Acting quickly is the key to effectively removing stains from clothing, carpets, or upholstery. Fresh stains are always easier to remove than dried ones, so it’s important to have the right tools on hand to tackle them as soon as possible. While using a carpet stain remover spray and a cloth can do the job, a corded or cordless portable carpet cleaner is even more effective at sucking up wet spills and powering through stains. Portable carpet cleaners are also nimble and easier to use than full-sized carpet cleaners.
At the Good Housekeeping Institute Home Care and Cleaning Lab, we evaluate portable carpet cleaning machines based on their ability to lift fresh and set-in stains, their ease of use and maneuverability, and their comfort level while holding and using. We also assess their weight, how easy they are to fill, empty, clean, and store. Additionally, we have each machine tested and scored by Quiet Mark, an outside organization that rates products and appliances for sound on a scale of one to three stars. Appliances deemed “quiet” receive a three-star rating, while those rated “loud” receive a one-star rating. In our last category test of portable carpet cleaners, we conducted 38 separate tests and assessed nearly 500 data points.
Bissell Pet Stain Eraser PowerBrush Plus
This Bissell mini carpet cleaner earns our best overall score for performance in removing stains and odors, as well as its convenient control buttons and pre-mixed formula. During our testing, it easily removed both fresh and dried red wine and blueberry pie filling stains from our test carpets. The built-in rotating brush gave it deep-cleaning power, and we appreciated that the brush can be switched off when cleaning delicate fabrics. Additionally, it comes with a pet tool to better tackle pet messes.
While it earned a three-star Quiet Mark rating for being relatively quiet, its 8-ounce tanks require frequent emptying and refilling, which can be inconvenient for larger cleaning jobs. The battery takes four and a half hours to charge fully, providing a run time of approximately 20 minutes. Bissell recommends using its own ready-to-use formula, which we found convenient since it doesn’t require diluting and can be stored in the machine for easy access. At 4.4 lbs, it’s lightweight and easy to maneuver.
Hoover PowerDash GO Pet+ Spot Cleaner
The Hoover PowerDash GO Pet+ Portable Spot Cleaner is a corded carpet cleaner that comes equipped with a 4-foot hose and two interchangeable tools to tackle different messes. The Spot and Stain Pet Tool is designed to lift away stains and spills while the Rubber Nubs Tool cleans carpets without worrying about pet hair clogs. This cleaner also has a dual-tank system to keep clean solution and dirty water separate and comes with a sample-size Hoover Paws & Claws premixed spot-cleaning solution.
Weighing 6.5 pounds, the PowerDash GO Pet+ is a compact version of the Hoover Onepwr Spotless Go Cordless Carpet Cleaner, with added features. It has a 14-foot cord and an 8-ounce tank capacity.
This carpet cleaner is lightweight and easy to carry around the house or up and down stairs. However, its small solution tank may need to be refilled more frequently than comparable cleaners.
- 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; easy to carry around
- Small solution tank; may require frequent refilling
Tineco Carpet One Smart Carpet Cleaner Machine
The Tineco Carpet One Smart Carpet Cleaner Machine is a high-end carpet cleaner, weighing in at 32.8 pounds and measuring 27.5 x 18 x 14 inches. It comes with a 2-in-1 brush roll cleaning nozzle and suction hose attachment, and has additional features like an LED cleaning display, a temperature-regulating design, and a Dry Mode.
This device has an LCD panel that displays the carpet’s dirtiness level, allowing the device to automatically adjust suction and water flow to provide the most effective cleaning. The screen changes colors to signal when the carpet is fully cleaned, turning blue once the cleaning is complete. While it is more expensive, Todd Manegold, Tineco North America general manager, suggests that carpet cleaners are cost-effective alternatives to professional cleaning services that can be just as expensive.
The Tineco Carpet One Smart Carpet Cleaner also features a PTC heater and temperature controller to keep water at the optimal temperature for lifting stains. Additionally, it has a Dry Mode, which quickly renews carpets post-shampoo. The device is compatible with a smartphone app that provides voice prompts on how to best use all of its features.
- Smart prompts for optimal cleaning
- Maintains water temperature for effective stain removal
- Has a Dry Mode for quick carpet renewal Cons:
- Heavier than other carpet cleaners
- More expensive than other options
Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner
Effectiveness: 3/5 Portability: 4/5 Noise Level: 3/5 Overall Value: 4/5
If you’re in need of a carpet cleaner that can handle spills and stains as they happen, the Rug Doctors Pet Portable spot cleaner may be just what you’re looking for. With easy setup that takes less than three minutes right out of the box, this portable carpet cleaner is ready to tackle messes right away. Keep in mind that you’ll need to use a pre-treatment solution on the stain first and wait five minutes before using the cleaner.
Our testers were impressed with how well the handheld tool pulled up even the toughest stains from light-colored carpets. In just three passes, the machine was able to effectively clean set-in chocolate, red wine, and dirt stains. The treated carpet also dried in about two hours, indicating that the cleaner was using just the right amount of liquid to get the job done.
With its portability and convenient wheels and retractable handle, this carpet cleaner is perfect for spot cleaning. However, our testers did note that the hose is shorter than other models we tested, making it more difficult to clean in tight corners. It’s also a bit challenging to fill in the sink since you’ll need to steady it with one hand to prevent it from tipping over.
- Effectively cleans up all types of stains
- Portable design with wheels and retractable handle
- Easy setup with no assembly required
- Short hose may make it difficult to clean in tight corners
- Challenging to fill in sink
Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Oxy Stain Remover
Ease of Use: 5/5
Safe for people and pets
Has a fresh minty scent
Uses an oxygenated formula for easy stain removal
Requires double application for darker stains
For those who prefer a more straightforward and no-fuss approach to cleaning, spray cleaners may be the way to go. The Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Oxy Stain Remover is a top-performing spray cleaner that effectively removes all types of stains without the need for scrubbing. Its oxygen-infused formula works to lift even the oldest and toughest of stains from fabric. In our testing, it only took 12 minutes for this cleaner to remove all the spots, including barbecue sauce, dirt, urine, pre-treated wine stains, and mud. Although it needed a second spray for gooey barbecue sauce and mud stains, we don’t consider this a major drawback since pre-removal of staining agents was not part of our testing method.
Aside from its effectiveness, we were also pleasantly surprised by the fresh minty scent of this spray. It’s a refreshing change from the harsh chemical smell of other cleaners. Although slightly more expensive than other spray cleaners, the amount of product in each bottle and its effectiveness make it worth the price.
Things to Consider When Buying Carpet Cleaner Spray
When shopping for a carpet spray cleaner, it’s important to consider the active ingredients. Enzymes are effective at removing stains and odors caused by organic matter, such as urine and vomit. Our top pick for a plant-based spray cleaner, BioClean Bac-Out, contains enzymes. Hydrogen peroxide is another safe and effective ingredient to look for. Our overall best pick, OxiClean spray cleaner, is made with hydrogen peroxide. On the other hand, you should avoid cleaners containing bleach or abrasive ingredients like silica, pumice, or calcium carbonate, as these can damage the carpet fibers.
Different formulas are better suited for certain types of stains. Hydrogen peroxide cleaners work well on darker stains like wine and barbecue sauce, while enzyme-based sprays are effective on most other spills and pet messes. Some cleaners are specifically designed for certain spills, such as the Chateau Spill Red Wine Stain Remover.
When it comes to fragrance, it’s a matter of personal preference. While some people prefer unscented formulas, scented cleaners powered by hydrogen peroxide or enzymes can break down the source of the odor and leave a fresher scent. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which type of fragrance, if any, you prefer.
How do carpet cleaners even work?
A carpet cleaner dispenses a liquid cleaning solution, and then a brush or agitator tool gently scrubs carpet fibers to extract as much dirt as possible. Once this process is complete, the machine is tasked with suctioning up the loosened dirt, grime, and moisture into an onboard reservoir.
How often should I use a carpet cleaner?
Many people maintain the appearance and cleanliness of their carpets and rugs by using a carpet cleaner on a regular basis. While carpet manufacturers often recommend professional carpet cleaning on an annual basis, having a home carpet-cleaning machine means that you can take advantage of a deeper clean more often.
Some people use a carpet cleaner on a monthly or even weekly basis, but your specific needs will vary based on the type of carpet you have in your home, the volume of foot traffic, and whether you have children, pets, or habits that contribute to more rapid dirt buildup.
What kind of stains can carpet cleaners remove?Stains from dirt, mud, food and drink, grease, oil, and bodily fluids can often be greatly reduced or even eliminated with the help of a carpet cleaner.1 The most important tip to remember is to treat a carpet stain as quickly as possible. For liquid spills, you’ll want to immediately blot away the moisture with paper towels or a white cloth. (Don’t ever use a cloth or napkin that might not be colorfast.) And, surprise, for more solid mud stains or dropped food, you can use the edge of a credit card or a dull knife to lift away solids before grabbing your carpet cleaner.
As we all know, some stains may disappear with a single treatment, while others may require repeated cleaning sessions. To take stain-fighting power up a notch, you might consider using a specialty carpet-cleaning solution, like one formulated for pet stains, with your carpet cleaner.
Can carpet cleaners remove pet odors?
The short answer is sometimes. Whether a carpet-cleaning machine will remove pet stains and odors largely depends on whether the padding underneath the carpet has been contaminated. If urine has saturated the carpet padding, cleaning the fibers on top is unlikely to remove the odor completely. If you use a carpet cleaner in combination with an enzymatic cleaner, you are more likely to be successful in neutralizing the odor.
One very important thing to note is that you should not use hot water to deep clean carpets with pet odors. The heat can bond the proteins in urine to carpet fibers, resulting in a hard-to-remove stain and lingering odor.2
Is it worth it to clean your own carpet?
Carpets in your home should be deep cleaned about once every 12 to 18 months. Carpet cleaners, like the ones we’ve highlighted in this article, use water extraction to clean, spraying the carpet with water and then sucking it back into the machine with any captured dirt. Professional steam cleaning uses higher temperatures to more directly inject hot water into your carpet, and it will typically perform better than home carpet cleaners. While cleaning your own carpets is entirely viable (you can even make your own solution), you might still want a professional service occasionally. Where a carpet cleaner really shines is in tackling high-traffic areas, spot cleaning, and specific stains.
What’s the difference between a carpet cleaner and a carpet shampoo?
A carpet shampooer uses soap and agitation, while a carpet cleaner uses hot water and suction. A shampooer uses a rotating brush to press soap into your carpet fibers. That’s great for specific stain fighting, but it often won’t get as deep in the carpet fibers as a professional steam cleaner or comparable carpet cleaner. In practice, many of the carpet cleaners we recommend are almost hybrids, incorporating carpet-cleaning solutions to treat or pretreat carpets in addition to the water extraction.