The Best Upholstery Cleaner Machines (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Make your furniture and upholstery look brand new with these high-performance upholstery cleaning machines
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BY Lisa Conant / LAST UPDATED ON December 21, 2020
A clean, “like new” look and feel to your car’s interior, or the furniture and carpets in your home just seem to make them feel more comfortable and inviting. But, unfortunately, things often don’t stay that way, and being able to periodically bring them back to that satisfyingly spotless condition, or eradicating stains before they set in too deeply, means a good upholstery cleaning machine is a necessity.
Tracking in dirt, spilling food and drinks, and all sorts of mishaps that soil the inside of your car, RV, boat, or home are bound to happen. Multiply that potential for stains and spills if you’re adding kids or pets as regular users of your upholstered and carpeted areas. A good upholstery cleaning machine will not only keep things clean and fresh but also prolong the life of your upholstery and carpets by removing dirt and stains that can wear the surfaces down.
Our review and buying guide will help you define the features that will be most important to you in choosing a machine that will provide the kind of performance and ease-of-use necessary to keep your environment looking, feeling, and smelling like new.
This machine is small enough to easily use on vehicle interiors, while still being powerful enough to tackle spot and stain cleaning in your home.
- Strong spray and suction to clean up messes.
- Easy hose clean out to avoid odors.
- Long hose and cord.
- Easy to store and use.
- Reasonable price.
- Some complaint of pet hair clogging the nozzle.
- Loud in operation.
This lightweight, cordless unit is easy and convenient to use in small spaces like your car interior.
- Built-in scrub brush to loosen dirt.
- Designed to be easy to clean out.
- Has replaceable scrub brush and filter to maintain performance
- Easy storage.
- Suction not as strong as larger machines.
- Manual pump to spray cleaning solution.
This machine uses air pressure to spin a high speed brush and dispense cleaning solution at high pressure, and is specifically designed for automotive use.
- For cleaning all soft and hard interior parts.
- Nylon brush designed to remove deep down dirt.
- Adjustable pressure and speed.
- Requires the use of your own separate air compressor.
- Can throw grit into the air, so safety glasses a good idea.
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Benefits of Upholstery Cleaner Machine
- Portable. One of the best advantages of upholstery cleaner machines are that they’re highly portable. They can easily be used in a vehicle as well as in the house or any other place that needs a good cleaning.
- Compact. Machines with nozzles small enough to fit into tight spaces, such as between and under seats, behind pedals, and storage compartments allow thorough cleaning. Compact machines are also easy to store and use in garages and other space restricted areas.
- Lightweight. The small size of these machines yields the benefit of being lightweight, making them an easy-to-use and versatile choice for almost anyone, including people with physical limitations.
- Extends Fabric Life. By providing a thorough and effective removal of stains and dirt from your upholstered surfaces and carpet fabrics, upholstery cleaning machines help to remove the abrasives that break down fibers and deteriorate fabrics.
- Keeps Fabrics Looking Newer Longer. Upholstery cleaning machines help you maintain that just-bought look in your vehicle interior, carpets, and home furniture. Messes can get out of control and compound quickly, so the regular use of an upholstery cleaner machine will ensure they don’t get out of hand and detract from the clean aesthetic of your vehicle or home.
- Saves Money. By giving you the option to be able to deep clean your car’s interior and home furnishings and carpets yourself, a compact upholstery cleaning machine can save you money over having to pay for professional cleanings.
Check out our top recommendations for steam cleaners for cars here.
Types of Upholstery Cleaner Machines
Upright Upholstery Cleaner Machines
These machines are more for home use, and are designed just like the typical upright vacuums. They are more suited to carpet cleaning than upholstery, and their attachments are generally too bulky for easy vehicle use. They have wide, motorized, rotating brushes that thoroughly scrub carpet and draw out dirt and stains. Many of these will have handheld attachments that allow you to clean upholstery in the same manner, with handheld rotating brushes that scrub and remove dirt. They’re an excellent option if you have lots of carpeting and upholstery cleaning is your secondary concern.
Handheld Portable Upholstery Cleaner Machines
These upholstery cleaners are the best models for focusing mainly on automobile interiors, cleaning furniture, fabrics, and the like. They’re lightweight and compact, making them great options for storing at homes and can be easily moved around from room to room to clean sofa cushions, carpets, chairs, even draperies. They’re typically less expensive than larger carpet cleaners with upholstery attachments and are a great option for spot cleaning. They also come in corded or cordless models, depending on your preference.
Steam Cleaner Machines
Steam cleaner machines are aimed more at home use, and are the best for truly killing bacteria and germs and disinfecting surfaces. They’re super versatile because they’re suitable for use on sealed hardwood flooring, laminates, granite, ceramic tile, grout, carpets, upholstery, appliances, and more. The main concern with using a steam cleaner on your upholstery is that the temperature of the steam may be too hot and can degrade the integrity of the fabric, actually damaging it or causing it to have a shorter lifespan, so use these machines on upholstery with great care and maybe reserve them for tougher, more durable fabrics. Don’t use these to clean your vintage Victorian settee.
In the market for a new carpet cleaner? See our favorites here.
Probably the most well known name in at-home carpet and upholstery cleaning, Bissell has been manufacturing and innovating reliable cleaning products since 1876, and boasts America’s first female CEO. Some of its top products include the Bissell Big Green® Machine Professional Carpet Cleaner and the Bissell Pet Stain Eraser™ Cordless Portable Carpet Cleaner.
Hoover is another long-time and well-respected manufacturer of vacuums and cleaning appliances. W.H. Hoover bought the first patent to the vacuum back in 1908. Today Hoover makes reliable products like the LiNX Signature Cordless Stick Vacuum and the ONEPWR Evolve Cordless Upright Vacuum.
Founded by a professional carpet cleaner in Fresno, Calif. more than 43 years ago, Rug Doctor has been providing people with the means to obtain a professional-level clean at home without a professional-level price. Some of its more well-known models are the Rug Doctor FlexClean All In One Floor Cleaner and the Rug Doctor Pet Portable Spot Cleaner.
Upholstery Cleaner Machine Pricing
- Under $200: This price range will get you most portable, handheld upholstery spot cleaners that are currently on the market. Smaller, more compact and lightweight models that can do everyday limited cleaning. Most steam cleaners will be in this price range also.
- $200-$350: In this price range, you will find higher-end spot cleaners, but also larger and more rugged upright carpet and upholstery cleaners that are designed for larger jobs, like cleaning an entire room’s worth of carpet and stairs.
- $350 and up: This is the price range in which you will find professional-grade upholstery cleaners and higher-end manufactured upright upholstery cleaning machines. These are designed for serious cleaning and major volume.
Learn all about the best cordless car vacuums here.
Easy To Use
A good upholstery cleaning machine should be relatively straightforward and intuitive to use. It shouldn’t have a ton of extraneous steps or convoluted processes to fill the water and cleaning solution and get you started on the cleaning process. Fill lines and detergent levels should be easy to see, tanks should be easy to remove for filling and emptying, and filters should be easy to reach.
Good Cleaning Performance
This is one of the most important features to look for when purchasing an upholstery cleaning machine, because who wants to buy a machine that isn’t going to give you the best clean? Your cleaning machine should be able to effectively and completely remove old, tough, dried stains and dirt like food, wine, oils, etc. It should be able to do this with 10-12 passes of the brush. Anything more than that is a lot more effort than should be necessary for a strong and powerful cleaner. However, remember, that generally speaking, the smaller the unit, the less powerful it will be, so don’t expect a hand-held cleaner for use in your car to provide the suction and cleaning performance of a heavy, professional-grade tool.
For being able to reach into tight areas in your vehicle’s interior, you need a cleaner that is small enough, or has attachments small enough, to easily fit under and around seats and pedals. If you’re looking for an in-home upholstery cleaner, thanks to advances in technology, newer models are powerful and compact, allowing you to store them in small spaces and easily move them from one location to another. Smaller brush heads will be able to get into tighter spots on furniture and automobile interiors, giving you a more thorough and all-encompassing clean.
Consider purchasing an upholstery cleaner machine that can clean multiple types of fabric without damaging them. A good machine will clean rugs, carpets, draperies, car interiors, and higher-end furniture fabrics, giving you a lot of different options for items that you can effectively clean with it.
Click here to see the best car odor eliminators.
- Budget. This is important for many consumers. How much you’re comfortable spending on an upholstery cleaner machine can greatly help you narrow down your choices in a sea of options. If you have a lot of stuff that needs cleaning or plan to clean very frequently, consider purchasing a more rugged and durable cleaner that may be on the more expensive side, but that will deliver the level of cleaning you want for a longer period of time than some cleaners that are simply meant for occasional spot cleaning.
- Water Tank Capacity. This plays a role in how much upholstery you want to clean before you have to change out the dirty water and add more cleaning solution. If you’re going to do small jobs, the size of the water tanks doesn’t matter as much as if you’re going to thoroughly clean multiple pieces of furniture and large areas of carpet. You don’t want to have to be constantly changing your water in the middle of a bigger job.
- Accessory Tools. This isn’t such a huge consideration as some others, but different accessory tools and attachments make your upholstery cleaner machine more versatile by giving you more options when it comes to approaching stains and how to eradicate them. Some tools that allow you to reach deep into crevices and awkwardly shaped spaces may come in very handy depending on the design of your furniture and upholstered items.
Best Upholstery Cleaner Machine Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- When cleaning, don’t overdo it with the cleaning solution. Some of the cleaning chemicals are pretty strong and can wreak havoc on the components of your upholstery cleaner machine, causing it to malfunction too soon.
- Be sure to occasionally clean hoses, brushes, filters, and the suction gate of your upholstery cleaner machine in order to remove mineral build-up and promote efficient function of all your cleaner’s parts.
- Using distilled water to mix with the cleaning solution will help discourage the build-up of chemicals and damaging residue inside the cleaner machine.
- Always pre-vacuum upholstered furniture and carpets prior to using your upholstery cleaning machine to ensure that you remove any surface dirt, dust, or hair and don’t spread it around more with the cleaning machine, thus causing your upholstery cleaner to work harder than it needs to.
- When cleaning tough stains, it’s better to use a back and forth scrubbing motion than a circular one. This tends to lift the stains faster and with less effort. Giving occasional squirts of extra cleaning solution every so often will further aid in the stain removal process.
Q. How often should I clean my upholstery cleaning machine?
A: This greatly depends on the amount of use your upholstery cleaning machine gets. At the very least, you should thoroughly rinse all tanks and hoses at the end of each use to avoid chemical build-up and degradation. If you only use your machine occasionally, you should go through and examine all filters and parts and give them a thorough cleaning at least once per year. If you’re a more frequent user, let’s say weekly, you should clean your machine once every 3 months.
Q. How long does it take for upholstery to dry after cleaning?
A: On average, upholstery can take up to 4-5 hours to dry completely, during which time, you will not want anyone sitting on or using the upholstery. Other fabrics, like draperies and mattresses, usually dry much faster and can be used within an hour of cleaning.
Q. What should I do if I apply too much cleaning solution?
A: If this happens, it can quickly lead to more stains and a huge headache, so stop the shampooing process and try to blot up as much cleaner as you can with an absorbent cloth or towel. Provide a thorough rinse to the upholstery and try to suck up as much as you can before running a drying cycle. If necessary, rinse and blot twice.
Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge and know-how to make an informed selection of an upholstery cleaner machine, you can find one that suits your needs. Whether its the overall power of the Bissell Multi-Purpose Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner, or the budget-friendly option in the BLACK+DECKER Spillbuster Portable Carpet Cleaner, your upholstery will be clean in no time.