A portable carpet cleaner is an essential for cleaning up spills and stains that are inevitable.
These machines are a godsend if you live with children or pets.
Got pet urine on your favorite sofa?
Your child spilled chocolate on carpet?
Don’t worry. It’s easy as pie to clean up.
That’s where a portable carpet cleaner comes into play
Even if some full sized carpet cleaners have hoses that allow it to clean upholstery, it’s hard to beat a portable carpet and upholstery cleaner in terms of their compact and lightweight features.
The hose and nozzle combo allow it to clean areas a big carpet cleaner wouldn’t fit into.
Who will benefit most?
Folks who need a portable carpet cleaner are those who live with pets, very young children or folks who don’t care to clean up.
If you find yourself to be clumsy and tend to spill things here and there then you probably need one as well.
The carpet cleaners we will look at here are extractor-type machines.
You won’t see any steam cleaners because these are found to be not as effective in cleaning stains.
These machines will work best at removing stains and blemishes on fabric upholstery, rugs and carpet.
Design is simple – pour in hot tap water and cleaning solution (usually provided by the manufacturer) in a water tank. You then take the nozzle and rub it back and forth over the stain.
Underneath this nozzle are stiff bristles that agitate and lifts up stain.
Afterwards, you’ll take the same nozzle and suck up residue that goes into a separate water tank.
Don’t rely on this machine to disinfect bug-infested furniture because you’ll need at least 103 degrees Fahrenheit to kill those creatures.
These machines are strictly for cleaning and removing stains.
Our Pick: Bissell SpotClean Professional 3624
The Bissell Spot Clean Professional 3624 is hands down the best performing portable carpet and upholstery cleaner available right now. It comes with a 4 foot hose that makes it very easy to use. This variant will provide great agitation without damaging (most) fabric and carpet types. Between this and a carpet steam cleaner, this would be the hands down option.
- Great agitation on carpet and upholstery – effective at cleaning spot stains
- Separate dirty water tank make it easy to clean
- Versatile tool set – has both wide and narrow brushes to give you more options
- Bissell has its own deep cleaning solution that takes out the guesswork in what to use
- Will not deep clean or clean a whole room of carpet – this machine is strictly a spot cleaner
- Inlet for the clean water tank isn’t airtight so it’ll drip
- Pretty noisy at over 80 decibels
When it comes to the combination of stain cleaning performance and price, it’s hard to beat the Bissell Spot Clean Professional 3624.
Even if you compare this with a steam cleaner, this machine will do a better job in terms of cleaning spot stains.
Name the stain – puke, juice, wine or pet urine, this spot cleaner clean it up.
This is a great option if you need something to help you keep your upholstery clean.
It doesn’t have the ability to deep clean or disinfect but it excels at removing stains no matter the type.
To give you an idea how this machine performs, watch this video from Vacuum Wars and see how it compares to its competitors the Rug Doctor and Hoover…
Not only will this machine clean upholstery and carpet but also rugs – even the shag kind.
This variant does not have any water heater inside so you’ll rely on hot water from the tap.
There is little risk of this damaging fabric on upholstery or carpet so you’ll have to check cleaning codes on your furniture before using this.
Easy to use
One feature that consumers like with the Spot Clean Professional would be the dual water tanks – one for clean water and cleaning solution and the other for dirty water.
This feature makes this machine easy to clean because there’s nothing to disassemble.
All you need to do is pick up the dirt water tank, remove the large lid and empty it.
Out of the box, you’ll get an 8 ounce cleaning solution. Bissell recommends that you use their cleaning solution to avoid voiding the warranty.
Water tank can hold 3/4 gallon of water which is pretty substantial if you compare it to the other portable cleaners in this list. You don’t need to refill or empty as much.
This machine comes with two main brush attachments – the 3” tough stain tool and 6” stair tool.
Don’t let their names fool you because both are equally adept at removing stains. Both of these are basically the same brush tools with varying width.
Power cord length is decent at 22-feet which is plenty for a cleaner this size.
Biggest issue for me would be the lack of a measuring cup. You’ll have to use the fill line in the clean to measure the right amount of cleaning fluid. That means regardless of the amount of stains that this machine will clean, you’ll only have a single measuring point.
One option would be buying a separate measuring cup and just go by ratios or eyeballing it if you’ve gotten the hang of the dilution.
Another downside would be the placement of the inlet which is at the bottom. It is a big issue because it isn’t completely watertight so if you flip this over to attach it to the carpet cleaner, expect a few drips.
Hands Free: Bissell SpotBot Stain Cleaner 33N8
Like what the name implies, the Bissell SpotBot is a hands free spot cleaner that will do the job for you. Cleaning performance is almost up to par with the Bissell SpotClean Professional but this one has the advantage of you not having to manually scrub back and forth. However the nozzle attachment does not clean as well.
- Hands free option to spot clean carpet, rugs or upholstery
- Great option to clean pet litter, poop, stains, wine, grease and more
- Easy to use and stow away
- Comes with two cleaning cycles for walkaway convenience
- Nozzle attachment will not work as well as the main brush
Folks who don’t like the idea of manually scrubbing stains will appreciate the hands free nature of the Bissell SpotBot 33N8.
This spot cleaner is unique in that it does the scrubbing for you.
Underneath this machine is a brush that spins like a street sweeper to agitate carpet.
Using this is a little bit different.
Instead of scrubbing the nozzle back and forth, you place the machine directly on the stain and let the brush do the work.
Surprisingly, this scrubber works quite well on a variety of stains. Consumers say that this spot cleaner can clean pet puke, food stains and baby stains.
It also comes with a detachable hose and nozzle should there be a need to clean stains on areas that the main brush cannot clean.
Unfortunately, the nozzle does not clean as well as the main cleaning brush.
Bissell Alternative: Rug Doctor Portable Spot Cleaner
The Rug Doctor Portable Spot Cleaner is the first portable cleaner with an agitating brush. This features helps it in terms of picking up tough, dried up stains. However despite this feature, it still does not outperform the Bissell Spot Clean in several cleaning tests I checked. Still, this machine has some neat features than will make spot cleaning upholstery and carpet easier.
- Powerful motor will suck up dirt cleaning solution (dries faster)
- Wide cleaning head will cover more area per pass
- Retractable handle makes it easy to move this around
- Easy to remove clean and dirty water tanks
- Almost as expensive as the Bissell but does not outperform it
- Low profile design does not take up much space vertically
In the world of carpet cleaners, Rug Doctor is one of the more popular brands but surprisingly they’re still not as popular as the Bissell in this niche.
One of the biggest selling points of this is agitating brush which is a first. Rug Doctor says that their oscillating motorized brush makes 1,200 movements per minute.
This will help in terms of removing dried up stains.
It does have a slightly longer hose at 5.5 feet versus the 5 foot hose of the Bissell. So it’ll provide better reach on areas like stairs.4
Even if this machine is heavier than the Bissell, it does come with a retractable handle and large wheels that make transporting easy.
You don’t have to carry this moving from one area to another.
Another advantage this has over the Bissell would be the wider nozzle that will clean a larger area.
It has larger water tanks 1.89 liters versus 3/4 liter in the Bissell. So this is a better option if you do a lot of upholstery cleaning not just spot cleaning.
Budget Option: Hoover Spotless Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner FH11300PC
For the budget conscious, the Hoover spotless portable carpet and upholstery cleaner is a great alternative to the Bissell SpotClean. It won’t clean as well but the almost $30 price difference is substantial. This variant is lighter than the Bissell and not as loud.
- Great suction and cleaning performance
- Has a feature that cleans the hose to prevent soap residue from building up inside the hose
- Two fill lines that give you the option to fill enough water and cleaning solution to clean small or big messes
- Flexible hose adds to the reach
- Build quality not as good as a Bissell
- Won’t clean stains as well as a Bissell or Rug Doctor
- Can’t fill water on the clean water tank in a small basin
In a niche dominated by Bissell, only a few other brands can challenge it in terms of cleaning performance.
The Hoover Spotless Portable Cleaner is one brand with almost similar features as the Bissell SpoClean 3624.
Both the Bissell and Hoover come with hoses and nozzles with brushes that make these great options for cleaning stairs and upholstery.
The big issue with the Hoover however is performance. While this variant cleans stains decently, it lags behind the Rug Doctor and Bissell when it comes to cleaning dry stains.
Another issue would be the inlet placement which is at the back of the water tank. Due to the height of the water tank and position of the inlet, it’s difficult to fill in a shallow sink.
Build is another thing to look at as some reviews complain about the tank leaking underneath.
Handheld Option: Bissell Pet Stain Eraser
Pet owners looking for something compact and lightweight capable of cleaning pet stains will appreciate those qualities from the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser. Essentially this machine is a carpet/upholstery cleaner that looks and feels like a cordless handheld.
- Compact and lightweight tool that you can bring anywhere to clean pet messes
- Does not have a cord so you can take this anywhere
- Great for spot cleaning
- Does not have the power of the other plug-in carpet cleaners in this list
- Limited run time of just 15 minutes
- Several complaints about leaking
The Bissell Pet Stain Eraser the only cordless option in this list which makes it optimal for folks looking for a true spot cleaner.
Since this cleaner is not a plug-in option, it will be limited by a battery. Bissell says at full charge, this will run for about 15 minutes.
Don’t expect this to be as powerful as the other portable cleaners in this list because it has a small motor. It will clean stains but just small portions of it.
The main cleaning nozzle has a similar design to the Bissell Spot Clean with the stiff bristles at the bottom to agitate and pick up dirt.
Unfortunately, there are numerous complaints of the water tank leaking. This could be an isolated case but it’s not just one or two reviews. It’s more than 5 and all come from verified purchases so it’s something that Bissell has to look at.
How to choose a portable carpet cleaner?
Choosing the right one boils down to these features.
1. Compact / Lightweight
This is one of the more important features to look at. You’ll be using this on different spots not just on floors so it is important for it to be light as possible.
Most of the portable cleaners that you see in this list weigh less than 15 mounts.
All of them have a flexible hose so you’re not carrying this while cleaning so does not necessitate having something lighter.
2. Cleaning Performance
This perhaps is the most important feature to look at. The best portable cleaners should be able to clean the toughest stains like oil. Look at the main cleaning nozzle. It should have stiff brushes to agitate.
If it does not have bristles don’t buy it because it won’t be able to remove stains effectively.
Suction is also important to be able to pick up as much as dirt cleaning solution as possible. This will reduce drying time and prevent microbial growth.
Unfortunately, manufacturers don’t put a number on how much power their machines make. You’ll have to rely on consumer feedback for this.
3. Easy to use
You know you’ve that a product is good putting it together is intuitive – no need for the manual.
If you need to look up the manual on attaching the hose or using the nozzle then it’s probably something too complex. Stay away from that product.
Good portable carpet cleaners should be separate water tanks for clean and dirty water. The reason is pretty obvious – for easy disposal of dirty water.
This is a big reason why brands like Bissell are so popular because it’s so easy to empty.
Check the dirty water tank if the lid is removable and the size of it. The bigger the better for instances you need to thorough cleaning.
It should also have easily identifiable fill lines that tell you how much cleaning solution and water to use. If can find a variant with a full load and spot clean load it would be better so you’re not wasting cleaning solution.
A hose is an essential tool to have so that you can really dig down and agitate carpet back and forth. It also helps clean areas like the stairs and upholstery inside your home and vehicle. The more versatile it is the better.