How does your car’s interior look? If you have just returned from a long road trip, the answer to this question won’t make you happy. And you cannot blame anyone but the car’s passengers as it was their sluggishness that made the vehicle’s cabin a hub of dirt and dust.
While you can choose to ignore the debris lying on the floor mats, there’s one area whose dirtiness would definitely make you feel uneasy: the car’s upholstery. Which is why we recommend that you spend your hard-earned money on the best car upholstery cleaner.
But how can you be sure that they’d do what they claim to do? You can erase all such doubts by going through our car upholstery cleaner reviews. These models stand out when it comes to removing stains from the upholstery and giving it a professional detailing finish.
Best Car Upholstery Cleaners Comparison Chart
CarGuys Super Cleaner – Effective All-Purpose Cleaner
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Chemical Guys CWS_103 Foaming Citrus Shampoo
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Scotchgard Auto Fabric & Carpet Protector
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Sonax (206141) Upholstery and Alcantara Cleaner
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Meguiar’s G9719 Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner
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303 (30606) Fabric Guard, Upholstery Protector
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Best Car Upholstery Cleaner Reviews (Editors’ Picks)
1. CarGuys Super Cleaner – Effective All-Purpose Cleaner
The CarGuys Super Cleaner is undoubtedly one of the most expensive models on the list. Luckily, it justifies its steep asking price with its multi-surface utility. The pH-balanced formula of this cleaner makes it safe to use on almost every surface, excluding instrument panel screens and glass.
Apart from that, you can use this product on all types of upholstery, including leather, vinyl, fabric, and even suede. Once you let this cleaner soak into the stained surface for a few minutes, its ability to remove built-in grime and dirt on a molecular level will come to the fore.
On top of everything else, this product won’t leave any oily residue behind. Its formula makes sure that as you wipe this cleaner away, no trace is there to be seen. Also, you can claim a full refund if you aren’t satisfied with this product’s performance.
2. Chemical Guys CWS_103 Foaming Citrus Shampoo
Provided you’re looking for a cleaner that won’t require you to rub and scrub your way out of upholstery stains, you won’t do badly with the Chemical Guys CWS_103. It is equipped with a biodegradable degreaser that empowers this product to break down tough stains with ease.
Equally important is its enzymatic odor eliminator that would neutralize the bad smells in your vehicle. Since it doesn’t contain ammonia, bleach or other harmful chemicals, you can safely apply it on leather, plastic, and suede. Its foaming action lets this product clean without leaving behind any sticky residue.
Lastly, since it boasts a highly concentrated formula, you could expect one bottle to last for quite a long time. Though the fact that it isn’t packed in a spray bottle means you’d have to prepare its formula in a separate container. So expect things to get a little messy
3. Scotchgard Auto Fabric & Carpet Protector
The Scotchgard Auto Fabric & Carpet Protector distinguishes itself from other cleaners with its simple two-step application process. All you have to do to remove blemishes from the upholstery is to spray this product onto the stained surface and open the doors to let the entire area air-dry.
Its ease of application doesn’t mean that this protector won’t work well against stubborn spots. This product has a slightly powerful formula that empowers it to remove spills, ink stains, and accumulated dirt. So you won’t need to use it alongside any other cleaner, as it would be enough on its own.
Yet another aspect of this model that amazes us is its short drying time. Your average cleaner might require you to keep your vehicle’s doors open for the whole day to dry everything inside. However, with the Scotchgard, you won’t see any traces of this product within six hours.
4. Sonax (206141) Upholstery and Alcantara Cleaner
Assuming you don’t know it already, Alcantara is a suede-like material that displays brilliant high-temperature resistance and offers silky and soft characteristics. The Sonax 206141 is specially designed for this material to help it retain its tenderness for long.
On pressing its spray nozzle, this cleaner will spread onto the surface in the shape of foam. You can then use a clean cloth to fill the foam inside the porous surface of your car’s upholstery. The foam would then capture dirt and grime for you to wipe it away and marvel at the clean surface left behind.
Apart from removing dirt and dust particles, the foaming agent also eliminates odors. It removes the microscopic, odor-causing particles using the same process mentioned above. So while its meager price tag doesn’t betray this fact, it would protect your upholstery as well as remove unwanted odors.
5. Meguiar’s G9719 Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner
Almost every product you see in this review has one feature that distinguishes them from the crowd. The Meguiar’s G9719 has its dual-purpose sprayer playing the same role. Provided you want to perform some quick cleaning job, gently press the sprayer to get a narrow stream.
Conversely, if the stain has spread over a large area, keep the sprayer pressed for a few seconds to get a wide mist spray. The resulting fast-acting foam won’t only spread over the surface but would also penetrate deep within. So you could count on it to remove deeply embedded dirt particles.
To further sweeten the deal, the G9719 would dry without leaving any residue behind. It has its characteristic smell which won’t overwhelm your nostrils but is still powerful enough to neutralize any odors that might be making your road journeys uncomfortable.
6. 303 (30606) Fabric Guard, Upholstery Protector
What is it that separates the Fabric Guard from other products in this review? For starters, it doesn’t limit its usefulness to removing the existing stains from your surfaces. Apart from doing that, its water-intensive formula repairs the moisture barrier of your fabric as well.
It does the same by adding a powerful (yet unscented) coating on top of the fabric’s surface. The process makes it difficult for the stains to linger over your upholstery – as the lubrication afforded by the built-in moisture would make the fabric’s surface too slippery for stains to accumulate.
Lastly, you can safely use this protectant on all fabrics, including natural and synthetic fibers. Hence the reason why you can take it out of your car as well. Its safe-to-use formula makes this product perfectly suitable for your home’s pillows, drapes, and even umbrellas.
Car Upholstery Cleaner Buying Guide
Since you’re looking for the best model on the market, you should put in more effort than the average buyer. The model which you’d ultimately select should
a) remove ground-in grime
b) tackle spills and dirt which road life gifts to every vehicle and
c) be compatible with all types of upholstery.
At the same time, you should be wary of over-spending. Innumerable manufacturers are churning out car upholstery cleaners by the dozens. The resulting competition has put downward pressure on the prices of these models. So the one you should select shouldn’t blow a hole in your pocket.
Having stated this cautionary advice, let’s look at the car upholstery cleaner buying guide.
Top 3 Considerations When Buying a Car Upholstery Cleaner
Following are the questions you need to ask yourself before purchasing a car upholstery cleaner:
Material of upholstery
Before embarking on the search of a cleaner, check out the stuff of your car seats. This knowledge would help you in buying a model that would be compatible with the same. Otherwise, if you ended up using a vinyl-clothe-cleaner on leather seats, the results won’t make you happy.
Unless your car is an exception to the norm, its seats might be one of these three materials:
If you own a luxury vehicle, chances are that its seats might be made of leather materials. Apart from being ultra-soft, leather is extremely comfortable to sit on, is pleasing on the eye, and lasts for years.
You should keep these properties in mind while selecting a cleaning agent for leather. Apart from scrubbing dirt and dust, leather cleaners need to have wax and conditioning properties as well.
Most cars that you see on the road have fabric (nylon or polyester) seats. They are not only comfortable but are also available in multiple designs. So you can easily select a design pattern that would complement your car’s interior.
When selecting an upholstery cleaner for fabric, make sure it has three properties. It should have a gentle formula, must have anti-bacterial or disinfectant properties, and should give no odor.
Car seats that are made of vinyl are the easiest to clean. All you have to do is to simply spray the cleaner over the seat before wiping it down. The slippery surface of vinyl would see that no stains are left behind.
That means if you’re selecting a cleaner for vinyl, you won’t have to spend much time or effort in research. Simply pick the cleaner with stain and dirt removal properties, and you’ll be good.
Rinse Vs. Rinse-free
Do you usually have time to let the upholstery air-dry after you’re done cleaning it? It should be the material of the car seats that should answer this question for you. Some of the materials have water-resistant properties whereas others would like you to go rinse-free.
If your car has leather or vinyl seats, you can safely go for a rinse-requiring upholstery cleaner. That’s’ because leather (whether faux or real) has water-resistant properties that won’t let moisture seep into its surface.
Vinyl, though not waterproof like leather, has a soft upper surface which makes ‘picking’ water a cinch. So you can safely select a cleaner which is going to leave water droplets behind.
Provided your car seats are made of nylon or polyester – both of whom fall into the broad ‘fabric’ category, you might want to go waterless. Otherwise, you might have to wait for hours if you don’t have a blower to dry the seats with.
And why is that the case? Both nylon and polyester are porous fabrics and, therefore, need no invitation to accumulate water droplets. Hence the reason why we recommend rinse-free cleaners for both these fabrics.
Liquid Vs. Foam
Car upholstery cleaners are available in two forms: liquid and foam. Both types of applications have their own pros and cons. And you shouldn’t ignore them if you want to get the best bang for your buck.
Liquid cleaners are a must-have if you want to clean your car’s upholstery thoroughly. Though they aren’t the best choice if you want something for quick cleaning jobs as they spread over a large area in no time.
Provided you clean your car’s interiors every now and then, chances are that it doesn’t get filthy. If that’s true, then you might want foam cleaners which are easy to wipe off.
A List of the Most Important Car Upholstery Cleaner Features & Specifications
Following are the features and specs which are a must-have for the top-rated car upholstery cleaners:
PH balanced formula:
Since you don’t want your cleaner to discolor your car’s interiors, make sure it comes with a pH balanced formula. Conversely, if your product has an acidic formula, it might end up doing more harm than good (by increasing the rate of discoloration).
Ketchup, grease, and oil are some of the stains which every car tends to accumulate. You can add coffee to the list if you like to have it on your way to the office in the morning. So you’d like to have a model which could deal with them.
Cleaners with a dual-action trigger offer both the narrow as well as wide-angle spray. While the former churns out a precise stream for spot cleaning, the latter helps clean wider areas.
Products with a neutral smell offer two benefits. First, they overpower all the odors which your vehicle might have adopted during its road journey. And second, they won’t pose a problem for your odor-sensitive nostrils.
Multi-purpose cleaners are those whose utility doesn’t end as you take them out of your vehicle. You can also use them around your home as a carpet, bathroom, and even an appliance cleaner.
Would you prefer upholstery cleaners who would leave a residue behind? Neither do we. That’s why you might want to choose a product which dries with zero residue.
Benefits of Keeping Your Car’s Interior Clean
Following are the benefits you can harness by keeping your car’s upholstery clean:
5 Reasons Why You Should Keep Your Car Clean
Keep Wear and Tear at Bay
Regardless of how new or old your vehicle’s model is, both its interior and exterior surfaces could become subject to wear and tear. While you could clean the latter using the best pressure washer, the former cannot be given a rinse for apparent reasons. However, if you left it neglected, the pollutants can wear away the upholstery as well as other items. Hence the reason why you need to regularly clean your car’s interior if you want it to keep wear and tear at bay.
Avoid Health Problems
In contrast to what most people believe, it isn’t only when you’re outdoors that you expose yourself to pollutants. Experts tell us that substances like pet dander, particulate matter, and strong odors can lead to drivers experiencing asthma attacks in their cars. If you want to protect yourself, you must use cleaners that can get rid of similar pollutants.
Increase Driving Safety
All of us are aware that the presence of grime or debris on our car’s windshield and windows is a potential safety hazard. What we don’t realize is that dirt and dust particles can also join their forces on the inside of the glass. Their presence on the interior won’t be as visible but has the potential to be dangerous. So you might want to make sure that your car’s windows and windshield are crystal clear.
Better Mental Health
Do you ever ask yourself why a clean home fills you with happiness? As it turns out, that’s because it has a positive impact on our mental health. Similar is the case when our car’s interior is clean. Most of us spend many hours every day traveling to and from the office. Provided they could do so in a clean environment, they’d feel much more focused (and happy).
Retains Vehicle’s Resale Value
Knowledgeable car buyers don’t stop themselves at a car’s interiors when checking its condition. They also open its doors, check the status of the seat covers and whether or not the other upholstery items are up to the mark. That’s why if you’re planning to sell your vehicle shortly, you might want to keep its interior clean.
Eliminate Nasty Odors
Every car has various surfaces, including leather, vinyl, fabrics, carpeting, and plastics of multiple kinds. All of them emit a different fragrance when they come in contact with greases, oils and liquid spills. Upholstery cleaners, even those with a neutral smell, can overpower such odors.
All You Need to Know About Car Upholstery Cleaning
How to Clean Car Upholstery Stains in 6 Steps
Here are the steps using which you could clean your car’s upholstery stains:
Step # 1: Collect necessary items
There are multiple items you need to have at your disposal before you start cleaning the upholstery. They include a vacuum cleaner, paper towel, clean cloth, brush, and (of course) car upholstery cleaner.
Step # 2: Vacuum the upholstery
First things first, before you start cleaning, you need to make sure that the stain won’t spread. The best way to do that is by using a dedicated car vacuum cleaner on your car’s upholstery.
To use the vacuum, simply turn it on and regularly move it over the stain. This will allow you to remove the significant portion of the stain before it gets dry, making the upcoming steps more comfortable to follow.
Tip: If the stain has dried, use a dull scraper, i.e., a butter knife, to remove it.
Step # 3: Blot the Stain
You’d want to blot the stain to prevent it from being transferred onto your cloth or paper towel. You shouldn’t use a brush to blot the stain as it would further immerse it inside the upholstery.
Instead, you should turn to a rag or paper towel to scrub the surface with the stain. Scrub repeatedly until you’re sure that the stain’s color has lightened in intensity.
Step # 4: Use the Cleaner
Go through the abovementioned products, and select one for your needs. Make sure its formula is designed for the material of the upholstery (leather, vinyl, fabric, etc.) on which you’re going to use it.
Once you’ve selected the product meeting your requirements, spread it over the stain. As much as possible, you should pour the cleaner directly on top of the stain. That would make the latter easy to remove.
Step # 5: Rinse the Surface
Once you’ve removed the stain by scrubbing, rinse the surface with tap water. Apart from removing any dirt that is still lying in there, rinsing will also remove the cleaner.
If you’re wary of using too much water, try to rinse using a clean cloth. Immerse the cloth in water, take it out and then dab it onto the stained surface.
Step # 6: Dry it
The drying procedure is divided into two steps. In the first one, you might want to use paper towels to get rid of any remaining water droplets from the stained surface.
Once you’re sure that the towel can’t remove more moisture, open your car’s doors (if they aren’t already open). Keep them open unless the entire surface has wholly air-dried.
7 Tips to Clean Car Upholstery
Follow these tips if you’re facing difficulty while trying to clean your car’s upholstery:
Removing Ink Stains
If you are having trouble while removing ink stains, use rubbing alcohol mixed with water. Spray the mixture on the stain, and blot the latter using a damp, clean cloth. This will thin the consistency of ink and make it easier to remove.
Removing Oily Stains
Oily stains such as grease can be easily removed using a diluted paint thinner. Prepare a mixture of equal volume paint thinner and water. Dip a cotton cloth in the utensil cleaning the mixture and use it to scrub the stain.
Removing Coffee Stains
To remove coffee stains, first, add cold water onto the area before blotting it with a paper cloth. Then, add a glass cleaner on top, before once again using a paper towel to blot it and lift up the coffee stain.
Cleaning the seams
Seams are those areas where the upholstery is sewn together. It’s a magnet for dust and debris, and its contour-shape can make it hard for the vacuum to lift debris. Apply your cleaner onto the seams and scrub using a toothbrush to remove dirt.
Cleaning the mats
As difficult as it might be for you to believe, choosing the right tire shine can help you clean your carpets, especially those made of vinyl or rubber. Tire shine will smoothen the mats’ upper surface, making them easier to rinse off.
Removing crumbs and hair
Use a lint roller to catch little pieces of crumb, hair, and fuzz. All you have to do is simply roll the roller over the car’s seats. Make sure that the lint roller has the stickiness to pick up dirt, hair, and crumbs.
Make leather smooth and rich-looking
If you feel that your car’s leather upholstery has lost its touch, select a product from your car leather conditioner reviews. To get the best results, lubricate leather with the conditioner and wipe off the excess. Let leather air-dry for 10-15 minutes before sitting on it.
How Often Should You Detail Your Vehicle?
Car detailing experts tell us that an average driver needs to detail their vehicle 2-3 times a year. Though that’s only a universal rule, and how many times you should detail your vehicle depends on multiple factors. They include your car washing frequency and the roads on which you drive your car.
For instance, if you’re someone who is a fanatic about your car’s cleanliness and washes and cleans it regularly, your vehicle might need detailing on a less-frequent basis than a car whose owner doesn’t remember the last time their car came under the water hose.
Lastly, if you’re planning to sell your car, you should have it detailed. It’s a relatively inexpensive procedure, but a vehicle that is recently detailed can fetch you better resale value.
FAQ’s and Answers
- Q: How long will it take for my car’s carpet to dry?
A: On a bright sunny day, it might take up to five hours. Humid days can see that time stretch to as much as a day.
- Q: How long will the entire upholstery cleaning process take?
A: As you might guess, this depends on the number of items you’re going to clean. Though, at most, you’d be free to run other errands within an hour.
- Q: How to remove dried paint from upholstery?
A: Apply your cleaner on the stain, and let it stay there for about fifteen minutes. Clean the surface with water and then spray the surface with a hairspray. Rub the area with a sponge before blotting it with a nail polish remover on a cotton ball. Finally, rinse the area with water.
Your search for the best car upholstery cleaner ends right here. Our detailed article not only introduces you to the top options on the market, but it also gives you information on how to select the best product on your own.
However, if you ask us, we recommend you don’t adopt the ‘go-on-your-own’ route. Why? A mere glance at our car upholstery cleaner reviews will answer this question. In contrast to what you’d see (and hear) on the market, our reviews have identified both the plus-and-minus points of the products.
And as experienced shoppers might tell you, the latter are as important as the former when selecting the best product for your needs. Therefore, if you don’t want to gamble your hard-earned money on a product you aren’t aware of, choose from the list of products given above.