December 27, 2020

Best Portable Carpet Cleaner for the Toughest Stains: 2021 Buyer’s Guide

Stains can completely ruin the look of an otherwise beautiful carpet, which is why investing in the best portable carpet cleaner is considered an important part of carpet care and maintenance. Anytime there’s an accidental spill or a pet mess, you can whip out one of these highly portable models and quickly take care of the mess before it has time to set in the carpet. As someone who has years of experience with carpet cleaners, I decided to create this buyer’s guide to discuss the important features to look for that will indicate the cleaner is powerful, effective and designed to last. I’ve also tried out several leading cleaners, adding a total of six must-have models that have what it takes to remove old, deep down stains. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each of the models that landed on my list, their best features, and their rating.

Portable Carpet Cleaner Comparison Chart

ProductWeightCord LengthTank Capacity
Top Pick

Bissell Multi-Purpose Portable Carpet Cleaner
• 14 lbs.
• 15 ft. Cord Length
• 48 oz. Tank Capacity
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Hoover Spotless Portable Carpet Cleaner• 9 lbs.
• 14 ft. Cord Length
• 51 oz. Tank Capacity
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Bissell SpotBot Pet Handsfree Deep Cleaner• 14 lbs.
• 15 ft. Cord Length
• 30.6 oz. Tank Capacity
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Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner• 18.91 lbs.
• 15 ft. Cord Length
• 64 oz. Tank Capacity
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Hoover BH12010 ONEPWR Carpet Cleaner• 7.3 lbs.
• Battery-powered
• 9 oz. Tank Capacity
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BISSELL Spot Clean ProHeat Carpet Cleaner• 14 lbs.
• 15 ft. Cord Length
• 37 oz. Tank Capacity
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Bissell Multi-Purpose Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner

Top Pick

Our Rating: (5/5)

If you’re looking for the ultimate multifunctional portable carpet cleaner, then check out this model by Bissel. This carpet cleaner can easily handle old stains and tough spots, using powerful suction that reaches deep down to remove dirt. This model comes equipped with a removable water tank that’s easy to empty and fill, offering a tank capacity of forty-eight ounces. The included hydro rinse tool attachment will be invaluable when it comes to thoroughly cleaning out the hose after each use. This way, you won’t reintroduce contaminants and dirt the next time you clean the carpet or upholstery. This carpet cleaner combines a targeted cleaning formula with warm water and powerful suction to reach deep down and extract dirt, debris, and more.

This cleaner specializes in auto interiors, spot treatment, area rugs, and stairs. It also comes with an upholstery attachment for use on couches, chairs, curtains and more.


  • Can clean carpet and upholstery
  • Lightweight
  • Hose cleaning tool included
  • Large water tank capacity


  • Not designed to clean large areas


This portable carpet clean is able to clean multiple surfaces, so you can keep your home looking and smelling great while extending the life of your carpets, furniture, and even your vehicle’s interior. The included three-inch tough stain tool is specifically designed to help you access those hard to reach areas, while the bottle of spot and stain formula is specifically designed to remove and loosen soil and stains. This multifunctional cleaning powerhouse will be the best investment you can make for your home and will allow you to easily stay on top of messes around the house.

Hoover FH11300PC Portable Carpet Cleaner

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This latest model by Hoover features self-cleaning technology that prevents the reintroduction of dirt and debris each time the carpet cleaner is used. This is a great feature that involves flushing the hose after use to remove bacteria and dirt. The included antimicrobial multipurpose tool will protect against mildew, mold, and bacteria, preventing it from forming in the tool. Mold growth is a common issue with many carpet cleaners, and it can cause carpets to smell like mildew after a cleaning.

The carpet cleaner itself is compact and lightweight, making it highly portable. The dual tank design will separate the dirty and clean water, allowing you to easily empty and refill it. The cleaner offers a fast and easy deep clean, with tools designed to reach deep down into carpets and tackle old and tough stains that competing models just can’t. The hygienic deep cleaning tool will extract stains and spots, so your carpets will look and smell cleaner than ever.


  • Self-cleaning hose
  • Deep cleaning tool
  • Dual tank design
  • Includes Hoover Expert detergent


  • Hose must be replaced after six months of use due to general wear and tear


The carpet cleaner’s five-foot hose allows you to tackle tough to remove stains in carpet, stairs, upholstery, and more. This model weighs less than nine pounds and measures in at just fifteen inches tall, making it one of the smallest and lightest models in my lineup. Easy to use, powerful, and efficient, this handy carpet cleaner is a must-have in busy households.

Bissell SpotBot Pet Handsfree Deep Cleaner

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This model features hands-free cleaning, so you can tackle tough stains without getting your hands dirty. This is done via the preset cleaning cycles that will automatically suction, brush, and spray the stain to permanently remove tough set-in stains and dirt. This model features a couple of cleaning modes; deep clean for set in stains and quick clean for new stains. This cleaner also comes with a three-inch tough stain cleaning tool and a trial size pet stain and odor Oxy Boost detergent. This is a carpet cleaner that includes many of the same features you’ll find on a full-sized model and it works just as well to remove deep down stains and spots quickly and efficiently.

The cleaner uses a combination of powerful suction and a special cleaning formula to reach dirt that’s below the surface where regular carpet cleaning foams and sprays can’t reach. The cleaner’s automatic cleaning modes are a huge hit in busy households for buyers who don’t have time to get down on their hands and knees and scrub their carpets. This is a model that takes care of all the heavy work for you, so you can take care of other chores around the house and watch as the cleaner works its magic.


  • Two hands-free preset cleaning modes
  • Lightweight
  • Includes powerful detergent
  • Easy to use
  • Powerful suction


  • Small cleaning path


The cleaner’s compact design makes it easy to carry, store, empty, and refill. The powerful motor and cleaning tool completes more than four hundred cleaning revolutions, providing a more thorough cleaning process. This hands-free carpet cleaner is built tough, features a powerful motor and cleaning brushes, and offers the type of fast and efficient cleaning process that all buyers are looking for.

Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

According to the manufacturer, this portable carpet cleaner offers twice the suction power compared to competing models in this price bracket. This powerful carpet cleaner can handle pet odors and stains from furniture, carpet, auto interiors, upholstery, pet beds, rugs, and more. The included handheld dual action pet tool features rubberized bristles that remove odors, tough stains, and pet hair. The cleaner’s carpet friendly wheels and the retractable handle make cleanup a cinch, allowing you to easily transport the cleaner anywhere in the home. However, some users may run into problems when it comes time to clean the stairs. This model weighs just under nineteen pounds, so hauling it up a staircase can be challenging for some users.


  • Pet stain tool attachment
  • 15-foot cord
  • Carpet friendly wheels
  • Retractable handle


  • Heavy


This carpet cleaner will eliminate old stains and odors, embedded dirt, and other messes, in a matter of minutes. This is a compact, pro-grade cleaner that offers the type of cleaning versatility that many people are looking for. Now, you can keep your carpet, car interior, and upholstery looking clean and smelling fresh, using this small, but mighty carpet cleaner that’s designed to handle even the toughest stains.

Hoover BH12010 ONEPWR Carpet Cleaner

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This Hoover Grab and Go carpet cleaner is designed to tackle spills, accidents, pet messes, and more, offering a cordless operation that will give the user more freedom to move around the home, without being tied down. The body of the carpet cleaner is lightweight, so users can easily haul it up a flight of stairs. The multipurpose pet cleaning tool will lift away tough messes as it scrubs. The dual tank design will keep the dirty and clean water separate, allowing you to easily rinse, empty, and refill the tank in the middle of a large job. The carpet cleaner’s strong suction, combined with its powerful cleaning tools can handle old and fresh stains, embedded dirt and pet messes, removing any trace of the stain as it eliminates odors.


  • Battery-powered
  • Lightweight
  • Dual tank design
  • Multipurpose tool


  • Long recharging time
  • Small water tank


The fact that this is a cordless carpet cleaner means you won’t have to worry about outlet access, instead, you can pick up the cleaner and work all over the home, without being tied down. Of course, since this model is battery-powered, you’ll also have to worry about the cleaner dying in the middle of a job. However, for many, this is a fair tradeoff for a versatile cleaner that offers ultimate maneuverability and impressive suction power.

BISSELL Spot Clean ProHeat Carpet Cleaner

Our Rating: (4/5)

This Bissell Spot Clean ProHeat carpet cleaner features a thirty-seven-ounce tank capacity that’s heated via heatwave technology that’s designed to maintain consistent water temperatures as you clean. The stain tool measures in at three inches and is designed to help users access those hard to reach areas. It can also be used for upholstery or cleaning stairs. The deep reach tool can handle old stains by removing embedded dirt from the bottom up. This is a carpet cleaner that’s designed to clean multiple surfaces ranging from area rugs and shag carpet to stairs and upholstery, so this small compact carpet cleaner can meet all of your cleaning needs.


  • Maintains water temperature
  • Stain tool
  • Deep cleaning tool
  • Can be used on upholstery


  • Does not heat up water, only prevents water from cooling down


This compact powerful little carpet cleaner is lightweight and designed to handle old and new stains using powerful lifting action that removes embedded stains and more. The included cleaning tools add versatility and functionality to the carpet cleaner, allowing you to clean a wide range of surfaces including car interior, furniture, drapes, and more.

Portable Carpet Cleaner Buyer’s Guide

When you live in a home with pets and children, keeping a carpet clean and stain-free can be a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be. With one of these portable cleaners, you can easily take care of a spill or accident as soon as it happens. This will prevent the liquid from soaking deep down into the carpet fibers where it can cause mildew, unpleasant odors, and can be more difficult to clean.

These cleaners are designed to remove all types of stains including water and oil-based and they’re designed to help restore any type of carpet, regardless of color or texture.

According to Home Improvement guru Bob Vila “Interior designers and hygiene experts agree that floors should be vacuumed once a week at minimum. Flooring of all types collects dust and dirt that can detract from their beauty, whether you notice a dingy look or not.”

There are many models of cleaners to choose from, each of which can make it easy to spot treat your carpet and remove a stain in a matter of seconds. But finding a cleaner that’s powerful and reliable isn’t as easy as it sounds. Many low-priced models will begin to show a dip in their performance in a matter of months, losing suction power and effectiveness. So, before you buy a new carpet cleaner, it’s important to learn what features, and the type of power you need in a carpet cleaner to ensure you end up with a model that won’t quit on you.

Before I go over what features to look for, let’s learn about some of the many benefits these portable carpet cleaners have to offer.

Portable Carpet Cleaner Benefits

  • Having a portable carpet cleaner in the home will allow you to stay on top of messes and spills when they happen. When a spill occurs, it tends to sink all the way down into the fibers of the carpet, making it difficult to clean if it has time to dry. These powerful cleaners can reach deep down into the carpet pulling out moisture and leaving your carpet looking spotless and smelling fresh.
  • If you have a dog or cat that is not yet potty trained, then having this type of cleaning appliance in the home will be essential. Models that are specifically designed to handle pet messes will treat the stain and eliminate harmful bacteria. It will also help to keep your home smelling fresh by completely removing the urine, while competing low-quality cleaners will only remove surface stains and mask odors.
  • Purchasing this type of cleaning appliance will not only lengthen the lifespan of your carpet, but it can save you hundreds of dollars a year that would otherwise go towards hiring professionals to come in and shampoo your carpets. With one of these lightweight highly portable cleaners, you can manage spills and stains before they get out of control.

As you can see, there are many benefits that come with owning your own carpet cleaner. If you have kids, pets, or several people in the home, then owning this type of cleaning tool will make cleaning and maintaining your carpet a breeze, but before you hit that buy now button, there are many features you need to look for that will ensure you end up with a powerful cleaner that’s designed to last.

Other Important Features

Finding the right carpet cleaner for your home will depend on how often you plan on using it, how much carpet you have in the home, and the type of carpet. If you have a short-textured carpet, then you won’t need to focus too much on power, compared to the buyer who has a thick shag carpet. Below, I’ll go over some of the most important features to look for in your next carpet cleaner, and how each feature can impact the cleaner’s performance.

Size and Weight

When you first begin your search for a carpet cleaner, take a look at the size and weight of the appliance. Most models are designed with portability in mind, which is why it’s important to find a compact, lightweight model that’s easy to store and transport. This is especially true if you have stairs, since lugging a heavy cleaner up the stairs can be difficult.

Cleaning Method

green carpet cleaning

On your search for the right carpet cleaner, you’ll come across a variety of makes and models that offer different cleaning methods. Some models will operate with the help of powerful jet nozzles, or a combination of rotating brushes. Other types of cleaners will rely on a cylindrical brush and a drip system. While both types of cleaners work, their effectiveness can depend on the type of carpet you have. As an example, if you’re cleaning a thick shag carpet, then a model that features jet nozzles may be a better choice for a deep clean. If you have a short-textured carpet, then a gentler carpet cleaner will be the best option.

Drying Method

Did you know that dust in the home is made up of harmful allergens, including pet dander and hair, insect droppings and body parts, old skin cells, bacteria, and dust mites?

The most time-consuming part of cleaning a carpet is the drying process. In order to get to the deep-down dirt and grim that’s sunk into the carpet fibers, a carpet cleaner is designed to soak the carpet. If you have small children in the home or pets, then blocking off a large space in the home while the carpet dries may seem impossible. Because of this, you may benefit from a cleaner that comes with a drying feature. This type of new drying technology consists of an attachment that allows for heated drying, which can cut the drying time in half.

Cleaning Path Size

The carpet cleaner’s cleaning path is calculated in inches and it represents the path or width that the device is able to clean in one pass. The cleaning paths on most new models of carpet cleaners can vary from model to model, from just a few inches up to one foot.

Cord Length

Using a carpet with a short cord can be a real hassle. You’re on a roll, cleaning the carpet, only to have to stop several times to switch from one outlet to another. A carpet cleaner that comes with a longer cord will make the entire cleaning process significantly easier.

Water Temperature

If you’re looking for a carpet cleaner that relies on water, then you’ll have a few options. Some types of cleaners will use water that’s room temperature and some cleaning solution. Other types of cleaners will require you to add hot water, which is then mixed with a cleaning solution. You’ll also find some portable models that can heat up the water to produce steam. These steam cleaners will not use any type of chemical agent to remove stains and will instead rely on the power of steam.

Suction Power

Just like a vacuum cleaner, a portable carpet cleaner is equipped with a motor. The type of motor will dictate the engine’s power.

If you want a model that can heat up water to clean tough stains, then you’ll need a model that offers powerful suction. If you’re not looking for a cleaner that heats up the water, then you should go for one that provides even more suction in order to get better stain fighting results.

Of course, a more powerful motor will equal more noise. A powerful cleaner will usually have a noise rating of eighty decibels or more. When you’re shopping for a new cleaner, look for one with a high user rating for suction power since this type of cleaner will be able to reach deep down into the fibers of the carpet to treat new and older stains.


If you want a model that offers the best performance, choose one that’s equipped with two tanks. The first tank will be used for water and the cleaning solution, while the second tank is designed to hold dirty water. The size of the water tanks can impact your cleaning experience in a couple of ways. First, the larger the water tanks, the heavier the cleaner will be, especially when the tanks are filled to capacity. Second, a larger water tank can hold more cleaning solution and water, which means a longer cleaning time, so you won’t have to keep stopping to empty out the tank.

Tank sizes on portable models can vary from twenty-four ounces up to ninety ounces.

Cleaning Solution

Many of the best-selling cleaners recommend using special additives in order to get rid of tough stains. Some manufacturers produce concentrated cleaners that are designed to get even the most stubborn stains out of carpet.

Pet Stains

If you have pets, look for a cleaner that’s specifically designed to handle pet messes. These models will focus on this specific type of stain and will also work to remove pet hair that’s stuck deep down into the carpet fibers.

Hands-Free Spot Cleaning

Many models will feature a hands-free stain removal cleaning option. All you have to do is place the cleaner on the area of the carpet that needs to be cleaned, switch it on and the cleaner will do the rest. Once you’re ready to clean another spot, simply move the machine after two or three minutes of cleaning, to the next spot. The length of time the cleaner needs to remain on the spot will depend on the age and type of stain. This information can be found in the carpet cleaner’s user manual.

Cleaning Reach

Vacuuming kicks up less allergens than sweeping, so, even if you have hardwood, vinyl, or tile floors, vacuuming is still a better, more effective way to get rid of allergens

When you’re shopping for a new carpet cleaner, take note of the cleaner’s reach. Corded models will usually have a hosed cleaning mode and a hands-free cleaning mode. The hose is an important component. You should never purchase a model that doesn’t come with one. A hose that’s three to five feet in length is ideal since it will allow you to access hard to reach areas and corners around the home.


A portable carpet cleaner that also comes with upholstery attachments will allow you to get more value out of your cleaner. Some models will come with these special cleaning tools that will allow you to clean furniture and curtains, and other types of materials, making them an invaluable cleaning tool.


When you buy a cleaner, you want a model that’s designed to last, one that can handle heavy-duty use. Purchasing a carpet cleaner with an extended warranty can be useful since it will cover most repairs and any production defects. Most models will come with a six to twelve-month limited warranty, however, you can also find carpet cleaners with warranties that range from two to five years.


A good carpet cleaner can be used to remove old and fresh pet stains, dirt, vomit, spilled drinks, and more. Basically, these appliances can treat stains that a standard carpet cleaner can’t. Many people will also use a portable cleaner to clean the interior of their cars, their furniture, drapes, and other types of surfaces in the home. These appliances are very versatile, so you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck if you invest in a top of the line model.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Home Carpet Cleaners as Good as Professional?

Regular routine cleaning will keep your carpet looking and smelling fresh while extending its lifespan. Hiring a professional can be a better choice if you’re dealing with carpet that’s been neglected for several months. However, using a portable carpet cleaner in the home will help you stay on top of messes when they happen, which can save plenty of wear and tear on your carpet, while keeping your carpet looking spotless.

What is the Best Way to Clean a Really Dirty Carpet?

If you want to clean your carpet without using harmful chemicals you can use a mixture of dish soap, vinegar, and water. Use one tablespoon of dish soap, one quart of hot water, and add a teaspoon of white vinegar. Mix the solution well and spray the stain thoroughly, allowing the solution to sit for fifteen minutes before running the carpet cleaner over the stain.

Do I Need to Rinse After Shampooing a Carpet?

This can be optional but rinsing the carpet out with plain water can help to remove any chemicals in the carpet cleaning solution. Any cleaning solution that’s left behind in the carpet fibers will attract dirt and debris and can cause the carpet to attract dirt much faster.

How Long Does it Take for the Carpet to Dry After Shampooing?

This can depend on how thick the carpet is. A carpet should only be slightly damp to the touch after using a carpet cleaner. Most carpets will take an average of six to ten hours to dry completely. However, depending on the time of year, it can take up to twenty-four hours to dry. Additionally, the temperature in the home, humidity, and air circulation in the home can also impact the drying time.

Why do Carpets get Dirty Faster After Cleaning?

If you don’t rinse your carpet out after cleaning it, the cleaning solution can leave behind a sticky residue that will attract dirt, dust, and debris. This will cause the carpet to become dirty quickly, in a matter of a day or two after shampooing it. To prevent this, rinse the carpet once or twice after using the cleaning solution.

Can Shampooing Carpet Cause Mold?

If a spill isn’t cleaned thoroughly, then mold can begin to grow. Carpet cleaning should consist of a balance between wet and dry cleaners. If the carpet has been exposed to too much liquid or water, then it can cause mold to grow. Low-quality carpet padding and carpeting can also be the cause of mold growth in carpet.

Final Thoughts

The best portable carpet cleaner will allow you to whip out your cleaner the minute disaster strikes. If you’re tired of scrubbing the carpet every time one of the kids spills their drink or your dog has in accident in the house, then you need a portable carpet cleaner, one that features powerful suction, a variety of cleaning tools, and offers the type of performance you can rely on when you’re dealing with tough stains. These carpet cleaners are designed to keep your carpet looking great and your home smelling fresh, making it easy to stay on top of routine carpet care and maintenance.

About the author 

James Wong