Best Portable Carpet Cleaner

Updated: Feb 21, 2024 7:05 PM
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What features make the best handheld carpet shampooer for stairs? It starts with a strong motor that provides powerful suction to remove tough stains and pet messes thoroughly. Next, the best handheld carpet cleaners should be lightweight and have a compact design that allows easy maneuvering up and downstairs and helps access hard-to-reach areas.

A great portable carpet cleaner should also have versatile cleaning modes and different attachment options, such as an extendible crevice tool to clean hard-to-reach places, just like how a multi-surface vacuum works. These additional tools make a portable carpet shampooer an excellent addition to your cleaning setup, especially if you have pets or young kids and find that your vacuum cleaner isn’t always enough to take care of the toughest stains on your carpeting.

Keep reading to learn more about the best Handheld Carpet Shampooers for Stairs and how to choose the best vacuum cleaners and carpet cleaning tools for your home.

Top Portable Carpet Cleaner

 #1  Bissell 20037 Handheld Carpet Shampooer


WHY WE LIKE IT: This model is specially designed to tackle tough messes from housepets. It also doesn’t have a cord, which eliminates a lot of the headache for cleaning hard-to-reach areas. The battery is lithium-powered for extra power, but it may not be as powerful as the foremost vacuums for high-pile carpets.

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  • Specially designed for housepets
  • Doesn’t have a cord
  • Lithium-powered option
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  • Kind of a bulky design

This model offers complete freedom because it is completely cordless. Because of this, it’s a highly portable option that you can quickly bring anywhere you need it. Whether you need to clean a rug, the stairs, the interior of your car, or upholstery, this is a great model for the job. This vacuum cleaner does have a bit of a bulky design, and it’s not very aesthetically pleasing. However, the bulkiness doesn’t seem to get in the way of the convenience it offers. For a cleaner specifically geared towards upholstery, we recommend the top-rated upholstery steam cleaner.

A lithium battery powers it. Because of this, it can lift away stains with ease through powerful suction. The compatible cleaning formula doesn’t need to be mixed with water to add to the convenience of this model. On a full charge, it can offer 15-minutes of run-time. It takes around 4 hours to get a full charge. Whether you need to remove tomato sauce, grass stains, mud, makeup, food grease, or cola, this model is ready to tackle the challenge.

 #2  BLACK+DECKER Spillbuster Handheld Carpet Shampooer


WHY WE LIKE IT: If you need a highly portable design, this model is a great choice. It’s small enough to offer convenient carrying. There is also 3-step cleaning included in the design for a better clean. Aside from this, it provides powerful suction.

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  • Highly portable design
  • Offers 3-step cleaning
  • Extremely powerful suction
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  • Cleaning reservoir is small

This vacuum has a 3-step cleaning method. It will vacuum, spray, and scrub so that you can cover every cleaning job that you have for a more complete clean. The results are quick and easy to see, with about 3 seconds needed for a real difference. Unfortunately, the cleaning reservoir is on the smaller side. This means you’ll have to empty and clean it more often than with some competitor models.

This model is entirely portable and ready to go wherever you need it with a cordless design. It’s super easy to maneuver no matter what surface you’re cleaning, from upholstery to car interiors to stairs. The simple-to-follow instructions allow you to operate the vacuum quickly right out of the box. It has powerful suction powered by a rechargeable battery. The wide nozzle allows for consistently quick pick-up of debris.

 #3  Hoover CleanSlate Plus Handheld Carpet Shampooer


WHY WE LIKE IT: Those who struggle with tough messes from housepets will benefit from this specially designed model. It includes accessories specifically for cleaning up after housepets. There is also a dual tank system.

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  • Includes accessories for housepets
  • Multiple attachments provided
  • Has dual cleaning tanks
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  • Water stream isn’t very strong

Powerful suction is the name of the game for this carpet shampooing model. This makes it ideal for tackling ground-in debris that collects over time. However, it’s also great for everyday messes that need a little extra power to clean up correctly. This model promises to allow for total stain removal from messes made by pets. Unfortunately, the water stream of the machine isn’t powerful. Some consumers report that it just kind of “spurts” instead of being a consistent stream.

There are tools included for any imaginable mess out there. One of them is the WidePath tool with 7” offered so that you can tackle even large areas. There is also a TightSpot tool to make crevices equally easy to clean. Whether it’s red wine, mud, pet messes, or anything else, you’ll be able to suck it out from carpets, upholstery, rugs, and more. The hose is easy to clean and has a Hose Rinse tool included. This flushes the machine with water and cleans the system thoroughly.

 #4  Rug Doctor Pet Handheld Carpet Shampooer


WHY WE LIKE IT: If you need to remove a lot of bad smells, this is a great way to make sure that things get cleared up. It is specially designed to remove bad smells from fabrics and is designed to be easily cleaned up after you’re done.

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  • Great for removing bad smells
  • Specially designed for fabrics
  • Designed for easy clean-up
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  • Might be a little too bulky

A handheld tool is included in this package that is made just for pets, with a unique special dual-action mechanism. Its rubberized bristles will bring pet hair, odors, embedded dirt, stains, and tough stains to the surface for easy extraction. You can also use it for everyday messes that happen, such as spilled drinks or food. However, this is a fairly bulky option for shampooing carpets. This might make it less maneuverable than some competing models. So, you may want to just make this your primary handheld vacuum for pet hair.

It has a retractable handle that makes maneuvering it far more accessible. The wheels are carpet-friendly, which means they’re easy to roll right across your living room or on your stairs. It’s a compact model that is easy to store and surprisingly lightweight for the size. This model offers a professional-grade clean with a dual-tank system that keeps dirty and clean water separated from each other.

 #5  Hausmeister Spot Cleaner P005C Handheld Carpet Shampooer


WHY WE LIKE IT: This highly compact model is fantastic for daily usage and can tackle everyday messes in s a snap. The highly portable design means you can take it out as necessary. It also has a powerful 500-watt motor included.

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  • Highly compact model
  • Extremely portable design
  • Powerful motor included
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  • Tank might be hard to open

This portable option is perfect for cleaning daily messes and powerful enough to tackle tough stains. It’s a deep cleaning solution that can handle stairs, upholstery, auto interiors, stairs, and more. This powerful model can remove foul odors with ease. Unfortunately, some consumers report that the tank is a little challenging to open. This might mean that you have difficulty emptying the dirty water when you finish.

With a 500-watt motor, the suction is powerful enough to pull up anything deeply embedded in your carpet. The freshwater tank has a maximum capacity of 500 milliliters. The dirty tank has an upgraded capacity of 800 milliliters to account for dirt and debris suctioned out of the materials you vacuum. The convenient carrying handle makes it highly portable and allows you to carry it up easily and down the stairs.

 #6  Sandia Spotter 50-1000 Handheld Carpet Shampooer


WHY WE LIKE IT: This deep-cleaning option is best for a professional clean you’ll have a hard time finding elsewhere. It features a dual-tank system that allows dirty and clean water to be kept separate. This model also features a powerful motor.

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  • Can hold 3 gallons
  • Dual-tank system
  • Includes powerful motor
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  • Might be too heavy

This is a highly powerful option that has an 804-watt motor. The high-power suction can provide a professional level of cleaning because of the high-power suction. The solution pump clocks in at 55 PSI, with 100 PSI available during usage. However, all of that power comes at a cost in the form of a fairly heavy model. It comes in at 19 pounds, which might be too weighty for some consumers.

There is a dual-tank system that keeps dirty and clean water separate from each other. That allows you to keep your cleaning solution free and clear of dirt or other contaminant debris. The motor is a 2-stage Ametek model with 100 CFM. It runs off of 115 volts, which makes it easy for consumers to find an outlet. 76” of lift is also available, making it a fantastic option for those with deep carpets to clean.

Beginner’s Guide to Handheld Carpet Shampooers for Stairs

What Are Handheld Carpet Shampooers for Stairs?

Handheld carpet shampooers are similar to the more familiar rolling upright carpet shampooers, but they have a more compact design and often feature a retractable handle for easy carrying. Many users prefer handheld carpet shampooers for multi-story homes and areas with carpeted stairs.

Handheld Carpet Shampooers for Stairs vs Vacuums

While the best handheld and portable carpet cleaner models are technically vacuums, there are numerous differences between lightweight carpet cleaners and traditional vacuums. Unlike the upright or stick vacuums most households keep for routine cleaning, a portable carpet cleaner and shampooer has a built-in shampoo and wet cleaning function.

A portable spot cleaner and carpet shampooer uses a combination of brushes, hot water, and various cleaning solutions to wash carpet fibers and help get rid of tough spots such as pet stains. Unlike a wet and dry vacuum that typically has one tank or canister for dirty water, portable cleaners have at least two separate tanks, one for clean water or cleaning formula and one for dirty water. A portable carpet cleaner also has to have powerful suction to remove the hot water, dirt, and shampoo. Some models may also have a blower option to help dry the carpet at the end of a cleaning job.

Portable and upright carpet cleaner units, unlike vacuum cleaners and shop vacs, work best with a cleaning solution such as a particular brand of stain cleaner and carpet shampoo. Some portable carpet cleaner models may be optimized for a particular cleaning formula, while some can use generic carpet shampoo.

Like handheld steam cleaners, wet-dry vacs, and vacuums in general, carpet shampooers serve to clean carpets and can remove dust, dirt, and debris from upholstery and rugs. Also, like vacuums, most carpet shampooers rely on suction power to remove dirt and grime from surfaces.

The similarities between handheld carpet shampooers and some kinds of vacuums extend to their accessories. Most canister and handheld vacuums come with a crevice tool and an upholstery tool, and most handheld carpet shampooers for stairs also have specialized attachments.

In addition to the removable hose, many carpet shampooers have a brush tool, a tough-stain tool featuring a brush roller or rotating brush. Like some shop vacs and wet/dry vacuums, carpet shampooers carry dirty water tanks that require periodic emptying.

How Handheld Carpet Shampooers for Stairs Work

Carpet shampooers use dual water tanks and various cleaning formulas to provide a two-stage cleaning solution for cleaning difficult stains and pet messes from carpets. These specialized tools excel at deep cleaning tasks beyond vacuum cleaners’ capacity to handle.

Handheld carpet cleaners are similar to full-size models except for their more compact and lightweight design. Portable models usually use a carrying handle instead of the carpet-friendly wheels a full-size machine uses.

Like the carpet shampooing machines used by a professional service, popular handheld carpet cleaners start by mixing a solution of water and cleaning formula and spraying the mixture onto the carpet or another soft surface through a tool such as a motorized brush or spot carpet cleaner tool. The cleaning process then involves suction power, as with a wet-dry vacuum. The amount of suction depends on the unit’s power, the type of attachment, and cleaning mode options.

As on a vacuum cleaner, an electric motor turns an air pump to generate the suction and drive the shampooer’s double cleaning action. Most carpet cleaners have removable tanks for easier emptying. Handheld models use a smaller tank capacity to save weight but still feature dual tanks to keep the dirt and clean water separate.

Portable machines for carpet shampooing usually have various modes and control options for different types of carpeting and different amounts of dirt. Some models offer preset cleaning cycles for pet messes and other stubborn stains. Many carpet shampooers for stairs use various antimicrobial materials and self-cleaning technology to make each cleaning session easier.

FeatureHandheld Carpet Shampooers for StairsTraditional Vacuums
DesignCompact, retractable handleUpright/stick, larger
FunctionShampoo/wet clean, dual tanksDry vacuuming
Cleaning SolutionUses shampoos, cleaning formulasNo liquids
Suction PowerStrong for water, dirt removalDry debris suction
PortabilityHigh for stairs, small spacesLess maneuverable on stairs
Handheld Carpet Cleaners VS Traditional Vacuums

Why Should You Buy a New Handheld Carpet Shampooer?

Portable carpet cleaners can be more useful than vacuum cleaners for tough messes and deep stains on your carpets. Rather than just sucking up loose dirt and dust, carpet shampooers use stain removers and cleaner formulas to wash and erase pet stains, discolorations, and other tough messes. This makes them well-suited to homes with pets, where vacuums may not do enough to keep the carpets clean.

You might also want to consider a portable carpet cleaner and shampooer with a compact design if you have carpeted stairs in your home or if you have carpets on multiple levels. Large upright shampooers work well in large areas but can be inconvenient to use with stairs and tight spaces. They also require a larger bottle of cleaning solution and can be more cumbersome to empty. Smaller portable models with removable tanks, on the other hand, are about as easy to empty as a canister vacuum.

The type of carpeting and upholstery you have may also be a good reason to look into a capable handheld carpet shampooer with a portable design. A vacuum may not be enough for some cleaning jobs if you have shaggy carpets or light-colored upholstery.

New handheld carpet cleaners and shampooers have more versatile tools and attachments than older models. They also offer more convenient cleaning and dirty water tank emptying and provide useful features, like an antimicrobial brush roll and stain removers, self-clean technology, and multiple cleaning modes.

Newer cordless cleaners offer superior suction power and extended battery runtime while retaining a convenient, compact design.

Are Handheld Carpet Shampooers for Stairs Worth Buying?

  • Homes With Pets: Vacuuming a dry carpet may not be enough to eliminate all the residue from pet messes and pet stains. Deep stains from house-training accidents may require a carpet shampooer with more deep cleaning technology. A portable model with a lightweight design can accomplish just as much as an upright carpet cleaner in most homes.
  • Carpeted Stairs: Upright and wheeled carpet cleaners have plenty of cleaning path width and excel at cleaning 1000+ square foot carpets, but they may struggle on carpeted stairs. A portable machine with a long cord or a cordless model, equipped with a 3-in-1 stair tool and brush, can easily clean carpet on stairs.
  • Carpet in High-Traffic Area: While renting a carpet shampooer may be convenient in the short run, carpet in high-traffic areas likely to receive future stains may call for a more handy and readily accessible cleaning tool. The best upholstery cleaner and carpet shampooers with a compact size can be kept ready for the next deep stain, and they don’t take up too much storage space.
  • White or Beige Upholstery: Likewise, if you have high-end or vintage upholstery in white, off-white, or beige, a vacuum may not adequately remove beverage stains or pet messes, and a rolling shampooer may not have adequate reach.

Why Handheld Carpet Shampooers for Stairs May Not Be for You

  • Concerned About Difficulty of Use: Using a carpet shampooer with its solution tank, dual water tanks, and various modes and attachments may seem more complex than vacuuming. However, the most popular models of handheld carpet cleaners offer easy-to-use settings and multipurpose tools that make the whole chore barely more involving than vacuuming.
  • Noise Issues: Some users may be concerned that a carpet cleaner with dual suction power will be extremely noisy. While many heavy-duty carpet shampooing units have a higher noise level than the average vacuum, a portable machine or cordless unit will generally be much quieter.

How Long Do Handheld Carpet Shampooers for Stairs Last?

Survey data generally show household vacuum cleaners lasting around 6-8 years and industrial vacuums having an expected service life of 8-10 years. Carpet shampooers can provide similar longevity. In practice, portable and handheld units have a highly variable lifespan that depends on various factors, including the quality and construction of the machine, the type of cleaning solution, the frequency of use, and timely maintenance.

Most experts expect a corded model to last longer than a cordless unit since the lifespan of its lithium-ion batteries may limit the cordless carpet cleaner. However, some newer cordless handheld carpet cleaners use modular, replaceable battery packs for extended run time, enabling easy battery replacement and extending the machine’s lifespan. Check out the table below for more comparisons of features between cordless and corded household cleaning models:

cordless vs corded vacuums table

Maintenance needs on an upholstery cleaner or carpet shampooer include occasional filter changes and timely emptying of the dirt tank and dirty water tank.

Moving parts such as the dual brush roll on some models, or the rubberized bristle brush, can wear out with repeated use, while components such as the internal fans and motor assemblies are generally durable. Extreme heat and lack of maintenance can reduce performance, while factors such as hard water can eventually corrode the unit’s water tanks.

How to Choose a Handheld Carpet Shampooer for Stairs

Choosing the best handheld carpet shampooer for your stairs and split-level carpeted areas comes down to various factors, including the type of carpeting you have and how large of a space you need to clean. Noise level and storage considerations may also play a role. In addition, along with the surface type and whether you have pets, you may want to consider whether you’re more comfortable with a corded or cordless model.

Best Handheld Carpet Shampooers for Stairs Key Factors

1. Type of Carpeting

Different carpet shampooer models may work best on different lengths of carpeting. If you have mostly low-pile carpets, you may not need a brush with long nylon bristles, for example.

2. Size of Carpeted Areas

The size of the areas you may need to clean can also affect which carpet shampooer works best for you. Some portable models may be more comfortable on longer cleaning sessions thanks to features like a collapsible handle or lightweight design.

3. Do You Need to Clean Tight Spaces or Hard-to-Reach Areas?

If you need to remove carpet stains from tight spaces, you may want to look for a model equipped with an extendible crevice tool or crevice wand and a long-enough hose to help reach where needed.

4. Do You Have Pets?

If pet cleanup is a priority, you may want to consider models of carpet shampooers that come with helpful accessories for handling pet messes. Some models offer brushes with nylon bristles that help extract pet hairs.

5. How Important Is Portability?

While you’ll generally want a lightweight design for cleaning carpeted stairs, some models are more compact and easier to handle than others. For example, if you have more than one flight of stairs, you may want to consider an ergonomic unit with a collapsable handle.

Best Portable Carpet Cleaner Questions (FAQ)

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