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Which portable carpet cleaners are the best?

No matter how fastidious or clean you may be, carpet stains are inevitable. Even in homes free of children or pets, carpeting is a magnet for dust and dirt. To keep your carpets clean and looking brand new, you can use a portable carpet cleaner. The BISSELL SpotClean Pro Portable Carpet Cleaner is the ideal solution for those looking to quickly address spills, dirt or pet stains before they set in permanently. Its powerful suction makes short work of small messes, and its compact design offers easy storage.

What to consider before you buy a portable carpet cleaner

Whole house cleaning

Portable carpet cleaners are great for spot cleaning your floor and bringing color and loft back to small rugs after removing muddy footprints, dropped makeup, spilled drinks or other common household messes. However, they are not a substitute for the equipment and solutions used by professional cleaners and are not suitable for deep cleaning your entire property. 

Set your expectations

Today’s portable carpet cleaners are powerful appliances that are able to make short work of most messes. However, not all dirt is created equal. Stains that have been allowed to set in or particularly stubborn spills involving wine, chewing gum or hair dye may never completely disappear, even with professional cleaning services.


While portable carpet cleaners are similar in shape to upright vacuum cleaners, they tend to be a bit wider due to their water tanks. Because of this, they can be challenging to store. Consider where you will keep your carpet cleaner, and be sure that it will be in an area that can withstand the occasional spill of water or cleaning solution.

What to look for in a quality portable carpet cleaner

Ease of use

Similar to a vacuum, some portable carpet cleaners are meant to be moved around the room. Consider those carpet cleaners are heavier than most other appliances due to their liquid storage and select a model that you will be able to navigate around your home without difficulty. If using a model that is designed for spot cleaning, be sure that it features an ergonomic grip and an easy-to-use handle.

Suction and heat

Some models heat their water tanks using the same motor that they use to generate suction. As a result, you may find that heated models provide less suction power. Consider the usage of your carpet cleaner to determine how best to split the difference between these two features. More suction makes for a deeper clean, but it may also be frustrating while cleaning smaller rugs or floor mats, as they tend to stick to the cleaner’s nozzle.

Tank capacity

A smaller tank makes for a lighter appliance, but it will necessitate more frequent water changes during long cleaning sessions. A larger tank capacity will let you work longer without interruption but poses a challenge when moving it up and down stairs. 

Attachment accessories

Many carpet cleaners include an array of attachment accessories designed to make certain cleaning situations easier and your appliance more effective. From brushes made to clean furniture and upholstery to tips intended for car interiors, selecting a model with a wide range of accessories will increase the usability of your cleaner.

How much you can expect to spend on a portable carpet cleaner

Portable carpet cleaners cost as little as $100 and all the way to $400 or more for advanced models designed with extreme cleaning power.

Portable carpet cleaner FAQ

What kind of soap does my portable carpet cleaner need?

A. Portable carpet cleaners require specially formulated shampoo, and many come with a bottle to get you started. Never use a soap or shampoo in your machine that is not designed for carpet cleaning, as this can result in damage to both your carpet and appliance.

Do carpet cleaners kill bed bugs?

A. No. Bed bugs or other insect infestations require the services of a professional exterminator.

Can I use a portable carpet cleaner in my car?

A. Yes. Some models include attachments that are specifically designed to allow you to clean your automobile interior, including the upholstery. Never use a carpet cleaner on leather or vinyl interiors.

What’s the best portable carpet cleaner to buy?

Top portable carpet cleaner

BISSELL SpotClean Pro Portable Carpet Cleaner

BISSELL SpotClean Pro Portable Carpet Cleaner

What you need to know: This portable carpet cleaner from Bissell is an effective stain remover and is popular with pet owners.

What you’ll love: Designed to target spots and stains, this cleaner is an excellent addition to any household that frequently experiences spills or pet accidents. Great for auto cleaning, it is compact and includes sample products so you can determine which shampoo you like best.

What you should consider: Designed for spot cleaning, this appliance is not intended for large jobs.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond

Top portable carpet cleaner for the money

Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner

Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Carpet Cleaner

What you need to know: Lightweight and low cost, this carpet cleaner is easy on your back thanks to its upright design.

What you’ll love: This cleaner can be operated just as you would use a vacuum. Its powerful brushes and heating technology deeply clean and even dry your carpet.

What you should consider: No attachments are included.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Home Depot and Bed Bath & Beyond

Worth checking out

Vacmaster Wet Dry Shampoo Vacuum Cleaner

Vacmaster Wet Dry Shampoo Vacuum Cleaner 

What you need to know: For a more professional cleaning job, consider this high suction model from Vacmaster.

What you’ll love: This portable appliance is loaded with accessories, making it an all-purpose carpet cleaning powerhouse. With controls placed at your fingertips on the device’s handle and a port for tank emptying, this cleaner is powerful and convenient. 

What you should consider: This cleaner’s tank is made from plastic that is too thin and fragile for some applications.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Carpet cleaning tips

  • Plan ahead to make your cleaning job as easy as possible. Move furniture out of the way and try to clean your carpet during a time when it is less likely to be walked on while drying.
  • Follow directions carefully. Using too much cleaning solution may leave soapy residue on your carpet, which will cause even more dirt and grime to stick to it.
  • Use caution while cleaning carpeted stairs. Not only is falling a possibility, but dropping your cleaner can result in a messy spill if the tank accidentally opens.

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Derek Walborn writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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