LAST UPDATED: May 15, 2019
Best Car Carpet Cleaners: Good, Clean Fun Beneath Your Feet
Sanitize your ride with our top picks for the best car carpet cleaner
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON May 15, 2019
From drippy ice cream cones in the summer to piping hot drinks all winter long, there’s a lot going on in your car. Take the time to freshen it up with our top picks for the best car carpet cleaner. This buying guide will help you pick out the best solution to bringing your car’s interior back to like-new status.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Car Carpet Cleaner
- Enjoy a clean, fresh-smelling vehicle. It’s important to clean your car, just as you would your room or your living space. A cleaner car is a healthier environment for you and your passengers, from the air you breathe to the surfaces you touch.
- Maintain your investment. Car maintenance doesn’t just include what’s under the hood. In addition to rotating your tires and changing your oil, keep up on cleaning the interior of your vehicle. It’ll make a huge difference when it comes to selling or trading it in at a later date.
- Clean up accidental spills. Maybe you’re someone who takes great care of their car, but you had an accident and now you need to clean it up. Car carpet cleaners can deal with the stains you do see—and the consequences you can’t.
- Multi-purpose use. Car upholstery cleaners might be marketed towards your vehicle, but they can often be used within the home as well. If you’ve got an apartment and car that both need some TLC, car carpet cleaners can be a cheaper alternative to paying for professional cleaning.
Types of Car Carpet Cleaners
If you’re looking for true foaming action, you’ll definitely want to seek out an aerosolized carpet cleaner. They typically come in anywhere from 16- to 25-ounce cans with a replaceable cap and small nozzle tip. Most require a little shake before use but will easily clean most four-door sedans with moderate levels of dirt. If you find yourself tackling a large, dirty vehicle, seek out multi-packs of this type to save your trigger finger from excess fatigue—and a few bucks as well.
Car carpet cleaners are typically either packaged as an aerosol or spray bottle. Spray bottles don’t necessarily have the foaming power aerosol cans command. However, you can just as easily soak a trouble spot with a spray bottle as you would with an aerosol can. Some spray bottles may have adjustable nozzles, which will allow you to target hard-to-reach areas with greater ease.
Most car carpet cleaners are marketed to not only clean but deodorize as well. It’s best to purchase a carpet cleaner that includes this feature because most stains will emit an odor, even if they’re still relatively fresh. Plus, the cleaner will likely leave behind a fresh-smelling scent that will help you forget the stain ever happened.
Spot Shot has been cleaning carpets since the 1980s. Its Spot Shot Pet Instant Carpet Stain Remover should be on your grocery list—and your shelf—if your family includes a furry friend or two. Spot Shot is based out of Budd Lake, N.J.
Based out of California, the crew at Chemical Guys has been innovating car care products for quite some time. Check out their Lightning Fast Stain Extractor if you’re looking to spiff up your ride.
Supplying auto parts stores across the nation, Armor All is a household name when it comes to taking care of your vehicle. Its 60 years of experience shows in every product, including the aerosol Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner bound to make a difference in your car.
Located in California, Meguiar’s headquarters is where all the magic happens. At least, that is, when it comes to car care. We suggest its Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner, packaged in a 19-ounce aerosol can. Because when you’ve been at it for over 100 years like Meguiar’s has, chances are you’ve got a solid formula for tackling even the toughest stains.
Mother’s has quite a few years under its belt when it comes to the car care industry. We recommend its—you guessed it—Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner. Just look for the California red-hot-colored bottle.
Best Car Carpet Cleaner Pricing
- $5-$10: Car carpet cleaners at this entry-level price point consist mostly of aerosol cans and a few spray bottles. Most products come packaged in anywhere from 16 to 22 ounces. Some aerosol cans come equipped with brush heads on the replaceable cap. If you’re looking for a car carpet brush, you’ll likely spend about this much as well.
- $11-$18: Here you’ll find a plethora of spray bottles and aerosol cans. If you choose a spray bottle, shell out around $15 to get your money’s worth. Packaging can range from 18 to 32 ounces, as some are concentrates and others are more of a “shampoo” style formula. Packs of multiple units, along with additional accessories, can be purchased for this amount as well.
- $20+: If you’re going to spend more than $20 on a car carpet cleaner, you should probably just look into an interior detail. However, there are carpet cleaning kits available around this price point, along with multiple units of higher-end formulas and/or professional-use products. If your situation calls for extreme measures, stock up with these heavy-duty types of products.
Invest in a car carpet cleaner that is going to make as much of a difference on a microbial level as it will visually. You don’t necessarily need to look for bleach as an ingredient as there are equally-powerful alternatives. Just be aware that a car interior is a closed environment that can easily become a breeding ground for all kinds of nasty germs. Err on the side of caution—and deep cleaning.
You may not smell it, but your car stinks. At least, that stain (or those stains) can cause an odor, even if left overnight. Do yourself and your nose a favor by picking out a carpet cleaner that doubles as an odor eliminator. You don’t necessarily have to buy a scented cleaner either. The point here is to remove any musty, moldy, mildew-smelling bacteria that could potentially cause health problems if left alone.
Whether you’re sensitive to scents or not, using a non-toxic cleaner in your vehicle widens that margin of error when it comes to discoloring or damaging your car’s interior materials. You don’t necessarily have to purchase organic or natural cleaners. The idea is to choose safer (for you and your car) chemicals to get the job done, rather than turning to powerful and potentially harmful alternatives.
The easiest part of cleaning your vehicle’s carpet is spraying on the cleaner itself. The best car carpet cleaners will do most of the grunt work for you, soaking down into the carpet fibers to penetrate deep into set-in stains, with little or no agitation required. The best cleaners will make the process as simple as spray, soak, vacuum, and air out. A fast-acting formula will speed up the process as well.
Automotive Surface Compatibility
Purchase a carpet cleaner that isn’t going to do more damage than good. The formula should be safe to use on both dark- and light-colored carpets without the fear of bleaching or dyeing. If you do end up getting some spray on leather seats, plastic trim pieces, rubber moldings, or other components (as is likely to happen), you don’t want to worry about replacing those pieces as well.
- Supplemental Tools: If you’re going to tackle more than one stain, we suggest investing in brushes and wet-dry vacuums to aid you in the cleaning process. Choose scrub brushes with tough bristles for the best results. Wire brushes should be avoided as they may cause damage to your carpets. Wet-dry vacuums don’t have to be very big in size but should come equipped with a removable filter and long hose.
- Access to a Carpet Steamer: If your car is particularly dirty, you may need the powerful action of a steam cleaner. Close sibling to the house carpet cleaner, these steaming machines couple suction with piping hot water to dislodge dirt and remove it just as quickly. Depending on the stain, you may only need to steam the carpets but it’s a good idea to have a carpet cleaning solution on-hand to soak stubborn stains beforehand.
- Stain Source/Age: There are some aspects of our vehicles that just become “birthmarks,” if you will. Stains fall into this category. Sometimes there’s just not enough stain-fighting power in the world to loosen whatever may have caused that discoloration. The best you can do is to accept it, allowing it to become part of the vehicle’s history. There are stains that just won’t come out, not without total carpet replacement.
Best Car Carpet Cleaner Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Spot Shot’s Professional Carpet Stain Remover won our top pick for the best car carpet cleaner. Use this product once, and you’ll see why it’s the go-to solution for even the toughest stains. The extra-strength formula specifically designed for professional cleaning companies can work wonders on any stains discoloring your vehicle’s interior.
One of the best features of the Spot Shot Professional Carpet Stain Remover is that it comes packaged in a 32-ounce spray bottle. That’s plenty of cleaning product for even the biggest dirty jobs. The handy spray nozzle directs the solution exactly where you want it. An ergonomic frame allows for easy gripping and maneuvering into the tightest of spots, where stains like to hide best. Spot Shot can be sprayed on almost any surface, from carpets and cloth seats to headliners and cloth door panels. Best of all, you don’t need to scrub the area, because Spot Shot not only removes the stain, it deodorizes your carpets as well.
One drawback of this product is that you’ll have to use a steam cleaner, in addition, to get out the worst stains. The mix of hot water and Spot Shot will likely do the trick. Spot Shot should also not be sprayed on a surface and then left to dry, as mold may grow beneath the surface if left unattended. All the same, Spot Shot’s Professional Carpet Stain Remover can be purchased and used by anyone who wants a cleaner, fresher-smelling vehicle.
It’s hard to beat the value Blue Coral offers in its handy Upholstery Cleaner, which features a removable cap that functions as a carpet brush as well. The spray-can design allows for the directed application of the cleaning solution. Plus, once you’re finished, you can easily replace the cap and store for the next time something spills in your car.
Blue Coral formulates its carpet cleaner to not only remove stains but to deodorize as well. Simply direct the spray can nozzle towards the dirty area, keeping the can about six inches away from the affected surface. The removable cap works well as an agitator for stubborn stains. Just make sure to clean it before you replace it and store the cleaner. You can even use this product in your home as well. Take the Blue Coral Upholstery Cleaner with you to the car wash as well to remove stubborn mud and debris from your floor mats.
Carpets with longer fibers won’t be as easy to clean with the small-bristled brush included atop this product. The short bristles likely won’t reach into deeper pockets between seats and around seat rails. However, the Blue Coral Upholstery Cleaner is easy for almost any car owner to use, both in their vehicle and the home.
A highly-capable formula that bonds the best of two names well-known in the cleaning industry, Armor All’s Oxi Magic Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner could be the stain-fighting solution you need to finally get your carpets and cloth seats looking new again. A powerful alternative to bleach-based solutions, Armor All’s Oxi Magic cleaner blends non-toxic cleaning agents that penetrate deep into carpet fibers.
We chose Armor All’s Oxi Magic Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner as our honorable mention for the product’s ability to clean deep while sanitizing and deodorizing. It’s important to not only remove the stain but to also pull out any contaminants that may cause further damage. With the oxygenated formula of Oxi Magic, this is possible. This product also stores very well. The spray nozzle is equipped with a sealable cover that prevents spillage as long as the product is upright. A slim neck and ergonomic built-in handle make application as easy as pulling the trigger.
The biggest drawback to this product lies in the formula itself. While the ingredients won’t necessarily discolor interior surfaces as regular bleach would, it’s not a good idea to spray the product on a surface and then leave it to dry. The oxygenated formula could dry out leather surfaces it may come into contact with or discolor particularly sensitive areas over time. Armor All’s Oxi Magic Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is, however, a worthy solution for any car owner looking to spiff up their ride.
- As preventative maintenance to keep your car clean, have it professionally detailed at least four times a year. Even if you only have the interior cleaned, keeping the surfaces free of dirt and debris will go a long way in protecting your long-term investment.
- Another way to keep your car’s interior clean is to lay down rubber or carpet mats. These mats can easily be removed to clean and are more easily replaced than the vehicle’s interior carpet. Rubber mats work better at repelling stains than carpet mats, but both are better than bare carpet.
- To avoid spills and stains, try your best not to drink or eat in your car. It can be a difficult habit to break, but just be conscious of what you bring in the car—and what comes out of it as well. Remove anything that could become a stain as soon as possible. That includes pop cans, too.
- Dairy-based spills (such as milk, coffee, etc.) should be cleaned as quickly as possible after they happen. These liquids can easily cause unwanted smells and allow mold and mildew to begin growing if not taken care of.
- Speaking of mildew, make sure you let your vehicle’s interior dry completely if you get it wet. Otherwise you’re creating an enclosed space for bacteria to multiply rapidly. Run the vehicle for 15-20 minutes with the heat on full-blast to speed up the drying process.
- After spraying your chosen car carpet cleaner, wait about five minutes for the formula to soak in. To ensure full removal of any remaining liquids, use a vacuum or steam cleaner. Most often the suction power of either machine will provide enough force to loosen stubborn stains.
- If you have gum or other sticky objects bogging your car’s carpet down, use a razor blade to cut the tangled fibers away. Be careful not to cut too close to the carpet surface, as you could remove whole sections of the carpet completely.
- Extra-stubborn stains may require multiple applications of the car carpet cleaner you chose. Repeat the following process two or three times before seeking an alternative solution if the stain remains: soak the stain for five minutes, agitate it with a brush, and vacuum or steam clean the area.
- While cleaning your car’s carpet will deodorize at least part of the vehicle, it will not remove a smoke smell entirely. Speak to your local dealership or professional detail staff to learn more about the ways you can remove smoke smell from your vehicle. A clean car is a step in the right direction.
Q: How much car carpet cleaning product should I apply?
A: Direct the product towards concentrated stains and soak the area for 3-5 seconds. You may need to vacuum or steam clean the area and then reapply the carpet cleaner again to remove stubborn stains that won’t come out the first time. If you chose a foaming carpet cleaner, covering the area in question with foam should be plenty in terms of application.
Q: Can I bleach a stain to remove it from my vehicle’s interior?
A: If you’re not worried about the integrity of your vehicle’s interior, yes. However, bleach is likely to discolor any surface it comes into contact with. There are other alternatives to bleach that will remove bacteria just as effectively. Enzymes are just one example. If you’re concerned about specific spills, speak with your local dealership and request product suggestions.
Q: Are there any household cleaners I can try before purchasing one of these products?
A: Carpet stain removers meant for household use are likely to work on your vehicle’s interior, but we suggest testing a carpet spot in an inconspicuous area before going all-out. While hot, soapy water will remove surface discoloration, it may not penetrate deep enough to remove stuck-on stains.
Q: Can I use car carpet cleaner on my boat upholstery?
A: Yes, you can. We recommend using the products before and after the use of your boat to keep your materials clean. It’s crucial to remove as much moisture from a boat before storage as is possible since the enclosed space will foster bacteria and mold during the storage period.
Q: If I own a high-end vehicle, should I consult the dealer before purchasing a car carpet cleaner?
A: It’s always a good idea to test out a cleaner before use. Speaking with your local dealership may just end up with them trying to sell you their brand of cleaner, but in that conversation, you can ask them what ingredients the cleaner has. If you can find something with a similar formulation, you should be safe to use it on your vehicle.
Q: Can I use a car carpet cleaner to clean my headliner?
A: This one is a bit tricky since it depends on the material, age, and color of your headliner. The important thing to remember with headliners is that you should not soak them in any liquid, no matter how dirty they may be. Spray your cleaner directly onto a rag and then apply it to the headliner surface. Use air or another method to completely dry the headliner afterward.
Q: Will car carpet cleaner remove stains on toddler car seats?
A: We can’t speak for every stain out there, but the carpet cleaner meant for vehicles could be useful on your toddler’s car seat. However, it’s probably a good idea to check what chemicals are in the cleaner, as they could react negatively against your child’s skin.
Q: Are these products good for removing pet odors and stains?
A: Yes, most of the products meant for cleaning car carpets can handle pet stains and odors. The key to removing these types of stains is quick application. As soon as the stain occurs, have your car carpet cleaning product ready. And while carpet cleaners for your vehicle might deodorize the car, full removal of pet smells usually requires an ozone machine, similar to what’s used to remove smoke and other unpleasant odors.
Q: Can I use an interior cleaner to clean up my car carpets, too?
A: Interior cleaners, depending on what they’re geared towards, may not work the best on carpet stains. These cleaners are typically meant for surface gunk that accumulates due to day-to-day use. Many are multi-surface, so they won’t necessarily scrub as deep as could be necessary to remove stubborn stains. Even interior foam cleaners may not have the strength to pull out carpet stains.
We chose the Spot Shot Professional Carpet Stain Remover as our top pick because of the powerful cleaning formula and oversized bottle.
Our top value pick comes from Blue Coral. Its Upholstery Cleaner fits most budgets and still gets the job done right.