet cleaner in your home, providing a deep cleaning service on any of your carpeted areas. For those who are less interested in running the machines themselves and have a little bit more of a budget to spend, hiring a carpet cleaner can be a good option.

If you’re not interested in hiring a professional to clean your carpets, you’ll then want to decide whether or not renting or buying is best for you.

Buying vs. Renting

Carpet cleaners can be as low as $150 for the machine, or they go for as much as $500, depending on the brand, make, and model. However, in addition to the machine’s cost, consumers will also have to pay for carpet detergent to use in conjunction with the carpet cleaner if they choose to purchase their own machine. Detergent can cost around $60 a bottle, which would cover approximately 1,600 square feet.

Furthermore, if purchasing your own carpet cleaner, you also become responsible for maintaining it, as well as covering any costs associated with its repair.

Renting a carpet cleaner can be much more affordable if you’re not certain how often you’ll be needing your carpet cleaned and want to pay smaller amounts over time. The average price of renting a carpet cleaner comes out to around $30 dollars a day. Some cleaning machine rentals will include cleaning solution free of charge, while others will require you to purchase a pretreatment solution out of pocket.

Final Verdict

While a carpet cleaner can provide your home with a deep cleaning, removing stains, bacteria, and long term dirt, vacuum cleaners provide a quick solution for picking up loose debris on your carpets. So which purchase is best for you?

Our verdict is that the two appliances actually work best when used in conjunction with each other. Because they ultimately serve different purposes (surface dirt versus ground-in dirt), it’s difficult to compare the two. Additionally, carpet cleaners will work best when the carpet is vacuumed prior to the deep clean.

However, while we believe that every home can benefit from the use of both a vacuum cleaner and a carpet cleaner, that doesn’t mean that every person will go about accessing these appliances in the same way.

While vacuums are a more affordable appliance for many households, carpet cleaners are not necessarily an appliance that you’ll find in every home. As it turns out, the biggest decision when it comes to carpet cleaners is not, in fact, whether or not you should use one — but rather, whether you want to purchase, hire, or buy one.

Resources: Consumer Reports, Home Floor Experts, The Spruce