Cleaning carpet can be a huge chore, especially when it comes to stains that have set in. Instead of pulling out a full-size machine or trying to scrub out stains by hand, the best portable carpet cleaners have compact designs, yet still powerfully lift stains from your fabrics with either water or heated steam. Buying a new carpet cleaner is a big investment, so you want to be sure whichever option you go with has all the features you need. So what do you need to know when shopping?
First thing to consider: heat or no heat. Heated carpet cleaners are excellent at pulling up tough stains that have already set in, but they're harder to come by. On the other hand, if you tend to catch stains quickly or you only need to clean your carpets once in awhile, a heat-free cleaner with great attachments will also do the job well.
When shopping for any cleaning appliance, consider both the weight and size of the model you choose. This may go without saying, but portable carpet cleaners often require you to lift them, making lightweight models preferable. Also, any cleaning appliance is only good for your home if you have the room to store it.
Beyond size and heat, keep your eyes peeled for any additional features you might want. Portable carpet cleaners that come with preset cycles allow you to clean your carpets or surfaces without supervision. And, extra attachments are great if you have pets or super set-in stains. If you’re looking for even more versatility, keep your eyes peeled for attachments that work great on upholstery as well, or multifunctional designs that act as a steam mop on hardwood floors.
To help find the best carpet cleaner for you, here's a roundup of some of the most effective cleaners on the market.
1. The Overall Best, All Things Considered
- Dimensions: 12 by 6.5 by 14.5 inches (length by width by height)
- Weight: 2.3 pounds
This heated carpet cleaner features a 37-ounce tank and Heatwave technology that keeps the water hot enough to pull up stains. It comes with three different attachments that you can use for a variety of surfaces and stains, including a deep stain tool, a tough stain tool, and a special tool that you can use to clean the inside of the hose after use. Plus, at 12 inches in length, 14.5 inches in height, and under 3 pounds in weight, this is a compact model you can easily store in a closet.
According to one reviewer: "Terrific! Just cleaned years old stains on some car seats, came right up after a couple tries. I used the the smaller head first, but the deep clean head took it all the way out. I was skeptical, but after using it I’m happy with the purchase."
2. The Runner-Up: An Unheated Cleaner For A Little Less
- Dimensions: 13.94 by 9.72 x 15.04 inches (length by width by height)
- Weight: 9 pounds
This slightly cheaper portable carpet cleaner lacks the extra attachments that allow you to tackle specific stains and doesn't operate with heat, so it may be less effective on soaked-in stains, but, it does offer a bit more capacity in a larger frame. This portable carpet cleaner weighs 9 pounds, measures 15 inches in height and nearly 14 inches in length, and has a generous 51-ounce water tank. With over 7,000 Amazon reviews and a solid 4.4-star overall rating, this portable carpet cleaner is a great pick that'll save you a few bucks and still get most jobs done if you don’t want heat.
According to one reviewer: "Love this cleaner, it is the best one I have ever owned. It cleans well, easy to work with. The best part is how easy it is to clean the tanks and nozzle when done. Very well designed."
3. The One Designed With Pets In Mind
- Dimensions: 16.93 x 9.06 x 12.52 inches (length by width by height)
- Weight: 12.5 pounds
Designed with pets in mind, this heat-free portable carpet cleaner has a few features that make it stand out. For one, it can operate hands-free so you can set it with the preset cycles and walk away while it goes to work. It also has two different preset cycles, one for new stains and one for those that have had time to set. This portable carpet cleaner is designed to drive the pet-, stain-, and odor-cleaning solution (included!) deep into the fabric's fibers to powerfully remove messes.
If you'd rather not use the preset cycles, you can also attach the hose and the sole attachment this carpet cleaner comes with, a multipurpose tool great for cleaning stains on your couches, stairs, and more. This carpet cleaner has one of the smaller tank capacities of any on this list at 32 ounces, and doesn't utilize heat like the best overall. But, it's still a great investment that has made it into the homes of more than 6,000 Amazon users. One note: This carpet cleaner is just under 13 pounds in weight, and over 16 inches in length and 13 inches in height, making it one of the larger and heavier options on this list.
According to one reviewer: "We recently had a pet stain on new light carpet that did not come fully clean with an older model carpet cleaner. Even though the stain had a few days to set before using the new SpotBot it worked well. We followed the directions and in a few minutes the spot was gone. Very happy with the result. And no scrubbing!"
4. A Steam Cleaner That Also Works On Hard Floors
- Dimensions: 10.5 x 10.5 x 9.5 inches (length by width by height)
- Weight: 9 pounds
This versatile high-quality steamer heats up in just seven minutes and can work on carpets and hardwood floors. It also comes with three different attachment heads to use for cleaning corners, scrubbing out stains, or steam mopping your floors. On top of that, it also comes with multiple microfiber cloths, sponges, and replacement bristles. It's also designed with a large-capacity, 54-ounce tank that can last for up to 50 minutes before you need to refill it. More than 9,000 Amazon users have purchased this steam cleaner to add to their home-cleaning routine.
According to one reviewer: "So far, I am in love with the Neat! It is small enough to easily maneuver. Holds enough to get a good days cleaning done. Heat time to produce steam has been within 10 minutes. Not only do my carpets look cleaner, the house smells fresher."