The Best Spot Cleaner for Car Upholstery

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If you’ve got kids saddled up in the backseat, furry friends who’re frequent passengers, or have a pretty relaxed policy about eating take-out in the car, you’ll be quite familiar with the problem of keeping your car seat upholstery clean.

While it’s a challenge unto itself even for folks who’re extra careful with their cars, regular cleaning of vehicles – including car seats – is absolutely essential not just to prevent it from looking unsightly (seriously, no one wants to be sitting on a suspiciously stained up seat), but also to make sure you’re not festering a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, mildew and other nasties in there.

Thankfully, you’re not going to have to steer your automobile to the nearest car maintenance joint and regretfully part with some precious cash – if you act quickly and decisively, and of course have the right tools for the job, you can tackle stains and spill-damage by yourself. Take a look at our top picks for the best spot cleaners for car upholstery.

KAREN’S PICK
Bissell 3624 SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner

Bissell 3624 SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner - Corded
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Spot cleaning can feel like a bother at the best of times, but if you’ve taken it upon yourself to take care of every stain and spill mark on your car-seats, you’re probably not going to want to go at it armed with a brush, some stain remover solution and a ton of elbow-grease. Enter our top pick – it looks like it means business, and this is befitting, since it delivers professional levels of cleaning performance, leaving your upholstery, be it your car seats or the living-room couch, and your carpets, good as new.

The portable, space-saving unit features a large capacity, ¾ gallon tank you can remove and fill up at the sink so you don’t have to make frequent refill trips. Into this goes BISSELL’s Professional Deep Cleaning formula, a deeply penetrating stain cleaner with Scotchgard protection to avoid damaging the fabrics as you clean. The powerful suctioning of the cleaner pulls stains out of the fabric of your car seat, carpet or couch covers, melting through even tough old stains.

The unit features a 22 feet long power cord and a 5 feet long hose, giving you the perfect range and coverage to reach harder to access nooks and crannies, especially handy when you’re giving the interior of your car some thorough TLC. The hose hooks onto a variety of snap-on accessories for thorough and versatile cleaning applications, including a tough stain brush tool to tease out even the most stubborn of stains, and a stair tool, so you can tackle those muddy foot- (or paw-) prints left on your carpeted stairs.

A fail-proof cleaner, it makes for quick, convenient and efficient cleaning and lands its place in our top spot uncontested – despite the steeper price compared to the other options on this list, its rugged, smooth and intuitive performance, along with the versatile applications, make it worth the extra digits, especially considering the value for money payoff in the long run.

KAREN’S BUDGET PICK
Car Guys Super Cleaner

CarGuys Super Cleaner - Effective All Purpose Cleaner - Best for Leather Vinyl Carpet Upholstery Plastic Rubber and Much More! - 18 oz Kit
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If you’re concerned about budget and can’t justify investing in a machine for stain cleaning, you can go about it the time-proven, old-fashioned way, provided you have the right tools for the job, starting with the right stain cleaner.

Our budget pick is an all-purpose cleaner you can use not just on car seats upholstered in fabric, but also faux and genuine leather, as well as other surfaces like vinyl, PU and canvass – meaning the stain remover is a great cleaning agent for other surfaces in your car’s interior, such as the dashboard, your steering wheel and the floor mats as well.

The specially formulated cleaner is engineered with advanced nano-technology to penetrate deep into stains and spill marks and break them down on a molecular level, making them that much easier to remove. Developed with the feedback and involvement of professional detailers, this product is also formulated to protect and improve the longevity of your car-seat’s finish without leaving behind any unsightly and difficult to remove residue.

The purchase includes a cleaning towel, and since the cleaner is not a concentrate, you can spray it directly on tough stains – and for recent or mild stains, a little bit on the towel – before blotting and buffing the stained area, switching the towel around to a clean spot as you go.

Before you get into it, make sure you’ve removed any solid matter clinging to the stain without rubbing it in – this forces the stain deeper into the material and therefore makes it harder to remove – and vacuum the area before you begin. Since the spray is rather potent, remember only to use it in an open area that is properly ventilated, and direct away from your eyes and skin.

RUNNER-UP
Sonax (321200-755) Upholstery and Carpet Cleaner

Sonax 321200-755 Multi-Purpose Auto Interior Cleaner,16.9 fl. oz.
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The foaming-action formula of this multi-purpose cleaner gets deep within the fabric, the formula’s cleaning agents bonding with contaminants and making even the toughest stains and spill marks easy to remove. Usable on standard upholstery and carpets (for both your car and your home), you can use a tiny amount of the cleaner with a sponge or soft-bristled brush to tease out the dirt, loosening as much as you can as the cleaner breaks the stain down at a molecular level.

Then, using a clean microfiber cloth, blot the area to remove the loosened dirt, wiping down the whole area after you’re removed the stain completely, and your car seats will be left looking brand new, the pleasant refreshing scent left behind a nice bonus. Before using the cleaner, use a vacuum cleaner over the area to remove any loose dirt clinging to the upholstery. Also remember not to use this item in an enclosed space, since it can possibly irritate your skin or eyes.