Best spot cleaner for small messes

Lightweight and ideal for cleaning small areas, Yours rounds up the best spot cleaners.

Best spot cleaner

by Hannah Mellin |
Updated on

The best spot cleaners (also known as portable cleaners) will help you take care of the flooring in your home – they're just a little smaller and much more lightweight. Has your pet had an accident? Your grandkids spilt some squash on your new sofa? Or did you splash some wine on the carpet? A spot cleaner is more than capable of removing tough marks and stains that even some of the best cleaning products would struggle with.

Spot cleaners are very similar to cordless vacuum cleaners but are specifically designed for spot-cleaning a range of smaller surfaces and tend to be more lightweight and easier to carry. And instead of simply sucking up dirt and debris, they "wash" the spot with a water solution for a much deeper clean. Some are specially designed to clean fabrics, making them ideal for cleaning car seats or sofas. They are handy for addressing stains promptly, preventing them from setting in and maintaining the overall cleanliness and appearance of surfaces.

Best spot cleaner at a glance:

Best spot cleaner for power: Rug Doctor 93306 Portable Spot Cleaner - Buy now on Amazon UK
Best for pet mess: BISSELL SpotClean Pet Pro - Buy now on Amazon UK
Best for tough stains: Ryobi 18V ONE+ Cordless Swift Clean Spot Cleaner – Buy now on Ryobi
Best spot cleaner for versatility: VAX SpotWash Max Pet-Design – Buy now on Vax

A spot cleaner will be able to tackle stubborn stains and everyday dirt to keep your carpet looking and smelling fresh. They are typically used for treating small, isolated stains rather than cleaning entire large areas, for which a carpet cleaning machine will serve you best. They are especially useful for addressing spills, pet accidents, food stains, and other minor messes that can occur in your home.

It's best to deal with stains as and when they appear, which is where spot cleaners really come in handy. We've rounded up the best spot cleaners on the market, from handheld options to carpet cleaners for pets, specially designed to deal with stains left behind by our furry friends.

Best spot cleaners

Best spot cleaner for power

Tested

Rug Doctor 93306 Portable Spot CleanerRug Doctor

If you're looking for a portable yet powerful spot cleaner, this Rug Doctor 93306 Portable Spot Cleaner is our top recommendation. Our tester comments: "It feels like good quality and is worth the money if you have a lot of little spills to contend with." The tank is larger than most, meaning you won't need to constantly empty it.

Equipped with a Dual-Action Motorised Brush and a sizable water tank, this model is ideal for smaller areas or spot stains on carpet, upholstery, soft surfaces and the interior of cars. Its motorised brush sets it apart for it's efficient stain removal without too much effort.

The Rug Doctor is straightforward to use: fill the tank with water, add the solution and start cleaning. A built-in sprayer under the motorised head ensures even distribution of the solution. The rotating brushes lift stains while the head sucks up dirt into the dirty water tank.

With up to two times the suction power of most portable cleaners, the Rug DoctorSpot Cleaner can pull stains out of carpets, car interiors, upholstery and fabrics with ease. It's worth having in your cleaning cupboard, especially if you have pets or kids in the house.

Our tester does have some caveats: "It is quite cumbersome to move around the house and significantly up the stairs. Another issue we had: it comes on wheels but cannot be laid flat. It behaves a little like a pull-along suitcase with a pull-out handle."

Overall, we recommend the Rug Doctor, but it's hefty and best suited for those with strength or assistance due to its weight and bulkiness.

Read our full Rug Doctor 93306 Portable Spot Cleaner review.

Pros

  • Suitable for carpets, upholstery and fabrics
  • Large tank capacity so doesn't need frequent emptying
  • Sucks up spills with edge-to-edge cleaning
  • Retractable handle for easy storage

Cons

  • Noisier and not as lightweight as other cleaners

Best for pet mess

Tested

BISSELL SpotClean Pet ProYours/Bissell

Ideal for households with pets, this BISSELL SpotClean Pet Pro cleans up accidents in no time at all. Our tester said: "It’s brilliantly designed and full of neat ergonomic touches, it’s just rather big."

Great for emergencies, this spot cleaner quickly and easily lifts away spots, spills and stains from carpets, sofas, pet beds, car interiors and more. It has a larger water capacity, so it gives you the option for a larger or more intensive clean, should you need to. On carpets, our tester was impressed: "It not only pulled stains out of fabrics, it restored the pile too, making the fabric look and feel new." Also, it left the fabric almost dry after use as it pulls out dirt and shampoo.

It's a good choice if this is your first spot cleaner purchase, as it's very easy to use. The only downside, our tester felt, was that it's on the large side and heavy with it. "[It] really could do with being a little lighter, smaller or using some small wheels in the name of practicality."

Pros

  • Amazing results
  • Powerful and versatile
  • Compact enough to store away

Cons

  • The hose could be longer

Best for tough stains

18V ONE+™ Cordless Swift Clean Spot CleanerCredit: Ryobi

Save getting out a full-size carpet cleaner or getting on your hands and knees to scrub out stubborn stains; this RYOBI Cordless Swift Clean Spot Carpet Cleaner is ideal for tackling tough stains such as wine and mud. A customer comments: "The spot cleaner is absolutely brilliant when our two miniature Dachshunds have accidents."

A powered brush bar agitates dirt and debris from the fabric fibres, providing a deep and hygienic clean. Additionally, you can clean all the clear component parts in the top-rack of your dishwasher to thoroughly sterilise them against bacteria and allergens.

Our happy customer concludes: "Ryobi has done it again, inventing another tool that is not only excellent but simple to use."

Pros

  • Parts are dishwasher safe
  • Quality brand, therefore excellent design and performance
  • Powerful suction to remove tough stains

Cons

  • It could do with an attachment for the car

Best spot cleaner for versatility

Tested

Yours/Vax
Price: £149.99 (was £229.99)

www.vax.co.uk

This is the most powerful spot cleaner in Vax's range. It comes with tools and cleaning solutions that are ideal for households with pets. In fact, you get a free stain removal kit worth £30 when you buy this spot cleaner from Vax. Tackle extended cleaning tasks without having to take a trip to the sink to empty it. Plus, the interchangeable tools mean you can clean almost any surface and it has a neat cable storage so it can be popped in the utility cupboard without taking up space.

Our tester says: "I skim-read the instructions and understood how to use it – all credit to the clear diagrams and explanation. The dual tanks and tools are chunky plastic that's easy to wash clean under a tap and let them air dry. The tools fit on to the hose with a neat click. I used a combination of tools to deep clean areas of the bathroom, behind the pipes. I used the crevice tool to loosen and apply the cleaning solution. Then, I swapped to the messy clean up tool to suck up excess dirty water. The crevice tool is ideal for cleaning skirting boards. I also got down the side of the fridge to clean up some flour that I'd spilt.

I tested the spot cleaner on a stain that I've otherwise been unable to remove from my medium pile carpet. First, I sprayed the stain directly with Vax Pre Treatment. I also used the Antibacterial Spot Washer Cleaning Solution which kills 99.9% of bacteria and has a citrus burst scent. Use the trigger to squirt water, which the cleaning tool then sucks up. It sprays in a wide arc. The combination of the brush, liquid and suction effectively lifts stubborn stains, dirt and hair. I cannot believe how much dirt it extracted from my carpet. I must admit, I was so enthralled with how much hair and dirt it picked up that I did the whole carpet! I can say that it significantly improved the smell in the room. The stiff brushes are very effective in picking up hair, especially the SpinScrub tool. Do note, the other tools take some elbow grease if you're cleaning a large carpeted area,

With the wide path and messy clean up tools, the knack is to angle the cleaning head correctly to engage the suction. You'll know when you're doing it right. I used the wide cleaning tool on a tiled bathroom floor and laminate kitchen floor. Both floors are sparkling and hygienically clean. I notice the improvement in the air quality. As someone who suffers with allergies I really recommend this Vax.

Wear gloves as the cleaning solution is an irritant if it comes in contact with your skin. Also, when cleaning the dirty water tank you may need you to put your fingers in to pull hair and debris out.

Use the hose self-cleaning function after every use. There are clear instructions to follow. I'm not sure if the hose is meant to click into the self-cleaning slot, but it wouldn't hold itself in place for me, so I held it in the slot while the clean water tank emptied through the hose into the dirty water tank – thereby cleaning the hose. It's fast and you can see when the hose is clear and emptied.

Pros

  • Eliminate doggy odour with Vax's cleaning solutions
  • 30% more suction power when you use it with the SpinScrub hand tool
  • Clearly labelled clean water tank with fill lines
  • Long power cable to clean a stair case, for example
  • Detachable water tank so you don't have to lift the whole appliance to the tap

Cons

  • A little heavy and noisy

Best cordless spot cleaner

Tested

Vax SpotWash Home CordlessYours/Vax
Price: £199.99 (was £249.99)

www.vax.co.uk

Vax is one of the top brands in spot cleaners, and this cordless model is a great option for a completely portable vacuum that offers very good performance. Our tester used it on his car and comments: "As a battery-powered cleaner, battery life will always be a concern. On a full charge I was able to get the rear seats fully extracted with the Vax while still having half a charge left over."

An excellent range of accessories is included so the Vax SpotWash Home Cordless can be used on a range of surfaces. In addition, a Vax cleaning product comes with the spot cleaner. Our tester further comments: "The included Vax SpotWash Antibacterial Solution not only cuts through the stain, it’ll rid any nasty bacteria that may be lurking around too."

We recommend this Vax if you are looking for a handy cordless model. Just be aware that the battery drains faster when you use the Boost Mode.

+ Free stain removal kit worth £30

Pros

  • Totally portable, ideal for cleaning stains in the car
  • Good range of cleaning tools included
  • Performs well on eliminating stains

Cons

  • Battery drains fast on plus mode

Best lightweight spot cleaner

BISSELL Pet Stain Eraser 2982E Cordless Carpet CleanerCredit: Bissell/Currys

If you're worried about lugging a lot of weight around with you as you clean, this BISSELL Pet Stain Eraser 2982E Cordless Carpet Cleaner weighs just two kilograms. A satisfied customer says: ""I’m glad I bought this small and mighty machine. It's lightweight, well made, cleans brilliantly with dogs, has easy storage, and has very low noise."

It is always ready to remove messes on the go as it's cordless with a long battery life. See for yourself how the powerful rotating DirtLifter PowerBrush loosens, lift and remove tough pet stains.

Pros

  • Perfect for removing doggy accidents
  • Safety cut-out indicator when the tank is full
  • Compact design is easy to store
  • Lower noise than others
  • Portable and cordless, so it can be used to clean the car

Cons

  • Some customers comment that it's better for rugs and stairs; on carpets, it pulled the pile up

Best budget spot cleaner

 Vax SpotWash Spot CleanerVax
Price: £99.99 (was £129.99)

www.vax.co.uk

The SpotWash from Vax is a well-made, popular and solid option, especially if you’re buying on a budget. Smaller than the BISSELL option, this spot cleaner may have a smaller tank and feel less powerful, but it is 90 per cent as good and even features a hard-floor attachment for cleaning wood and tiled floors. A customer comments: "This is small enough to tuck away but effective at ensuring the rug stays clean and fresh. I’ve also used a bed mattress to freshen up after the hot weather."

The stand-out feature of the SpotWash is has a self clean function so dirt and debris can be flushed out to keep it hygienic and clean.

Our customer concludes: "It’s easy to carry, well-designed with hose storage, and so easy to set up and use. Very pleased with this little thing."

Pros

  • Best selling product with over 7,400 reviews
  • Multipurpose attachment deep cleans a variety of surfaces
  • Long hose to reach difficult spots

Cons

  • Not the most powerful

Best spot cleaner for heavy-duty stains

Shark StainStriker Pet Stain & Spot Cleaner PX200UKTCredit: Shark
Price: £129.99 ( Was £169.99)

sharkclean.co.uk

For a lightweight and portable spot remover, this Shark StainStriker Pet Stain & Spot Cleaner PX200UKT is powerful. Used in conjunction with Shark's cleaning solutions, you get 20x more stain-cleaning power. A customer comments: "Having purchased other items from Shark/Ninja, they have become the company to trust. All around, this is a great machine. Great price for what you are getting."

It's one of the best spot cleaners for deep cleaning carpets and upholstery. Target stains, grime and odour around the home. The Pet Stain Trapping Tool is effective at removing tough pet stains.
Deep clean a range of surfaces with the dual-activated cleaning solution to instantly remove dirt and odour. Happily, Shark's specially formulated detergents are included with the spot cleaner, plus a range of useful tools. So, although it's at a higher price point than other spot cleaners, you are getting a high-quality bundle of cleaning equipment.

Pros

  • Effective on stubborn stains
  • Powerful cleaning
  • Separate chamber for pet fluids
  • Very popular and high-quality brand

Cons

  • Requires compatible cleaning fluids

Best for extra wide cleaning head

Vax SpotWash Home Duo Spot CleanerVax

Tackle larger stains with the Vax SpotWash Home Duo Spot Cleaner, thanks to its extra wide antimicrobial 2-in-1 cleaning tool that removes all sorts of spills and stains. A customer comments: "This is a really good cleaner for spot cleaning and also cleaning the sofas. Didn’t think my sofas were dirty until I used this on them – they were filthy."

It has a 75 per cent wider cleaning path compared to other Vax Spot Washer tools. Use on upholstery, carpets and car interiors—clean hard-to-reach places with the antimicrobial crevice tool. Also, the antimicrobial Messy Clean Up Tool keeps unhygienic pet messes separate from everyday clean-ups.
Extend the lifespan of well-worn rugs and carpets, as our customer explains: "It’s saved me from having to throw out the network of rugs I have for my elderly golden retriever – we had been replacing them every few months because of the stains, but no more. Very compact and powerful for its size."

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Amazon's Choice recommended product
  • Easy to empty
  • Extra wide cleaning head for larger stains

Cons

  • Not suitable for cleaning large areas

Best spot cleaner for ease of use

Vacmaster EasyClean Carpet Spot CleanerCredit: Vacmaster/Amazon

Thoroughly clean every nook and tight spot, thanks to the extra long reach on this Vacmaster EasyClean Carpet Spot Cleaner. Quickly remove spills and stains from carpets and soft furnishings. A customer calls this a "little wonder" that "pulled unseen muck that you'd never know was there by eye."

Improve the colour and cleanliness of carpet pile with this tough stain tool. Also, it can clean narrow and uneven surfaces. If you have a heavily trodden area of carpet this Vacmaster can bring it up good as new. The nylon brushes in the tool-heads loosen stubborn dirt, making it easier to lift the stains.
Our customer comments on its ease of use: "The cleaner is easy to fill/empty/clean and has a good stretch of hose and power cord. Everything stores away neatly and the instructions are easy to understand. The added bonus of a decent-sized shampoo is included and this goes a VERY long way."

Pros

  • Easy to clean and empty
  • Compact and light
  • Simply spray, brush and vacuum
  • Extra long reach
  • Large tank capacity

Cons

  • Requires a bit of scrubbing on stubborn stains

FAQs

What is the difference between a spot cleaner and a carpet cleaner?

The main difference between a spot cleaner and a carpet cleaner is its size. A carpet cleaning machine will more than likely be shaped like a traditional upright vacuum cleaner and will be designed for use on the floor. They tend to be more powerful and can cover an area quicker, with the obvious trade-off being that they’re cumbersome to use in small places and won’t be of much use in a car’s interior. In fact, these are only useful if you remove the floor mats and can clean them in an open space. A spot cleaner, on the other hand, is much smaller and designed to be far more portable.

A spot cleaner is not the same as a steam cleaner either. Spot cleaners use water, cleaning solution and vacuum extraction, whereas steam cleaners only eject super-heated water. Household-grade steam cleaners are not generally so effective at cleaning fabric because they are not powerful enough to lift carpet and upholstery stains. They sanitise very well, but that’s about it. Thanks to the way spot cleaners work, they do indeed work very well for fabric and upholstery stains.

What do you use in a spot cleaner?

The specific ingredients or solutions used in a spot cleaner can vary depending on the type and brand of the product. However, spot cleaners generally consist of a combination of cleaning agents and solvents designed to break down and remove stains. These ingredients can include water, enzymes, solvents and pH adjusters. It is essential to read and follow the manufacturer's instructions on product labels when using a spot cleaner. Different stains and surfaces may require specific cleaning techniques and precautions.

Trying out the Vax SpotWash Max Pet Design
©Yours/Vax

We ask the experts

Jess Farinha, is a dedicated professional cleaner, organiser, and visionary founder of London House Cleaners. She gives her take on the benefits of spot cleaners for use around the home.

The mighty spot cleaner is a great hero when it comes to cleaning. Here is where it is used:

Fresh spills: If you spilled some drink or dropped some food, simply use a spot cleaner to tackle these stains before they set in. The faster you attack a stain, the easier it is to remove it completely.

Delicate fabrics: Some fabrics, such as silk and wool, require extra care. A spot cleaner easily allows you to target the stain without soaking the entire fabric, which is damaging.

Efficient Clean-up: Spot cleaners are usually lightweight and easy to use. You do not have to lug around heavy machines; just a quick zap will remove the stain. These cleaners are ideal for small to medium-sized stains. They are great for furniture upholstery, area rugs, interiors of cars, and those pesky carpet mishaps.

When is it better to use a carpet cleaner?

Jess advises on instances when a carpet cleaner is a more effective cleaning solution:

Overall carpet refresh: If you want to revitalise your entire carpet, a deep carpet cleaning with a carpet cleaner will be great for removing the dingy look and restoring the original texture and colour of the carpet.

Pet mess: A pet makes a mess and it requires a more effective cleaning to get rid of not just the stain but also any lingering odours. Carpet cleaners and steam cleaners have specific attachments for dealing with pet messes.

Deep dirt: For carpets that have not been cleaned for ages or suffer from heavy traffic areas, a steam cleaner and carpet cleaner are the right way to go. These machines can penetrate deeply into the fibres and get rid of loose dirt particles, mites, and allergens.

Carpet cleaners are ideal for deep cleaning heavily spoiled carpets; they are used for overall carpet rejuvenation and pet accidents. Whereas, spot cleaners are used for fresh stains on small areas and delicate fabrics.

When is it better to use a spot cleaner versus a carpet cleaner or steam cleaner?

Amanda Lewis, Marketing Director at Elbow Grease® advises:

We all want to keep our carpets clean and in good condition, but with so many different types of cleaners available, it can be difficult to determine which one is best for your needs.

Two of the most popular cleaners are spot cleaners, mainly to use when there’s been a small spill within one area, and steam cleaners, normally used on larger areas for a more heavy-duty clean.

Spot cleaners, typically packaged in convenient squeezy bottles with specialised nozzles or brushes, are your go-to for small mishaps. A spot cleaner I’d recommend is the Elbow Grease All Purpose Degreaser®. Simply spray it on the affected area, wait for about 5 minutes, scrub with a clean damp cloth until the stain disappears, and allow it to air dry.*

Steam cleaners are more powerful, using hot water and steam to penetrate deep into the carpet fibres, killing germs and bacteria and banishing stains. Steam cleaners are great if you have pets or are doing a deep clean, although they’re not recommended for use on delicate carpets and can be challenging to use on stairs.

Overall, the choice between spot cleaners and steam cleaners depends on the type of carpet, the severity of the stain, and the frequency of use.

*Always test on an inconspicuous area first & follow product instructions.

Meet the experts:

This article contains expert advice from Jess Farinha, a professional cleaner and the founder of London House Cleaners. Also, Amanda Lewis, Marketing Director at Elbow Grease®.

Hannah Mellin is a Homes & Garden Product Writer for Yours. When she's not writing, researching or testing products, she's renovating her Victorian terrace and chilling in the garden with her sausage dog Waffle, three cats and a tortoise called Bobby.

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