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Best Car Upholstery Cleaner (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022

Take your car’s seats from dirty and grimy to pristine and clean with the best car upholstery cleaners.

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BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON November 12, 2021

Whether you have leather, vinyl, or fabric upholstery in your car, it’s bound to get dirty at some point. Spills, grime, and stains are inevitable, that is unless you’re keeping your car’s upholstery and carpets covered in plastic like your grandmother did with her sofa. The best way to keep your car’s upholstery looking fresh and clean? A high-quality car upholstery cleaner. While there are dozens of products to choose from, each promising to deliver miracles, we’re here to help you decide which are worth your time and money, and which are better left on the shelf. We’ve done the research and put together a solid roster of great car upholstery cleaners, complete with our informative buying guide.

Best Overall
CarGuys Super Cleaner
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Summary
Summary

This multi-surface cleaner uses nanotechnology to clean your car on a molecular level. You can clean upholstery, vinyl, wood trim, metals, and rubber. It works to clean up tough stains such as grease, bird poop, and tree sap.

Pros
Pros
  • This upholstery cleaner works on many surfaces, which makes cleaning your car easier.
  • It won’t leave behind a sticky or slimy-feeling residue.
  • It comes with a money-back guarantee if you’re not happy with how the cleaner performs.
Cons
Cons
  • Do not use this product to clean glass or sensitive electronics screens.
  • It’s only a cleaner, so you’ll need to follow it with a conditioner or UV protector.
Best Overall
CarGuys Super Cleaner
Best Value
Shout Auto Multi-Purpose Car Cleaner
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Summary
Summary

An affordable car upholstery cleaner that works hard without requiring a lot of effort to lift away dirt old and new, stubborn and hard-to-remove.

Pros
Pros
  • Affordable price
  • Foaming formula doesn’t require rinsing
  • Lifts away dirt and stains with no water or extra tools needed
Cons
Cons
  • Not suitable for use on leather or rubber
  • Tough or longtime stains can require multiple applications
Best Value
Shout Auto Multi-Purpose Car Cleaner
Honorable Mention
Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner
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Summary
Summary

This product does a thorough job of removing some of the oldest and toughest stains in your vehicle. It offers a dual-action sprayer that lets you spray a wide mist that’s great for larger, more general cleaning, or a precise, narrow stream for targeted action.

Pros
Pros
  • You can rest assured that this product comes from a highly regarded company and gets tons of excellent user reviews.
  • It dries clean, and doesn’t leave behind any sticky residue or dark borders around the spots you worked on.
  • It has a pleasant scent that doesn’t overpower or come off too strongly.
Cons
Cons
  • This product is a little on the pricey side.
  • It doesn’t include a scrubber with the bottle, like some of our other recommendations.
Honorable Mention
Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

Why Trust Us


Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Our Methodology

To select our picks for the best car upholstery cleaners, we took a look at what really matters: effectiveness. We looked at the details of each cleaner’s formula, examined which surfaces each cleaner is suitable for use on and assessed their ability to lift away dirt and eliminate stains. Products that worked on set-in stains and longtime dirt and grime were our preferred picks, as they offered the most potent and effective cleaning solution. We also considered users’ real-life experiences putting the upholstery cleaners to use to decide how well each worked against tough messes from kids, pets, spills, and everyday dirt.

Best Car Upholstery Cleaner Reviews & Recommendations

Best Car Upholstery Cleaner Overall
CarGuys Super Cleaner

If you’re looking for a cleaner that gets the job done, it’s this all-purpose, multi-surface cleaner. Developed using nanotechnology, it can safely remove grime and dirt at the molecular level. It is perfect for deep-cleaning your car’s upholstery as well as different surfaces such as fabric, vinyl, canvas, rubber, and plastic. This upholstery cleaner doesn’t just clean interior surfaces; it also does a great job on exterior surfaces.


It can easily remove tough grease, bird droppings, and tree sap stains. It provides a non-greasy, odorless, no-gloss finish and ensures your car looks clean and appealing. And if you’re not happy with it, contact CarGuys and you will get a full refund. However, the upholstery cleaner doesn’t offer any UV protection or repel dust, and it isn’t effective on glass surfaces.

Product Specs

  • Size: 18 ounces
  • Suitable For: All types of upholstery and most surfaces, including leather, vinyl, canvas, rubber, plastic, metals, and wood
  • Application: Spray nozzle

Pros

  • Works effectively on seats, flooring, mats, and more
  • Water-based, no-rinse formula
  • Nanotechnology tackles dirt and grime at all levels of soiling
  • Works on grease, tree sap, and other common challenges

Cons

  • Cannot be used on glass or touchscreens
  • Doesn’t repel dust
  • No UV protection
Best Car Upholstery Cleaner Value
Shout Auto Multi-Purpose Car Cleaner

If you’re staring down some seriously stubborn or long-ago stains and dirt, Shout Auto Multi-Purpose Car Cleaner is an upholstery cleaning powerhouse. This product offers great value because it’s affordable in price and efficient even when working on set-in dirt and grime. Formulated as a multi-purpose cleaning solution with advanced stain-lifting ingredients, this upholstery cleaner lifts stains out of carpeting and other fabrics. 


It cleans deeply thanks to its built-in cleaning brush that gets into the upholstery and works hard on stains. The foam solution is easy to work with too—just spray it on and wipe it off, bringing dirt and grime with the foam. It’s so effective that even used cars can see clean seats, carpeting, and more. However, you’ll likely need multiple applications to fully make dirt and grime disappear. Additionally, it isn’t recommended for use on leather and rubber. 


Product Specs

  • Size: 1 pound
  • Suitable For: Carpet, fabric, and vinyl
  • Application: Spray nozzle and built-in scrubbing brush head

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lifts dirt, grime, and all types of stains
  • Can tackle tough stains, including coffee and pet messes
  • Built-in brush; no extra accessories needed to scrub away dirt

Cons

  • Not recommended for use on leather or rubber
  • Can require multiple applications for particularly stubborn stains
Best Dual Action Car Upholstery Cleaner
Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

Meguiar’s is well-known for excellent quality automotive detailing products, and the Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is one of the top offerings. This product delivers a professional-strength formula that provides a thorough and deep cleaning power. It will remove a surprising array of stubborn and old stains you thought were permanent, and the fast-acting foam breaks down tough stain components and frees them from fabrics. 


The dual-purpose sprayer lets you either target stains with a precise, narrow stream or gets a general, wide mist spray for larger areas. It dries clean, without a dark border or sticky residue. Users have reported being able to effectively remove stubborn salt stains, caked-on mud, and even marker, sticky foods, and play-dough. You may need to let the formula sit on the stain for up to 30 minutes, and you may need to repeat the process more than once.

Product Specs

  • Size: 19 ounces
  • Suitable For: Carpet and fabric surfaces
  • Application: Dual-purpose spray nozzle with two settings

Pros

  • Foam formula breaks down stains
  • Lifts dirt and grime from fabric
  • Leaves behind no residue or color changes
  • Works on salt, mud, food, and other tough stains

Cons

  • May need to soak into fabric for 30 minutes before scrubbing
  • Can require multiple applications
Best Foaming Action Car Upholstery Cleaner
Chemical Guys Foaming Citrus Fabric Clean Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo

If you’re searching for a car upholstery cleaner that’ll get deep inside the fibers of your carpet and fabric, try the Chemical Guys Foaming Citrus Fabric Clean Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo. This potent cleaning solution can be diluted and used at various strengths so you can adapt whether you’re trying to tackle new or old stains, dirt, and general grime. It’s a deep-cleaning foam formula that uses biotechnology to break down dirt, all without toxic chemicals, color-damaging deterrents, or other dangers.


And it truly takes the hard work out of upholstery detailing, with no hard rubbing or scrubbing necessary. This cleaner is safe for all colors and car fabrics, and it breaks down stains, lifts away dirt, and eliminates unpleasant odors all in one application. It’s recommended that you use a stiff brush when working with this car upholstery cleaner, and it may not be as effective on oil-based stains as it is on other messes.


Product Specs

  • Size: 16 ounces
  • Suitable For: Carpets, fabric seats, and floor mats
  • Application: Pour-on, but can be used in spray bottle after it’s diluted

Pros

  • Tackles stains, dirt, and odors simultaneously
  • High-suds cleaning action
  • Offers deep cleaning yet is safe for car fabrics and colors
  • Restores both the appearance and feel of cloth surfaces

Cons

  • May not work as easily or efficiently on oil-based stains
  • Different dilution levels can alter the cleaning potency and effectiveness
Best Multi-Purpose Car Upholstery Cleaner
Tuff Stuff Multi Purpose Foam Cleaner

The Tuff Stuff Multi-Purpose Foam Cleaner is a powerful deep-cleaning foam that dissolves stains and lifts them out of your car’s vinyl and fabric upholstery and carpets. It restores the fabric’s true color and appearance, leaving behind a like-new look. As an added bonus, this foaming cleaner is also suitable for use on home and boat interiors, as well as floor mats, chrome, and any painted or washable surface.


Just about the only things you can’t use it on, are mirrors or glass. Be sure to let this foam sit on the stain for a minimum of 30 to 40 seconds before scrubbing with a wet cloth or sponge. This product takes some effort, depending on the age and depth of the stain, so don’t get discouraged if you have to reapply.

Product Specs

  • Size: 22 ounces
  • Suitable For: Carpet, fabric upholstery, vinyl, chrome, and other painted or washable surfaces
  • Application: Spray nozzle

Pros

  • Works on a wide variety of materials and surfaces
  • Eliminates dirt and stains with foam formula
  • Can be used on chrome and other washable surfaces
  • Restores fabric, bringing color and appearance back to life

Cons

  • Can’t be used on glass or mirrors
  • Does take effort and multiple applications to remove older, deeper stains
Best Environmentally Friendly Car Upholstery Cleaner
Mothers Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner

Another heavy hitter that delivers serious cleaning power is Mothers Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner. It’s a sizable 24-ounce trigger spray bottle that will go a long way. It’s safe to use on vinyl, cloth, carpet, velour, and even sheepskin. This is a versatile cleaner you can use in your vehicle or around the house to clean furniture, carpets, and draperies.


One thing that sets it apart from some other multifunctional cleaners is that it’s pH-balanced and environmentally safe, meaning it won’t screw up the planet any more than it already is! This upholstery cleaner works best when scrubbed into the fabric with a natural bristle brush, so be prepared to put in some elbow grease. Some users report that it did fail to remove very old, oil-based stains and that it has a stronger odor than some other options.

Product Specs

  • Size: 24 ounces
  • Suitable For: Carpet, cloth, vinyl, velour, and sheepskin
  • Application: Trigger spray nozzle

Pros

  • Works on a wide variety of different upholstery materials
  • Eco-friendly formula
  • Can be used inside your car and your home
  • Plenty of cleaning solution for multiple detailing jobs

Cons

  • Not as effective on oil-based stains
  • Requires elbow grease to work, especially on old stains
  • Odor may be too strong for some
Best Full Spectrum Car Upholstery Cleaner
Shine Armor Car Interior Cleaner

Want a car upholstery cleaner that can do more than get rid of dirt? Shine Armor Car Interior Cleaner is a product that’ll tackle your interior on multiple fronts, working to clean, restore, and protect with every application. This full-spectrum cleaning solution uses nanotechnology to make your interior carpet, upholstery, vinyl, leather, and even plastic look like it just rolled off the dealership lot.


It works to prevent dust buildup while it removes dirt and grime, and it eliminates odors too. This upholstery cleaner gets rid of stains quickly, and it’s said to work faster than your typical carpet shampoo. Plus, as an added bonus, applying this cleaning solution also offers advanced UV protection to slow down the aging of your interior. However, this car upholstery cleaner is more expensive than other options, especially for just 8 ounces in a bottle.


Product Specs

  • Size: 8 ounces
  • Suitable For: Carpet, fabric, leather, vinyl, and plastic
  • Application: Trigger spray nozzle

Pros

  • Cleans, restores and protects with every application
  • Can be used on fabrics of all kinds, including leather, carpet, and vinyl
  • Works on upholstery as well as other interior surfaces
  • Offers UV protection to prevent UV damage

Cons

  • Expensive
  • You’ll go through a bottle pretty quickly
Best Car Upholstery Cleaner for Large Stains
Carbona Oxy-Powered Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

Oxygen-based cleaners are fantastic at removing stains when you’re dealing with laundry, they’re great for your vehicle too. Just try the Carbona Oxy-Powered Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner inside your car, and you’ll see old stains disappear. This extra-strong cleaning solution is foam-based, with deep penetrating action thanks to oxy-powered ingredients list that can break down even long-since-set and stubborn stains.


Plus, the built-in brush applicator can help you dig in deep. The cleaning solution can get rid of heavily soiled areas, pet messes, grease, and all kinds of stubborn accidents. It works on carpet and upholstery, and it’ll remove odors too while it cleans up. Just make sure to wait three minutes after applying the foam so it can soak in and work.


Product Specs

  • Size: 27.5 ounces
  • Suitable For: Carpet and fabric
  • Application: Spray nozzle with built-in scrubbing brush head

Pros

  • Oxygen-based formula is extra tough on stains
  • Offers plenty of cleaning solution for its price
  • Works on heavily soiled areas and set-in stains
  • Eliminates odors, including pet odors

Cons

  • Does take time to set after application before you can begin scrubbing

Our Verdict on Car Upholstery Cleaner

Our pick for the best car upholstery cleaner is the CarGuys Super Cleaner, a product that offers great versatility and tackles a wide variety of different kinds of dirt, messes, and stains. And if you’re looking for a combination of good cleaning power and great value, we like the Shout Auto Multi-Purpose Car Cleaner. This affordable pick delivers impressive results without blowing your entire budget.

What to Consider When Buying Car Upholstery Cleaner

Car upholstery cleaners come in many different shapes, sizes, cleaning potencies, and formulas, meaning no two will deliver the exact same results. So, how can you pick out a quality product? We’ve got the most important details you need to consider right here.

Types of Car Upholstery Cleaner

Sprays

Sprays are some of the most common car upholstery cleaners as they’re easy to apply and can clean various surfaces in a car interior, saving you money and time. Most can be sprayed on large areas or specific spots, though it all depends on the nozzle. Spray cleaners can come in foam-based or liquid formulas.

Cleaning Gel

Cleaning gel is ideal for the crevices of your car. It can easily get rid of dirt on door handles, air vents, dashboards, and the steering wheel. It’s easy to use but should be used on water-resistant surfaces. Just place the cleaning gel on the surface you want to clean, press it two to three times, then lift it. Dirt and dust will stick on the gel without leaving any residue.

Wax

Wax cleaners can eliminate light scratches, oxidation, and other minor issues. However, wax cleaners on the market are meant for the leather surfaces in your car. This is why they’re sometimes referred to as leather cleaners or balms. A wax cleaner rejuvenates your car’s leather, protecting it against UV rays and even refreshing your car’s dull paint.

Car Upholstery Cleaner Key Features

Free of Harsh Chemicals

Sure, harsh chemicals might seem like the best choice for getting super dirty car upholstery clean, but it’s actually better to choose a cleaner that’s non-toxic and safe to use. While harsh chemicals certainly can work wonders on grime, grease, stains, and dirt in general, toxic chemicals can be too hard on your car’s fabrics and your own health. Instead, opt for cleaners that are water-based, alcohol-free, ammonia-free, and pH balanced. These won’t leave any fumes or potential fabric-ruining effects behind.

Type of Upholstery 

Most cars have vinyl, leather, or fabric upholstery. These materials require different types of upholstery cleaners. Be sure to choose a cleaner that’s ideal for your car’s upholstery or you risk damaging it. There are so many different kinds of car upholstery now, from classic fabric to vinyl to vegan leather. Vinyl is easy to clean as it can be wiped down with a microfiber towel. Leather upholstery needs a dedicated cleaner, wax, and conditioner. Fabric upholstery is the easiest to clean, there are many fabric car upholstery cleaners on the market. Bamboo and other breathable textiles are similar to fabric in terms of care. When it comes to vegan leather, most cleaners can’t penetrate the material, so your best bet here is to use a UV-protection product to keep fading and cracking at bay.

Quality

When buying a car upholstery cleaner, don’t pinch pennies. Selecting a cheap cleaner for your precious car is something you may regret later on. Instead, look for quality, professional-grade formulas that are specifically made for vehicle interiors and fabrics. You’ll have a lower risk of winding up with an upholstery cleaner that doesn't leave patches, residue, or color problems behind.

Brands to Know

Meguiar's

In 1901, Frank Meguiar, Jr. produced his first bottle of furniture polish. Meguiar's line of automotive products was launched in 1973. The company’s headquarters are located in Irvine, California. Its products give car enthusiasts a chance to express their pride and passion for cars.

Tuff Stuff 

The Tuff Stuff® brand was established in 1969 by Union Carbide. Initially, the company was known as Prestone® Tuff Stuff. It produces powerful cleaning products for surfaces that are hard to clean—hence the name. Its popular multipurpose foam cleaner was initially sold for 88 cents. The company has been part of Clorox and First Brands but is currently owned by the Armored AutoGroup.

Chemical Guys 

Chemical Guys believe it’s more than a company, it's a lifestyle. Founded in 1968, it manufactures numerous car detailing products. Its headquarters are in Los Angeles, California. The company’s driving force is “a passion for shine.” It possesses a massive library of car detailing information. Chemical Guys redefine the car detailing industry by producing small-batch waxes, nano-polishes, and hybrid coatings.

Car Guys

A new entrant into the car detailing market, Car Guys was established to produce affordable, high-quality car care products. Its formulas are developed and blended in the USA. It manufactures non-toxic, biodegradable products that don't affect your health. The company works with formulators to research, test, and develop its products. The products are not released until they have met all standards for quality.

Turtle Wax

Founded by Benjamin Hirsch back in 1941, Turtle Wax was originally known as Plastone. Hirsch changed the company’s name to make it synonymous with a turtle’s hard shell. Turtle Wax is headquartered in Addison, Illinois, and is a popular manufacturer of automotive products.

Car Upholstery Cleaner Pricing

You don’t have to spend a whole lot to stock up on quality car upholstery cleaner. In fact, you can find products priced for less than $10, making a good cleaner a cheap investment. However, on average, you should expect to spend between $10 and $20. Car upholstery cleaners priced under $10 can be great, but they’re often designed to clean just one or two material types. Step up to the $10 to $20 range, and you’ll find more variety. And if you’d like, you can find products for $21 or more, but these tend to be more comprehensive upholstery detailing kits.

Tips and Tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and car upholstery cleaner. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Effectiveness. The best car upholstery cleaner is effective and user-friendly. It can remove numerous stains. Drink, food, and sweat stains can be a challenge to remove because they stubbornly stick to the upholstery. Apart from cleaning dirt and stains, a good upholstery cleaner should also repel dust. It should prevent dust from settling in the car’s interior.
  • Type of Cleaner. There are many types of upholstery cleaners: sprays, foams, liquids, and gels. Sprays are easier to use but less effective compared to other cleaners. They are ideal for cleaning smaller, more recent stains. Gels and foams deliver superior cleaning results but take longer to work. The best car upholstery cleaner should clean most or all of the surfaces in a car’s interior.
  • Durability. A durable car upholstery cleaner is made using high-quality components that deliver a long shelf life. Since you aren't likely to use the entire cleaner at once, you can store it once you’re done for future use. 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q: How do I use an upholstery cleaner?

Upholstery cleaners vary depending on what formula they’re made of. Your best bet is to follow our How to Deep Clean Your Car’s Interior here. Then, follow the manufacturer’s directions on the bottle for the best technique. Always be sure to do a patch test to check for colorfastness on an inconspicuous area before cleaning your entire car.

Q: What do professionals clean car upholstery with?

Every auto detailing pro has his own favorite car upholstery cleaner, and products can vary, depending on the kind of material a particular car contains. If you’re looking for professional-level results, you’ll want to seek out professional-grade cleaners, or cleaners that are made by professionals with longtime auto experience. We’ve got plenty of these options on our list above.

Q: Can car upholstery cleaner remove seat stains?

Many car upholstery cleaning products promise to remove stains, but results can really vary. If you’re dealing with set-in stains or challenging stains (like coffee spills, salt stains, or pet messes), you’ll want to choose a cleaner that features a stain-fighting formula. Or, you may want to opt for a cleaning product that’s specifically made to target stains. Oxy- or oxygen-based products tend to be particularly great at fighting stains. But remember—no matter what product you pick, you’ll probably need multiple applications to get rid of extra-tough stains.