Cleaning carpeted floors can be a difficult task for many vacuums. Carpeted floors tend to hold on to various types of foreign material, so it's crucial to have a vacuum with plenty of suction power and a brushroll that can dig its way into this type of surface and lift away debris. That said, the best vacuum to clean carpet should also be maneuverable enough to navigate its way around furniture and shelves without getting stuck on shaggy surfaces.
We've tested over 100 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations for the best vacuums to clean carpets. We selected these picks based on their performance on low and high-pile carpet and their design, feature set, and price. For more recommendations, look at our list of the best vacuums, the best vacuums for high-pile carpet, and the best cordless vacuums.
The best vacuum for carpets that we've tested with an upright design is the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Upright. This upright vacuum features three levels of surface adjustment, allowing you to change the height of its head depending on the floor type that you're on. It delivers outstanding performance on low-pile carpet, where it easily cleans pet hair and large debris like sand, and clears an impressive amount of debris on high-pile carpet, though you may need to make an extra pass to fully clean fine debris like baking soda.
This vacuum's bagless design and washable pre-motor and allergen-trapping HEPA filters result in a near-total lack of recurring costs, as long as you regularly clean the filters. Its 'Lift-Away' feature allows you to pick up and carry its canister, making it easier to clean shelves and counters as well as under and on top of furniture. It comes with an assortment of attachments, including a motorized turbo brush and an extension wand for cleaning hard-to-reach areas.
Unfortunately, due to the bulky front-mounted dirt compartment, it can be difficult to clean under tables and chairs. Some lighter rugs can also get stuck in its main vacuum head when its brushroll is spinning. Also, there are quite a few parts that need regular cleaning. Otherwise, its versatile cleaning performance and more maneuverable alternative configuration make it one of the best bagless vacuums that we've tested.
If you prefer the cleaner means of debris disposal and superior filtration performance that come with a bagged vacuum, consider the Kenmore Intuition Bagged. This upright incurs higher recurring costs than the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Upright because of its disposable dirtbag, but it's easier to maintain and shouldn't release nearly as much dirt and dust when emptying the vacuum. It delivers impressive performance on high-pile carpet and does a great job of cleaning high-pile carpets, though it struggles notably more than the Shark when cleaning fine debris like baking soda from the latter surface type. It also has an allergen-trapping HEPA filter and has a 'Lift-Up' design that enables you to pick up and carry its canister to better-clean hard-to-reach spots. However, it's also hard to maneuver, primarily because of its large dirtbag compartment, making it hard to navigate under furniture like tables and couches.
Get the Shark if you want a vacuum that performs a little better on low-pile carpet and incurs minimal recurring costs, but consider the Kenmore if you value the advantages that come with a bagged vacuum.
The best stick/handheld vacuum for carpets that we've tested is the Dyson V15 Detect. This cordless vacuum does a fantastic job of cleaning pet hair, fine debris like baking soda, and larger material like sand from low and high-pile carpet. When set to its 'Auto' suction power mode, it can automatically adjust its suction power depending on the surface that it's on. Its relatively compact design, onboard tool clip, and included dock station make it very easy to store.
This vacuum is relatively lightweight and maneuverable. You can quickly reconfigure it into a handheld vacuum for spot-cleaning, and it comes with a wide variety of attachments, including a combination upholstery tool/hard bristle brush, a motorized turbo brush, and a secondary vacuum head with a laser light to help you see small debris on bare floors. Battery performance is fairly good overall, as you can expect a maximum of over 70 minutes of runtime. An LED display at the back of the vacuum shows an estimate of the remaining charge, so you should know when it's time to let it charge again.
However, this vacuum's strong suction force can make it a bit challenging to push around on some carpets and can cause it to get caught on lighter rugs. Its mainly plastic construction feels somewhat cheap in places, and a few parts need regular cleaning. Otherwise, its fantastic overall cleaning performance, maneuverable design, and wide assortment of attachments make it one of the best cordless vacuums that we've tested.
The Miele Complete C3 Alize PowerLine is the best canister vacuum for carpets that we've tested. This corded canister model easily cleans pet hair from low and high-pile carpet and picks up most debris like sand and baking soda. It's also very easy to maneuver since it rolls easily and comes with an LED light to illuminate dark areas, like under furniture.
It comes with seven power levels, which helps you adjust its suction based on the surface you're cleaning. The build feels very sturdy, and it's easy to maintain. You can also use it in a handheld configuration by attaching one of its included tools or brushes to the handle. This vacuum has an allergen-trapping HEPA filter, which is nice if you have a pet that sheds.
However, it has high recurring costs since the filters need regular replacing and uses disposable dirtbags. Also, its power cord and hose are both somewhat short, so you may need to switch outlets if you're cleaning a larger space. That said, it delivers an amazing performance on carpeted surfaces and has a user-friendly design, making it one of the best vacuums that we've tested.
The best robot vacuum we've tested for carpets is the iRobot Roomba S9. This premium robot vacuum feels well-built and comes with sophisticated automation features. Once you connect it to the iRobot Home app, it maps out your space, and then you can set virtual boundary markers to keep it out of certain areas and create cleaning schedules for specific rooms.
It performs impressively on low-pile carpets, clearing pet hair and other debris with few issues, and does a good overall job on high-pile carpets. It also automatically adjusts the height of its brushroll depending on the surface type and uses a camera navigation system to develop increasingly efficient cleaning patterns and maneuver around obstacles. It also has an outstanding battery life, providing roughly 50 to 150 minutes of runtime on a full charge, depending on settings and real-world conditions.
However, it has many parts that need regular maintenance and fairly frequent replacement, leading to high recurring costs, but that's typical of many robot vacuums. Its dirt compartment also has just an okay capacity, meaning that it may fill up fairly quickly. Still, the vacuum itself and its companion app can both indicate when it's full and needs emptying. Overall, this is a good choice for carpets if you want a robot vacuum that you can set and forget.
If you're on a budget, the best carpet vacuum that we've tested is the BISSELL PowerForce Helix. It has a manual surface-type adjustment dial, so you can easily adapt from bare floors to carpets on the fly. It's easy to maintain, though there are a few parts that need regular cleaning. Thankfully, recurring costs are low, as you only need to replace its pre-motor filter periodically.
It performs amazingly well on both low-pile and high-pile carpets. It has no issue cleaning up pet hair or fine debris like baking soda and does a great job with larger debris like sand. Its performance also stays mostly consistent as its dirt compartment fills up. The dirt compartment has a good capacity, too, so you shouldn't need to empty it too frequently.
Unfortunately, it's bulky and can be hard to maneuver. Its head doesn't swivel, which can make it hard to turn around sharp corners or furniture. You also can't stop its brushroll from spinning, which can scratch floors if you're not careful. Still, this is one of the best upright vacuums we've tested, thanks to its affordable price and excellent carpet performance.
If you're looking for a handheld vacuum but need something for spot-cleaning, take a look at the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+. Its handheld-only form and approximate battery life of little over 10 minutes mean that it's far less suited to cleaning bigger areas compared to the BISSELL PowerForce Helix. However, its cordless compact design makes it much easier to clean areas far from any electrical outlets. It delivers fantastic performance on both low and high-pile carpet, where it easily cleans pet hair, fine debris like baking soda, and larger material like sand. It comes with a motorized turbo brush with a brushroll advertised as being self-cleaning, not to mention a crevice tool and a hard-bristle brush for tackling stuck-on dirt. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a suction power adjustment feature and lacks a HEPA filter to trap allergens as you clean.
Get the BISSELL if you're on a budget and need a vacuum to clean larger spaces, but consider the Shark if you need a vacuum for clearing debris in hard-to-reach areas.
Sep 30, 2021: Ensured that all main picks are still available and represent the best choice for their given category. Added Shark Vertex Pro, Neato D8, Eureka FloorRover Elite NEU630, and yeedi vac station to Notable Mentions. Removed Neato Botvac D7 from Notable Mentions due to current availability.
Sep 02, 2021: Checked that picks were still accurate and represent the best choice for their categories.
Aug 06, 2021: Replaced Miele Dynamic U1 PowerLine with Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Upright as 'Best Upright Vacuum For Carpets' pick due to limited availability. Replaced Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Upright as 'Alternative With A Handheld Configuration' pick with Kenmore Intuition Bagged as 'Bagged Alternative' pick.
Jul 08, 2021: Replaced Dyson Ball Animal 2 with Miele Dynamic U1 PowerLine as 'Best Upright Vacuum For Carpets' pick. Removed Miele Dynamic U1 PowerLine from Notable Mentions, added Dyson Ball Animal 2.
Jun 09, 2021: Ensured that all main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their given category.
Our recommendations are based on what we think are currently the best vacuums for carpet. We don't just base our results on overall performance, but also factors like availability, price, and reader feedback, so it isn't as though there's a single best vacuum cleaner for carpets to suit all needs.
If you would like to do the work of choosing yourself, here is the list of all our vacuum reviews, ranked by their performance on carpet. Be careful not to get too caught up in the details. While no vacuum is perfect for every use, most are good enough to please almost everyone, and the differences are often not noticeable unless you really look for them.