Best upholstery cleaners 2021

Upholstery cleaners are a convenient and cost-effective way to keep the interior of your car looking showroom clean. These are the best ones currently on sale...

Upholstery Cleaners Comp

Some product tests are more interesting to carry out than others, and while upholstery cleaners make for a worthy subject to look at now, following the inevitable abuse of a car’s interior that comes when kids, summer staycations and days out are combined, it’s hardly one that sets the pulse racing. Or so we thought.

But here’s the thing: many of the products featured here are more or less miracles in a bottle – melting away grime with unbelievable ease. And, as always, getting great results from very little effort is an incredibly appealing and satisfying experience. 

Chocolate Stain

We decided to pit all of the products here against “test” stains we made ourselves. And we didn’t hold back. Rubbed-in chocolate is never easy to shift, but melting it first takes it to a new dimension. We also enthusiastically dolloped jam all over our test fabric, and scribbled hard with biro for good measure.

Then things got really interesting. A recently purchased classic Jeep, with the vilest interior imaginable, provided the perfect test bed for trying these cleaning brews against real, time-ingrained, heavy duty crud – specifically the unfeasibly filthy and marked headlining, and the oil and grease-rich boot carpet. Surely these stains would prove more challenging than our manufactured ones? You might be surprised. We were.

Dirty Headlining

But there’s more to cleaning products than just outright stain removal. Formulations that clean well but then leave a residue mean having to do the job twice, which is a pain. And while we’ve been amazed by how well many of these formulations work, achieving great results is definitely easier with some than others. Versatility plays a part too. Cleaners that can be used on vinyl and other plastics are good one-stop cleaning solutions for the whole of the interior. Compatibility with leather is arguably even more important because so many cars have leather sections in their seats and other trim panels. Cleaning said panels quickly becomes a nightmare if your fabric cleaner is harsh and likely to mark the leather should it get splashed onto it. 

Finally, value for money was evaluated, based on volume, the amount needed per clean, and overall effectiveness.

Top 10 upholstery cleaners 

10. McLaren 02 Fabric Cleaner

McLaren Upholstery Cleaner

Price: £10.95
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk
Contact: 01206 855 232
Web: www.ultimotivegroup.com
Overall score: 2/5
Quantity: 500ml

McLaren's 02 is an effective and easy-to-use fabric cleaner, but others in this test are cheaper and proved to be more versatile. McLaren doesn’t specifically outline what surfaces it is compatible with, for example. Its overall cleaning performance was impressive, though, with only the tough melted chocolate stain posing a challenge – a second treatment was needed for full removal. And we like the product's simple spray on, agitate, and wipe off application, although this would be easier if its nozzle was finer. Both its spray and stream settings were more like a jet than a mist.

9. Mer Multi Surface Interior Cleaner

Mer Upholstery Cleaner


Price: £9.33
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk
Contact: 01920 465 041
Web: www.merproducts.com
Overall score: 2/5
Quantity: 500ml

Mer's literature emphasises this product's key advantage: fast and easy application. Forget waiting for the liquid to penetrate grime, or having to use an upholstery brush to agitate dirt away, this brew – allegedly – can be sprayed on and wiped off with a damp cloth. And indeed, this approach worked amazingly well on both our ink and jam test stains. Even the water marking on the Jeep's grimy headlining simply melted away. However, five attempts were needed to remove the chocolate stain, and it took three applications to rid the Jeep carpet of its oily hue. The fact it can be used on most hard surfaces is a practical bonus though.

8. Meguiars Carpet & Interior Cleaner

Meguiars upholstery cleaner


Price: £10.99
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk or www.halfords.com
Contact: 0870 2416 696
Web: www.meguairs.com
Overall score: 3/5
Quantity: 473ml

Like Mer, Meguiars' Carpet & Interior Cleaner is a doddle to use: spray it on, give it half a minute to work its magic, then wipe it off with a damp cloth. But it's much more effective than Mer’s product, and not just because of the thirty second penetration time the instructions demand. After decimating the Jeep's roof marks and oily carpet grime, and our ink and jam test stains, only chocolate proved a slight challenge. And slight is the operative word here; after the single application, you could only make out the faintest of marks. It’s just a shame its punchy price tag limits its overall score. 

7. Autoglym Hi-Foam Interior Shampoo

Autoglym Upholstery Cleaner


Price: £9.11
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk or www.halfords.com
Contact: 01462 677 766
Web: www.autoglym.com
Overall score: 3/5
Quantity: 450ml

This is one enthusiastic aerosol. The briefest press produces a huge cloud of foam, so be careful on trim where fabric butts up to leather – one of the few materials this brew isn’t suitable for. Hard plastics and vinyls are fair game though, making this a great interior all rounder, especially since its muck-shifting oomph validates the product's spray on, leave it 20 seconds, then wipe it off instructions. That said, our test chocolate stain proved trickier to remove than years of real life oil and grime in the Jeep. Three attempts were needed to get rid of it completely.

6. Chipex Factory Finish Stain & Odour Buster

Chipex Upholstery Cleaner


Price: £12.95
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk or www.chipex.co.uk
Contact: 01295 258 308
Web: www.chipex.co.uk
Overall score: 4/5
Quantity: 500ml

Factory Finish is a big claim, but one we agree with. If 99.9% clean isn't good enough for you, this product's claimed 100% dirt-shifting ability is invaluable. Treated areas were that merest fraction lighter, or more evenly clean, than with rival products. The secret is the product's biological microbe-heavy formulation, which makes application a little more involved: dampen the fabric, spray on the liquid, agitate, and then leave for as long as possible – preferably 24 hours – before wiping off. Results after shorter wait times are excellent, but leaving the bacteria to do its stuff absolutely pays dividends. Just make sure you’re prepared for an eye-watering price tag. 

5. Autoglym Interior Cleaner & Sanitiser

Autoglym Upholstery Cleaner

Price: £10.99
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk or www.halfords.com
Contact: 01462 677 766
Web: www.autoglym.com
Overall score: 4/5
Quantity: 500ml

Autoglym rarely introduces new products and, for most, the bottle's claims of being able to kill 99.9% of germs and viruses – including Coronavirus – will be the big draw. Look more closely, though, and you'll see another practical advantage of this brew: it can be used on plastics and leather. So the product comes into its own on seats, and other panels, where leather borders fabrics. And don’t go thinking that leather compatibility means that the product has a neutered and feeble cleaning ability – only the chocolate staining required a second dose for full removal.

4. Farecla G3 Pro Multicleaner

G3 Upholstery Cleaner


Price: £7.74
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk
Contact: 01920 465 041
Web: www.g3pro.com
Overall score: 4/5
Quantity: 500ml

Other than not being recommended for leather, this is one of the most versatile cleaners here. As well as a manual spray it on, agitate, and wipe off application, this can be diluted for use in wet and dry vacuums and even in pressure washer snow foam guns. The latter is recommended for tackling grime on paintwork in engine bays and door shuts – indeed most hard surfaces are fair game. However, getting back to fabrics, the G3 Pro tackled all of our challenges effortlessly, and while its sweet Midget Gem aroma is perhaps a little pungent, that’s a minor criticism. 

3. Simoniz Upholstery & Carpet Cleaner – RECOMMENDED

Simoniz upholstery cleaner


Price: £5
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk or www.tesco.com
Contact: 0161 8664 800
Web: www.holtsauto.com
Overall score: 4/5
Quantity: 400ml

Although rather an old formulation now, we doubt Simoniz will update it anytime soon, because it works so well and easily holds its own against newer rivals. Its spray on, let it soak in, agitate with the can's abrasive top, and wipe off application is a bit more involved than most. But that agitator makes lifting deeply ingrained grime, such as our oily Jeep carpet and chocolate test stain, so much easier. None of our tests proved much of a challenge, with even the chocolate mess being decimated effortlessly. Plus, it can even be used on fragile surfaces. 

2. Halfords Upholstery Cleaner – RECOMMENDED

Halfords upholstery cleaner

Price: £4.99
Buy from: www.halfords.com
Contact: 0161 7645 981
Web: www.halfords.com
Overall score: 4/5
Quantity: 500ml

Whilst not being struck by this product's sweet, marzipan like aroma, it is an excellent performer at a brilliant price. It's easy to use, too; spray it on, leave it half a minute, and then wipe it away. Better still, nothing more than a microfibre cloth was needed to achieve first time success in all our tests, albeit with enthusiastic rubbing to remove the ever-tough melted chocolate stain. Performance against long-ingrained grime on the Jeep's carpet and roof lining really had to be seen to be believed; the dirt literally melted away as the spray hit it.

1. Diamondbrite Upholstery & Carpet Cleaner – BEST BUY

Diamondbrite Upholstery Cleaner


Price: £5.95
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk or www.diamondbrite.co.uk
Contact: 01622 815 679
Web: www.jewelultra.com
Overall score: 5/5
Quantity: 450ml

Don’t be put off by this brew's spray it on, leave it for up to 20 minutes, then wipe off directions. There are few easier and more effective ways of transforming a grubby car's interior. Apart from leather, this foam is compatible with almost everything: fabrics, carpets, plastics, and hard surfaces. So blitz away, have a cuppa, then head back with a damp cloth. We were amazed how well the foam unseated all of our test stains. Providing you keep your cloth damp and clean, and rub harder on stubborn dirt, this product really is a one step interior refresh. 

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