Vacuums may work well for removing dust and debris from rugs and carpets, but they won’t be any help with spills or stains. Carpet cleaners, on the other hand, are designed to remove stains with hot water, a cleaning solution, and suction power. While upright carpet cleaners are best suited for deep cleaning an entire carpet or area rug, smaller and more portable carpet cleaners are excellent solutions for spot cleaning and stain removal.
There may be many kinds on the market, but the best portable carpet cleaners tend to be easy to use. It’s typically as easy as filling the tank with hot tap water and cleaning solution, then spraying the mixture onto the affected area and scrubbing to lift the stain. The suction vacuum is then used to draw in the dirt and liquid to deposit it into a separate “dirty” tank. Most models are designed to work on both carpet fibers and upholstered furniture.
We tested the top portable cleaners to find out which is best for specific types of situations so users do not have to hire a professional cleaning service. Read on to learn more about how to choose the best portable carpet cleaner for your home.
- BEST OVERALL: Bissell Little Green Portable Carpet Cleaner
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Hoover PowerDash GO Pet+ Spot Cleaner
- BEST FOR STAIRS: Hoover ONEPWR Spotless GO Cordless Carpet Cleaner
- BEST PROFESSIONAL: Bissell SpotClean Pro Portable Carpet Cleaner
- BEST STEAM: Costway Heavy-Duty Multipurpose Steam Cleaner
- BEST FOR TOUGH STAINS: Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner
How We Tested the Best Portable Carpet Cleaners
We tested each portable carpet cleaner according to an established rubric that included how well it spot-cleaned stains on carpet fibers and other surfaces, its efficiency in suctioning excess water, and the ease of cleaning the tanks and parts. We rated the sprays on a scale of 0 to 4 to determine their score.
First, we filled each cleaner with its appropriate cleaning solution, following the instructions from the manufacturer. We then used the machine and various attachments, if applicable, on different types of stains, noting how well it removed the stain with each tool and how well it suctioned the excess water. Lastly, we cleaned the components to determine how easy it was to clean, reassemble, and store the carpet cleaners.
Our Top Picks
We’ve put some of the top portable carpet cleaners for spot cleaning through their paces with hands-on testing in real-world applications. The following picks are organized by their performance and are based on such factors as durability, tank capacity, weight, cord length, and suction power.
The Bissell Little Green Portable Carpet Cleaner is a versatile machine. It can be used to clean carpets, upholstery, stairs, area rugs, and auto interiors. It has powerful suction capabilities, efficiently removing stains from the soft surfaces in a home. Bissell’s portable carpet cleaner has removable water tanks that are easy to fill and clean, each of which has a capacity of 48 ounces. It includes a 3-inch tough-stain tool, a hydro rinse tool attachment, and a sample-size bottle of the brand’s cleaning solution.
Bissell is one of the top carpet cleaning brands specializing in pet stain removal. As such, the Bissell Little Greenupholstery cleaner is a popular portable carpet cleaner for pet owners due to its cleaning power and ease of use. We liked that the Bissell Little Green has a generous-size clean and wastewater tank. It’s lightweight, and its 15-foot cord makes it easy to move around. We especially like the HydroRinse self-cleaning tool attachment that allows users to clean the hose without spilling water everywhere. The Little Green is easy to use and clean, making it the top choice for portable carpet cleaning.
- Tank capacity: 48 ounces
- Weight: 9.65 pounds
- Cord length: 15 feet
- Generous clean-water and dirty-water tanks provide consistent deep- cleaning capacity
- Powerful suction pick ups and removes deep stains, dirt, and debris
- HydroRinse self-cleaning tool included for cleaning hose keeps the system from becoming filthy
- Tanks slightly leak over the edges of the container if not upright
Get the Bissell Little Green carpet cleaner at Amazon.
The Hoover PowerDash GO Pet+ Portable Spot Cleaner features a 4-foot hose and two interchangeable tools: a Spot and Stain Pet Tool that scrubs and lifts away messes and a Rubber Nubs Tool that cleans the carpet without worrying about pet hair clogs. It also features dual tanks to keep clean solution and dirty water separate and a sample-size Hoover Paws & Claws premixed spot-cleaning solution.
Weighing in at 6.5 pounds, this corded carpet cleaner is a compactly designed version of the popular Hoover Onepwr Spotless Go Cordless Carpet Cleaner with a few more features.
- Tank capacity:8 ounces
- Weight: 6.5 pounds
- Cord length: 14 feet
- Dual-tank system keeps dirty and clean water separate
- Comes with a sample size of cleaning solution and scrubbing pet tool
- Lightweight and compact; can be carried around the house or up and down stairs
- Small solution tank; may need to be refilled more frequently than comparable cleaners
Get the Hoover PowerDash GO carpet cleaner at Amazon.
Cleaning carpeted stairs is challenging, but the Hoover ONEPWR Spotless GO Cordless Carpet Cleaner makes it possible without worrying about tripping over a cord. This machine weighs 6.5 pounds and features a compact design with a 24-inch hose. It features dual tanks to separate clean solution and dirty water so users can quickly fill, empty, and rinse. The machine also comes with a sample-size Hoover Paws & Claws premixed spot-cleaning solution.
We like how compact and lightweight the Hoover ONEPWR is, making it easy to use while cleaning carpeted stairs and the inside of vehicles. Overall, it performed very well on tough stains, and the cordless design makes it easier to get to a hard-to-reach area without needing to be near an electrical outlet. However, the solution tank is small—8 ounces. That means users need to keep refilling the solution tank or just clean very small areas.
- Tank capacity:8 ounces
- Weight: 6.5 pounds
- Cord length: Cordless
- Dual-tank system keeps dirty and clean water separate; consistently cleans effectively
- Comes with a sample size of cleaning solution and a multi-purpose tool
- Lightweight and compact design makes it easy to store and carry around the house
- Small solution tank compared to similar options; may need frequent refilling
- Only a 13-minute runtime; may not be suitable for some users’ preferences
Get the Hoover ONEPWR carpet cleaner at Amazon or The Home Depot.
Bissell is a well-known brand in the carpet cleaning industry, and this is among the most powerful of their portable models designed for home use. It provides deep cleaning on carpets, stairs, upholstery, and auto interiors. The SpotClean Pro comes with a 6-inch stair tool, a 3-inch tough stain tool, and a sample bottle of the brand’s Pro Max Clean + Protect Formula. It has a 96-ounce tank capacity and a handy 20-foot cord. It weighs 13.25 pounds.
We were highly impressed with the Bissell Spot Professional machine’s cleaning power. It has a powerful 5.7-amp motor that delivers incredible suction power. It’s easy to disassemble and clean, and we especially loved the extra-long hose and power cord that made maneuvering the machine a breeze. The carry handles on the tanks were a nice bonus, too. It’s a heavy machine and one of the most expensive on our list. However, for those who live in a multiple-pet household or have young children, this machine can help battle those frequent stains on carpets.
- Tank capacity: 96 ounces
- Weight: 13.25 pounds
- Cord length: 20 feet
- Extra-long hose and power cord allow for ample reach
- Generous water/solution and wastewater tank for large or small cleaning jobs
- Tanks have carry handles; can be taken around the house or up and down stairs
- Heavyweight design; may not be ideal for those with limited mobility
Get the Bissell SpotClean carpet cleaner at Amazon.
While most carpet cleaners on the market are extraction-style cleaners that use hot tap water, some people prefer the performance of a steam cleaner. Standard carpet cleaners do a great job of removing stains; however, they cannot disinfect. However, steam cleaners eliminate most bacteria, viruses, pathogens, bedbugs, and mold. Another key benefit of a steam cleaner is that it can be used on both hard and soft surfaces.
The Costway Heavy-Duty Multipurpose Steam Cleaner can clean tile, glass, and metal surfaces as well as carpets. It takes between 8 and 9 minutes for the water to heat up to the maximum temperature of 226 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the water is hot, the machine will operate for up to 40 minutes. This portable carpet cleaner has a 16-foot power cord, a 51-ounce tank, and comes with 18 handy accessories for cleaning different types of surfaces. The total weight of the steam cleaner is 10.8 pounds.
While it’s not designed to remove stains from the carpet, the cleaner’s high-steam temperature and pressure up to four bars allowed it to efficiently remove dirt and disinfect various surfaces. In testing, the cleaner did not remove stains but otherwise performed well as a steam cleaner. This cleaner is a good follow-up to disinfect any soft or hard surfaces without chemicals.
- Tank capacity: 51 ounces
- Weight: 10.8 pounds
- Cord length: 16 feet
- Compact design rests on smooth-rolling wheels for excellent mobility
- Features numerous attachments for various cleaning needs: mophead, extension wands, nylon brushes, carpet glider, and more
- Produces superheated, low-moisture steam; will not damage carpet or upholstery
- Not as user-friendly as some comparable models; no visual indication of water level
- Mophead doesn’t swivel; this tool’s limited mobility may be tough for some users to work with
Get the Costway carpet cleaner at Amazon or The Home Depot.
The Rug Doctor was designed to tackle the toughest stains, especially pet stains. Featuring a Dual-Action Pet Tool with rubberized bristles, the machine easily tackles loose pet hair and picks up pet hair from carpets, area rugs, stairs, furniture, upholstery, pet beds, mattresses, and more while removing pet stains and odors. It has a generous 64-ounce tank, which means less refilling through big or multiple jobs. The Rug Doctor also has twice the suction power of other comparable portable spot cleaners.
The Rug Doctor outperformed most other cleaners in suctioning and removing tough stains during tests. It’s a heavy machine and front-heavy, making it awkward to carry around. However, the machine also features wheels and a carrying handle to help make it easy to maneuver and move between areas. It is an expensive machine. However, for those who have multiple pets, this may be an excellent addition to a cleaning arsenal.
- Tank capacity: 64 ounces
- Weight: 18.34 pounds
- Cord length: 28 feet
- Retractable handle and plastic wheels for moving around the house
- Long hose for extra reach under furniture or in tight spaces
- Powerful motor delivers extra suction power and an extended runtime
- Sprayer may drip after cleaning; may leave some drip marks on the floor while being put away
Get the Rug Doctor pet carpet cleaner at Amazon or The Home Depot.
We also tested the Black+Decker Spillbuster Cordless Spot Cleaner. In testing, we found that it did not meet our standards even though the machine retails for nearly the same cost as our top pick. While the machine does feature a wide nozzle for quick and thorough pickup, we found that the nozzle did not spray in an even stream. Instead, it was very patchy, so it was harder to apply the cleaner and did not clean efficiently.
What to Consider When Buying a Portable Carpet Cleaner
Though you might assume that all carpet cleaners work the same way, several characteristics can affect their functionality. Here are some of the most important design features to consider when shopping for the best portable carpet cleaner.
Portable carpet cleaners typically have a tank capacity between ¾ gallon and 1 gallon, or 96 ounces and 128 ounces. Some models have just one tank, while others have two tanks: one for water and one for a cleaning solution. A higher-capacity tank allows a user to clean more before stopping to refill it.
Designed to spot clean small areas, a portable carpet cleaner’s water reservoir capacity probably isn’t a make-or-break characteristic since it’s not likely many home users will go through a full tank of water in one cleaning session.
A portable carpet cleaner should be easy to move around a home, so it’s important to consider the weight of the model. The more powerful a portable carpet cleaner is, though, the heavier it tends to be.
Most models on the market weigh less than 14 pounds. That’s the weight of the machine itself and does not include the additional weight of a full tank of water and cleaning solution.
They are not everyday appliances, so portable carpet cleaners usually need to be compact enough to stow away easily in a closet.
Cord lengths for portable carpet cleaners typically range from 14 to 20 feet. Generally speaking, a longer cord is better because a longer cord will allow a user to easily maneuver the cleaner without having to search for a new wall outlet.
A cord length of 15 feet or longer is usually ideal. For cleaning hard-to-reach areas and the interiors of cars, a handheld cordless model can be the most convenient option.
Power and Suction
The power rating of a portable carpet cleaner is typically measured in amps. Given that these devices are meant to be lightweight and easy to use, their motors are small, usually between 3 and 10 amps. While one may think that a higher power rating means superior performance, some of the top models on the market are only 4 or 5 amps.
Suction power is an important consideration because a portable carpet cleaner needs to leave as little water on a carpet as possible. Not only is it inconvenient when the carpet or rug takes a long time to dry, but long dry times can also result in the development of mildew.
Portable carpet cleaners are designed to be durable, and because they’re used relatively infrequently, they should easily last for several years. One element that does tend to require replacement is the hose.
Portable carpet cleaners’ hoses occasionally break and leak, so it’s helpful to research which carpet cleaner manufacturers sell hoses as spare parts. Then, it can easily be replaced if it fails.
There is a lot to consider when shopping for the best carpet cleaners for spot cleaning, so it’s understandable if there are some lingering or specific questions. Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about portable carpet cleaners.
Q. Is an upright model better than a portable carpet cleaner?
Upright carpet cleaners and portable carpet cleaners serve different purposes. Upright models are designed to clean entire rugs or carpets, while portable models are designed for spot cleaning.
Q. Should I clean the tank of a portable carpet cleaner?
Ideally, the tanks of a portable carpet cleaner should be emptied and cleaned after each use.
Q. Do professional cleaning companies use portable carpet cleaners?
Some cleaning companies use more powerful steam cleaners to remove carpet stains, while others use portable carpet cleaners.
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