If you love or value your car, there’s a good chance you normally give it a nice wash. But how often are you giving some 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 detailing of your interior can go a long way in preserving its resale value. If you often travel with children or pets, you’ll definitely want to get yourself 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 more. You also don’t want to neglect your floor mats and carpet if you plan on keeping your vehicle for years.
You’ll find that there are dozens of options when it comes to car upholstery cleaners, so we’ve simplified your shopping experience by narrowing down the choices. Not only will these cleaners keep your seats looking and smelling fresh, they’ll do some work on random spills and stains throughout your car’s interior.
For more information on the best car upholstery cleaners, refer to our table of contents.
Updated 12/23/2020 with new product recommendations!
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick: CarGuys Super Cleaner
- 2. Best for Floor Mats/Carpets: Blue Coral Upholstery Cleaner
- 3. Tuff Stuff Multi-Purpose Foam Cleaner
- 4. Chemical Guys Lightning Fast Carpet and Upholstery Stain Extractor
- 5. Black Diamond Upholstery Cleaner
- 6. Chemical Guys Fabric Clean Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner
- 7. Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner
- 8. Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner
- 9. Turtle Wax Interior 1
- 10. Lithium Auto Elixirs Hyper Cleanse
- How to Clean Cloth Car Seats
- How to Clean Cloth Car Seats
- How To Clean Leather Car Seats
- Q & A
1. Editor's Pick: CarGuys Super Cleaner
Billed as one of the most versatile and effective multi-surface cleaners on the market, CarGuys Super Cleaner is our Editor’s Pick for the best car upholstery cleaner. Designed to work on a variety of interior and even exterior surfaces, this product can be used to clean upholstery, fabric, canvas, leather, vinyl, plastic, rubber, grease, and even tree sap. Using a specially formulated water-based polymer formula, this cleaner is safe, non-toxic, and doesn’t need to be rinsed by water after being used.
Although it’s safe to use on nearly all surfaces inside your car, avoid using the Super Cleaner on glass or any instrument panel screens, such as your gauge cluster or navigation. Otherwise, it can quickly become your go-to bottle for not only cleaning the upholstery in your car, but all the other surfaces inside the cabin.
2. Best for Floor Mats/Carpets: Blue Coral Upholstery Cleaner
The Blue Coral Upholstery Cleaner is considered one of the more trusted car upholstery cleaners for the carpets or floor mats suffering from heavy spot staining. The product is specially formulated to handle a wide range of stains, some of which you may have assumed will never go away. The company says it’s effective on tar, grease, coffee, ink, lipstick, and other difficult stains, including blood.
To make your life easier, the cap comes equipped with a stiff brush to get the cleaner deep into the fabric, allowing you to get rid of stubborn stains. The penetrating foam will lift and suspend dirt quickly, cleaning your carpet and upholstery. It’s also safe to use on nylon and other synthetic surfaces. When you’re all done, your interior will smell nice and fresh, since this cleaner also helps neutralize odors.
3. Tuff Stuff Multi-Purpose Foam Cleaner
Another powerful, multi-purpose foam cleaner comes from Tuff Stuff. Living up to its brand name, deep cleaning foaming action will lift dirt from your upholstery, helping you clean and get rid of tough stains. It’s great for fabric and vinyl upholstery in your car, along with floor mats and carpet. 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.
4. Chemical Guys Lightning Fast Carpet and Upholstery Stain Extractor
Chemical Guys has 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. Afterwards, it’ll 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.
5. Black Diamond Upholstery Cleaner
Although this recommendation is marketed towards household use, 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 the 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.
6. 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 like new. 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 t his with clean, filtered water at a 8:1 ratio for extra dirty areas, or dilute up to 20:1 for lighter messes.
7. Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner
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 with 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 so that it includes 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.
8. Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner
Another brand that is high up on the list within the car care industry is Mothers. 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.
9. Turtle Wax Interior 1
Yet another well-known brand in the car care industry, Turtle Wax offers the Interior 1, a multi-purpose cleaner and stain remover. Designed to be a 1-step product that saves time and effort, this upholstery cleaner works on virtually every interior surface, including carpets, upholstery fabrics, plastic, and vinyl. It features an all-new patent-pending microscrub brush that cleans deep into fabric fibers. You can also detach it for easy and targeted cleaning.
Along with cleaning, this solution will deodorize and protect your upholstery. It’s packed with oxygenated cleaners that encapsulate and eliminate odors caused by smoke, pets, and food. If you have deep stains, you may not get the best results with this product. But for general cleaning and care, it’ll do a great job.
10. Lithium Auto Elixirs Hyper Cleanse
This recommendation contains no harmful solvents and is billed to be a “hyper premium cleaner.” Its manufacturer, Lithium, originally formulated it to clean distressed and grungy leather, but it turns out, it works well on every surface and type of stain it was tested on. Safe to use on leather, carpet, or vinyl, this one one solution you can use to cover all corners of your car’s interior.
Use this to take care of tough stains, ground in grime and dirt, or any sort of debris stuck into the fine lines of your leather or vinyl. Its natural formulation won’t dry out once it’s sprayed on, and won’t leave behind any sort of residue once it’s wiped off. The company also offers an unconditional warranty, promising to give you a refund if you’re not satisfied with the results.
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
- First up, get rid of any large items of debris and crumbs from the upholstery with a soft-bristled brush or vacuum cleaner.
- 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.
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