By Corrie Pelc
Fabric-coated furniture is beautiful, comfortable — and takes a beating. Between food spills, pet messes, and everyday grubbiness from kids (and even adults!), upholstered furniture gets used and abused.
This is why having the right upholstery cleaner in your household cleaning arsenal is vital. The quicker you can act to clean up dirt and debris on upholstered fabric, the better. With so many upholstery cleaners on the market today, it’s hard to figure out which is the best. Thankfully, we’re here to help! We dug in and came up with a list of the best upholstery cleaners on the market right now.
How to Buy an Upholstery Cleaner
When looking to purchase an upholstery cleaner, the first thing you need to do is read the tag on the furniture you’re trying to clean. Because upholstery can be made from so many different types of fabrics — or blends of fabrics — it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the upholstery is made of. A good manufacturer will be able to tell you what to use through these designations on a tag found on the furniture frame itself, a pillow, or cushion:
- W: This upholstery fabric can be cleaned with a water-based cleaner.
- S: For this upholstery fabric, you should use a solvent-based cleaner. A solvent-based cleaner uses chemicals to dissolve the stain you apply it to. These types of cleaners include dry cleaning products or water-free solvents.
- SW: You can use either water- or solvent-based cleaners with this fabric.
- X: Don't use anything liquid on this upholstery fabric — you can try vacuuming it and if that doesn’t work, seek out a professional for cleaning help.
No matter what your fabric label says, always pretest a small, hard-to-see area of your furniture to see how the cleaner reacts to your upholstery. This is especially important if the upholstery cleaner you want to use does not specify an upholstery fabric code.
Factors We Considered When Choosing the Best Upholstery Cleaners
There are hundreds of products in the upholstery cleaner market today. Here’s a look at the test factors we used to determine the best to put on our must-buy list:
- Price: Upholstery cleaners come at all types of price points.
- Bottle Size: How many ounces are in a bottle?
- Formula Type: What type of formula is the upholstery cleaner — Liquid? Foam? Something else?
- Upholstery Fabric Types: What types of upholstery fabric is this cleaner good for — W, S, WS, or a combination?
- Application: How is the upholstery cleaner applied — spray bottle? Through a machine? Some way else?
- Where Else It Cleans: Does this upholstery cleaner work on anything else?
- How Long It Takes to Work: How long does the upholstery cleaner take to work its magic? Some cleaners will work instantly, while others may need to sit for longer depending on the type of stain.
- Scent: Does the upholstery cleaner have a scent or is it fragrance-free?
- Safe for Kids and Pets: Is this upholstery cleaner safe to use around children and pets? Upholstery cleaners that are enzyme-based or use natural-derived agents are usually safe for use around animals and kids. And some companies go so far as to have their products certified kid and pet-friendly.
Now let’s look at the best upholstery cleaners you can buy in 2021 broken down by category.
Best Overall Upholstery Cleaner: Woolite Carpet and Upholstery Foam Cleaner
~ $4 at Walmart
An easy-to-use upholstery cleaner perfect for cleaning everyday messes.