The Best Upholstery Cleaner Machines (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022
Bring your vehicle’s interior fabrics and carpet back to life with the best upholstery cleaner machines.
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BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON November 30, 2021
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.
- Designed for portability and small spaces
- Easily fits inside your car and gives great maneuverability
- Tough on stains and set-in messes
- Have to clean tank and gaskets after every use
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.
- Uses only hot water to tackle tough messes and stains
- 9-foot long hose offers plenty of reach
- 48-ounce tank gives you solid runtime and 45 minutes of continuous steam
- Tank itself is too bulky to maneuver inside vehicles
- Does take time to heat up
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.
In order to pick the best upholstery cleaner machines, we browsed the wide selection of different types of products available. We considered and compared options from the best-known brands in the upholstery cleaning space, taking a look at the products offered by brands like Bissell, Hoover, and Rug Doctor. From there, we assessed products based on whether or not they were specifically intended for automotive upholstery cleaning or if they were more versatile and able to tackle auto upholstery alongside other types of upholstery. We specifically sought out portable, handheld products that could be used inside car interiors, though we also considered ones that offered long hoses and attachments that could reach into your interior nooks and crannies.
Best Upholstery Cleaner Machine Reviews & Recommendations
Our Verdict on Upholstery Cleaner Machines
The compact, convenient, and easy to carry Bissell Multi-Purpose Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner is our pick for the best overall upholstery cleaner machine. It can get inside your car and tackle everything from ground-in dirt to stains to spills, pulling grime right out of materials. However, if you’re looking for good value in addition to easy cleaning, the BLACK+DECKER spillbuster Portable Carpet Cleaner offers a great affordable price.
What to Consider When Buying an Upholstery Cleaner Machine
It isn’t easy to pick out a quality upholstery cleaner machine. While there are plenty of different cleaning products to consider, not all are made for automotive use, and many can’t even fit inside your vehicle. So where should you start your search for a quality product? We’ve got all of the advice you need to find a machine that’s effective, easy to use, and perfect for getting every angle of your car’s interior.
Types of Upholstery Cleaner Machines
Upright Upholstery Cleaner Machines
Upright upholstery cleaner machines are more for home use and designed like typical upright vacuums. They’re 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 will have handheld attachments that allow you to clean upholstery in the same manner, with handheld rotating brushes. They’re an excellent option if you have lots of carpeting and upholstery cleaning is your secondary concern.
Handheld Portable Upholstery Cleaner Machines
Handheld or portable 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 moving from your car’s interior into your home and 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 the temperature of the steam may be too hot and can degrade the integrity of the fabric, damaging it or causing it to have a shorter lifespan; reserve them for tougher, more durable fabrics.
Upholstery Cleaner Machine Key Features
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.
To reach into tight areas in your vehicle’s interior, you need a cleaner that’s small enough, or has attachments small enough, to easily fit under and around seats and pedals. 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.
Upholstery Cleaner Machine Benefits
One of the best advantages of an upholstery cleaner machine is 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.
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.
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.
Upholstery Cleaner Machine Brands to Know
If there’s an upholstery cleaner machine brand that’s hard to beat both in stellar reputation and variety of products offered, it’s Bissell. This brand is one of the best-known names in the cleaning space, particularly when it comes to handling dirt, stains, and more in fabric and carpet. With more than 140 years of cleaning machine experience, it’s one well worth your time to consider.
With more than 100 years of expertise in vacuum cleaners, Hoover is already a brand you likely recognize. Hoover’s line of carpet and upholstery cleaner machines gives you plenty of options, particularly if you’re searching for a classic upright model or an effective portable model that can tackle tough, set-in stains.
You might be familiar with Black+Decker’s tools, but this longtime brand is more than tool sets, tool boxes, and power tools. The company also offers handheld cleaning machines that can be especially helpful for automotive and garage cleanup. Like the tools you know from this brand, Black+Decker’s upholstery cleaner machines are efficient and affordably priced.
If there’s a brand that delivers commercial and professional results on upholstery, it’s Rug Doctor. With oversized machines meant for serious dirt, stains, and grime, this brand’s machines are highly effective. However, because of their size, they shine best in terms of cleaning attachments for automotive upholstery.
If you’re familiar with McCulloch, you likely know the brand best for its gardening power tools. But surprisingly, this brand also has a lot to offer for upholstery needs. McCulloch’s powerful steam cleaners can do quite a number on your car’s interior fabrics and carpeting with their high power and heat, which loosens and removes even ground-in dirt and grime.
Want to get professional results at home? Vapamore is a great brand to consider. Though it might not be as well-known in the household upholstery cleaner machine market, this brand makes both residential and commercial steam cleaners, including potent options with lengthy hoses and attachments that you can use right in your own garage and vehicle.
Mytee is a brand that’s all about cleaning, and the company has a specific focus in carpet and upholstery cleaning. With Mytee’s cleaner machines, you’ll find plenty of tough dirt extractors and auto-ready options, allowing you to opt for a more specialized product for your car’s interior (and all of its dirt).
Vacmaster specializes in cleaning machines, with a particular emphasis on vacuums of all kinds. However, though this brand might be best known for its powerful wet/dry shop vacs, it’s also one that offers a number of products for both home and vehicle upholstery care and cleaning.
Upholstery Cleaner Machine Pricing
For less than $200, your investment will get you a portable, handheld upholstery spot cleaner or a smaller, more compact and lightweight model that can do everyday limited cleaning. Most steam cleaners will be in this price range also. Spend $200 to $350, and you’ll find higher-end spot cleaners, but also larger and more rugged upright carpet and upholstery cleaners designed for larger jobs. If you spend $350 or more, you can get a professional-grade upholstery cleaner or higher-end manufactured upright upholstery cleaning machine for serious cleaning and major volume.
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 upholstery cleaner machines. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.
- 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.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!
Q. How often should I clean my upholstery cleaner 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. This means you’ll want to let your vehicle’s seats, carpeting, and any other upholstered surfaces like the trunk air out before you hop inside and drive around. It’s a good idea to open your doors or windows to encourage faster drying after you’ve cleaned your car’s upholstery.
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.