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Commercial Carpet Extractors: Types, Sizes, & Features

Commercial Carpet Extractors: Types, Sizes, & Features

Almost all commercial facilities have carpeted floors somewhere in the building that will be affected by dirt and stubborn stains. Even with the best entry matting system and routine vacuuming schedule, your facility’s carpet will need to be spot cleaned and restored.  

The best way to perform periodic spot cleaning and remove deeply embedded dirt is with a carpet extractor. Using a carpet extractor to perform periodic spot cleaning or deep cleaning will save you time and money.

In this article, we will go over what a carpet extractor is, how they work, and the different types.

What is a Carpet Extractor?

A carpet extractor is a piece of janitorial cleaning equipment that uses pressure, water, and suction to extract deeply embedded dirt or stains from upholstery and carpeting.

How Does a Carpet Extractor Work?

Carpet extractors are battery-powered or cord-electric. They remove the manual labor from carpet cleaning by applying water and chemical to the carpet, and then scrubbing and removing the dirty solution from the carpet. 

When Should I Use a Carpet Extractor?

You can use a carpet extractor to remove stubborn stains and deeply embedded dirt and for restorative carpet care.

Periodic spot cleaning can be done as needed.

Pro Tip: It is important to remove a spot or spill as soon as possible to avoid more permanent stains which will be more difficult to remove.

Using a carpet extractor for restorative care will help restore the look of your carpet, extend carpet life, and create a healthier building.

For restorative care, carpet extraction should occur at least once per year, or more often in heavy foot-traffic areas such as entryways.

Everything you need to know about carpet extractors including types, sizes, specs, & more!


Types of Carpet Extractors

There are several different types of carpet extractors. Some will require you to use a wand and hose to remove soils from the carpet, while other extractors are self-contained and will perform extraction procedures in one pass.

The best carpet extractor for your facility will depend on the size of the area you are trying to clean. If you are performing routine spot cleaning, a small portable spotter will be effective. If you are cleaning large open areas such as hallways, a large, self-contained extractor will allow you to complete the most work during a shift.

Spotters/Portable Carpet Extractor

Carpet SpotterCarpet spotters are small, portable machines for a quick spot or emergency clean up.

Portable spotters are cord-electric, canister-type machines. To operate, there is an attached spotting tool that requires the user to drag the tool to remove soil from the carpet. 

Area Size

They are best used to spot clean small areas of carpet or upholstery.

Tank Size

Carpet spotters have two separate tanks, one for clean water and one for the dirty solution. Spotters typically have solution and recovery tank sizes between 1 – 3 gallons.  

Box or Tank

Box or tank carpet extractors are slightly larger than spotters and stand upright with a hose box extractorand wand attachment. They require the operator to maneuver the hose and wand for soil removal. Operators can use the hose and wand to reach in tight areas such as under desks where spotters would take too long and self-contained machines wouldn’t fit.

Box or tank carpet extractors are cord electric.

Area Size

Box or tank carpet spotters are best utilized in cleaning carpeted areas up to 2,000 SQ FT.

Box or tank extractors are ideal for areas where a spotter is too small and a self-contained machine is too large.

Tank Size

Tank size is important for determining how much area you are going to be able to clean. The larger the tank, the more solution it will hold. An extractor with a larger tank will allow you to clean more carpet before having to stop and empty the tank.

Box or tank carpet extractors typically have solution and recovery tanks between 10 – 12 gallons.


Self-contained machines do not require the operator to use a hose and wand to clean the carpet. There is a brush underneath the machine that scrubs the carpet for you. 

They are good for performing carpet extraction in large areas.


Area Size

Small self-contained carpet extractors can clean areas between 500 and 2,000 SQ Ft.

Tank Size

Small carpet extractors typically have solution and recovery tanks between 2 – 4 gallons.


Mid Size Self ContainedArea Size

Mid-size self-contained carpet extractors are best utilized in cleaning carpeted areas up to 10,000 SQ FT.

Tank Size

Mid-size carpet extractors typically have solution and recovery tanks ranging from 8 – 14 gallons.

Machines with larger tanks allow you to be more productive. The more solution you pick up, the less time you will lose emptying the tank.



Self-contained large carpet extractors can be walk behind or ride-on. They do not require the operator to remove the stain with a hose and wand. 

The operator walks behind the machine or rides on top of the extractor as the cleaning Self Contained Batteryprocedure takes place. These machines eliminate any difficult scrubbing or maneuvering required by the user, reducing fatigue and boosting worker productivity.

Large carpet extractors are battery operated. Battery operated machines reduce the need to plug and unplug the machine, allowing the operator to be more productive.

Area Size

Large self-contained carpet extractors can clean up to 30,000 square feet of carpet per shift. These machines work best in large facilities with open areas.

Tank Size

Large carpet extractors typically have recovery tanks that can hold 20+ gallons.

Available Features:

Depending on the manufacturer and model, carpet extractors can be equipped with various features. A carpet extractor with more features can help decrease user fatigue, increase user productivity, and lower overall cleaning costs.

Power Source


Most carpet extractors are cord-electric. 

Power cords are typically 25 feet long. The operator must manage the cord throughout a cleaning procedure so that they are always in reach of the outlet and that they do not run over the cord. The additional time it takes to manage the cord leads to decreased productivity and longer cleaning times.

Battery Operated

Large self-contained carpet extractors can be battery powered. 

Battery PowerBattery operated carpet extractors provide increased cleaning productivity over cord electric extractors by eliminating the need to manage the cord.

The run time for battery operated carpet extractors is limited to the machines battery life. Battery operated machines typically run for about 3 hours.

Vacuum Power/Motor

Carpet extractors are equipped with either two or three-stage motors. 

Three-stage motors are more powerful and have unrestricted airflow for superior water recovery, allowing the carpet to dry faster. The faster a carpet dries, the quicker you will be able to open the floor to building occupants. 

Warning: If you open the floor to guests before the carpet is completely dry it will attract more dirt, causing the carpet to get dirtier faster. 

Temperature Control

Some box carpet extractors can be equipped with on-board heaters. 

Temperature control allows you to control the temperature of the water and cleaning solution. Increased temperatures can improve cleaning performance and reduce the cleaning time spent on one area.

Warning: Hotter water temperatures aren’t always better. Not all carpets can tolerate extreme temperatures. Check with the carpet manufacturer before hot water extraction. 

The optimal water temperature for hot water carpet extraction is between 150 and 180

Water Pressure Control

PSI ControlPump water pressure determines how powerful the extractor’s spray is going to be.  Pressure is measured in PSI or pounds per square inch.

Carpet extractors typically have a PSI between 100 and 500.  Some will have a PSI as high as 1200. The higher the PSI, the more soil that can be removed. 

Warning: Not all carpets are tolerant of the same pressure. A machine with adjustable PSI will allow you to increase or decrease the pressure to get the best clean and avoid carpet damage.

Water Lift

Water lift is the suction power of the carpet extractor.  Water lift is measured in the amount of inches the extractor can pull water from the ground.  For example, a commercial carpet extractor with a water lift of 100 can pull water 100 inches up and off the ground.

Water lift is important when considering dry time.  The higher the water lift, the stronger the water lift and the less amount of water that will remain on the carpet.

The less water that remains on the carpet, the faster the dry time. Faster drying time will cause less inconvenience to building occupants by allowing them to return to the area quicker.

Tank Size

A recovery tank stores the dirty solution removed from the carpet after the cleaning procedure. 

Tanks range in size from 1 gallon to 20+ gallons. Tank size is determined by the extractor type (spotter, small, ride-on, etc.), but the tank size can also differ by model size and manufacturer. 

The larger the tank, the larger amount of area you will be able to clean without having to stop and empty the recovery tank.

Minimizing the number of times you have to stop and empty the tank will boost productivity and allow you to get more done in the same amount of time.

CRI Seal of Approval

CRIThe Carpet and Rug Institute Seal of Approval is a third-party certification that measures the effectiveness of a carpet extractor’s soil removal, water removal, and texture retention.

Carpet extractors can be bronze, silver, gold, or platinum certified depending on their ability to meet each categories standards.

Choosing a carpet extractor that is CRI certified supports a cleaner, healthier, and longer-lasting carpet.

Final Thoughts 

Carpet extractors will help restore your carpet’s original look, increase the cleaning team’s productivity, extend the life of your carpet, and create a healthier building. 

There are a lot of choices when it comes to commercial carpet extractors. Deciding which is the best fit for your facility can be difficult.

The best carpet extractor for your facility will allow your workers to clean the largest amount of carpeted space in the least amount of time.

If you’re located in the United States, Puerto Rico, or the Caribbean, Imperial Dade can help you select the best carpet extractor for your facility size, budget, and needs.

Have a question about the best carpet extractor for cleaning your commercial carpeting? Contact an Imperial Dade Specialist today for more information on choosing the best carpet extractor to achieve your cleaning goals.

Everything you need to know about carpet extractors including types, sizes, specs, & more!