The 5 Best Portable Carpet Cleaners of 2023, According to Testing

Our favorite is the Bissell Little Green Pet Deluxe Portable Carpet Cleaner, which is lightweight, easy to handle, and ultra-quiet.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Best Portable Carpet Cleaners

BHG/Henry Wortock

While vacuums might be effective at getting rid of dust and other dirt from carpets and rugs, they aren't much use for spills or stains. The good news is, stains can be removed from carpets using hot water or steam, a cleaning solution, and suction power. While you can hire a professional cleaning service to come in with giant steam machines, buying a portable carpet cleaner is a more cost-effective solution to everyday spot cleaning and stain removal.

According to cleaning expert Kathy Cohoon of Two Maids and a Mop, there are several important things to keep in mind when looking for the best portable carpet cleaners. You’ll want to get a machine that’s lightweight, quiet, easy to use, and easy to clean and put away.

“It helps to make a quick list of what you’re looking for—the weight, capabilities, comfort, settings, tank capacity, and more—before shopping around,” Cohoon says.

We put 21 different carpet cleaners to the test in our lab to determine which portable carpet cleaners are the best for cleaning grime out of the surfaces in your home or car. Our testers spent an entire day putting each carpet cleaner through its paces, using them to remove stains like coffee, red wine, and dirt. Our experts also took into consideration the portable carpet cleaner’s price, attachments, noise level, versatility, and more.

After rigorous testing, the Bissell Little Green Pet Deluxe Portable Carpet Cleaner stood out as the best portable carpet cleaner. It’s lightweight, easy to handle, and effortlessly tackled all stain types we tested.

These are the best portable carpet cleaners.

Best Overall

BISSELL Little Green Pet Deluxe Portable Carpet Cleaner 3353

4.7
BISSELL Little Green Pet Deluxe Portable Carpet Cleaner 3353

Courtesy of Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It’s lightweight and easy to use in tight spaces like your car.

Keep in Mind: The setup instructions are difficult to follow.

When looking for the best portable carpet cleaners, one of the key factors to consider is its size, since it’s important to have a machine that fits in tight spaces, is easy to carry, and takes up very little storage space when not in use. According to our testers, the Bissell Little Green Pet Deluxe Portable Carpet Cleaner delivered on all these specifications and more.

This portable carpet cleaner works by circulating a mix of water and cleaning solution onto the affected spot on your carpet. During testing, the device completely removed the coffee stain on light-colored, medium-pile carpet with about ten passes of the stain trapper attachment. The wine and dirt stains only left a faint hint of a stain after cleaning. The chocolate stain was the only mess that proved tough for the Bissell Little Green Pet Deluxe cleaner to tackle, though it was able to remove around 50% of the discoloration.

The 15-foot power cord provides plenty of length for most tasks, as did the hose, which comes with three different stain tools. The tough stain tool scrubs and suctions debris out of your carpet and upholstery while the stain trapper tool prevents pet messes and other liquid debris inside the tool instead of getting inside your machine. We also liked the self-cleaning tool, which makes it easy to rinse out your device after every use. About two hours after scrubbing, we found that the rug was only faintly damp, meaning this device doesn’t dispense excess water onto your flooring.

Our testers loved how quiet this portable carpet cleaner was, at just 70 decibels. However, the biggest reason to purchase the Bissell Little Green Deluxe portable carpet cleaner according to our testers, is because of how lightweight it is. This cleaner can easily be carried with one hand, leaving your other hand free to clean as you go, and it would easily fit in a car seat or other tight spaces, making clean-up on the go less of a hassle.

Our testers noted that putting this device together was a little more complicated than others on our list. You’ll need a screwdriver to put the cleaner together, and testers found the directions were a bit tricky to follow. Also, we found that the tank dribbled a bit when the power was turned off, so be sure to completely empty the tank after every use.

Price at time of publish: $140

Product Details:

Weight: 9.65 pounds | Surface Types: Upholstery and carpet | Cord Length: 15 inches | Capacity: 48 ounces | Noise Level: 70 decibels

BISSELL Little Green Pet Deluxe Portable Carpet Cleaner 3353

BHG/Henry Wortock

Best Budget

Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Plus

4.7
Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Plus

Target

Why You Should Get It: This budget-friendly model completely removed coffee and wine stains in our tests. 

Keep in Mind: The tool doesn’t have as much power as corded models.

This cordless portable carpet cleaner may have been developed to tackle pet messes, but it’s a handy, inexpensive option that works well on spot stains anywhere in your house or car. Our testers found that the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser was super easy to set up and use straight out of the box. Just add the cleaning solution, make sure it’s charged up, and get to work—no water needed.

According to our testers, this budget-friendly portable carpet cleaner completely removed the coffee and wine stains from light-colored carpet in about ten passes of the machine. The dirt, which we left to sink in for 12 hours prior to the test, left a faint stain. For this reason, we recommend getting as much dirt out of your carpet using a vacuum before using this carpet cleaner. About 70% of the chocolate stain was removed during our tests, but our experts could still see a faint mark.

At only 70 decibels, this machine wowed our testers with how quiet and lightweight it was. This made it great for people who have pets or children that may be startled by loud noises. It’s also super easy to spot clean rugs, upholstery, or even inside your car since the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Plus is battery-operated and won’t need a nearby outlet.

The only thing that would take this portable carpet cleaner to the next level is its suction power. While its cordless design is convenient for use just about anywhere, it also makes the machine less powerful at scrubbing debris and sucking it away compared to a corded model. This didn’t impact the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser’s effectiveness when spot cleaning during our tests, but it likely won’t be as suitable for homes with frequent heavy-duty messes.

Price at time of publish: $100

Product Details:

Weight: 3.3 pounds | Surface Types: Upholstery, carpet | Cord Length: Cordless | Capacity: 8 ounces | Noise Level: 70 decibels

BISSELL Pet Stain Eraser Plus

BHG/Henry Wortock

Best for Pets

Bissell SpotClean Pet Pro

4.2
Bissell SpotClean Pet Pro

Courtesy of Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It has a special tool that removes pet messes and traps them inside the tool without sucking them up inside the machine.

Keep in Mind: This portable carpet cleaner is quite loud.

Having spotless carpets and upholstery while owning pets may seem like an impossible task, but the best portable carpet cleaners make it easier to keep your floors and furniture looking good as new. The Bissell Spot Clean Pet Pro is our pick for the best portable cleaner for pets because it works hard on pet stains and dirt while remaining compact and easy to carry.

To help tackle tricky stains and smells in your home, this machine has a tough stain tool for scrubbing and suctioning away debris like dirt, dander, and hair. We also like its stain trapper tool, which is designed to pull pet messes out of the fibers of your carpet and upholstery without sucking them into your machine.

After pouring coffee, wine, dirt, and chocolate on a white carpet and leaving the stains for 12 hours, our experts found that the Bissell Spot Clean Pet Pro is also effective on food stains, though it takes quite a few passes. The coffee stain came out completely, and the red wine stain faded significantly, though there was still a faint shadow. The machine struggled to remove the dirt and chocolate stains, like many of the portable carpet cleaners we tested.

We love that the Bissell Spot Clean Pet Pro is so compact and easy to carry.—it’s easy to pick up with one hand, so you can use it in your car or on the stairs to clean up tricky messes. The cleaner comes with two eight ounce samples of Bissell’s Pet Pro Oxy Urine Eliminator solution, which, according to the manufacturer, targets and removes lingering smells from your home. Simply mix it with hot tap water, add it to your carpet cleaner’s water tank, and start cleaning.

Keep in mind that this machine is one of our louder picks at around 88 decibels when running. If you’re worried about a noisy machine stressing out your pets or you simply don’t like a lot of racket when cleaning, we recommend shopping one of the other portable carpet cleaners instead.

Price at time of publish: $175

Product Details:

Weight: 13 pounds | Surface Types: Carpet, upholstery | Cord Length: 20 feet | Capacity: 96 ounces | Noise Level: 88 decibels

Bissell SpotClean Pet Pro

BHG/Henry Wortock

Best for Spot Cleaning

Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner

4.2
Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It removed all stain types we tested in just a few passes.

Keep in Mind: The hose is shorter than other models we tested.

If you’re frequently finding dirt or stains on your carpet, but the whole thing doesn’t need shampooing, we recommend getting a portable carpet cleaner to help deal with messes right after they happen. The Rug Doctors Pet Portable spot cleaner is perfect for handling spills, ground-in debris, and pet messes alike thanks to its excellent cleaning features and portability.

Setting this cleaner up takes less than three minutes out of the box, and there’s no assembly required, so you can get scrubbing right away. Unlike other carpet cleaners on this list, you’ll need to use a pre-treatment solution on the stain first and wait five minutes for it to sink in, but after that, it’s smooth sailing.

Our testers were extremely impressed by how the handheld tool pulled stains out of even light-colored carpet, noting that it completely removed a coffee stain on the first pass. When trying to remove set-in chocolate, red wine, and dirt stains, this machine only needed three passes to clean up. The treated carpet dried in about two hours after the final cleaning, which means it wasn’t using excess liquid to get the job done.

The portability of this cleaner makes it ideal for spot cleaning since it has wheels and a retractable handle you can release to roll the cleaner like a rolling suitcase. However, for all its benefits, this portable carpet cleaner does have a few small drawbacks that are important to note. Our testers found that the hose isn’t as long as some of the other models we tested, so you may have trouble cleaning in tight corners. It’s also a bit tricky to fill in the sink since you’ll have to steady it with one hand to keep it from tipping.

Price at time of publish: $190

Product Details:

Weight: 18.86 pounds | Surface Types: Carpet and upholstery | Cord Length: Cordless | Capacity: Not listed | Noise Level: 90 decibels

Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner

BHG/Henry Wortock

Best for Cars

Hoover FH14050 CleanSlate Carpet & Upholstery Pet Spot Cleaner

4.2
Hoover FH14050 CleanSlate Carpet & Upholstery Pet Spot Cleaner

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: This cleaner comes with extra tools to make cleaning easier.

Keep in Mind: We found the instructions were unclear and lacking.

When spills occur inside your car, cleaning up the mess can be a tricky endeavor. Because of the tight quarters and so many hard-to-reach crevices, it’s difficult to fully eliminate the mess with normal cleaning tools. Instead of dealing with a sticky, stained, or messy car, the best portable carpet cleaners allow you to get into these tight spaces and get your vehicle looking good as new.

Our favorite portable carpet cleaner for cars impressed testers with its portability, ability to fight stains, and helpful attachment tools.

The design of this cleaner makes it a great choice to keep handy for cleaning a car, thanks to its convenient carrying handle on top. This makes it easy to carry it in one hand and use the cleaning hose in the other. It’s lightweight, and also comes with a selection of attachment tools that help in removing tough stains.

During testing, we found that this portable carpet cleaner needed very little water or cleaning solution to be effective in fighting stains, which makes it easy to use on the go. The Hoover CleanSlate Pet Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner effortlessly removed chocolate and coffee stains from white carpet using the tight-spot tool. While the cleaner was also effective at treating red wine and dirt, there was still a tiny shadow left after targeting both of these spots, so we recommend trying to clean these types of messes as soon as possible for best results.

The Hoover CleanSlate took a little over five minutes to get out of the box and set up, so you’ll be able to get to work soon after unboxing. However, when our testers tried removing the water tank to clean it, they found it was difficult to reinsert onto the machine. As much as possible, we recommend keeping this device intact to avoid wrestling the tank back into place.

Price at time of publish: $150

Product Details:

Weight: 9.4 pounds | Surface Types: Carpet and upholstery | Cord Length: 15 feet | Capacity: 40 ounces | Noise Level: 92 decibels

Hoover FH14050 CleanSlate Carpet & Upholstery Pet Spot Cleaner

BHG/Henry Wortock

The Bottom Line

Our pick for best overall portable carpet cleaner is the Bissell Little Green Pet Deluxe Portable Carpet Cleaner, 3353, because it’s lightweight, easy to handle, and doesn’t make a lot of noise. We also loved the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser Plus for its low price and cordless portability.

Our Testing Process

To create our list of the best portable carpet cleaners, we put 21 different machines through their paces in our lab in Des Moines, Iowa. Our team of expert home testers spent an entire day using these machines on stained, light-colored carpet to see how effective and easy to use they were. For every test, we used the manufacturer's recommended detergent.

First, our testers timed how long it took to assemble the cleaner, noting what the assembly process was like and how many steps it took to get ready for cleaning. We read the instructions to make sure they were helpful and noted the difficulty of positioning the tank inside the machine.

Then our testers filled each tank with water to the recommended level, noting whether or not the machine fit comfortably beneath a sink faucet and if a spray hose made fill-up easier. 

We also tested the portable carpet cleaners’ effectiveness at removing stains by using the devices on stained carpet with potting soil, chocolate, red wine, and coffee. Our experts made note of how many passes it took to get the carpet clean, whether or not the stains were completely removed or still slightly visible, and if the cleaner was easy to handle as they worked. They also took note of how long the carpets took to dry after cleaning, checking every hour for dryness.

Finally, we kept important factors like portability, weight, noise level, and overall value for the price in mind as we made our list of the best portable carpet cleaners.

Best Portable Carpet Cleaners

BHG/Henry Wortock

What to Know About Portable Carpet Cleaners Before Shopping

Weight

Weight is a major consideration when shopping for the best portable carpet cleaners, since you’ll need to be able to hold it with one hand while operating the hose with the other. According to Leanne Stapf from The Cleaning Authority, you should also consider whether or not the device has a handle, since this can make it easier to hold as you work.

Our testers made note of how much each portable carpet cleaner weighed and how heavy they actually felt when in use, which is worth keeping in mind as you shop.

Stain and Surface Types

When looking for the best portable carpet cleaners, make sure to consider what type of surfaces you’ll need cleaned, and the most common stains you anticipate dealing with. All of our picks for the best portable carpet cleaners can remove stains from carpet and upholstery. However, we found during testing that not all carpet cleaners work equally well on different stain types.

We tested each machine on red wine, dirt, chocolate, and coffee stains that had been left to soak in for 12 hours. Our experts took detailed notes on which devices worked well on different stain types, making it easier for shoppers to decide what portable carpet cleaner to purchase.

Cord Length

Another key factor to consider is the power cord length on your carpet cleaner. Several portable carpet cleaners on our list are cordless, but as you’re shopping, consider if you’re going to use it in the car or in spaces that don’t have an outlet close. Also, keep in mind that battery-powered models tend to have less-powerful suction than corded devices. If you’re dealing with particularly tricky messes, we recommend getting one with a cord. We’ve noted the cord length, when applicable, for each of our picks.

Tank Capacity

Tank capacity is an important factor to consider, especially if you plan on cleaning larger surfaces like an area rug or the upholstery in your car. The tank capacity determines how much dirt and gunk it can hold before needing to be refilled with clean water and solution. If you’re using your portable carpet cleaner for quick spot cleaning, you may not need a huge tank capacity, and other features might take priority. However, if you’ll be far from a sink and a drain when cleaning, a larger tank is important.

Decibel Level

If you’ve ever used a loud vacuum or cleaning appliance, you know the struggle with finding the right machine that cleans well without disrupting the whole house. For our testing, we measured the noise level of each portable carpet cleaner to determine which ones are bothersome and which ones weren’t.

Best Portable Carpet Cleaners

BHG/Henry Wortock

Other Portable Carpet Cleaners We Tested

Hoover Onepwr Spotless Go Cordless Carpet and Upholstery Spot Cleaner

While our testers liked how portable this cordless machine was, it functions without water and only uses a cleaning gel. This was not enough to remove most of the stains we tested it on, and our tester reported that the device was “making fruitless passes at the stains.” Additionally, the instructions were difficult to understand, causing us to exclude this device from our list of the best portable carpet cleaners.

Aqua Pro Vac Portable Carpet Cleaner Extractor Cleaning Vacuum Machine

This machine wasn’t effective enough to be worth purchasing, according to our testing team. While it did get the stains out of our test carpet, it took many passes, and they found the hose awkward to use. This, paired with the high price, put this portable carpet cleaner towards the bottom of our list. 

Ecowell Portable Carpet Cleaner Machine 

Our testers liked this little machine and found it did very well on wet stains. However, it struggled to remove dry chocolate and potting soil stains. It’s a reasonably good value for the price, but many others we tested were superior.

Your Questions, Answered

Is it better to shampoo or steam carpets?

The experts agree steaming is the best way to remove stains and gunk from your carpet, but shampooing has its place.

“Both are great options for cleaning carpets, but for a deep clean that can pull up embedded dirt and grime, stick to steam cleaning,” Cohoon says. “Steam cleaning can dissolve dirt, pull up unwanted pests, sanitize carpets, and more with little dry time.”

However, if you’re spot cleaning or working exclusively in small spaces, a shampoo or solution based cleaning can work well.

How often should carpets be cleaned?

Your carpets will need a deep cleaning at least once a year, according to Cohoon.

“Depending on the foot traffic in the room and presence of pets or kids in the home, carpets should be steam cleaned annually to keep grime from building up and elongate the life of your carpet,” Cohoon says. “Be careful not to steam clean too often, as the excessive moisture or soap can damage carpet fibers.”

In between professional carpet cleaning, you can stay on top of accidental spills and stains on your carpet, upholstery, and in your car by using a portable carpet cleaner. This can help you maintain the overall appearance of your flooring and upholstery while avoiding the damage that excess liquid can have.

Is it okay to vacuum damp carpet?

According to Stapf, vacuuming damp carpet can actually be quite dangerous and result in permanent damage to your vacuum.

“Standard vacuums are not equipped to handle moisture,” Stapf says. “Dirty water entering the vacuum may cause the buildup of mold or even damage the motor. In more serious cases, vacuuming a damp or wet carpet can also end in electrocution.”

Instead of vacuuming wet stains off of your carpet, we recommend buying a portable carpet cleaner, which is equipped to deal with moisture while powerfully removing debris from your home.

Who We Are

Tanya Edwards is an award-winning writer and editor with bylines at Better Homes & Gardens and other publications. She’s passionate about keeping a clean house and loves to learn about the best products to do so. For this story, Tanya used insights from our testing team in Des Moines, Iowa,  and incorporated expertise from cleaning experts Kathy Cohoon of Two Maids and a Mop, and Leanne Stapf from The Cleaning Authority.

What Is BHG Recommends?

Next to all of the products on this list, you may have noticed our BHG Recommends seal of approval. Products that earn the seal have been put through rigorous testing to make sure they're worth a spot in your home. We buy most of the products we test ourselves, but occasionally we are provided samples by companies if buying isn't an option. In these cases, we use the same testing criteria we use to test the purchased products.

Looking for more products that have earned our BHG Recommends seal of approval? Check out our picks for everything from picnic blankets to humidifiers.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles