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10 best upholstery cleaners to tackle stains and dirt

Stubborn marks on your fabrics that won’t shift? Cleaning up after your family will be easier than ever with our pick of the best upholstery cleaners to tackle those tricky stains and dirt.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Mar 18, 2022

Man using Bissel spot cleaner

Having a busy family home brings so much joy but a hell of a lot of mess and dirt. Upholstery cleaning products are designed to remove tough stains without damaging your fabric. These chosen products can be used on sofas, rugs, carpets and curtains – covering all upholstery in your home.

Whether you’re looking for a budget solution or want to splash out on a do-it-all machine that makes keeping your home pristine relatively effortless, there are a multitude of different products on the market to help. But knowing what’s the best option for your cleaning task or fabric type can be tricky. 

To make life easier, we've done the time-consuming research into the top options so you don't have to. We've spent an extensive number of hours evaluating real suggestions on the Mumsnet forums and have thoroughly analysed honest consumer reviews to find recommendations you can trust. What's more, we know that not every upholstery job will require the same product, so we've investigated which cleaners work best for different tasks.

Here are the best upholstery cleaners on the market for 2022. 

1. Best overall upholstery cleaner: Dr Beckmann’s Carpet Cleaner and Brush

Dr Beckermann Stain Remover

Price: £3.67 | Buy now from Amazon

“Dr Beckmann’s carpet stain remover. It's in a bottle with a scrub at the top. But make sure you clean evenly. It works really well.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user Nuggetnugget)

Dr Beckmann’s Carpet Cleaner is a clever product that has a built-in scrubbing sponge on the nozzle. It is gentle on colours and fibers and doesn’t damage textiles. It’s also tough on a variety of stubborn stains, including the nightmare of red wine, grease and coffee stains.

We also like that it has odour eliminating ingredients and is extremely easy to use, especially in an emergency spillage situation. Simply turn the bottle upside down, moisten the scrubbing sponge, apply the product and leave directly onto the stain for three minutes and get to work. The built-in sponge prevents the hassle of the excess residue of the product and allows you to work directly on the stain. 

Pros

  • Built in scrubbing sponge
  • Smells pleasant
  • Works on very tough stains

Cons

  • Better for spot cleaning rather than sprucing up large surfaces

2. Best budget upholstery cleaner: Vanish Oxi Action Powder Fabric Stain Remover

Vanish Oxi Action

Price: £5.23 | Buy now from Amazon

“For washable fabrics, I’ve had good success with Vanish stain remover powder. It has a little scoop, so you put a bit of powder and water in the scoop, tip it on the stain a bit at a time and scrub with the bottom of the scoop which has nodules.” (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user MrsLeclerc)

This Vanish powder is ideal for stains on upholstery that can be removed and put into the washing machine. This one is best suited to colours, but there’s also a version specially designed for white fabrics too.

There are three techniques you can use with this product. First, you can apply the powder mixed with water directly onto the tough stain and rub in circular motions, using the back of the scoop before putting it into the washing machine. An alternative way is adding one scoop into a bowl and allowing the fabric to soak and absorb the potions before washing. And the last is simply adding one scoop into your machine at the recommended washing temperature on your upholstery label. All ways are very effective in removing those tricky stains.

However, this product cannot be used on fabrics made of wool, silk or leather or hard surfaces such as wood or metal, so make sure you check the label of your upholstery before applying this product.

Pros

  • Comes with spoon that can be used to rub powder into stains
  • Effective on stains
  • 1kg tub – great value

Cons

  • Cannot be used on certain fabrics and hard surfaces

3. Best upholstery cleaner for carpets: Vax Compact Power Plus CDCW-CPXP Carpet Cleaner

Vax Carpet Cleaner

Price: £110.00 | Buy now from Argos

“The Vax basic carpet cleaner is good for freshening. I have one and it was £99 from Argos. It doesn't have the all singing-dancing tools like the more expensive one but for basic keeping carpets clean it does a very good job.” (Vetted by Mumsnet user isseywith4vampirecats)

This Vax carpet cleaner is a light and compact machine that can be easily stored and is simple to use. With a pre- and post-treatment solution included, you can be assured the Vax will do a thorough job in tackling those stains, although be warned you may be surprised at just how much dirt it picks up on the first clean!

Dubbed Vax's ‘lightest carpet washer yet’, it weighs just under 6kg meaning you can transport it around the house easily and get to work on any stain in your home.

The machine also comes with a Platinum Solution as well as the other two treatment solutions for that ultimate clean, which we think is great value for the price.

Pros

  • Lightweight machine
  • Compact
  • Portable
  • Strong on stains

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Doesn't include accessories for cleaning the sofa

4. Best upholstery cleaner for pet stains: Vanish Gold Carpet Cleaner Foam

Vanish Carpet Shampoo

Price: £6.99 | Buy now from Robert Dyas

“Vanish Gold Carpet Foam got dog diarrhoea out of my cream carpet. I had to do it two or three times but it went in the end. And it removed any odour as well.” (Reviewed by Mumsnet user lollipopjones)

This Vanish cleaning foam is designed especially for upholstery that has built up dirt over time and for the busiest areas in your home such as the hallways or staircase. It’s also good for those unwelcome accidents from pets too, as the Mumsnet user who tried and tested the product found.

The foam works deep into the carpets and is proven to remove five times more dirt than vacuuming alone, making this an effective shampoo to add to your regular cleaning routine or for tackling unexpected stains.   

Not only does this foam leave your fabrics smelling more fresh and fragrant by cleaning all trapped odours, but it also conditions the fibres making the fabric softer and appear cleaner than ever before.

Vanish is also recognised as the UK’s number one carpet cleaning brand, making it a true contender to add to your list.

Pros

  • Tackles both long- and short-term stains
  • Proven to work five times more than vacuuming
  • Great value for money

Cons 

  • Better for spot cleaning

5. Best upholstery cleaner for red wine stains: Wine Away Stain Remover

Wine Away Stain Remover

Price: £16.95 | Buy now from Amazon

We've all been there: that heart-stopping moment when a glass of wine has toppled over and spilt all over your precious cream carpet. Well, fear not, as there's a handy solution in the form of this spray specifically designed to tackle those dreaded red wine stains.

With a pleasing citrus scent, this spray works on fabrics, carpets and upholstery, so you can also use it to treat any unfortunate spills on your clothes too. The spray design of the bottle also makes it easy to use for targeting the stain directly. 

The only drawback is its price – at just under £17, it's not the most pocket-friendly option, but it's a powerful cleaner that can save carpets, sofas, and even clothes. 

Pros

  • Effective on red wine and coffee stains
  • Citrus scent
  • Spray design makes spot cleaning easy

Cons

  •  Expensive

6. Best steam cleaner for upholstery: Polti PTGB0049 Vaporetto Go Steam Cleaner

Polti Steam Cleaner

Price: £89.71 | Buy now from Amazon

“I have a Polti Vaporetto Steam Cleaner, which is good (but I don’t use it as much as I thought I would) but I know that if I used it on some of our upholstery it would leave watermarks.” (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user Squiz81)

Not only does this steam cleaner powerfully clean surfaces and tough stains, it also works as a disinfectant and kills and eliminates 99.99% of viruses, germs and bacteria and has even been tested in the medical field for its high standards.

It comes with 10 handy accessories, including brushes that make cleaning even the trickiest areas easier, like sofas and mattresses. We also like the handy shoulder strap too, which is ideal for lugging the cleaner around the house, particularly when moving it up or downstairs. 

 One thing to note, however, is that it can leave fabrics wet after use, so you'll want to time cleaning right if you're expecting guests. 

Pros

  • Equipped with 10 accessories 
  • Can be moved easily around the house

Cons

  • Can leave fabrics wet straight after use

7. Best eco-friendly upholstery cleaner: Opal Eco All Purpose Antibacterial Disinfectant Spray

Opal Eco Spray

Price: £10.95 | Buy now from Amazon

The Opal Eco All Purpose Spray not only freshens up sofas, cushions and bedding, but it also contains antibacterial properties that kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses. It has been proven to eliminate Ecoli, Salmonella, Norovirus and other germs too, a standout feature of this spray that parents will love.

It cleans as well as fights smelly odours and can be used on all hard and soft upholstery surfaces.

It’s both pet and skin-friendly, and unharmful to children, ideal for your family home and fabrics or furniture that is regularly used by your little ones. 

It may not be as tough at eliminating the hardest stains as other targeted products, but for more regular touch-ups it’s certainly one to add to your cleaning arsenal. We like that the non-abrasive formula is made from organic acids produced in plants too, making it a more sustainable and ethical solution to your daily cleaning products.

Pros

  • Eco-friendly 
  • Skin-friendly
  • Can be used on all upholstery and surfaces
  • Antibacterial properties against several bacteria and viruses

Cons

  • May not be as strong on stains as other upholstery cleaners

8. Best multipurpose upholstery cleaner: Dr Beckmann Stain Devils Complete Stain Remover Kit

Dr Beckermann Stain Devils

Price £10.95 | Buy now from Amazon

“Stain Devils are amazing too.” (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user lalalonglegs)

This particular upholstery cleaning brand is popular with our forum users, and with good reason. Each bottle of solution is specifically designed for the different stain causes in day-to-day life and promises to remove even the toughest stains in just three minutes.

It's a five-pack kit that contains solutions to tackle everything from mud, grass and makeup stain removal to marks from paint, cooking oil and and juice! This multipurpose pack from a trusted cleaning brand covers all of the usual spillage scenarios, plus more. 

For large areas, the brand advises rinsing the stained fabric in a bowl of warm water and solution, instead of dabbing. It is also recommended to test this product out on a small area of your upholstery first, to ensure it does not change the colour of your fabrics as it contains some very strong properties.

While it may seem pricey initially, this fantastic kit contains everything you need for most types of stains. 

Pros

  • Provides different formula solutions for almost all common stain causes
  • Good value for money for a multipack 

Cons

  • Strong ingredients that have to be tested out first

9. Best upholstery cleaner for cars: BISSELL SpotClean Portable Carpet Cleaner

Bissell Spot Cleaner

Price: £99.00 | Buy now from Amazon

“I have one. It was a godsend yesterday when DD2 had a poo explosion and smeared it across the rug.” (Vetted by Mumsnet user Itsbeen84yearss)

The BISSELL SpotClean cleaner hosts impressive stain removal technology which is ideal for use on upholstery. Its Heatwave function maintains a consistent water temperature throughout each use whilst the stain tool is ideal for working powerfully on stubborn and unsightly stains.

The cleaner comes with two sample bottles of BISSELL Shampoo Solution and has a generous 4.6-meter cord length allowing you to work on all areas of your home at ease. We particularly liked how compact and lightweight it is, making it ideal for transporting outside to clean the upholstery in your car too.

Reviewers found that it’s easy to store away and can be operated efficiently, perfect for those quick, unexpected accidents or set-in spill stains that have been there for a while.  

Pros

  • Heatwave technology works well on stubborn stains
  • Long cord 
  • Portable
  • Easily stored

Cons

  • Energy consuming 
  • Pricey

10. Best upholstery cleaner for washable fabrics: Persil Non-Bio 3 in 1 Laundry Washing Capsules

Persil washing tablets

Price: £22.50 (for a bulk pack of three) | Buy now from Amazon

Washing liquid tabs are normally pretty good. When we had our sofa cleaned a while back due to the same issue, we had tried to get rid of stains and made them worse, the cleaning company said if it's good for your clothes, it's good for furniture.” (Cleaning idea tried and tested by Mumsnet user TheHopefulMum)

You may find you already have a box of these in your home for your day-to-day washing. Not only does this product work well on stains, but it is also dermatologically tested to provide a gentle clean that doesn’t irritate children’s skin. This is ideal if you are removing stains from bedding or sofas where your children may lounge on a lot.

The tablets are also made with plant-based stain removers and biodegradable ingredients making this an eco-friendly product.

It’s recommended that you use one to two capsules per wash depending on laundry size and water hardness.

Pros

  • Can be used for laundry as well as upholstery cleaning
  • Great value for money
  • Gentle on skin
  • Eco-friendly

Cons

  • Expensive initially for bulk pack (but can save money in the long-run)
  • Not ideal for spot cleaning

How do you clean upholstered furniture?

Before cleaning any upholstery, it’s important to know what products can be used on it. Upholstery is made from different fibres and fabrics so it’s important to check out the tag on your furniture before you begin. 

If you're cleaning your sofa, there should be a tag with a code that indicates which solution and combination is safe to use on the fabric. For example, ‘Code W’ means spot clean with water-based solutions only, ‘Code S’ means only water-free, solvent-based solutions can be used when spot cleaning (and no water should be used at all), and ‘Code WS’ means both water and solvent solutions can be used. There's also a 'Code X', which is the trickiest to spruce up of the lot as you need to get it professionally cleaned or you can only use the vacuum on this fabric. It's worth checking with the brand too if you're unsure so you don't damage your upholstery by using the wrong cleaner. 

Once you understand which solution you want to use then you can begin the fun part and choose the type of cleaner you want to buy. There are two common options if you're doing a DIY job:

Sprays, solutions and shampoos

Buying a cleaning solution is a more budget-friendly option than purchasing an expensive machine. You can get different consistencies and types of cleaner depending on your needs.

For stain removal sprays, the best technique is to spray the designated area, pause and then put in some elbow grease and start scrubbing. This is usually enough to lift a stain but can be repeated several times for the best result. We recommend always reading the instructions as methods may vary between different products too.

Steam cleaner

If you are lucky enough to get your hands on a steam cleaner, you simply run the steamer across the fabric, sucking up all the dirt and covering all of the areas. Make sure to check under your pillows for any loose change or lost puzzle pieces to avoid damaging your steamer. Also it's worth noting that just cleaning the area of the stain on your upholstery could make the area more noticeable in contrast, so you must clean all perimeters of your furniture and then let it air dry.

How often should you clean upholstery?

The recommendation is usually around every six to 12 months to maintain clean and fresh smelling upholstery. However, when those crayons and bits of food mysteriously make their way onto your sofa, you may find you are cleaning it more frequently. It all depends on your preference and how much time you have. Of course, there will also be those unexpected spills and stains that will need cleaning sporadically too.

Can you use an upholstery cleaner on other surfaces or fabrics? 

Most upholstery cleaners can be used on a range of other surfaces or fabrics. For example, a steamer can not only clean soft fabric but can also clean hard surfaces such as countertops or greasy tiles. 

Spray upholstery cleaners can be used on sofas, carpets and rugs, as well as curtains. However, if an upholstery cleaner is specifically for fabric like leather, it won’t be effective on fabrics such as linen, and the product ingredients could be damaging.

How to buy the best upholstery cleaner 

Here are three important things to consider before choosing a cleaner for your home:

  • Fabric: Firstly, consider the type of material you are trying to clean to help you find the best product. Is it leather, polyester, linen, velvet? Knowing what works well with your fabric is key.
  • Cause of stain: Knowing what caused the stain or dirt is also vital in finding the best product to use on it. For example, some parents swear by dish soap for crayon stains on upholstery and others will promise that Dr Beckmann will lift that chocolate smudge.
  • Ingredients: Some cleaning products contain ingredients that are harmful to fabrics without you even realising – as poor Mumsnet user WitneyWonder found out: “I grabbed the Milton spray - read the label - it said NO BLEACH - so I sprayed the sofa - and the result was bleached patches on my dark brown sofa.” Although the bottle says, ‘no bleach’, another Mumsnet user AfterSchoolWorry pointed out: “It mightn't be chlorine bleach but there's some chemical in it that removes colour from fabric.” So it is important to read the small print. 

What is the best upholstery cleaner?

Dr Beckmann is a brand that comes highly recommended by Mumsnet users, and we love the Carpet Cleaner for effective stain removal at a great price. Whether you've had an unfortunate spillage or want to get rid of a spot of dirt on the floor, it's a powerful solution and the handy brush is a nice touch which makes cleaning a cinch.

How we chose our recommendations 

When finding yourself in a spillage situation, it can be stressful enough especially without the worry of using a product that could end up making the stain worse.

With a range of different cleaners on the market, suited for all the various types of upholstery fabrics and fibres, the decision in picking the right formula can definitely be daunting.

Our mission is to make parents' lives easier, and so when it comes to our Swears By articles, we always thoroughly research every product we recommend. To help you pick the best upholstery cleaner for your home we first started by visiting the Mumsnet forums to get the lowdown on the products our trusted users have tried, tested and independently recommended.

We then spent an extensive amount of time analysing the solutions and machines suggested by home and cleaning experts on leading websites. After that we researched authentic consumer reviews, shortlisting our final selection of products to ensure we we bringing you an honest and reliable round-up of cleaners that real people love and use in their homes.

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.