Best upholstery cleaners 2023

| 3 Feb 2023
Classic & Sports Car - Best upholstery cleaners

Upholstery cleaners are an important part of your car-cleaning kit, whether it’s for bringing old upholstery in your classic to life or keeping a newer interior free from stains.

We tested all of the products here against test stains that we had fun making ourselves – and we didn’t hold back. We rubbed in melted chocolate, dolloped jam and scribbled with a Biro for the ultimate test of our car upholstery cleaners.

Not only that, but the recently purchased classic Jeep that was our ideal test vehicle also came complete with a filthy interior that offered time-ingrained marks and oil-stained carpets.

We’re looking for ease of use and outright cleaning power. Versatility plays a part, too: cleaners that can be used on vinyl, other plastic surfaces and even leather are good one-stop cleaning solutions for the whole of your car’s interior.

Upholstery cleaners

10. McLaren 02 Fabric Cleaner

Classic & Sports Car - Best upholstery cleaners - McLaren

Quantity: 500ml

This is a good, user-friendly cleaner, but others in this test are better value and also proved to be more versatile. McLaren doesn’t specifically outline which surfaces the cleaner is compatible with, for a start.

Only the tough melted chocolate stain gave it any trouble, though, as we had to give it a second treatment to fully remove that particular mess.

We do appreciate the McLaren’s simple spray on, agitate and wipe-off process, although we would like a better nozzle, because both of the spray settings were more like a jet than a mist.

Classic & Sports Car says 2 stars

9. Mer Multi Surface Interior Cleaner

Classic & Sports Car - Best upholstery cleaners - Mer

Quantity: 500ml

The real beauty of this cleaner is how quick and easy it is to use.

You don’t have to wait for the spray to fizz away any grime, and there’s no need to get the upholstery brush out to agitate it, either. The cleaner can simply be sprayed on and wiped off with a damp cloth, and it worked amazingly well on both our ink and jam test stains.

Even the old water marks on the Jeep’s grimy headlining simply disappeared.

However, five attempts were needed to remove the chocolate, and three to remove the oily hue from the carpet, so it’s beaten here for overall cleaning power.

The fact that the Mer cleaner can be used on most hard surfaces and upholsteries is a practical bonus, though.

Classic & Sports Car says 2 stars

8. Autoglym Hi-Foam Interior Shampoo

Classic & Sports Car - Best upholstery cleaners - Autoglym Shampoo

Quantity: 450ml

The Autoglym cleaner is well named, because it really does foam quite dramatically with only a brief squeeze of the aerosol – so just be careful not to get it on any leather, which is one of few materials that it’s not suitable for.

Hard plastics and vinyls are fair game, though, so this is still a good all-rounder, especially since it is such an effective cleaner. Just release the foam, leave it for 20 secs, then wipe clean.

The chocolate was, once again, the only stain that stumped it a little, with three attempts needed to remove it completely.

Classic & Sports Car says 3 stars

7. Meguiar’s Carpet & Interior Cleaner

Classic & Sports Car - Best upholstery cleaners - Meguiar’s

Quantity: 473ml

Rather like the Mer cleaner, the Meguiar’s is totally straightforward to use: just spray it on, give it 30 secs and then wipe it off with a damp cloth.

It betters the Mer’s cleaning power, though, because it worked absolute magic on the roof marks, carpet stains, and the ink and jam tests.

Only the melted chocolate proved a slight challenge, and even with that there was only a very faint mark after the first application.

It is good for vinyl, plastics and even seatbelts, too.

The price-tag is a bit punchy, but the product is really quite brilliant. 

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

6. Autoglym Interior Cleaner & Sanitiser

Classic & Sports Car - Best upholstery cleaners - Autoglym Cleaner & Sanitiser

Quantity: 500ml

This Autoglym product not only sanitises your interior while cleaning it, removing 99.9% of bacteria and viruses including COVID-19, but it can also be used on vinyl, plastic and leather, as well as upholstery and carpets.

It’s a really versatile and hygienic option that we found to be really effective at stain removal on seat upholstery, and particularly on awkward places where leather meets fabric.

Only the chocolate needed a second going-over, making this as powerful a cleaner as plenty of others that aren’t suitable for such a wide variety of surfaces.

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

5. Halfords Upholstery Cleaner

Classic & Sports Car - Best upholstery cleaners - Halfords

Quantity: 500ml

We didn’t like this product’s aroma, but it is a brilliant car upholstery cleaner at an excellent price.

It’s another of the ‘spray-leave-and-wipe’ products, which makes application easy and quick, yet we also achieved first-time success in all of our tests.

Sure, the chocolate stain required some enthusiastic rubbing with a microfibre to get the last vestiges out of the upholstery, but it was still only one application to get rid of it.

It did brilliantly against aged watermarks and discolouration on the classic Jeep’s carpet and roof lining, too; you could watch the filth melting away as the cleaner started to work.

Halfords doesn’t state that you can use it on hard surfaces, though.

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

4. Farécla G3 Pro Multicleaner

Classic & Sport Car - Best upholtery cleaners - Farécla

Quantity: 500ml

You can’t use this Farécla product on leather, but otherwise this is one of the most versatile car upholstery cleaners here.

As well as being able to simply spray it on, agitate and wipe off for spot-cleaning or stain removal, this can be diluted for use in wet and dry vacuums, or even used in a pressure washer snow foam gun.

The latter is recommended for tackling grime on paintwork in engine bays and door shuts – indeed, most hard surfaces are fair game.

Getting back to fabrics, the G3 Pro tackled all of our challenges effortlessly, and while its sweet aroma is perhaps a little strong, that is a minor criticism.

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

3. Simoniz Upholstery & Carpet Cleaner

Classic & Sports Car - Best upholstery cleaners - Simoniz

Quantity: 400ml

The Simoniz cleaner comes with its own brush attached to the bottle, which is a really useful feature, but more than that it is a supremely effective cleaner.

Spray it on, let it soak in, agitate and wipe off for a fairly easy application that worked wonders even on the deeply ingrained, oily marks of our car’s carpets, and on the chocolate stain that caused issues for many others here.

It really is a seriously effective spot cleaner or general shampoo. It can be used on fragile surfaces, too.

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

2. Chipex Factory Finish Stain & Odour Buster

Classic & Sports Car - Best upholstery cleaners - Chipex

Quantity: 500ml

Factory Finish is a big claim, but we have to agree with the blurb.

The secret is this product’s biological microbe-heavy formulation, and to get the best from it you have to dampen the fabric, spray on the liquid, agitate the area and then leave it for 24 hours, ideally, before wiping off.

Don’t wait that long and the results are still great, but leaving it to do its thing for a full day still pays dividends, because it worked wonders even on the chocolate stain that most other car upholstery cleaners struggled with.

Yes, it is a bit pricey, you need to give it time to work, and you can’t use it on leather or plastics, all of which is why it doesn’t win overall here.

If you’re not fussed about those limitations, and you simply want the best possible cleaner that’s gentle but effective for your upholstery and carpets, the Chipex is it.

Classic & Sports Car says 4 stars

1. Diamondbrite Upholstery & Carpet Cleaner

Classic & Sports Car - Best upholstery cleaners - Diamondbrite

Quantity: 450ml

You have to spray this formula onto the affected area and leave it for 20 mins before wiping off with a cloth, but don’t let the short wait put you off as the results are worth it.

Other than leather, this foam is compatible with almost everything: fabrics, carpets, plastics and hard surfaces.

You can blitz away, go for a cuppa, then come back to attack it with a damp cloth, although you shouldn’t need much attacking as we were astonished at how well the Diamondbrite foam removed all of our test stains, even without any elbow grease.

The chocolate and oil marks weren’t a match for it, and it really is an excellent one-stop interior car cleaner.

Classic & Sports Car says 5 stars

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