It doesn't matter how careful you are, all sofas will fall victim to spills, stains and discolouration - it's a fact of life. Whether you've got pets, grandchildren or just happen to be a little bit clumsy (guilty!), having a great upholstery cleaner on hand will help you tackle all of it.
Everyone should dedicate some time during the year to give their carpets, chairs, rugs, blinds, curtains, ironing board covers and car upholstery a once-over with some upholstery cleaner, as it helps to lengthen the lifespan of the item, remove bacteria and allergens and keep your home feeling fresh. Vacuuming alone isn't enough, although it is a good place to start.
For tips and advice on cleaning carpet and upholstery, scroll down.
Our top five upolstery cleaner products:
The best upholstery cleaners to try
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Best upholstery cleaner
1. Dr Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover with Cleaning Brush
For stubborn spots on your carpet or soft furnishings, this cleaner with a brush head is ideal. It gets deep into the stain, removing it easily and any odour too. We wouldn't recommend it for whole pieces of furniture unless you fancy a real arm workout, but it works well for the odd accident or quick job. Review: "When I first viewed this product and its reviews, I was very sceptical. However, I got the product and used it on carpet stains (where I spilled some Lemsip and an old stain) and it actually works! I was not expecting a bargain for a quality product. Definitely recommended."
2. Vanish Carpet Cleaner + Upholstery
This foam upholstery cleaner from Vanish can be used on carpets, rugs and other furnishings, and is really easy to use. You simply shake it well and spray it, use a brush to work in the foam and then leave it for two hours to dry before hoovering. It leaves your furnishings looking great and smelling fresh.Review: "NOTHING works like this stuff. We have a puppy and have had a few accidents along the way in puppy training. We have a light coloured carpet on the stairs and the landing and it had some dreadful dark marks on it."I tried EVERYTHING under the sun and had heard about this product. Was very sceptical about whether it would be any good but boy does it work. The carpet looks so much better. Have ordered a few more cans for future occasions!"
3. HG Spot & Stain Spray Cleaner
This cleaner tends to work a little better with fresh stains, so it's a good one to have in the cupboard if you entertain a lot, have children in your house or for pet mishaps. It can be used for all types of upholstery including car seats and carpets. Review: "This is one cleaner that really does the job it was supposed to do! With four house dogs and lots of chickens, some of which think the house is preferable to outdoors in the rain, we inevitably get lots of stains on our rugs and sofas but this spot and spray cleaner really works. Even on chicken poo, which really does stain! "Plus it's less than half the price of some of the pet products designed to do the same job. If you're thinking great for pets but what about other stains I can confirm it also shifts red wine! Highly recommended!"
4. Simoniz Car Upholstery Cleaner with Brush
Popular for car seats, this car upholstery cleaner is the perfect size to keep in the glove box. It takes a little more effort than some to remove stains, but gives you that new car fragrance.Review: "This is a good product, I have cleaned my car seats and they looked pretty good. The driver seat needed a second cleaning but it has come up fine. "The brush is very firm but this helps, the more effort you put in the better the results. The cleaning foam can be a bit spluttery, just shake it and scrub."
5. Wheelers Natural Leather Cleaning Spray
This leather cleaner is made with 90 per cent natural ingredients and can be used on furniture, shoes, gloves and much more. It leaves leather looking brand new and is enriched with spearmint and lavender essential oils.Review: "I have 2 x 2 seater leather recliner sofas which I needed to clean. They were given to me a couple of years ago by a friend who was a smoker and had three dogs so to be honest the sofas always had a bit of a whiff that I could never quite shift no matter what I tried. "I was a bit dubious as to whether this would work as it uses natural ingredients, but this is brilliant stuff! I left it on each sofa for five minutes and then used a microfibre cloth to wipe it away and the colour is brighter and the smell is completely gone. It has a lovely scent which isn't overpowering too. "I treated each sofa twice just to make sure, and I still only used just under half the bottle so it is great value for money too. Can't recommend it highly enough and I will certainly buy it again."
6. Rug Doctor Carpet Detergent
Designed for use in the Rug Doctor Portable Spot Cleaner, this upholstery and fabric cleaner formula works on all fabrics, is colour-safe and eliminates stains and odours well.Review: "Excellent product, very good value for money - as a little goes a long way. Carpets and rugs came up so much brighter. Haven't had to reclean and i'm very pleased with quality and durability. Would highly recommend product."
7. BISSELL Cotton Fresh Formula
Safe for use in all carpet cleaners, this carpet and upholstery cleaner comes in a large bottle and is concentrated so it's perfect for cleaning the whole house. The smell is divine and although it's a little pricey, it really does work.Review: "When I got my carpet cleaner it came with lots of different cleaning liquids - this one is definitely my favourite as it leaves a lovely scent - perfect for using when the dog has an accident inside."
8. Ecozone Carpet Shampoo
This plant-based cleaner can be used in machines or manually, so it's a great all-rounder. It's formulated to gently lift dirt and stains and can be used on carpets and upholstery. You will need to spot clean any stubborn stains before using for best results.Review: "I used this product for cleaning lounge and dining area carpets. Was very effective. The carpets are now beautifully clean. For the odd stain I did spot cleaning first. Wonderful to use a product with no nasty chemicals. "Have just ordered more bottles to clean the stairs, landing and bedrooms. Used nearly two bottles for the lounge and dining area."
9. Simple Solution Extreme Pet Stain and Odour Remover
Safe for use around pets and children, this cleaning spray completely eliminates pet stains and odours and discourages pets from repeat marking. Pro-Bacteria and enzymes effectively eliminate tough dog and cat odours and stains faster.
10. Dirtbusters Pet Cleaner
Suitable for carpets and upholstery, the reactivating odour treatment means pet smells are kept at bay between cleans. Essential oils of geranium and chamomile add a pleasant fragrance.Review: "Carpets and Sofas came up really clean, I have used the Vax cleaner before and I feel like this cleaned better. Pleasant smell, not too strong, will definitely be using again."
11. Dirtbusters Professional red Wine and red Stain Remover
Specifically designed to remove red wine stains (but also suitable for other stubborn stains such as coffee, blood, ink and fizzy drinks), this cleaner is trusted by professional carpet cleaning companies. Review: "I like everything apart from the smell, which does wear off. It not only gets rid of red wine stains, but also red fruit stains. I had a large raspberry stain in a cloth bag which the stain remover got rid of. The bottle is nice and big too! Much better than the other stain remover I used for wine. I was so impressed I bought a second bottle for when my first bottle runs out. (I drink a fair bit of wine!)."
12. Scotchgard Fabric and Carpet Cleaner
Perfect for either spot cleaning or large area applications, the deep foaming action removes even tough stains without too much elbow-grease. While bringing a new lease of life to upholstery, it also leaves behind Scotchgard anti-soiling protection – protecting against future stains.Review: "Just wow! I bought a three-seater cream sofa from the charity shop and it was filthy. Took almost two cans of Scotchguard to cover all the areas that needed cleaning and it's come out looking brand new! I was amazed. Cleaned it before bed and when I came down in the morning it was like a completely different sofa! If I could give this product more than five stars I would."
13. Furniture Clinic Complete Leather Care Kit
For those with leather furniture, you can't go wrong with this Furniture Clinic kit. The highly-rated leather cleaner removes dirt and grime that is deeply ingrained in your leather, while the protection cream feeds and nourishes your leather preventing it from drying out, cracking and fading. The sponges provided make application easy.Review: "Used this to clean my 13 year old sofas. At first I thought the colour was coming off then I realised it was dirt, and the original colour came up like new. I would highly recommend this product. The conditioner makes the leather feel very subtle. You need to use a bit of elbow grease, but the end result are well worth any effort."
14. Dodo Juice Supernatural Leather Cleaner
Another great one for leather care – the gentle, water-based formula is residue free and non-staining. It's also non-sticky so it won't attract dirt like some leather cleaners. Great for lighter leathers as it completely removes stubborn stains such as denim-dye. Suits most leather and vinyl materials, although it's recommended to test on nubuck and suede first.Review: "An easy-to-use product, that has truly enhanced the appearance of my seats overall would definitely purchase again. The application of this product is pleasant to apply and the aesthetic appeal and fragrance made for a must-have purchase."
How to clean your upholstery
You should try to clean your upholstery a couple of times per year; once every six months, if you can. If you have children or pets in the home or like to entertain often, you may need to increase the frequency of your cleaning sessions to avoid set-in stains.
Cleaning your furniture isn't a one-size-fits-all approach, as different fabrics require different cleaning solutions.
Start out your cleaning by vacuuming your chosen surface to get rid of dust, skin cells, hair and dirt. Follow up with an upholstery cleaner, paying close attention to the instructions to avoid damaging your furnishings. Avoid cleaning metal if you can, such as zips and buttons. Let the item air dry thoroughly before use.
Understanding UK upholstery labelling
According to the experts at British reupholstery specialists Plumbs, before using any old cleaning product it’s important to check the label on your furniture – just like you would before washing your clothes.
Different fabrics require different cleaning formulas to avoid causing damage and discolouration.
Where is the cleaning code on my furniture?
They’re normally tucked away, for example on the seat cushions, down the side of the cushion or around the back of the sofa.
What you’re looking for is letter coding reading either “W”, “S”, “S-W” or “X”.
If the cleaning tags have been removed or cut off, you can check the manufacturer’s website to get the full cleaning specifications for your furniture.
What do the cleaning codes mean?
‘W’ means you can only clean it with a water-based solution. This includes the likes of soap, washing-up liquid, carpet cleaner or specialist upholstery shampoo.
‘S’ means you can only use water-free solvents on these types of textiles. This includes only water-free solvents that are specifically designed for cleaning purposes. For instance, rubbing alcohol, clear alcohols, and dry-cleaning solvents are ideal for this type of fabric.
‘S-W’ means you can use both dry solvents and wet cleaning products on these types of fabrics (you might also come across “W-S”, which is essentially the same thing).
‘X’ means vacuum only – these delicate fabrics can only be cleaned with a vacuum or brush. So, if you’ve got a stain on a piece of furniture marked X, a trip to the dry cleaners is in store.
Top tips for cleaning upholstery
Always apply cleaners to a cloth or rag rather than directly to the fabric.
If in doubt, do a test patch with your upholstery fabric cleaner before applying the product to the whole surface.
Never rub spills or stains, always blot them – rubbing pushes marks further into the fabric rather than lifting them out.
On ‘W’ or ‘S-W’ fabrics use distilled water rather than tap water to avoid rings after cleaning.
Baby wipes are a great way to remove muck on leather upholstery or vinyl surfaces.
Brushing deep pile fabrics after cleaning will help restore the fabric.
Vacuum upholstery at least once a week to remove loose dirt, allergens and lingering smells.
Upholstery cleaning 101
When you undertake upholstery cleaning, it helps to remove some rather nasty unwanted guests from your home - some you may not know are even there.
When walking through your house with shoes on, opening windows or doors, dust, dirt, grime and sand can enter your house, getting trapped in carpets and furniture. Leaving it to become embedded in the fibres can not only damage the material but can stain or become difficult to remove.
Spilt food and drink, dirt from pets and sweat can all cause bad odours in the house, so regular cleaning will stop these from becoming an issue.
Furniture can easily become a breeding ground for bacteria, especially if something is spilt on a cushion, for example. Able to survive for up to a few months on surfaces and soft furnishings, this bacteria can then be transferred back to humans, according to research.
Dust mites are tiny microscopic insects that live on bedding, carpets, curtains and furniture, feeding on the flakes of skin left behind by people and pets. While they won't actually leave bites on your skin, they can cause a nasty rash and allergies.
Mould and mildew
We've probably all opened up our garage or shed to find that our lounge cushions or an old chair have been attacked by mould - it has a distinct smell and can ruin your furniture. Able to spread quickly, it can eventually cause respiratory problems if untreated.