Pets — they may be your best friend, but they’re your carpet’s worst enemy (and if you have young kids, you know they’re a close second). If your children or pets are constantly dirtying up your carpet, you might want to add a carpet cleaner to your regular cleaning routine.
Carpet cleaners are wet vacuums that use cleaning sprays, brushes and suction power to remove stains and odors from your carpet. To help keep your floors looking clean and smelling fresh, we tested nine of the most popular portable and upright carpet cleaners to find the best models for any home.
Best upright carpet cleaner overall: Hoover SmartWash+
From top to bottom, the Hoover SmartWash+ has been designed around one idea: simplicity. Its intuitive triggerless spraying system automatically sprays your carpet when you move it forward and dries the carpet when you pull it backward. It’s much more like using an upright vacuum cleaner and unlike most of the competition, which required us to hold down a spray trigger (which often left us worrying about under- or overwashing our carpet). Most notably, however, it performed just as well as the Bissell ProHeat throughout our testing despite selling for nearly $100 less.
The SmartWash+ performed excellently during our stain test and other hands-on usage. Thanks to the cleaner’s auto-spray system, we simply ran the SmartWash+ back and forth over our carpet samples until the carpet’s soy sauce, red wine and dirt stains disappeared. After a few passes with the Hoover, our carpet looked good as new without any trace of our test stains.
The SmartWash+ has dual dedicated solution and clean water tanks and automatically mixes from both tanks as you clean, so unlike many of the other carpet cleaners we tested you don’t have to worry about mixing too much or too little solution together or having water sit in a tank for too long. You can easily refill water once your clean water tank runs out without having to mix a new batch of solution. The SmartWash+ also has a convenient Dry Only mode that lets you “vacuum” your carpet without triggering its forward spraying function. A handy backlit display tells you when the SmartWash+ is in spraying or drying mode.
If anything goes wrong with your cleaner, the SmartWash+ comes with an extended five-year warranty. It has one of the widest cleaning heads we tested at 12 inches, an inch wider than the Bissell ProHeat, and it’s 0.5-gallon dirty water tank was a bit larger than the Bissel’s 0.4-gallon tank. A 22-foot power cord and 8-foot attachment hose give you plenty of room to work.
That said, the SmartWash+’s lower price compared to the Bissell ProHeat means you’ll sacrifice some convenience for affordability. If you want to spot treat tougher stains in advance with the Hoover, you’ll need to attach its 8-foot hose attachment and manually spray them. With the Bissell ProHeat’s integrated spray head, you can quickly spot treat individual stains and won’t need to carry around a separate spray bottle or a hose carrying bag.
But overall, the SmartWash+ earned its spot as our top carpet cleaner for a simple reason: It cleans carpets just as well as the Bissell ProHeat and costs $100 less. The Hoover SmartWash+’s automatic spraying system and stress-free design make it a great option if you’re looking for an affordable upright carpet cleaner that’s effective and easy to use.
Best premium upright carpet cleaner for pet hair: Bissell ProHeat 2x Revolution Pet Pro
During our testing, the Bissell ProHeat 2x easily handled dirt, soy sauce and fruit punch stains on our carpets and ample amounts of dirt embedded in a large area rug, thanks to its 11-inch vacuum head and twin roller brushes. For straightforward carpet cleaning it was just as effective as the Hoover SmartWash+, but its effective pre-soaking feature and Swiss Army knife-like range of attachments made it even more versatile, and the ProHeat’s longer 25-foot power cord and 10-foot attachment hose gave us more range to work, which we appreciated while cleaning stairwells and large carpeted rooms.
Our favorite feature on the ProHeat was Bissell’s CleanShot spot treatment system. When you press the CleanShot button above the Bissell ProHeat’s rear wheel, a sprayer shoots out a Super Soaker-like stream of cleaning solution (a second press shuts it off, so you can control the length of the application). Although it took us a second to get comfortable aiming the CleanShot, we liked using it as a quick spot treatment tool. On the other models we reviewed, the only way to quickly pretreat stains was by connecting an attachment hose and sprayer head to the cleaner. When we tested out the Bissell on a kitchen runner rug, we hit baked-in grease stains with the CleanShot, cleaned the rest of the carpet and easily removed them later once the solution soaked in.
The ProHeat also uses Bissell’s Heatwave system, which relies on a small fan to heat up the cleaner’s clean water tank. By comparison, some Hoover upright cleaners vent warm air to help dry out your carpet, but none do the same for their water tank. In our testing, the heated water tank wasn’t a huge game changer — the ProHeat and Hoover SmartWash+ performed just about the same during our carpet stain removal testing, though the ProHeat lets you work for longer stretches since you don’t have to refill with warm water as you do with the SmartWash+. If you’re deep cleaning a whole floor with the Bissell, its heated water tank is a nice convenience, but we wouldn’t call it an essential feature.
The Bissell is versatile, with a strong selection of tools for a variety of carpet and upholstery cleaning tasks. Along with the 10-foot hose (2 feet longer than the Hoover SmartWash+) that attaches to the cleaner, the ProHeat also comes with a general brush head and a specialized brush head that’s an excellent fit for pet owners. The ProHeat’s Pet Upholstery tool catches hair and debris before it reaches your cleaner’s water tank. After a cleaning session, you can unlock the cup and empty any hair that’s inside or wrapped around the tool’s filter. We had no problems using the attachment, and if your home has animals that frequently shed everywhere, you’ll appreciate the tool.
Cleaning your carpet means ending up with a tank full of dirty water, and though upright carpet cleaners are generally harder to clean than portable cleaners, Bissell tried to make the process as painless as possible. The ProHeat’s water tanks can easily be washed out, and Bissell includes a hooked plastic tool for fishing out hair and other debris in the nozzle. You can also pop off the ProHeat’s nozzle housing by holding down two clearly marked buttons on the cleaner’s front side.
We do wish Bissell made it easier to remove the brush heads if you want to do a deeper cleaning. In order to remove the rollers, you’ll need to disassemble the cleaner’s front housing with a screwdriver and pull off the gear belt. On the competing Hoover SmartWash+, you can simply remove the nozzle cover and pop out each roller brush. Bissell does offer a cleaning tray designed for power washing the ProHeat’s brushes, although it’s sold separately for $29.99.
Considering the narrow performance gap between the Hoover SmartWash+ and the Bissell ProHeat, the $100 price premium makes sense if you’re regularly cleaning lots of pet hair or stains off your furniture and want to use the cleaner’s specialty hair catcher tool. Otherwise, convenience features like the ProHeat’s sprayer are nice, but for most households, they’re not must-haves.
Best portable carpet cleaner overall: Hoover CleanSlate Pet
If you’re not planning on doing any full room or rug deep cleaning and just want a tool that will let you take care of pet messes or spills, a portable carpet cleaner makes a lot of sense. The Hoover CleanSlate Pet was the most convenient to use and effective of the models we tested. During our testing, the CleanSlate dealt easily with salt-crusted car mats, stained kitchen rugs and dirt and food stains, and sucked up dirt without missing a beat. Thanks to the CleanSlate’s 4.5-foot hose, we had the range to comfortably reach stains and didn’t have to constantly drag the cleaner across the carpet.
The design is well thought out, and every feature and tool is easy to reach. On top of the CleanSlate, you’ll find a carrying handle, water tanks and a removable hose cleaning tool. To use the tool, you simply attach it to the top of the hose and hold down the solution trigger — it’ll spray cleaning solution down your hose and flush any grime right into the water tank.
Along the CleanSlate’s backside, you’ll find its power cord, hose and narrow head attachment. Unlike a lot of vacuum extension heads, the CleanSlate’s tapered attachment includes a spray head and brush, which makes it perfect for cleaning out tight spots like nooks and seat corners. As with the hose cleaner head, you can store the attachment right on the CleanSlate, and it’s a convenient touch that enhances the cleaner’s portability — you won’t have to sift through a bag or drawer every time you need to switch cleaner heads.
The CleanSlate’s jumbo-size cleaning tool is a key reason why it earned its spot as our top portable cleaner. At 7 inches wide with swappable bristle and rubber-tipped heads, the cleaning tool is gigantic compared to typical portable cleaners with tools that top out at around 4 inches. By comparison, the Bissell Little Green Pro has a middling 3-inch cleaning attachment. The wider tool let us get more cleaning done more quickly.
With the CleanSlate’s large cleaner head, we could cover more territory at once and didn’t have to repeatedly double back to finish cleaning stains. When we were cleaning out a car floor mat, it only took a few presoak sprays — the CleanSlate sprays cleaning solution downward in a wide triangular pattern — and swipes to finish cleaning the mat. With the Bissell Little Green Pro, it took us twice as long to finish cleaning the same mat because of the cleaner’s smaller head. The CleanSlate’s larger head gives it the versatility to tackle more types of carpet jobs compared to other portable cleaners — it’s not simply for spot cleaning.
The CleanSlate also comes with a two-year warranty along with sizable 23-ounce dirty water and 40-ounce clean water tanks. Although the CleanSlate’s tanks are smaller compared to the Bissell Little Green Pro’s heftier 3/4-gallon tanks, they’re also far easier to clean. The Bissell’s dirty water tank has a small plastic lip that occasionally catches sediment along with nooks that require multiple rinses to be fully cleaned out. By comparison, the Hoover’s tank has a simpler layout, and it’s easy to rinse out with some hot water and a paper towel.
If your biggest needs for a portable carpet cleaner are price, portability and performance, the Hoover CleanSlate is a tough act to beat.
When to buy a carpet cleaner
If you have carpeting or rugs in your home — and especially if you have pets or kids along with them — you’ve probably spent some time trying stain removers of various kinds to deal with spills, pet messes and the grime that builds up with everyday wear. But sprays and scrubbing will only get you so far.
You’ve likely seen professional carpet cleaning systems for rent at supermarkets and big-box stores, and you may even have hired (or considered hiring) a service like Stanley Steemer when you’ve moved into a new place. But owning your own smaller unit can make a lot of sense, especially if you have pets or small children who regularly dirty your carpets.
Although most rental shops offer professional-grade carpet cleaners, you’ll typically be paying between $20 and $40 per day in fees (depending on the accessories you need), and that can quickly add up if you’re cleaning more than a few times per year. If you find yourself in this position, it makes sense to add a carpet cleaner to your cleaning tool collection.
You’ll find two types on the market. Upright carpet cleaners resemble upright vacuums, though they use water tanks in place of a bag or canister, and you use them similarly, pushing them across the room. Portable carpet cleaners are squat, handheld devices — think miniature canister vacuum — meant to be used for spot cleaning or smaller areas; often they include a hose for upholstery and scrubber attachments
Portable carpet cleaners work best if you’re typically dealing with spills or smaller stains and want a cleaner that doesn’t take up much space. Many of the models we reviewed also include features like pet hair removal tools that’ll undoubtedly be appealing to pet owners. You can also easily move a portable cleaner around if you want to clean a stain out in your car or on a stairwell.
You’ll want to consider an upright carpet cleaner if you’re regularly cleaning up multiple carpeted rooms and floors. Upright carpet cleaners are much more powerful than portable cleaners, and they use wider cleaning heads to grab more dirt and water from your carpets. Uprights are generally more complex to use compared to portable cleaners — you’ll have to plug in a separate hose whenever you want to do spot cleaning, and they have more parts to clean and maintain once you’re through.
How we tested
To find the best portable and upright carpet cleaners, we tested all nine models for more than a month and ran them through a gamut of cleaning scenarios.
Our main test involved seeing how well each model cleaned up dirt, coffee, red wine, fruit punch, ketchup and soy sauce stains on a low-pile carpet. All of our tested cleaners could remove the stains, but the best models cleaned up our test carpet without requiring significant force or repeated passes.
We also tried using our carpet cleaners on alternative surfaces like medium-pile area rugs, floor mats, car floor covers and mattresses. Our top picks, which included an arsenal of attachments for any cleaning scenario, handled these challenges without any issues. For carpet cleaners with rechargeable batteries, we gave each model a full charge and ran them through a standard carpet cleaning until they powered down.
We also prioritized usability and design during our evaluations. Models that were easy to carry around, clean and maintain earned the best marks throughout our testing.
Other carpet cleaners we tested
$165 $145 at Target
With its 5-foot hose, sizable 96-ounce water tanks and attachments like a specialized pet stain tool that combines bristles with hard plastic spikes, the Bissell Little Green Pet Pro is heavier duty and more powerful than most portable cleaners. Despite sporting only a 3-inch head, the Little Green Pet Pro needed just a few passes to remove smaller stains during our testing.
The Little Green’s lack of built-in attachment holsters, loud motor, smaller vacuum head and higher price compared to the Hoover CleanSlate are slight downsides. But the Bissell can be a decent premium portable cleaner option if you’re interested in paying a little bit extra for its larger tank.
$190 at Amazon
We loved the Rug Doctor’s portable-friendly design, which includes a carry handle, wheels and a second retractable handle that lets you easily roll the cleaner from one spot to another. The Rug Doctor’s 4.5-inch vacuum head also made quick work of our carpet stain test. But the Rug Doctor was hampered by unfortunate design choices like water tanks with rounded bottoms that made them hard to refill.
$150 $110 at Amazon
The Hoover ONEPWR Spotless Go weighs only around 7 pounds, and it’s also battery-powered, so it’s easy to take around the house or into your car. Despite the ONEPWR’s small scale, we had no problems cleaning off juice and dirt carpet stains during testing. The Spotless Go is part of Hoover’s ONEPWR series, which includes vacuums and other tools that use ONEPWR-branded batteries.
We did wish that the Hoover’s hose were longer than 2 feet — we had to regularly move the ONEPWR around during our cleaning tests in order to keep the hose straight. And as with most battery-powered cleaning tools, keep a spare battery or charger nearby if you’re cleaning more than a few stains at once. We got around 18 minutes of cleaning time using the Hoover’s included 2Ah battery, although Hoover also sells upgraded 3Ah and 4Ah ONEPWR batteries.
With its modest battery life and 9-ounce dirty water tank, the Hoover ONEPWR isn’t necessarily cut out for frequent or even medium-scale carpet cleaning. But if your biggest concern for a carpet cleaner is portability and you already own ONEPWR equipment, the Hoover Spotless Go could be worth a second look.
$130 at Amazon
Unlike most of the cleaners we reviewed, the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser has a handheld vacuum-like design that makes it portable and easy to store. The cleaner also uses an internal battery that lasted for around 20 minutes during our testing. The Bissell’s rotating roller brush helped the cleaner tackle tough stains during our testing — roller brushes are typically seen only on upright cleaners. But the Bissell’s small 3-inch head means you’ll have to do a lot of cleaning passes compared to other carpet cleaners.
$240 $179 at Amazon
One of our favorite features on the Hoover Power Scrub is its SpinScrub brush system. Instead of a standard rotating roller brush, the Power Scrub has a series of horizontal brush heads that spin around to dislodge stains. In our testing, the Power Scrub needed only a few passes to clean up dirt, soy sauce and fruit punch stains. It also features a handy Rinse mode that lets you use just water to wash out leftover cleaning solution from your carpet; we’d love to see this option on more carpet cleaners, since many have you premix your water and cleaning solution. The Hoover has two hefty 1.25-gallon water tanks, so you’ll have a good supply on hand.
But the Power Scrub’s handling can take some getting used to — the cleaner’s handle section consists of the clean water tank and a thinner plastic portion that hovers over the dirty water tank like a turtle shell.
When we brought the handle down, the jumbo-size clean water tank shifted the weight balance of the handle toward the top and made it awkwardly top-heavy. On models like the Hoover SmartWash+, the handle section includes both water tanks to help evenly distribute weight across the handle. The Power Scrub’s clean mode buttons are also awkwardly placed on the cleaner’s front side, and this can be a slight hassle if you’re adjusting modes mid-clean.
$177 at Amazon
If you’re looking for a budget upright carpet cleaner, the Bissell TurboClean offers a strong balance between price and performance. We had no problems tackling red wine and fruit punch stains with the TurboClean, and it’s one of the most affordable upright carpet cleaners we reviewed.
But for the price, you’ll have to settle for a short one-year warranty, a modestly sized 5/8-gallon clean water tank and no hose attachment for spot cleaning. With the TurboClean, you also might need to budget more time after your carpet cleaning for cleaner cleaning — after our test cleans, we had to wipe a considerable amount of wet carpet fuzz that was splattered on the bottom of the TurboClean. The other upright cleaners we tested performed far better when it came to containing and catching carpet cleaner runoff. Overall, we think it’s worth it to spend a little more for better performance and easier maintenance.