6 of the best upholstery cleaners — stain-removing solutions and machines that work

The best upholstery cleaners money can buy, including electrical appliances and oxy-powered solutions

Best upholstery cleaners on gradient background
(Image credit: Future)
Best upholstery cleaners: Quick Menu

Before panicking about that spill, try one of the best upholstery cleaners for a spotless result. Banish everything from red wine to pet stains from even the lightest sofas and furniture.

Having a stain remover in your cleaning caddy can be the difference between replacing your entire carpet or couch or salvaging them in minutes. You just need some elbow grease (or none at all if you invest in an electronic appliance).

Whether you're after an affordable bottled solution or have the budget to invest in a machine, this is your sign to invest in some of the best carpet cleaners for when accidents inevitably happen.

Best upholstery cleaners to tackle stubborn stains

Why you can trust Real Homes Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Based on cost-per-use, buying an upholstery cleaner can be cheaper than getting a professional to do the job, and has many benefits. You can clean a sofa in just minutes with some of the best cleaning supplies.

The best upholstery cleaners and carpet cleaning solutions

What to consider when choosing an upholstery cleaner

Upholstery cleaner on rug

(Image credit: Future)

1. Find the right solution for your material
Check that the product will suit the material you are cleaning as natural and synthetic fibers will react differently. We’ve included shampoos, sprays, foams, and aerosols in this guide so you can choose the best product for you. Double-check the ingredients and do a patch test on an inconspicuous area of your furniture. This way you are confident that it will have no adverse effects. 

2. Be sure to read the cleaner's directions carefully
Also, read your furniture care label to ensure that you’re not going to damage the material.

3. Master your cleaning technique
Some solutions have to be blotted in gently with a microfiber cleaning clot (like these on Amazon), others have to be scrubbed using bristled brushes to work the product into the material, and a few have to be left to sit for a short time. Use as little product as possible to avoid waste and to reduce the risk of dyed fabrics 'bleeding'.

4. If it is a machine — check the specifications and what's included
Check the weight (to see if you can carry it around the home), and the tank capacity. The latter will determine how much solution you will need to use (if any), and how often you empty the reservoir. FYI, one liter of water weighs 1kg/2.2 lb so ensure you do the math and have the strength to lift the machine with the added weight.

Some machines come with trial or sample-size solutions, so look at how much normal-sized bottles are, and how long they last to ensure you can keep up with the cost of cleaning. Using a non-branded or cheaper detergent may invalidate your warranty, so check your service documents.

Finally, check the length of the hose and cord length, as this may indicate how easily you can navigate around large furniture. If you know the wattage, you can also work out how much the device will cost to use using this calculator.


What can upholstery cleaner be used for?

Upholstery cleaners can be used to maintain any form of upholstery, including spot-cleaning couches, refresh mattress toppers, and, de-gunk car seats.

How do upholstery cleaners work?

Some work using enzymatic solutions to chemically break down the stain, and others come with scrub heads to agitate the upholstery fibers and help lift the stain out. In some cases, you can leave products to dry, but others need rinsing off. Do be sure to rinse your hands, or wear gloves (like this pair from Mr. Clean available from Amazon) when treating stains as some of the formulas can irritate skin — especially if you're someone that touches their face all day!

How can I easily keep my upholstery clean?

Using a powerful cordless vacuum cleaner or a good handheld vacuum cleaner will change how your upholstery looks. Use specialist attachments such as a crevice tool to get into cracks and corners, and don't forget to move your sofa out of the way and vacuum the back of it as dust will build here.

When it comes to curtains, check their washing instructions and make a note to clean these in your washing machine (or by hand) every six months. You wouldn't believe how much dirt sits on draped window treatments. Similar guidance applies to cleaning a rug. Our guides on how to clean upholstery and how to clean a carpet are full of expert tips and tricks.

How we tested these upholstery cleaners

Two bottles of Carbona upholstery cleaner, one yellow the other blue, on white wooden coffee table in front of grey sofa

Two bottles of Carbona upholstery cleaner in testing

(Image credit: Future/Annie Collyer)

We've tested all of the upholstery cleaners featured in our own homes, to clean real-life messes that we're faced with. But we don't go spilling red wine on our carpets and rugs on purpose, because that would be counterproductive. Instead, we store them in our under-sink cabinets and use them per the instructions on the packaging.

Some of our writers live with animals, so whether our pets have been poorly, had an accident, or entered the house with muddy paws or an animal — we've dealt with all types of stain removal. Consequently, we might favor organic, plant-based, and pet-safe cleaning products. Ultimately, this is one of the most effective ways to get rid of pet odor in a small space.

Meet our upholstery cleaner testers

Headshot of Annie Collyer
Annie Collyer

Hi, I'm Annie and I live with a messy pet who likes to keep me busy. I tested the Carbona 2-in-1 Oxy-Powered Pet Stain to clean my rugs and couch, and the Carbona Pro Care Oxy-Powered Outdoor Cleaner to clean the cushions on my patio furniture. I've also used the Dr. Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover for years to spot-clean my rugs.

Christina Chrysostomou
Christina Chrysostomou

Christina tested the Ecover Stain Remover and for her, it's an under-the-sink essential. She uses it to target stubborn foundation stains on her blouses and clean her cushions when she's used them as a lap tray for lazy weekend brunches. 

Jaclyn Turner photo
Jaclyn Turner

Jaclyn was preciously ecommerce editor at Real Homes, as well as our sister brands Livingetc and Homes & Gardens. Jaclyn tested the Revolve Upholstery Cleaner and her pet Reese gave it a run for its money. She also tested the outdoor cleaner from Carbona in her yard on some very tired-looking cushions.

Where to buy an upholstery cleaner

Our shopping widgets highlight some of the best places to shop for an upholstery cleaner. But, you might also find this list of online retailers, and home improvement stores helpful.

Christina Chrysostomou
Former acting head ecommerce editor

Hi, I'm the former acting head ecommerce editor at Real Homes. Prior to working for the Future plc family, I've worked on a number of consumer events including the Ideal Home Show, Grand Designs Live, and Good Homes Magazine. With a first class degree from Keele University, and a plethora of experience in digital marketing, editorial, and social media, I have an eye for what should be in your shopping basket and have gone through the internal customer advisor accreditation process.

With contributions from