DIY Cleaning & Organizing

How to Use a Bissell Little Green

If you have a big mess to clean but little idea how to use your factory-fresh Bissell Little Green, this tested guide will walk you through the process.
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A Bissell Little Green portable carpet cleaner in front of a blue couch.
Photo: Phillip Tinner for Bob Vila

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New owners of Bissell’s Little Green carpet cleaning appliance might be a little apprehensive to get started—at least that was my case, as I had never used a portable carpet cleaner before. Luckily, getting to grips with how to use your Bissell Little Green machine is simple and straightforward. Even cleaning novices like me will be able to easily remove carpet and upholstery stains with it in no time.

Despite its small size and low price point, the Bissell Little Green is a quality carpet cleaner, and it works as advertised. I admittedly had my doubts at first, having only ever used bulky full-sized carpet cleaners before, but I now break out my Bissel green machine for the smallest of rug stains and couch spills because it consistently keeps my fabrics looking good as new (or at least slightly used). Follow along below for a crash course in how to use a Bissell Little Green.

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Project Overview

Working Time: 15 minutes to 1 hour
Total Time: 4 to 6 hours
Skill Level: Beginner
Estimated Cost: $15 to $125

Before You Begin

A woman kneeling to clean a heavily stained area rug with a Bissell Little Green portable carpet cleaner.

First, note that the below steps on how to use the Little Green machine specifically apply to the standard Bissell Little Green portable carpet cleaner, so modify your cleaning process accordingly when using a Bissell Little Green Pro, ProHeat, or other models and refer to the instruction manual for anything not detailed here. The latter tip goes for standard model owners too—hang onto your Bissell Little Green instruction manual and when in doubt, defer to the manufacturer’s provided steps and info.

Secondly, if you’re on the fence about buying a Bissell Little Green or already own one but have high aspirations of using it to clean every square inch of your carpet and oversized area rugs, it’s important to know that this appliance is best used for spot cleaning and stain removal. As someone who has used theirs to fully clean a 5-foot by 7-foot area rug on a few occasions, using a portable carpet cleaner like a full-size model is doable (depending on your level of ability) but not worth the lower back pain in most cases.

RELATED: The 9 Best Upholstery Cleaners, Tested and Reviewed

STEP 1: Remove and fill the clean water tank.

A Bissell Little Green carpet cleaner's filled water tank in front of the appliance and a bottle of pet carpet cleaner formula.
Photo: Phillip Tinner for Bob Vila

Start by pulling up on the clean water tank on the left side of the Bissell Little Green, which should pop right off. Flip it over so that the black cap on the tank’s bottom is facing up, and unscrew it. Over a sink or counter, begin pouring your preferred carpet cleaning solution up to the line labeled “formula.” Bissell recommends using its own products, but you can use virtually any formula meant for standard carpet cleaners. I personally use an affordable Rug Doctor pet formula, but you can also make your own carpet cleaner if you prefer.

Fill the tank the rest of the way to the “fill” line using warm tap water, taking care to not overfill it. Warm water works best (Bissell’s specifications call for water heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit), cold or cool water will still get the job done, but water that is too hot or boiling will damage the tank and other plastic parts inside of a Little Green. Screw the cap back on snugly, turn the water tank right-side up, and slide it back into place on the machine.

STEP 2: Prepare the stained area and machine.

For the best cleaning results, vacuum the spot(s) you intend to clean with the Little Green before beginning in order to keep excess dirt, hair, and other solid matter out of the appliance’s inner workings. In the case of particularly bad or set-in stains, use your preferred pretreatment formula and allow it to sit for the necessary amount of time.

Uncoil the power cord from the back of the Bissell Little Green and plug it into a wall outlet. Rotate the small lever holding the hose in place to free it, and slide on the included 3- or 4-inch cleaning attachment (the one with the red brush) until it clicks into place. Finally, press the power switch on the front of the machine to turn it on.

STEP 3: Begin cleaning.

An area rug stain being sprayed with soapy water solution by a Bissell Little Green cleaning attachment.
Photo: Phillip Tinner for Bob Vila

Position the cleaning attachment about an inch above the stained area and pull the trigger at the end of the hose to spray water and carpet shampoo onto it. Start gently scrubbing the spot with the red-bristled brush, working the formula all the way into the fabric. Keep working at the stain(s) with the same light pressure until it diminishes in appearance or disappears entirely.

STEP 4:  Suction away the formula and loosened material.

A blue-and-white area rug being cleaned with a Bissell Little Green carpet cleaner.
Photo: Phillip Tinner for Bob Vila

Slightly lean the cleaning attachment forward so that the clear plastic opening above the brush makes full contact with the fabric. Doing so should begin visibly sucking the dispensed water and cleaning solution back into the hose. Continue to work the attachment back and forth in a scrubbing motion until the area is as dry and stain-free as possible. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for any stained spots that remain, and when you’re satisfied, press the power switch again to turn off the Little Green.

STEP 5: Use the self-cleaning tool.

You’ll have likely noticed by this point that, unlike a full-size carpet cleaner, the dirty water tank on the right side of the machine still has little to no water in it. That’s because the Little Green uses a separate attachment to filter out dirty water after cleaning. Depress the small green button on the back of the cleaning attachment in order to remove it, and watch out for dripping as it will still contain some soapy water. Place it somewhere you don’t mind getting wet, such as inside a sink basin or on a counter.

Snap the HydroRinse tool, which resembles a clear capped vacuum attachment, onto the hose in its place and turn the Little Green back on. Holding the hose in an upright and elevated position, press and hold the trigger for at least 30 seconds to begin filtering water back through the hose and into the dirty water tank, which will begin to fill. When you’re confident that all of the water has been filtered through, let go of the trigger, turn the machine back off, and unplug it.

STEP 6: Pour out the dirty water and let the cleaned area fully dry.

A man holding the semi-full dirty water tank of a Bissell Little Green carpet cleaner in front of a closed toilet.
Photo: Phillip Tinner for Bob Vila

Lift the plastic tab holding the dirty water tank in place and remove the tank from the machine—and don’t worry about spilling any gross water, as the tank’s opening is on top so it won’t pour out until tipped fully over. Pour it out into a toilet bowl, sink, or bathtub. Under a faucet, rinse out the dirty water tank to catch any remaining soap, dirt, and grime and pour that out as well. Then, flush the dirty water or rinse it down the drain, and do the same with any remaining cleaning solution in the main water tank. Rinse out both ends of the cleaning attachment and leave it out to dry before storing it with the Little Green, which should have its hose and power cord wrapped back up in their places on the machine and HydroRinse tool still attached.

Before walking on your now clean rug or sitting on a stain-free seat, allow the wet spot(s) to completely dry after cleaning. For light jobs, this could take an hour or two, but more heavily cleaned areas could take anywhere from four to six hours to fully dry.

RELATED: The Best Carpet Cleaners for Pets to Eliminate Odors and Stains, Tested

Final Thoughts

Now that you know just about everything there is to know about how to use your Bissell Little Green machine, you can clean up big spills and caked-on stains with confidence. So long as you remember to use the self-cleaning attachment at the end of each cleaning session and to avoid using too-hot or boiling water in the water tank, you’ll likely find your Little Green becoming your go-to spot cleaner for a long while to come—I certainly have!