Other than death and taxes, there’s one guarantee in life: messes. Kids bleed, dogs have accidents, and no matter how careful you are, the spilling of a wine glass is unavoidable. However, there’s a simple and easy way to restore your carpet to its former glory after an accident. Enter: portable carpet cleaners. They’re lightweight, they’re effective and they’re one of the only household essentials that make us ‘ooh and ahh’ as we’re using them. And, because there’s no one size fits all when it comes to cleaning, we’ve rounded up the best carpet cleaners based on effectiveness, ease of use, portability and price range.
What even is a carpet cleaner, anyway?
“Carpet cleaning devices use a mixture of cleaning solution, scrubbing brushes and suction,” explains Mary Marlowe, founder of cleaning blog Stactle.com. However, the most important thing you should know is that these babies are *not* vacuum cleaners. The main difference is that carpet cleaners have a chamber that holds clean water, cleaning solution and dirty water that accumulates during use. “Once you switch on the cleaner, clean water is injected into the carpet at high speed. The vacuum part of the cleaner then works this into the carpet and sucks up the water (and dirt) into the tank that stores the dirty water. Often in the process, the water can be heated, which can make it more efficient when cleaning carpets that are particularly dirty,” Marlowe explains.
How to Pick the Best Portable Carpet Cleaner
Weight: You want your portable carpet cleaner to be lightweight and compact. No one enjoys lugging heavy items up and down the stairs, so be sure to find something that’s light enough for you to carry around with ease. We recommend choosing something in the 20-pound range (but remember, it’ll get heavier once its tank is full).
Tank Capacity: This one is more of a personal preference. If you’re looking to accomplish more in one cleaning session, go with a larger tank (around 30 ounces). However, if you’re only spot cleaning, you can go with something smaller. Just remember, a smaller tank needs to be emptied more often, and you’ll have to stop more than once to refill it for longer cleaning periods.
Suction: Similarly, the level of suction you choose should also be based on your cleaning preferences. While portable cleaners are similar to vacuums in that a motor engine powers them, some carpet cleaners divide the engine to heat the water while cleaning. This can be great for removing tough stains, but it also means there’s less power dedicated to suction. If you don’t want heated water, choose one with 3 to 5 amps of powerful suction.
Attachments: If your carpet cleaning session is starting to feel more like an hour at Barry’s Boot Camp, something’s wrong. The best portable carpet cleaners include several attachments that vary to suit every cleaning task. While some might include upholstery tools and stair brushes, others might have a special nozzle to help clean your car. Either way, this tool is supposed to make your life easier, not harder.
Best Portable Carpet Cleaners: Winners, at a Glance
Best Overall: Little Green Portable Carpet Cleaner
Best Value: Hoover Carpet Cleaner
Best Design: Bissell 3624 Carpet Cleaner
Best for Pets: Bissell 2085 Carpet Shampooer
Most Convenient: Hoover Carpet Shampooer
Best Durable: Rug Doctor Carpet Shampooer
Easiest to Use: ReSolve Carpet Cleaner
If you’ve ever stumbled upon #cleantok and witnessed Bissell’s powerful little green carpet cleaner restore this family’s favorite white chair, you probably don’t need more convincing from us. However, if you haven’t seen the video, here’s what you need to know: It uses a special kind of HeatWave Technology to maintain a consistent water temperature so it can easily zap away stains on upholstery, leaving it looking brand new. Plus, it comes with a 3-inch stain tool AND its 48-oz. tank capacity ensures you won’t have to continuously stop cleaning to empty dirty water. It’s basically the Michelangelo of portable carpet cleaners.
Finding something budget-friendly that doesn’t sacrifice quality is a tall order, and this baby delivers. Hoover’s two-in-one cleaner is designed to move around high-traffic areas and small spaces, where it’s fully equipped with a special dryer brush and fabric softener bag to dry quickly. It comes with a trial-size solution to keep the room smelling fresh and clean, and it’s lightweight and compact, making it easy to store in the garage or basement.
This powerful little cleaner is a professional-grade machine that guarantees to clean your carpet thoroughly. Not only does it have 5.7 amps of suction to easily remove dust and dirt, but it also comes with a stair tool that’ll make cleaning your steps’ nooks and crannies a breeze. The best part? Don’t worry about researching “best carpet cleaning solutions,” because this baby comes with a trial-sized bottle of their powerful Pro Max Clean and Protect formula to get you started.
Best for Pets
If you feel like 80 percent of your day is spent cleaning pet hair, this carpet shampooer will change your life. Not only does it use an ammonia solution to remove stains quickly and efficiently, but it features a four-row, dirt-lifting power brush to pick up pet hair with ease. Plus, Bissell’s powerful engine features 3.4 amps of corded suction, and it has a retractable handle for easy storage. What we really love about it, though, is how lightweight it is (12 pounds!). It’s practically easier to tote around than your Frenchie.
We guarentee this carpet shampooer will make being a WFH parent a little less hard on the home (no offense, kids). Not only is its ultra-portable design and 8-foot hose *perfect* for maneuvering around heavy furniture, but its dual-V nozzle ensures that you’re getting equal parts suction and solution. Oh, and did we mention that it weighs less than 20 pounds?
If you’ve been wine-ing and dining your way through 2020 (same), you’ve probably realized how important having a carpet cleaner is when you’re at home 24/7. And if you’re looking to invest in a cleaner that’ll last a lifetime, we’ve got you covered. Not only can this carpet shampooer remove up to 90 percent of embedded dirt, stains, oils, and grime for professional cleaning results, but its easy-to-lift clean and dirty water tanks provide stress-free filling and emptying. It features a built-in microfiber cloth to keep pet fur and dirt from getting on the machine’s surface, and its powerful suction will leave your house feeling like it’s just been professionally cleaned (seriously, you have to see for yourself).
Easiest to Use
Not big on bells and whistles? We guarantee this one will get the job done in the most straightforward, efficient way possible. If you’ve ever used Resolve’s carpet cleaning solution, you know it’s a miracle for cleaning pet-related accidents, and this carpet cleaner features a heavy-duty brush and handle to expedite the spot cleaning process. It doesn’t get simpler—or more lightweight and effective—than this, folks.
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