The best upholstery cleaners for every spill and fabric

Get ready to find your new favourite carpet and upholstery cleaner from these reader reviews.

Sofa upholstery cleaner

by Stephanie Anthony |

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:

Cleanly Upholstery Cleaner

Vanish Carpet Cleaner + Upholstery, Gold Power Foam Shampoo

Simple Solution Extreme Pet Stain and Odour Remover

Dirtbusters Red Wine and Red Stain Remover

Furniture Clinic Complete Leather Care Kit

The best upholstery cleaners to try

Just so you know, while we may receive commission for purchases made through our links, we never allow this to influence product selections. Find out more.

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.

Related: How to clean a mattress: An easy and thorough guide

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.

Upholstery cleaning car

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.

Dog on sofa
©Photo: Getty Images

Dust

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.

Odours

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.

Bacteria

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

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.

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Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us