A vacuum cleaner is great for removing pet hair, food crumbs and tracked in dirt from the carpet. But it is useless against stains.
You have to get down on your knees and scrub the stain with a brush or cloth. And even then, it’s difficult to completely get rid of the stain especially if it is an old stain. Pet stains are also a headache to clean.
To effectively clean stains on carpets, we recommend getting a portable carpet cleaner.
Portable carpet cleaners use water (typically mixed with detergents) combined with brushing and suction to get rid of even the toughest of stains. You can use the cleaner to remove stains and spots from the sofa, car seats and other upholstery.
You can also use a carpet cleaner to ‘wet vacuum’ the entire carpet. It’ll pick up pet hair and loose dirt from the carpet.
In this buying guide, we review the best portable carpet cleaners you can buy online. To pick the best carpet cleaners, we considered factors such as power, ease of use and cleaning effectiveness.
What to Consider When Choosing a Portable Carpet Cleaner
Getting tough stains out of a carpet requires plenty of power; not as much as a traditional vacuum cleaner but enough to reach deep into the carpet fibres.
The power of a carpet cleaner is usually indicated in watts. Small and low-cost carpet cleaners have a power rating of between 600 and 700 watts.
We recommend this for cleaning low-pile carpets (carpets with short fibres) and for homes without pets.
In the medium price range, you’ll find carpet cleaners ranging between 750 and 900 watts of power. These cleaners are bigger (to accommodate a larger motor), heavier and more expensive.
We recommend these types of carpet cleaners for homes with pets. The added power makes it easier to clean tough pet stains.
The most powerful portable carpet cleaners range between 1,000 watts and 1,300 watts. Some of these are professional cleaners designed for heavy duty cleaning. They are great for homes with deep and shaggy carpets as well as homes with multiple pets.
One advantage of buying a high-wattage carpet cleaner is that it takes less time for the carpet to dry. Because the cleaner has more suction, it leaves less water on the carpet.
b) Size and Weight
Look for a portable carpet cleaner that’s actually portable. You should be able to carry it easily around the house and up the stairs.
The most portable cleaners weigh about 4-5kg. Cleaners that are more powerful can be as heavy as 10kg. Note that this is the empty weight. The cleaner will be heavier once you add water.
Also check that the carpet cleaner is not too big. A compact design makes it easier to clean tight spots. It’s also handy when cleaning the stairs. You can place the cleaner on a step as you work on a stain.
Note that you’ll have to sacrifice some portability if you want a powerful carpet cleaner. But it should have wheels to make it easy to drag it across the floor.
c) Power Cord and Hose Length
Most portable carpet cleaners are corded. Check that the power cord is adequately long to give you enough reach.
We recommend getting a carpet cleaner with a power cord at least 6m long for smaller homes and apartments and at least 10m long for medium size and large homes.
Also check the length of the flexible hose. A longer hose allows you to reach deep into corners and under furniture. It lets you reach a faraway stain even after the cord length has run out.
The ideal hose length is 1.5m to 3m.
d) Separate Clean and Dirty Water Tanks
Separate clean and dirty water storage is a must-have feature. It ensures you are cleaning your carpet with clean water with the used dirty water stored in a separate tank for easy disposal.
e) Are Detergents Included?
Most portable carpet cleaners allow you to bundle your purchase with a detergent. It can be a pet stain removal, a pre-treatment detergent or a general cleaning solution.
This allows you to get started on that stubborn stain immediately without having to buy additional products.
f) Extra Features
Here some extra features to look for. They are not essential but are nice to have.
- Heat blast: Some carpet cleaners product a blast of heat to reduce drying time.
- Integrated water heater: Some carpet cleaners have a built-in heater to keep the water at the right temperature for stain removal. If your cleaner doesn’t have this feature, you can add warm (not hot – hot water can shrink some carpets) water to the clean water tank.
- Specialised attachments: If you plan to use the cleaner on other surfaces in addition to the carpet, look for a model that comes with specialised attachments for upholstery cleaning, stair cleaning and other applications.
Best Portable Carpet Cleaners
1. BISSELL SpotClean Pro Review
The BISSELL SpotClean Pro is the best portable carpet cleaner for most homes. It balances between cost and power, providing excellent carpet stain-removal at an affordable price.
The combined action of brushing and vacuuming makes easy work of most types of stains including pet stains, food stains and dirt spots.
The SpotClean Pro is also one of the most compact and portable carpet cleaner among our top picks. It weighs 6kg, making it easy to carry the cleaner by hand up the stairs and from one room to another.
The SpotClean Pro’s slim design proves useful when cleaning the stair runner. The cleaner can sit on a single step.
With a 6.5m power cord and a 1.5m flexible hose, you won’t have trouble reaching stains. Both the cord and the hose have their own storage to save space and make storage easier.
The BISSELL SpotClean Pro is designed primarily for carpets but you can also use it on upholstery including the sofa and car seats.
Depending on what surface you are cleaning and how bad the stain is, you can attach one of the two tools included with the cleaner: the large stain and upholstery tool for the carpet, couch and other upholstery or the tough stain tool for extra-stubborn stains.
The SpotClean Pro cleaner also comes with a sample size bottle of cleaning formula. You have the option of ordering the cleaner bundled with a full size carpet shampoo, stain PreTreat or pet stain remover.
The only things we don’t like about the BISSELL SpotClean Pro is the noise (this is an issue with all portable carpet cleaners) and its limited power.
It has 750 watts of power, which proves inadequate for shaggy carpets. You can still clean a deep fluffy carpet with the SpotClean Pro but you have to get on your hands and knees and press the cleaning tool deep into the carpet.
What we like about it:
- Compact design – portable and easy storage.
- Long power cord and hose.
2. Vax Compact Power Carpet Cleaner Review
If you are on a tight budget, we recommend the Vax Compact Power Carpet Cleaner. It is the cheapest of our picks.
But do not underestimate it. With 1,000 watts of power, the Vax cleaner produces decent suction and brushing power, allowing it to get rid of stains in no time.
Vax’s vacuum-like upright design means you never have to get down on your knees to deal with stains. Just push the cleaner along the carpet as you would a vacuum cleaner.
This not only makes cleaning the carpet easier, it also allows you to cover a bigger area in less time.
The narrow and low profile head allows you to push the cleaner under furniture and in small spaces.
If you need to clean the carpet upstairs, the cleaner’s lightweight design (only 5.7kg) makes it easy to carry it up the stairs.
Like other carpet cleaners, the Vax cleaner has twin tanks for clean and dirty water. It comes with a 250ml cleaning solution that you add to the clean water tank.
You can also order the cleaner bundled with a 1.5L of cleaning solution specially formulated for tough pet stains.
Overall, the Vac carpet cleaner is good value for money. It’s cheaper than most portable carpet cleaners but provides excellent stain removal and easy portability. It also has a feature you won’t find on other cleaners – heat blasting.
Hot air is directed at your carpet to aid in drying. This significantly cuts down on drying time.
Our only complaints about the Vax carpet cleaner are about the tank and the maintenance.
The clean water tank is small – just 1.8 litres – meaning you need to refill it frequently. You’ll find it more convenient to clean small and medium size carpets. For large carpets, look for a cleaner with a larger tank.
As for maintenance, the roller brush is hard to reach. That’s because you have to unscrew the bottom, which takes time and requires a screwdriver. You have to do a bit of work any time you want to clean the brush.
What we like about it:
- Very affordable.
- Effectively removes most types of stains.
- Heat blast feature dries carpets in less time.
3. BISSELL ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro Review
We recommend the BISSELL ProHeat for pet owners, especially those with multiple cats and dogs.
The BISSELL ProHeat is designed specifically to deal with tough pet stains. It is larger and heavier than the more compact BISSELL SpotClean Pro. It’s also more powerful and comes with several extra features.
Our favorite is the integrated water heater, hence the name ProHeat. Using what the manufacturer calls HeatWave technology, the ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Pro maintains water in the tank at a constant temperature.
This allows the cleaner to remove tough stains faster and more effectively.
Another feature we love is CleanShot Pretreater. Step on a button above the wheels and a nozzle shoots a jet of cleaning solution at the stain. Give the solution a few minutes to soak and then pass the cleaner over it.
CleanShot Pretreater is useful for very old or tough stains that are harder to remove.
Unlike the BISSELL SpotClean Pro that requires you to get on your hands and knees, the ProHeat is designed to work like a traditional upright vacuum. You simply push it along the carpet.
This makes it ideal for cleaning stained spots as well as the entire carpet. Note that you’ll need to refill the tank several times if you are cleaning a large area.
Thanks to the powerful suction and the carefully measured moisture dispensation, most carpets need just half an hour to dry. This means you can give your living room carpet a quick once-over and it’ll be perfectly dry before the guests arrive.
Not only is the BISSELL ProHeat shaped like a vacuum cleaner, you can also use it as one. It has a dry mode that’s handy for picking up pet hair from the carpet and upholstery.
Other useful features include a detachable hose extension (ideal for cleaning upholstery), a 3-in-1 stair attachment and a tough stain attachment.
The only downside of the BISSELL ProHeat is the high price tag. But we think it’s worth it, and most customers agree.
What we like about it:
- Excellent carpet cleaning performance.
- Wheeled design makes mobility easy.
- Removable cover makes it easy to access brush rolls for cleaning.
- Fast drying.
4. Rug Doctor Portable Spot Cleaner Review
We recommend the Rug Doctor portable spot cleaner for apartments. It’s also ideal for those who need a spot cleaner just for their sofa and car seats.
The Rug Doctor is one of the smallest portable carpet cleaners. It’s designed to make it easy to carry to a particular spot on the carpet or sofa.
Despite its size, it is surprisingly powerful with a power rating of 1,100 watts. It has no problem removing tough stains.
We do not recommend trying to clean an entire carpet with Rug Doctor. Yes, you can do it (though you’ll need to refill the tank several times) but it is back breaking work.
Rug Doctor works best when you get down on your hands and knees. This is not a problem for a single spot but can prove torturous when trying to clean an entire carpet.
With an IPX4 rating, it is safe to take Rug Doctor outside to clean your car seats and mats as well as any upholstery in your RV or boat. Note that the IPX4 rating protects only against accidental splashes. Do not leave it out in the rain.
What we like about it:
- Ultra-compact design – easy to carry it around the house.
- Effectively gets rid of stains and dirt spots.
- Wheels for easier mobility.
5. Kiam Aquarius Pro Valet Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner Review
For large carpeted homes and professional carpet cleaners, we recommend the Kiam Aquarius Pro Valet Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner.
It is a professional-grade carpet cleaner designed for heavy-duty work.
As you’d expect, it has a powerful motor (1,100 watts) to provide sufficient suction. The added power, unfortunately, makes the cleaner quite loud. It’s as loud as most upright vacuum cleaners.
Unlike other portable cleaners that use both brushing and suction to clean a carpet, the Kiam Aquarius Pro relies mostly on vacuuming.
You press a trigger to release water and detergent onto the carpet then pass over it to vacuum. By the way, there are quite a few complaints regarding the trigger. Users say it feels flimsy and breaks easily. Be careful when handling it.
While it does remove stains, the Kiam Aquarius Pro is more ideal for cleaning the entire carpet rather than spot-cleaning.
If your biggest problem is tough stains, go with one of the other cleaners we’ve reviewed. The combined brushing and suction action is more effective on individual stains.
But if you are looking for general carpet cleaner to deal with dirt, pet hair and mild stains on a large carpet, the Kiam Aquarius Pro is perfect.
One disadvantage of its size and power is that it’s heavy. It weighs 10kg, and that is with the tanks empty. Considering that the clean water tank holds 6.5l of water, it’s going to get pretty heavy once you start cleaning.
This is not a cleaner you’ll be able to carry up the stairs unless it’s empty.
What we like about it:
- 3m hose provides long reach.
- Comes with wide carpet tool and a smaller upholstery tool.
- Great for cleaning large carpeted rooms.