The best spot cleaner

Adam Reeder

Carpeting and stains go together like peanut butter and jelly, which coincidentally, is a quite common carpet-staining culprit. If you're tired of looking at a carpet full of spots and splotches, then you should probably consider getting a spot cleaner. Spot cleaners can keep your carpet or rug looking like new, no matter how many "oopsie" moments you may have.

Read the following buying guide for advice on how to pick the perfect spot cleaner for your needs. We've also included reviews of a few of our favorites, including our pick for Best of the Best, the Bissell SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner.

Considerations when choosing spot cleaners

Type of spot cleaner

The two main types of spot cleaner are steam cleaners and extraction machines. Steam cleaners use hot steam pushed through a pressurized nozzle to lift stains. Extraction machines, on the other hand, use hot water, a cleaning solution, and powerful suction to soak and lift stains. While extraction machines work well on carpets, upholstery, and curtains, steam cleaners are best used for carpet only, as they may damage other, more delicate fabrics.

Ease of use

Consider how difficult any machine might be to use. Steam cleaners have fewer steps to get started, but extraction machines are more successful at fighting tough stains. Each spot remover in both categories have their own idiosyncrasies, so try to choose one that won't be too complicated for you to use when the time comes.


Will you use your spot remover in one place, all over your home, or in multiple different locations? Your answer to that question will likely dictate the portability of the machine you choose. If you plan to take your spot cleaner to different households as part of your cleaning business, then you'll need a more portable one than if you just plan to use it in your living room.

Suction and wattage

The wattage of an extraction machine is directly related to the suction power. Higher wattage equals bigger motor, which then equals better suction. Make sure the spot cleaner you choose can produce adequate suction for your stain-lifting needs.

Water tank capacity

Larger tanks mean you can go longer periods without stopping. However, additional water will also weigh down your spot cleaner and make it more difficult to wield. If you have trouble with heavy machines, you might want to opt for a smaller water tank.


Power brushes

Some hands-free spot cleaners come equipped with power brushes. These brushes automatically scrub during the cleaning cycle and help the stain-removal process along. They are more efficient than scrubbing by hand because they can apply more consistent force to the carpet than a human can with their hands.


Some steam cleaners and extraction machines come with an additional upholstery or carpet tool for cleaning stairs. Some also have an extendable hose which gives you more freedom to clean non-carpet objects like furniture and curtains.


Most spot cleaners will cost between $50 and $150. For around $50, you can find a handheld spot cleaner for small stains. Spot cleaners up to $100 have three to four-foot hoses and up to 40-ounce tanks. At between $100 and $150, most spot cleaners have longer hoses, and some include power brushes.


Q. Is cleaning solution included when I purchase an extraction machine?

A. That depends on the machine you buy. Most extraction machines will come with at least a small amount of cleaning solution so you can get started. You will likely want to purchase more if you plan to use your spot cleaner on a regular basis.

Q. Can a spot cleaner get rid of stains that have settled into a carpet over months?

A. Perhaps. The final answer depends on the spot cleaner, and the stain itself. While most spot cleaners will definitely remove the surface level of a stain, if it has settled too deeply into the fibers of the carpet, your spot cleaner may not remove it completely.

Spot cleaners we recommend

Best of the best: Bissell SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner

Our take: There's a reason this model has the word "professional" in its name. Top-quality cleaning.

What we like: An easy to clean recovery tank and powerful extraction make this a top pick.

What we dislike: Some users reported broken hoses and sprayers.

Best bang for your buck: Bissell Little Green Multi-Purpose Portable Carpet Cleaner.

Our take: Easy to use and well worth the small price tag.

What we like: Super lightweight with strong cleaning power. Many users praised the machine's longevity for the price.

What we dislike: Some complained of burnt-out motors.

Choice 3: Rug Doctor Portable Spot Cleaner

Our take: "The Doctor" can help your ailing carpet. Lightweight and dependable.

What we like: Impressive extraction strength leads to great success rate.

What we dislike: Struggles with clogs from pet fur.

Adam Reeder is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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