The Best Car Upholstery Cleaners for Your Interior

Jason Siu
by Jason Siu
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Although car upholstery seems pretty durable, it goes through a pretty rough life cycle, so you must give it a little attention and care every now and then to ensure its longevity.

There’s a good chance you frequently give your car a nice wash. But how often are you devoting attention to your car’s interior? As you can imagine, the seats, floor mats, and carpet of your car experience plenty of daily abuse. From dust and dirt to mud and grime, thorough interior detailing can go a long way in preserving its resale value. If you often travel with children or pets, you’ll want a bottle of quality upholstery cleaner.

For the most part, car upholstery is durable and designed to take on daily wear and tear. But over time and with neglect, your seats can start to fade, crack, or peel, along with your dash, center console, and other areas. Dirt that remains embedded in fabric acts as an abrasive causing it to deteriorate more quickly. Do not neglect your car’s upholstery, carpeting, or fabric trim if you plan on keeping it for years or hope to get a good return at trade-in time.

The car upholstery cleaner market is crowded with products; some are good, others less so. We’ve simplified your shopping experience by narrowing down the choices. Most of these products are good for cleaning other parts of your car’s interior as well as seat upholstery; many can be used in your home, too.

For more information on the best car upholstery cleaners, refer to our table of contents.

1. Editor's Pick: Tuff Stuff Multi-Purpose Foam Cleaner

Tuff Stuff is a powerful, multi-purpose cleaner that received nearly 90% positive customer reviews and carries a low price— that's why it's our Editor's Pick.

Living up to its brand name, Tuff Stuff comes through with deep cleaning foaming action that will lift dirt from your upholstery, helping you get rid of tough stains. It’s great for fabric and vinyl upholstery in your car, along with floor mats and carpets. You can even use it on any washable or painted surface around the house, such as bathroom fixtures, painted walls, and more.

Go with this option for solid, all-around upholstery cleaning with quick results. It’s great to use each time you wash your car, allowing you to wipe down your seats and other interior components, along with cleaning your floor mats and carpet if necessary.


Solid, all-around foaming cleaner, works on a variety of surface types, great for seats


Results may vary depending on how deep the stains are

Promoted Product: Malco Oxy Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner

Save 20% at with the promo code AG20.

When it comes to removing the toughest stains from your vehicles fabric seats and carpets, Malco’s Oxy Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is up to the task.

As the name implies, Oxy is an oxygenated, peroxide-based cleaner that can be an invaluable product to have on hand for your vehicle or your house. It’s ready-to-use solution is designed to remove tough stains like coffee, juice, and anything else you or your kids happen to spill.

All you have to do is spray Oxy on the stain, let it set for a few minutes, then wipe away with a clean towel. If you are dealing with a particularly stubborn stain, you may want to use a carpet or upholstery brush to help break down the problem area.

Oxy dries quickly and doesn’t leave behind any residue or watermarks – just clean fabric and carpet.

2. Chemical Guys Lightning Fast Carpet and Upholstery Stain Extractor

Chemical Guys have become a favorite among car enthusiasts, offering a wide range of car cleaning and detailing supplies. Its Lightning Fast Carpet and Upholstery Stain Extractor will work wonders on your interior if you’re looking to remove spots and stains from dirt, grease, coffee, soda, wine, and pets. This formula is safe to use on fabric, carpet, and upholstery and offers odor elimination to leave your car’s interior smelling fresh and clean.

Featuring advanced cleaning agents, this product will penetrate deep to dissolve stains, then emulsify and lift dirt and debris to the surface. Although it’s tough on spots and stains, it’s gentle on fabrics and dyes, so you don’t have to worry about it damaging your interior. For heavier stains, you’ll want to scrub vigorously and even use a hot water extractor for thorough cleaning. One thing to note is that this upholstery cleaner is concentrated for strength and can be diluted up to 20:1 with distilled water.


Reputable brand, works quickly with minimal effort, safe on fabrics, odor elimination


Requires more effort on deep stains, needs to be diluted

Although this recommendation is marketed for household use rather than automotive, it is still great at cleaning your car’s upholstery. From Black Diamond, this option is available in 32-ounce and 1-gallon sizes, in case you want it in bulk. Formulated to remove old or new spots, stains, and spills, it’s a professional strength offering that is safe to use around people, pets, and the environment. It’s also made in the U.S. by a family-owned company.

It’s safe to use on cotton, wool, microfiber, and nylon, regardless of color. Ideal for carpets, rugs, upholstery, and fabric, it’s a solid cleaner for your car’s seats, floor mats, and carpet. Black Diamond says this solution is phosphate-free, biodegradable, hypoallergenic, and does not contain ingredients that will harm your carpet or upholstery.


Price, designed for carpet and upholstery, safe to use around pets and children


Could possibly stain light-colored fabrics

4. Chemical Guys Fabric Clean Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

If you’re looking for a real deep clean and you’re dealing with some serious stains, you’ll need a more heavy-duty product. Another offering from Chemical Guys, this fabric cleaner is a hyper-concentrated interior shampoo designed to break down contaminants, dirt, and stains from any fabric surface inside your vehicle. You’ll simply dilute the Fabric Clean in a spray bottle, mist a light coat over the stain, and start scrubbing with a stiff brush.

Turn to this option if you have deeper stains or faded upholstery that you want to make look as close to new as possible. The high-sudsing action will lift and separate dirt particles from deep within the fabric, floating them to the surface for easy removal. Specialty surfactants and disinfectants also contribute to the strong cleaning power of this recommendation while also removing odors-causing microbes.

This product is detergent-free, low-moisture, and will finish with the soft feel of clean fabric. You’ll want to blend this with clean, filtered water at an 8:1 ratio for extra dirty areas or dilute up to 20:1 for lighter messes.


Simple, easy to use, ideal for carpets, upholstery, and other fabrics, odor elimination


Needs to be diluted

If you’ve ever shopped for car cleaning or detailing supplies, you’ve likely heard of Meguiar’s. One of the most well-known brands in the industry, this list wouldn’t be complete without the company’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner. Whether you’re looking to clean up a single stain or freshen up your entire interior, this recommendation will do the job and do it well.

The active foam will quickly penetrate and dissolve stains, thanks to an effective blend of cleaners and surface active agents. Look for it to give a like-new appearance on your car’s carpet and upholstery. Meguiar’s recently redesigned the canister to include a carpet scrubber up top, making it an easy solution for getting your interior looking and smelling like new.

It also contains Meguiar’s odor-eliminating Re-Fresher technology, which it says permanently removes existing bad odors through chemical bonding at a molecular level.


Trusted brand in car care, professional-strength foam, deep cleaning, built-in scrubber


Scrubber isn't the best quality, smell isn't for everyone

Mother's car care products are long-standing favorites. As expected, the company offers a solid carpet and upholstery cleaner, which comes in an easy-to-use trigger spray bottle. Designed to loosen dirt’s attachment to your car’s carpet and interior fabric fibers, this solution is formulated to free contaminants and suspend them for easier removal.

This product is pH balanced and environmentally safe, and you can use it on vinyl, velour, cloth, carpet, and sheepskin. It’s best to pair this cleaner with a soft, natural bristle brush and a vacuum for thorough cleaning. Ideal for routine cleaning and care, Mothers’ offering may not be particularly effective on real deep stains without a bit of effort.


Trusted brand in car care, easy to apply, effective on multiple fabrics


May not be particularly effective on deep stains, strong smell

Most of the upholstery cleaners on this list are designed for woven and pile textiles made of synthetic fibers. But, many cars have leather upholstery, which is a natural material and requires specialized cleaning and "feeding."

Griot's Garage makes upper-end car care products, and their 3-in-1 leather cleaner and conditioner is a great option to keep your leather seats looking good. It provides cleaning, conditioning, and UV protection to leather in one operation. However, this product is designed to maintain leather already in good condition and only lightly soiled or to use between more aggressive cleaning and conditioning operations.

Griot's 3-in-1 leather cleaner and conditioner earned a very impressive 92% positive customer reviews on Amazon. Incidentally, Griot's also sells it by the gallon to ensure your chauffeur doesn't run out.


Easy to apply, three functions in one product


Not for seriously deteriorated leather surfaces

How to Clean Cloth Car Seats

Photo Credit: bogdanhoda via Shutterstock

We’re sure you spend a lot of time and money waxing and polishing your car to preserve its original paintwork, but how often do you clean its interior? Chances are your car’s upholstery is in need of some TLC.

Your leather upholstery or cloth car seats see a lot of use and live a hard life, which means they’re going to get very dirty. This is especially true if you regularly have passengers like kids or dogs that don’t seem to notice how messy they are or just don’t care!

Pick a sunny day to capitalize on the power of natural light to clean and speed dry your car seats after reading the following guidelines on how to clean cloth car seats with a bonus section on how to clean leather car seats.

How to Clean Cloth Car Seats

  • If your seats are littered with pet hair, it can become ingrained in the seat material, so you can use a pet hair brush to gently tease the hair into one corner before vacuuming it off.
  • Use any credible car upholstery cleaner and spray on a portion of the seat, keeping in mind the manufacturer’s directions.
  • The ideal practice is to dampen the area without making it soaking wet, and gently clean with a soft-bristled brush.
  • After leaving the cleaner on its own for a few minutes (unless instructed otherwise on the product label), use a microfiber cloth to gently rub or mop up the dampened area to dry it as much as you can.
  • It’s recommended to focus on small areas so that the cleaning detergent is not left in one place for longer than others and to make sure each part of the seat is deeply cleaned before scrubbing the next one.
  • Lastly, ensure an even spread of car upholstery cleaner to prevent water stains upon drying.
  • Let your car air out and dry naturally and make sure it gets good ventilation. Try to clean the seats when you know you won’t be needing the car for a while.
Illustrations by Samrat Chakraborty.

How To Clean Leather Car Seats

  • Cleaning leather car seats is very similar to cloth seats, except for a few critical differences.
  • Leather, despite being a good repellent, is also fragile and inclined to abrasions, so you ought to be particularly gentle when using a vacuum with a plastic nozzle.
  • An essential piece of advice on how to clean car seats with leather is to use a specific car leather upholstery cleaner.
  • You should follow the product directions and once you’ve applied the cleaner and left it on its own, mildly rub the treated portion of the seat with a microfiber towel.
  • You will be able to see the brighter and less shiny side of leather, as pristine leather is commonly matte in appearance.
  • Lastly, examine the transference of dirt onto your cloth until you are satisfied with the finishing.

Recent Updates

April 26, 2023: Added a new promoted product recommendation.

December 12, 2022: Updated product links; removed Lithium (redundant), Car Guys, and Blue Coral (> 80% positive); added Griot's Garage 3-in-1 leather cleaner.

July 26, 2022: Removed unavailable Meguiar's G191419 Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner and Turtle Wax T440R2W OXY Interior Cleaner.

We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.

Photo credit: bogdanhoda /

Q & A

What Is Car Upholstery Cleaning?

Your car is a mandatory part of your everyday life as between the commute to work, health club, and PTA meetings, you perhaps spend hours inside your cozy metal machine. However, unlike at home, your dusty shoes are always on in the vehicle, and the probability is high that you occasionally consume food inside your car, apart from all the dirt your car’s interior catches from the environment. All of the above combines to leave you with a grimy car interior that requires deep cleaning. Therefore, if you’re using a credible car upholstery cleaner, it shall help you eliminate dirt, stains, odors, and residues leaving you with a freshly minted interior.

Why Should I Use A Car Upholstery Cleaner?

That’s because that household cleaner you’re planning to use on your car upholstery is only effective on kitchen countertops. What you need is an automotive-specific upholstery cleaner specifically formulated to clean and procure your car seats, vinyl, windows, and other parts. These upholstery cleaners integrate cleaning agents called surfactants, which assist in loosening and lifting fibers from the surface of your car seats.

What Do I Need To Clean Car Upholstery?

You need the following tools to clean your car upholstery: a vacuum cleaner, Leather conditioner, 2 buckets, a towel, a sponge, a chamois, any of your preferred car upholstery cleaners

Will All Of The Grime and Stains Come Out?

It primarily depends upon the stain and its stubbornness as some are tough or simply impossible to eliminate completely. However, if you’re using the best car upholstery cleaner which comes formulated with advanced stain removal processes, you can bet on almost all of them going away.

Can I Use A Car Upholstery Cleaner on My Tires?

Many products claim to be effective on car tires, in addition to doing interior cleansing jobs, such as the Armor All Oxi Magic Upholstery Cleaner. However, it is crucial to read the label or consult the manufacturer’s website before spraying any cleaning detergents on your wheels to avoid unwanted aftereffects.

Should I DIY or Leave It To The Professionals?

It’s admissible to clean everyday spills and dirt yourself with the help of one of the premium car upholstery cleaners detailed above. However, when the damage is severe and deep, you better take you may need to take your vehicle to a professional auto detailer.

What Do I Look For In A Car Upholstery Cleaner?

First, you need to establish what you have to clean? Is it the entire upholstery or a particular item such as the fabric, vinyl, carpet, or floor mats? This because even though its okay to have an all-purpose cleaner, but when it comes to specifics, you must go for specialized products. Moreover, it is feasible to check honest customer reviews on Amazon, and eBay for a pragmatic view of the product’s benefits.

Can I Use Car A Upholstery Cleaner On My Car's Carpets Too?

Yes, you can, if you’re using the right car upholstery cleaner for the job. For instance, you can use Chemical Guys Upholstery Odor Eliminator - to clean your car’s carpets with confidence.

What If The Stains Don't Come Out?

The car upholstery cleaners mentioned above can take care of almost all of your interior car stains, however, admittedly a few stubborn stains may remain. This could be due to a number of factors, either you took too long to take any action, or the damage was so severe that all you can do is to conceal it. Therefore, always keep a cleaner handy for any accidental spillage, and in the event that you find it impossible to completely remove a stain, consult an interior detailing specialist.

Jason Siu
Jason Siu

Jason Siu began his career in automotive journalism in 2003 with Modified Magazine, a property previously held by VerticalScope. As the West Coast Editor, he played a pivotal role while also extending his expertise to Modified Luxury & Exotics and Modified Mustangs. Beyond his editorial work, Jason authored two notable Cartech books. His tenure at saw him immersed in the daily news cycle, yet his passion for hands-on evaluation led him to focus on testing and product reviews, offering well-rounded recommendations to AutoGuide readers. Currently, as the Content Director for VerticalScope, Jason spearheads the content strategy for an array of online publications, a role that has him at the helm of ensuring quality and consistency across the board.

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