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Top Spot Cleaner for Carpet Stains (Tested on Pet Urine!)

We bought 15 of the most popular carpet spot cleaning machines and put them through all kinds of tests, focusing on their performance, features, and suitability for tackling pet urine stains and tough messes. In this article we’ll compare all the results as well as their specs and features and share our three top picks.

Spot Cleaner Basics

Before we begin, let’s briefly go over how these spot cleaners work. They all operate on a similar principle – you fill their clean water tanks with warm water and the provided cleaning solution. A trigger on the handle sprays the stain with the water solution mix. Next, you’ll scrub the area with the brush. The machine then sucks up the dirty water into its dirty water tank, removing pet waste left behind—and hopefully doing so very effectively.

A Note on Effective Pet Stain Removal

Spot Cleaners 2023 Scrubbing
Scrubbing stains in our studio

Before we go any further, we can’t not mention the importance of pre-treating pet stains before you use any spot cleaner on them, regardless of whether it’s the top-rated or lowest- rated product.

While most commercial pre-treatment sprays fail to effectively remove these stains, we discovered that hydrogen peroxide (especially in higher concentrations like 6% or 12%) showed impressive results when used as a pre-treatment. We recommend gently agitating it with a brush and letting it sit for about 15 minutes before using your spot cleaner. And then…you need to do it again! That’s right, pre-treating should always be done twice to ensure the job is done right.

Comparing Stain Pretreatments
Comparing Stain Pretreatments

Always exercise caution and test a small, inconspicuous area of your carpet before applying hydrogen peroxide so you don’t risk bleach stains on your carpet.

It’s also helpful to remember that pre-treating with a hydrogen peroxide solution does not rid the carpet of the smell that the pet waste leaves behind. Instead, you’ll want to use chlorine dioxide tablets. We recommend CarpetMuscleTV’s video for more information about how to use these tablets.

Key Factors We Considered in Rating a Spot Cleaner for Carpet

We evaluated these spot cleaners based on various criteria to create an overall score. 

Bending the hose of a popular Spot Cleaner
Bending the hose of a popular Spot Cleaner

Some of the factors we took into account include:

  1. Suction Power: We measured suction power both at the hose and base. For this, the top performers were the Rug Doctor, Kenmore, and Bissell Little Green Pro.
  2. Hose Quality and Length: A high-quality, kink-proof hose and a swiveling handle were factors we considered for maneuverability.
  3. Cord Length: We considered cord length, with the average being 16 feet and 20 feet being the highest.
  4. Tank Capacity: We measured tank capacity based on clean water, as a larger tank means less frequent refills.
  5. Noise Level: Noise levels were noted to ensure a comfortable cleaning experience.
  6. Weight: The overall weight of the spot cleaner affects ease of use.
  7. Attachments and Features: Extra points were given for additional attachments and innovative features, like steam cleaning and internal water heating.
  8. Price and Online Reviews: Of course, we considered list prices and online reviews, factoring in any consistent quality control issues.

Are you curious about our choices for the best cordless vacuums too? Find them here.

Vacuum Wars Top Three Picks

After thorough testing, our top three spot cleaner picks for 2023 are:

  1. Kenmore KW2001: An all-around impressive performer with few shortcomings, it offers great value for its price and comes with user-friendly features. We even like the little things about it which we did not technically score, like it having a really ergonomic tank that was easy to clean.
  1. Bissell Little Green Pro: This tried-and-true option has a long track record of positive reviews and remains a reliable choice for effective stain removal.
  1. Shark StainStriker: Although relatively new to the market, it has shown impressive performance and potential. Keep an eye on this rising star.

Check out our honest review of the Hoover ONEPWR Emerge Pet+ Review next.

It’s worth noting, however, that both the Kenmore and the Shark are newcomers to the market and have not accumulated as many reviews as the well-established Bissell. This means it’s challenging to guarantee their long-term durability and potential quality control issues.  

If you prioritize a product with a solid track record of positive reviews and want a machine that’s similar to our previous competition winner, we recommend considering the second-place overall winner, the Bissell Little Green Pro.

However, whatever you choose from these three best portable carpet cleaners, we think you’ll be quite pleased with the results!

And remember, stay up to date with everything you need to know on the Vacuum Wars blog when it comes to vacuums, carpet cleaners, and choosing the best products based on rigorous hands-on testing.

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