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Ranking the 10 Best Car Upholstery Cleaners 2018

The Best Car Upholstery Cleaners Currently On Sale

Out of all the individual parts and sections that comprise your vehicle, the interior is by far the hardest to get and keep clean. Your car interior is riddled with small nooks and crannies that accumulate dirt and dust that can leave the interior of your car looking grimy and gross. Not to mention how difficult it can be to lift stains from dry foam car upholstery, carpets, and seats. To combat this mess, we recommend a high-quality car upholstery cleaner to keep your ride looking showroom-fresh.

Why Use Car Upholstery Cleaner?

The interior of your car says more about you than the exterior or even the type of car you drive. Unless you enjoy grossing out everyone who gets in your car you are going to want to use car upholstery cleaner on your car interior to lift stains and remove grease and grime.

Luckily, there is no need to spend hundreds on a professional auto detailer. DIY car upholstery cleaners can be purchased at any automotive store; when combined with a little elbow grease, you can take your car upholstery from drab to showroom glam in less time than it takes to drive to the auto detailer.

The question on everyone’s mind seems to be: “can I make a homemade car upholstery cleaner?” Yes, you can. Simply combine dish soap, vinegar, and hot water. The resulting solution will suffice for vinyl or faux leather cleaning but will not be effective on porous and fabric materials.

Car Upholstery Cleaning Guide

Car upholstery has come a long way since the bare bones interiors of the early 1900’s primarily because of the availability of different materials that can be used in car interiors.

Nowadays there are five different types of materials used in car upholsteries.

Nylon- Nylon is the most common material used in car upholstery because it is the most durable.  Nylon upholstery is very porous, which means it is very easy for dirt and dust to get trapped in the upholstery.

nylon car upholstery

The best way to keep a nylon car upholstery clean is to regularly vacuum your seat to ensure any dirt and dust that has accumulated is collected and discarded before it can sink too far into your car upholstery.

For the “do it yourself” car owners out there, a simple DIY car upholstery cleaner is a combination of dish detergent and hot water scrubbed into the car upholstery with a sponge, then removed with another sponge.

Polyester- Polyester car upholsteries are less common than nylon but are still used in many car upholsteries and interiors in the form of microsuede, which is designed to mimic the look and feel of suede leather.

polyester car upholstery

Polyester is textured and very porous which makes it exceptionally comfortable but susceptible to dirt and grime and makes it difficult to clean.

Vinyl- Vinyl is commonly utilized in car upholstery because it is non-porous and can easily be wiped clean. However, vinyl car upholsteries are susceptible to sticky residues and grime.

vinyl car upholstery

Faux- Faux leather car upholstery is a popular alternative car upholstery for car owners who want the look and feel of genuine leather without the expensive price tag or cost of upkeep.

faux leather car upholstery

Faux leather car upholstery is similar to vinyl upholstery; it’s waterproof and can easily be cleaned with a damp sponge or cloth rag. However, just like vinyl, faux leather car upholstery is susceptible to sticky residues and grime if not regularly maintained.

Leather- Leather car upholstery is the most coveted of car interiors. Leather provides a look, feel and comfort level that is hard to recreate or replace. However, over time, leather upholstery begins to crack, tear and fade as regular use and exposure to damaging ultraviolet light eat away at the protective factory coatings and conditioners.

leather car upholstery

Dust and grime cling to the small pores that cover the leather surface and make it look blotchy and stained, not to mention the greasy odors and stains caused by sticky fast foods and other automotive fluids.

How To Clean Car Upholstery

It doesn’t matter how powerful the engine or how sleek the exterior – if your car upholstery is dirty and grubby, it will affect the resale value of your car. Period.

To keep the inside of your car looking as showroom gorgeous as the outside of your vehicle, you need to learn the proper way to clean, maintain, and detail your car’s interior, and that means learning how to clean car upholstery.

Before you run to your nearest automotive store and purchase every auto detailing and auto upholstery cleaner you can find, we recommend you start at step one in the car upholstery cleaning process

  1. Assess the Level of Clean Required. This may sound like an unnecessary step, but it is important to determine the types of car upholstery cleaners and car upholstery cleaning products that you are going to use.

If your ride is an old pickup with vinyl upholstery and rubber floor mats, then a simple hose and a bucket of soapy water should do the trick. However, most people do not drive durable old pickup trucks. In fact, many trucks and work vehicles today include upholstery and interiors that rival a luxury car.

If your car seats and upholstery are not vinyl or faux leather, then they are most likely neither waterproof nor resistant to stains. Before continuing, you will want to determine if your car upholstery can be damaged by certain upholstery cleaners and car interior cleaning products.

  1. Gather Your Materials- To properly clean your car’s upholstery you will need:
  • Hot water
  • Bucket
  • Sponge
  • Vacuum
  • Microfiber rag
  • Car upholstery cleaner
  • Detailing Brush
  1. Prep the Upholstery to be Cleaned. Before applying any cleaners to your car upholstery, it is important to remove any dust or dirt that can easily be removed with a dry brush, rag or vacuum.

Skipping this step can leave dirt and dust on your seats which will only be ground into the upholstery during the cleaning process.

  1. Scrub Upholstery with a Damp Sponge. Dip the sponge into the bucket full of hot water and ring out until only damp. Apply the sponge to your upholstery to remove the next layer of dirt and dust that could not be removed with the vacuum.
  2. Test the Car Upholstery Cleaner. Before applying the car upholstery cleaner to your upholstery be sure to test it out on a small unseen section of your car upholstery to ensure it won’t damage your upholstery or leave a stain.
  3. Apply Car Upholstery Cleaner. Now it’s time for the fun part. Apply the car upholstery cleaner to a corner of the microfiber rag and scrub it into the upholstery.

Different car upholstery cleaners will include different application instructions. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and repeat the process as many times as necessary until all stains have been removed.

More significant or stubborn stains may require up to 6-7 applications before the stain and all other residues have been entirely removed.

  1. Maintain the Clean. The most important thing to remember about your car’s upholstery after it has been cleaned is that the clean is by no means permanent. If you want your car upholstery to stay showroom clean, it requires a regular car upholstery cleaner application.

10 Best Car Upholstery Cleaners

There are a lot of factors to be considered when determining which car upholstery cleaner is the best.

Does it work equally well on different car upholstery, or does it only perform as advertised on one specific material? Will the car upholstery cleaner require more than one application to complete the job? If so, how many?

The car upholstery cleaners collected here perform exceptionally well when compared to the standard range of all-purpose car interior and upholstery cleaners.  They require fewer applications and are formulated to work on all sorts of stains and residues that can tarnish your upholstery and reduce the value of your car.

However, what makes them the best is their ability to combine a spotless upholstery clean without costing a fortune.

1. Sonax Upholstery Cleaner

Sonax is the understated powerhouse of the automotive cleaning world, but when you’re the best, you rarely have to overstate.

Sonax Upholstery Cleaner

Sonax upholstery cleaner is a powerful auto upholstery cleaner that is specially formulated to power through grease and grime on all types of car upholstery materials. It is also just as effective on caked on mud and dirt as it is stains and residue.

Sonax is effective on dirt and grime because it foams on contact with your car’s upholstery. The foam expands and fills in the porous surface of the upholstery. This process enables the cleaning foam to cling to the dirt and grime as it is wiped away to leave a spotless upholstery surface.

The foaming agent also eliminates the microscopic particles left behind by other cleaners to eliminate odors effectively.

2. Spray Nine Heavy Duty Cleaner/Degreaser and Disinfectant

Automotive stains are notoriously stubborn, and car upholstery is infamously difficult to clean. When combined, the result is ruined car upholstery and a grimy interior.

Spray Nine Heavy Duty Cleaner/Degreaser and Disinfectant

In most cases, a professional auto detail is the only way to return your car’s upholstery to its showroom luster, but not if you have Spray Nine Heavy Duty Cleaner/Degreaser and Disinfectant auto upholstery cleaner.

Spray Nine Heavy Duty Cleaner/Degreaser and Disinfectant flips the tables on other car upholstery cleaners because it delivers professional auto detail results without the professional price tag.

This product is also exceptionally effective on car upholstery and can even be applied to other car parts like stainless steel and tires.

Spray Nine Heavy Duty Cleaner/Degreaser and Disinfectant auto upholstery cleaner works fast, too, and is easily wiped away.

What sets it apart from other car upholstery cleaners, however, is the inclusion of a powerful disinfectant formula which eliminates viruses, mold, and bacteria while it dissolves automotive grease and grime.

3. Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

Few things are more frustrating than a greasy fast food spill, especially when it happens to your car upholstery.

Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

The auto experts at Meguiar’s developed Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner specifically to remove fast food stains from car upholstery.

Most auto upholstery cleaners on the market are mildly effective at cutting grease, but few can cut grease without leaving an unsightly residue of their own. Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner dissolves grease and leaves zero residue, which makes for a faster auto detail and cleaner car upholstery.

On top of all these features, Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is easily applied through a convenient sprayer and leaves a pleasant, clean, and fragrant scent permeating throughout your car’s entire interior.

Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery cleaner is affordably priced and sold in a large gallon container to provide the highest value for your dollar.

4. Griot’s Garage Interior Cleaner

It isn’t uncommon for a car upholstery cleaner to do more harm than good. Many auto upholestery cleaners are formulated with harsh chemical agents that can fade the various dyes used to color car upholstery.

Griot's Garage Interior Cleaner

The end result is a car upholstery that is unevenly faded and covered in a film of sticky residue. Griot’s Garage Interior Cleaner eliminates that issue.

Griot’s Garage Interior Cleaner is designed to dissolve automotive grease and remove troublesome stains without fading, stripping, or damaging your car’s upholstery or leaving an unsightly residue.

Griot’s Garage Interior Cleaner is perfectly safe on all car upholstery materials and works just as effectively on car seats and carpets as it does door panels and dashboards.

Griot’s Garage Interior Cleaner certainly qualifies as the best car upholstery cleaner for your car’s interior surface colors and easily makes the list for best overall car upholstery cleaner.

5. 303 Fabric Guard

303 Fabric Guard qualifies for the list of 10 best car upholstery cleaners because it is one of the few upholstery cleaners for cars that guards and protects from stains as well as removes them.

303 Fabric Guard

303 Fabric Guard is the only car upholstery cleaner that improves your car upholstery’s resistance to stains and water the more it’s used. 303 Fabric Guard is an effective auto upholstery cleaner with a specially designed formula that restores the original color and feel of your car’s upholstery and extends the life of the upholstery.

303 Fabric Guard is an exceptional all-around car upholstery cleaner that is specially formulated to restore moisture to cracked and sun-dried car upholstery and repel stains.

303 Fabric Guard is safe for use on all car upholstery materials including synthetic and natural interiors. It even fights against mold and mildew, which makes it just as effective on marine vehicles.

6. Chemical Guys Lightning Fast Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

The word “aggressive” is rarely applied to a car upholstery cleaner, but there doesn’t seem to be another word that fully encompasses the grease cutting power of the Chemical Guys Lightning Fast Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner.

Chemical Guys Lightning Fast Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

This lightning-fast carpet and auto upholstery cleaner lifts ground-in dirt and dust quickly and completely from whatever interior surface you spray it on.

It’s so effective at cutting, lifting dirt, and dissolving grease that it needs to be diluted to a 20:1 solution so as not to dissolve the factory protective coating applied to your car’s upholstery.

Included in the powerful Chemical Guys formula is a solution of fabric softeners and optical brighteners that restore and improve the color and feel of your auto upholstery.

Car owners will be hard-pressed to find a car upholstery cleaner that is more potent or better suited for dissolving sticky automotive stains.

Caution is recommended when using Chemical Guys Lightning Fast Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner. Follow the printed instructions and be sure to dilute it or its powerful formula might eat through the upholstery you are trying to restore.

7. Turtle Wax Interior 1 Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Stain Remover

Turtle Wax has established a reputation for brewing powerful automotive cleaners, and every ounce of their considerable experience is evident in the Turtle Wax Interior 1 Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Stain Remover.

le Wax Interior 1 Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Stain Remover

Turtle Wax Interior 1 Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Stain Remover is a stupendous all-around stain remover and auto upholstery cleaner that is exceptionally well-suited to removing automotive grease, stains, and grime from car upholstery.

Turtle Wax Interior 1 Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Stain Remover is engineered with a three-action formula which cleans, eliminates odors, and shields from grease, oil, and food stains.

The Turtle Wax Interior 1 Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Stain Remover includes an innovative and effective applicator complete with micro-scrubbing bristles that scrub deep into the surface of your car upholstery to lift dirt and loosen sticky grease stains.

The Turtle Wax Interior 1 Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Stain Remover is safe for use on all car upholstery materials and is an incredible value.

Included with purchase are 2 bottles of Turtle Wax Interior 1 Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Stain Remover, with a micro-scrubbing applicator and a microfiber towel for less than the price of the fast food you spilled on your car seats.

8. Car Guys Super Cleaner

We like the Car Guys for their professional approach to automotive cleaning products. From their simple name to the unassuming design of their product bottles, every aspect of Car Guys automotive cleaning products exhibits professional automotive prowess and experience.

Car Guys Super Cleaner

The Car Guys Super Cleaner is easily the most versatile car upholstery cleaner on the market today. The Car Guys designed their Super Cleaner to effectively dissolve the toughest automotive stains from every car upholstery material available.

Car Guys Super Cleaner includes an easy spray-on application and is powerful enough to dissolve grease build-ups but is safe enough to be used anywhere in your car’s interior.

Car Guys Super Cleaner is not concentrated, so it doesn’t need to be diluted before application, which makes it the ideal auto upholstery cleaner for the average car owner and proffesional detailer alike.

9. Ultima Interior Shampoo Gel

Ultima Interior Shampoo Gel is the ultimate way to provide your car with a long-lasting, germ-free clean that looks as good as it protects from stains and mildew.

Ultima Interior Shampoo Gel

Ultima Interior Shampoo Gel is a powerful auto upholstery cleaner that is specially formulated with a professional strength additive called poly-charger which bonds to the surface of your car upholstery to create a durable, long-lasting barrier against automotive stains, grease, dirt, and grime.

The only thing worse than having to clean and restore your car upholstery is having to do it again. We included Ultima Interior Shampoo Gel on the list of 10 best car upholstery cleaners because it was designed with fewer applications in mind.

Ultima Interior Shampoo Gel is also environmentally friendly. It includes zero harsh chemicals that can damage the environment or your car upholstery which makes it safe for use on all car upholstery materials.

10. Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

Mothers knows best when it comes to automotive detailing. If your car upholstery is plagued by dirt and dust more than grease and grime, Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is the right choice for your car.

Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner loosens soil and dust trapped within the small pores and fibers of your car’s upholstery, making it easier to scrub out stubborn dirt patches and ground-in dust.

Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is the best auto upholstery cleaner for removing caked on dirt and dust, which isn’t to say it isn’t effective at cutting through grease and grime. Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner dissolves automotive grease stains and grime build-ups without leaving a sticky residue.

Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is safe for use on all car upholstery materials and interiors.

Conclusion

The car upholstery cleaners presented here are considered the best on the auto upholstery cleaners on the market because they are as affordable as they are versatile. They cut grease and oil and they protect from further damage while restoring any that has already set in.

There are a lot of automotive stains that can ruin your car’s upholstery, and there are a lot of car upholstery cleaning products that can remove them. However, few car upholstery cleaners combine as much stain-lifting power as the 10 collected here.

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Jacob Doyle
About Jacob Doyle

I am a Chicago-born writer with a thirst for everything automotive. I live by a simple rule; travel far, work hard and never stop writing. If I am not writing away, you can find me wrenching on my 1989 Ram Charger or wrecking something with wheels.

At Autowise, we envision ourselves as not just a automobile blog or an automobile news website, instead we see our website as a platform to connect all automobile enthusiast and provide them with all the information they need.

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