The 7 Best Carpet Shampoos of 2021
Eliminate stains and grime with these top solutions
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Freshen up any room with wall-to-wall carpeting or area rugs by choosing the right carpet shampoo to banish odors and spiff up stains. By using a combination of cleaning agents that attract or absorb dirt and odor-causing bacteria, carpet shampoos are a quick path toward softer, brighter carpet fibers. They can also often be used to give upholstery a quick clean, but you should always spot test a hidden area first.
Some carpet shampoos are meant to be used with a machine cleaner for large-scale tasks. These liquid formulas are usually concentrated and require dilution before use. Other carpet shampoos are better suited for quick cleaning of small spills and come ready to dispense—usually in a spray bottle or a bottle with an applicator.
Best Overall: Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover
Volume: 32 ounces | Application Method: In a machine cleaner or applied directly
Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover has earned plenty of praise for its ability to spot clean stains and we proved it with our product testing. But this wonder spray isn’t limited to cleaning up spilled coffee or dirty footprints on an occasional basis—it also makes an excellent carpet shampoo.
You can put the stain-fighting power of Folex to work in any machine cleaner. It’s recommended by Folex that you mix one part cleaning solution with four to six parts water, adjusting as needed for your soil situation. Since this carpet cleaner is not soap-based and is non-ionic, there’s no need to rinse after the cleaning cycle is complete and it won’t attract dirt to the freshly cleaned fibers. Keeping a bottle of Folex on hand as a spot cleaner and carpet shampoo is a great way to keep carpets and rugs free of messes large and small.
“You’ll know it’s working because you’ll see the stain disappear as you spray and rub it. If it doesn’t work the first time, I repeat the steps until the stain starts to disappear. I often use more product than I think I’ll need, but it always works, and it’s inexpensive, so I don’t mind needing more.” — Deanna McCormack, Product Tester
Best for Pet Stains: Nature’s Miracle Deep Cleaning Pet Stain and Odor Carpet Shampoo
Volume: 64 ounces | Application Method: In a machine cleaner or applied directly
Pet stains on your carpet or rug are not just unsightly but can be stinky, too. If you’re dealing with vomit, feces, or urine stains on your carpets or rugs, search out a carpet shampoo for pet stains specifically—pet stains are protein-based, which require enzymes to fight effectively.
Nature’s Miracle Deep-Cleaning Stain and Odor Remover is a bio-enzymatic formula that aims to eliminate visible stains and capture odor-causing particles. The phosphate-free formula produces minimal suds and can be used to scrub pet stains by hand or you can use it with a water-based carpet cleaning machine.
Best for Cars: Turtle Wax PowerOut Carpet & Mats Cleaner
Volume: 18 ounces | Application Method: Apply directly
Carpeting in your car sees plenty of action—muddy shoes, salty boots, and dirty sneakers are common occurrences. Even with robust car mats in place to protect the carpeting underneath, dirt—or spilled coffee from your commute—can find its way into the fine fibers of your vehicle’s floor. To remedy the issue, reach for a carpet shampoo for cars—like the Turtle Wax Power Out Carpet Cleaner.
This carpet cleaner for cars is a ready-to-apply formula and includes an attached fine bristle brush to scrub stains. Spray the carpet shampoo onto car carpets or mats, let it sit for at least 1 minute for heavy stains, then scrub with the brush to lift dirt and remove odors. Unlike some carpet cleaners for indoor use, there is no rinsing required with this carpet shampoo for cars. Instead, the final step is to simply wipe the fibers with a clean, dry cloth.
Best for Machine Cleaners: OxiClean Large Area Carpet Cleaner
Volume: 64 ounces | Application Method: Machine cleaner
Get the most out of your carpet cleaner by filling it up with a powerful, effective cleaning solution. Carpet shampoos for machine cleaners are designed to lift tiny particles of dirt and allergens from your carpet fibers with a low suds formula that won’t require excessive rinsing.
While nearly every brand of carpet cleaning machine produces its own carpet shampoo for use in their machines, the reality is that you can use any carpet shampoo you choose—as long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dilution. OxiClean Large Area Carpet Cleaner is a popular choice as a carpet shampoo for machine cleaners of all brands. The brand’s stain-fighting formula is available for a variety of household cleaning needs, including freshening your carpets, rugs, and upholstery.
This carpet shampoo has a pH level of 10, which means that it’s alkaline and readily binds to more acidic organic materials—like spilled coffee, greasy spots, or dirt. Keep in mind that you should thoroughly vacuum the carpeted surfaces you want to clean in order to remove any loose debris. Heavily soiled spots or stains may benefit from a pre-treatment.
Best Eco-Friendly: Carpet Miracle Cleaner & Deodorizer Cleaner & Deodorizer
Volume: 1 gallon | Application Method: Water-based machine cleaner or applied directly
Many conventional carpet shampoos rely on cleaning chemicals to do the dirty work. If you’re looking for a greener alternative, consider this eco-friendly carpet shampoo from Carpet Miracle. The formula is biodegradable and non-toxic, which means less worries for the environment. For example, it contains no sodium laurel sulfate or phthalates. Plus, it’s Leaping Bunny certified—a cruelty-free certification for non-animal tested products.
This product is designed to clean and deodorize and it can be used for spot application or in any water-based carpet cleaning machine. A nonionic surfactant formula means that this carpet shampoo produces low amounts of foam and any residue left behind won’t attract dirt, which is an issue with some carpet shampoos.
Best Powder: Aunt Fannie’s Carpet Refresher
Volume: 16 ounces | Application Method: Apply directly
Absorb odors fast with this eco-friendly dry carpet shampoo from Aunt Fannie’s. A recognizable ingredient list, with cleaning agents like baking soda, essential oils, and silica, along with a pleasant scent make this non-toxic dry carpet cleaner an easy pick for a quick refresh.
Like other dry carpet cleaning products, you sprinkle a light layer of Aunt Fannie’s Carpet Refresher directly onto soiled areas. Then, the product needs at least 15 minutes to do its work before you can vacuum it up. Carpets, area rugs, and upholstered items can all benefit from the odor-fighting power of baking soda and the light aromatics of essential oils contained in this safe carpet cleaning formula.
One thing to keep in mind is that this powder isn’t intended to fight stains—just refresh your carpet and remove odors. Consider it more of a maintenance product to use between deep cleanings to keep your room smelling fresh and clean.
Best Budget: Zep All-Purpose Carpet Shampoo
Volume: 1 gallon | Application Method: Machine cleaner or apply directly
Stretch your cleaning budget with this affordable carpet shampoo concentrate from Zep. Zep’s hard-working formula removes dirt, stains, and odors—and one purchase will last you a long time. A gallon-sized jug of Zep All Purpose Carpet Shampoo makes up to 25 gallons of carpet cleaning solution. It can be used in water-based carpet cleaning machines, be spritzed onto car carpeting, or spot-treat small stains.
Zep’s All Purpose Carpet Shampoo contains stain and soil repellents intended to keep your carpet looking cleaner for longer—stretching the time between your carpet cleaning sessions. Whether you have pet messes, food stains, or daily dirt to remove from your carpet or rug fibers, this affordable cleaning solution is ready to take it on.
We recommend Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover for most carpet cleaning situations. This carpet shampoo can be diluted for use in a machine cleaner but is ready to clean small areas and tough stains straight from the bottle. If you are dealing with mostly pet stains, then Nature’s Miracle Deep-Cleaning Stain and Odor Remover (view on Amazon) has the enzyme-based stain fighting power to get both the stain and the odor out of your carpet for good.
What to Look for in a Carpet Shampoo
Most carpet shampoos include surfactants, which reduce the surface tension of liquid and increase “wetness” to penetrate carpet fibers. When it comes to shampoo for carpet cleaners, you’ll also find that ready-made formulas include ingredients that produce minimal soap suds—reducing the need for extensive rinsing, which can saturate carpets and increase drying time.
When choosing a carpet shampoo for pet stains, it’s also important to look for an enzymatic formula. Using specialized ingredients, this type of carpet shampoo will break down the proteins in the stain responsible for lingering odors in your carpet.
If you’re looking for a natural or eco-friendly carpet cleaner, the active ingredients will differ from most conventional shampoo formulas. These carpet shampoos use plant-based ingredients and natural enzyme cleaners to lift dirt and banish bacteria.
Most liquid carpet shampoo formulas are designed to be used with a carpet cleaning machine or applied as a spot treatment formula. However, there are also dry carpet shampoos that have a slightly different application method and require extra absorption time to penetrate your carpet fibers.
There are plenty of brand-specific carpet shampoos on the market, but keep in mind that it’s not necessary to stick to a carpet shampoo made by the same manufacturer as your carpet cleaning machine. Find a formula that fits your cleaning situation and budget. As long as it’s made for use in water-based carpet cleaning machines, you can use the shampoo with confidence.
To use a liquid carpet shampoo, first determine whether the formula is intended for direct application to carpets and rugs or if it’s meant to be used in a machine cleaner. In either case, be sure to check the bottle for any dilution instructions before dispensing it.
For most liquid carpet shampoos applied directly to carpets or rugs, the basic directions for use include even application of the product, gentle agitation (with your fingers or a brush), and blotting with a clean microfiber cloth or rag.
When using a liquid carpet shampoo in a machine cleaner, you should follow the formula’s instructions for dilution. Dispense the amount of shampoo required into the machine’s tank and follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
Using a dry carpet shampoo is a simple four step process. First, vacuum the carpet to remove large debris. Second, sprinkle the product across the area to be cleaned and use a brush or comb to lightly work the product into carpet fibers. Third, allow the product to rest to absorb odor-causing bacteria. The specific wait time will vary according by product, but most formulas require 15 to 30 minutes to work effectively. Finally, use your household vacuum to suck up the dry shampoo and enjoy freshers, softer carpet under your feet.
While professional carpet cleaning is typically recommended on a yearly schedule, there are less specific rules regarding how often you should shampoo carpets yourself. Lifestyle factors, including whether you have kids and pets, if you wear shoes in the house, and how prone you are to spills and stains, will be the largest factors in determining how often your carpets are due for a deep clean.
While more may seem better, keep in mind that excessive shampooing of your carpets can lead to a buildup of soap—which might actually attract more dirt. So save your suds for when the carpet is beginning to look dingy or in the event of a mess that requires more thorough cleaning.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Delivering spot-on advice and the latest innovations in cleaning products and technology, Erica Puisis has been researching home products for The Spruce since 2017. During the days of housetraining a puppy or to deal with spills and stains on wall-to-wall carpeting, a bottle of Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover is an absolute necessity in her cleaning closet. It’s her go-to product for a carpet shampoo and spot cleaner in one.