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.
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.
Sonax is the understated powerhouse of the automotive cleaning world, but when you’re the best, you rarely have to overstate.
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.
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.
Few things are more frustrating than a greasy fast food spill, especially when it happens to your car upholstery.
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.
It isn’t uncommon for a car upholstery cleaner to do more harm than good. Many auto upholstery cleaners are formulated with harsh chemical agents that can fade the various dyes used to color car upholstery.
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.
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 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.
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.
Best Budget Choice
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.
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.
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.
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 professional detailer alike.
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 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.
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 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.
Car Upholstery Cleaner Guide & FAQ
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 upholstery:
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.
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 car upholstery 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 is textured and very porous which makes it exceptionally comfortable but susceptible to dirt and grime and makes it difficult to clean.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use a carpet cleaner on my upholstery?
A carpet cleaner seems like a good choice to clean car upholstery, and in some ways it is. Carpet cleaners spray out soap and water and have a wet vacuum that sucks the dirty soap and water mixture into the cleaner after the soap has broken down the dirt and grime.
The issue is that carpet is not very absorbent compared to upholstery, especially in cars with a fabric interior. Carpets do absorb water, but are only a centimeter or two thick. Car seats can have inches of fabric and padding, and soaking through this material can cause mold, mildew, and dampness for a long period of time.
You should use upholstery cleaners as recommended and then use a carpet cleaner to suck up the soap and water off of the seats, this will reduce drying time without running the risk of drenching the upholstery to the point of damage.
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.