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An upholstery cleaner is a handheld machine, spray, wipe, or cream that comes to the rescue when you need to clean a spill or stain on your couch upholstery or another soft surface. When first using one, you'll want to be thoughtful in your approach, to ensure you don't damage your favorite pieces. "Always remember to spot test any type of cleaning method on upholstery as some steam and liquid techniques can damage fabric or coloring," says Lauren Bowen, Director of Franchise Operations at Two Maids & A Mop. "To avoid any potential damage or color fasting, be sure to read care instructions and abide by cleaning codes."
We researched and tested dozens of upholstery cleaners in The Lab and at home, rating each on its ease of setup, effectiveness, portability, noise level, and overall value. After analyzing our insights, we found the Bissell SpotBot Pet Portable Deep Cleaner is our favorite upholstery cleaner because it's effective on a variety of stains, from salsa spills to crayon marks, and is easy to use and store.
Below, the best upholstery cleaners for freshening up your favorite pieces, backed by our thorough testing and research.
Best Overall: Bissell 2117A SpotBot Pet Spot and Stain Portable Deep Cleaner
Manual and automatic cleaning modes
Attachment storage on the machine
Only cleans one 5- to 6-inch spot at a time
Harder to use on vertical surfaces of furniture
What do buyers say? 91% of 4,100+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
Stubborn stains can be a real nuisance, requiring vigorous scrubbing, re-treatment, and a lot of persistence. The Bissell SpotBot Pet is specifically designed to take out stains while minimizing your hands-on effort and elbow grease, and that's why it's our top pick.
Our at-home tester challenged this carpet and upholstery cleaner with removing the evidence of salsa spills, crayon marks, and other stains left on the couch by kids and pets. The appliance earned a 5-star rating and saved our tester’s furniture with its effective and easy-to-use design.
Like other models in the Bissell SpotBot lineup, this version features automatic and manual cleaning modes. When cleaning dirty couch cushions, our tester used the manual mode and the included tough stain tool (which is conveniently stored on the SpotBot, along with the hose). She found it easy to use the trigger to dispense cleaning solution when necessary. Working on vertical surfaces (like the back of the couch) required a little effort to keep the cleaning solution from running down the couch. After some trial and error, our tester found it was easiest to dispense just a small amount of solution and quickly work that into the upholstery with the cleaning tool—rather than saturate a larger area.
In automatic cleaning mode, the Bissell SpotBot Pet impressed us with its hands-free cleaning ability. A motorized, rotating brush dispenses cleaning solution from the on-board tank and adjusts brush speed to thoroughly agitate carpet fibers. After six minutes on the deep clean setting, the SpotBot beeped to indicate its cleaning cycle was complete and our tester was delighted to see that the spot had disappeared. The only drawback is that this machine can only clean spots 5 to 6 inches in diameter at a time. Otherwise, it's an easy-to-use and effective machine that's perfect for stain-fighting pros and new users alike.
Best Budget: Hoover FH11300PC Portable Carpet & Upholstery Spot Cleaner
Long, 5-foot hose extension
Handheld cleaning tool provides good agitation
Left behind a faint stain
Lacks a steam function
You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on an upholstery cleaner to see results. The Hoover Spotless Portable Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is designed to provide spot-specific cleaning for furniture and carpeting, without the need for an army of attachments. It includes a multipurpose handheld cleaning tool, along with a rubber nub tool for extra agitation. If you're looking for an excellent upholstery cleaning machine at an affordable price, this is it.
In our testing, we found that this upholstery cleaner removes and lifts stains quickly, earning it a 4-star rating in effectiveness. There was a faint stain left behind on some of the stickier substances, but with a little more elbow grease, we believe it would likely completely come up. We like that the handheld cleaning tool offers you the ability to easily scrub cushions that have become soiled or stained—and the 5-foot cleaning hose provides plenty of reach. You also don’t need to worry about bacteria and mold growing in the hose during storage, since the back of the machine features a port for flushing the hose after you’re done using it.
There are a few tradeoffs if you opt for a budget upholstery cleaner. There’s no onboard water heater or steam function, so that makes it less versatile than some of our other picks for upholstery cleaners. And while the Hoover Spotless Portable Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner does clean carpet as well as furniture, it lacks the ability to clean large areas of either one without a lot of manual effort on your part. Still, it’s a good single solution for removing stains and spills on soft surfaces in your home.
Best Handheld: Bissell 2837 Pet Stain Eraser PowerBrush
Works well on pet messes
Small water tank
Short battery life
A handheld upholstery cleaner is a great option for cleaning furniture, pet beds, car upholstery, and more. The Bissell Pet Stain Eraser PowerBrush is an excellent choice if you're looking for a cordless, lightweight option.
Resembling a handheld vacuum, this upholstery cleaner uses a powered brush to agitate soiled surfaces, lifting stains and dirt from fabric or carpet fibers. The 8-ounce tank—which you'll fill with cleaning solution—is smaller than you’ll find on portable or full-size upholstery cleaners. However, it does help make it one of the lightest models on the market, at just 4.4 pounds. Plus, a built-in handle gives you the leverage and control you need to clean sofas, stairs, and car seats without the need to manage attachments and hoses. The Bissell Pet Stain Eraser PowerBrush is also cordless, giving you the ability to use it anywhere that stains or spills pop up.
One of its specific uses is cleaning up pet messes, so the single included attachment is a stationary pet brush with rubber bristles for grabbing pet hair. There are no additional attachments for purposes like reaching into crevices or underneath low pieces of furniture or seats in your car. Even still, it makes an effective grab-and-go option for cleaning up messes and it stores easily.
Best Spray: Folex 32 oz. Instant Carpet Spot Remover
Safe for colorfast fabrics
No rinsing required
Not ideal for set-in stains
May require several applications
If you’re searching for a spray (as opposed to an appliance) that can dissolve stains on your favorite items, Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover is our top choice. In our experience, this budget-friendly cleaner is one that you will keep reaching for to remove all kinds of stains. Our at-home tester is a repeat buyer of the spray, which is made to treat carpet stains, as its name suggests. However, throughout the month of testing and many years of personal use, our tester used it on everything from couch upholstery to curtains. It easily dissolves coffee, grease, makeup, and wine stains, meaning you don’t need a cabinet full of cleaners to treat different kinds of stains. You may need to re-treat a stain more than once with Folex before it’s fully dissolved, but the product is cheap and easy to use, so that’s not a dealbreaker.
It’s also important to note that the formula is safe for colorfast fabrics. It’s always a good idea to test a spray on a hidden area when cleaning a new upholstery fabric, but our tester enthusiastically notes, “It is the only cleaner I trust on any new or precious upholstered furniture and rugs.”
Keep in mind that while the spray is a stain-removing superstar, it doesn’t contain enzymes to target the proteins found in pet stains, like urine. If you're tackling those messes, turn to a pet-specific stain fighter or upholstery cleaner.
Best for Leather: Weiman 8 oz. 3-in-1 Deep Leather Cleaner & Conditioner Cream
Won't darken finished leather
Doesn't require buffing
Wipes and sprays also available
Not safe for suede, nubuck, or unfinished leather
On the expensive side
Leather may not absorb all stains as easily as fabric upholstery, but it can still become dirty, stained, or dull and cracked. Steam cleaners saturate leather with too much moisture, though, and the same is true of most spray formulas. To properly preserve the appearance of your leathered pieces, use the Weiman Deep Leather Cleaner & Conditioner Cream. It's an effective and easy-to-use product, since you don't need to buff or rinse after applying it to your beloved surfaces. (This saves you some time and elbow grease for other tasks!)
Despite this shorter cleaning routine, the cream effectively removes dirt and residue, while also using natural oils to condition and restore the appearance of leather. When doing so, it doesn't darken the surface color or alter the look of your furniture. It’s safe for use on finished leather, but should not be used on suede, nubuck, or unfinished leather. While we didn't test this pick at home or in The Lab, we do love that you can also use it on shoes, bags, or car seats, making it a versatile product. In addition to the cream, Weiman also has leather conditioning wipes and sprays available, if you prefer to use that type of product.
Best for Stains: Bissell 1400B Little Green Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner
Compact and portable design
Large water tank
Only includes one attachment
The Bissell Little Green Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner is not only adorable, but it's an excellent upholstery cleaner. It weighs less than 10 pounds and is easy to carry. When we put it to work cleaning sauce and soil stains from upholstered cushions, the product's usability really took center stage. It was easy to maneuver and features a handle, earning it a 5-star rating for portability. We also didn't need to make a lot of adjustments or attachment swaps, which wasn't the case with other cleaning machines we tested. When removing dirt from a cushion, the Bissell Little Green initially seemed to be spreading the dirt around. However, it cleared the mess in one minute and 15 seconds, leaving our tester “pretty impressed.”
This upholstery cleaner wasn’t as speedy at cleaning up a sticky ketchup stain—requiring about two minutes of steaming and some hands-on scraping. Our tester gave the overall cleaning experience a total of 3.5 stars for this reason. The bottom line is that you may have to put in more work to pre-treat sticky stains and spend a few extra minutes when using this upholstery cleaner, but it’s effective and compact.
Now, setting up the appliance for the first time took a little longer than expected, but this was partially due to the fact that the tester filled the wrong water tank. We can’t fault the machine for not heating up as quickly as expected (The process took about 13 minutes.), but we do feel the instructions could be clearer. If you're on a search for a versatile upholstery cleaner, keep in mind that this one is designed for cleaning soft surfaces only. For that reason, plus the fact it only includes a single attachment, we rated it 3 stars for versatility.
Best for Cars: Armor All FreshFX Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner 3-in-1 Power Foam
Removable scrubber brush
Penetrates tough stains
Limited cleaning ability
If you're looking to clean car upholstery, you could use an upholstery cleaning machine, but if the device needs to be plugged in to operate, that could limit your range of motion. Don't worry, Armor All FRESH FX 3-in-1 Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is here to save the day (and your stained car seats). This 22-ounce bottle contains a foaming solution that works to lift grease and grime off of your car upholstery. Plus, it comes with a removable scrub brush to help you really tackle tough stains.
The Armor All 3-in-1 cleaner cleans, lifts away stains, and eliminates odors, leaving behind a "New Car" scent. To some, the scent may be too strong, so if you're sensitive smells, keep that in mind. We didn't test this upholstery cleaner, but it's key at lifting away coffee stains and dirt from a car's interior. If you've got a super tough stain to remove, you might have to turn to an upholstery machine, as this cleaner doesn't perform as well on caked-on stains. However, for the price, this cleaner and scrub brush would make great additions to your car cleaning supplies.
Best for Pet Owners: Hoover FH14050 CleanSlate Carpet & Upholstery Pet Spot Cleaner
Heatless operation is better for pet stains
7-inch wide cleaning tool
Easy to carry and operate
Sticky stains may require significant saturation
We all know that pets can be messy, leaving behind hair and dirt on your favorite furniture items. Even worse, more than one chair or couch has likely been subject to your pet's accident or vomit. Instead of banishing your four-legged friend from the couch, get the right cleaning equipment to keep your furniture clean. Keep in mind that heat is generally not recommended for most pet messes, since it can actually set stains and odors. This rules out most steam cleaners as a good pick for a pet upholstery cleaner.
The Hoover CleanSlate Pet Carpet Spot Cleaner was compared to a “water vacuum” by our product tester and it performed especially well on soiled surfaces in our testing. We prepped cushions with two different types of stains—a saucy, sticky stain and a dirty spot. Removing the soil stain was a fun experience for our product tester, who described the process like “a car wash for a cushion.” In just 1 minute and 30 seconds, the dirt was gone. It took more than a few passes (and quite a bit of solution) to remove the ketchup, but our tester still described using this upholstery cleaner as “really satisfying.” We adjusted the effectiveness score to 3 stars to reflect the extra effort required to remove a sticky stain, but it’s nothing that would hold us back from recommending this model for use as a pet stain upholstery cleaner. The manufacturer recommends pre-treating pet stains and using OXY formula in the machine in order to really rid yourself of stains and odors.
Our product tester especially liked the 7-inch wide cleaning tool, reporting that it really distributed cleaning solution and was a good choice for sofas or other large areas. This upholstery cleaner is only designed for use on soft surfaces and includes a bristle brush for reaching tight spots. Compared to other upholstery cleaners, it’s less versatile, but it was easy to use and very portable.
After boiling down our testing insights and thorough research, the Bissell SpotBot Pet Portable Deep Cleaner is our top pick for an upholstery cleaner. It features a self-cleaning hose, multiple attachments, and multiple modes for cleaning your favorite surfaces with total ease. If you're looking to spend less, the Hoover Spotless Portable Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is another great option that quickly cleans up stains and is easy to use.
How We Tested the Upholstery Cleaners
To find the best upholstery cleaners for you, we spent two days rigorously testing picks at The Lab in Industry City, Brooklyn. We also tested several other models at home over the course of months, and thoroughly researched others and their specifications, features, and verified reviews. In The Lab, we started with the unboxing and setup of each cleaner, timing how long it took to prepare the product for use. We noted whether the instructions were clear or confusing. Then, we evaluated each model's effectiveness on a tile surface and upholstered cushion, not testing products on a surface if they're not compatible with it. On the upholstered cushion, we tasked each model with cleaning up a caked-on ketchup stain and soil stain. After noting how many passes it took to clean up a stain and working with the cleaner's features and attachments, we rated its versatility, usability, and portability.
Could you easily carry it around? Can it be used for multiple cleaning tasks? We answered all of these questions so you don't have to. To wrap up, we rated the noise level of each model. At home, testers rated additional picks on the same attributes after tasking them with real-world situations, like salsa spills and crayon marks. We boiled down all of our testing insights and research to the cleaners we believe are the very best.
What to Look for in an Upholstery Cleaner
All upholstery cleaners share a common purpose, but vary in type and cleaning method. The most common type of upholstery cleaners are handheld appliances that are primarily used to spot clean furniture and carpets. They’re usually equipped with clean and dirty water tanks, and some models also heat the water for extra cleaning power. Typically, you can add a cleaning solution to the water tank during setup to help the machine tackle the mess you're targeting.
Some handheld and upright appliances are considered carpet cleaners, while others are considered steam cleaners or upholstery cleaners. The title refers to their cleaning method and most compatible surface type, but it's key to look at the specifications for a product as it is likely equipped to clean more than one spot in your home.
Out of the three, steam cleaners are eco-friendly, requiring only water and no cleaning concentrate. The steam produced can dissolve and lift stains from soft surfaces and many picks can also be used on hard surfaces, like tile, glass, or plastic. However, they can be more complicated to assemble and use compared to handheld upholstery cleaners. You may find that the hose or attachments become hot and sometimes drip water, too.
Aside from appliances, you can also opt for a spray, wipe, or cream. These products will require more effort to use, but may be more cost-effective if you're cleaning small spots around your home or are treating a specific type of fabric, like leather. Just be prepared to put in more elbow grease.
While upholstery cleaners are designed to work on soft surfaces, be sure to check that the product you are considering is a match for the surfaces you plan to use it on. Steam cleaners will work with fabrics, carpets, and hard surfaces, in most cases. On the other hand, upholstery cleaners without steam are designed to work on just fabric or carpet, and may not be the best choice for leather or a more delicate fabric.
If you’re looking at an upholstery cleaning spray, be sure the formula is safe for use on furniture. By checking your fabric’s care label and testing the spray on a hidden area, you can avoid discoloration or other adverse effects. "Upholstered items typically have a code system," says Lauren Bowen, Director of Franchise Operations at Two Maids & A Mop. This system usually notes what type of cleaning agent you should use when sprucing up your space. Since every machine has its own directions for use and best practices, she also adds, "It's always a good idea to thoroughly read the directions and spot test the piece you’re cleaning." If you have a sample of your fabric, you could also test a product there, opposed to on the actual piece of furniture.
The effectiveness and usability of an upholstery cleaner can be enhanced with the use of the right attachments. Handheld and upright upholstery cleaners frequently have a hand tool for dispensing cleaning solution or agitating stains. Steam cleaners are known for coming with many attachments, including fabric steamers, brushes, and microfiber bonnets or cleaning pads that can absorb stains from your furniture.
How do you clean upholstered furniture?
For day-to-day cleaning and keeping dust at a minimum, thoroughly vacuum the upholstery, taking the time to cover each section and cushion. If you want to address discoloration, use a handheld or upright appliance with a handheld attachment to tackle individual spots or a spray if you're treating an immediate spill or tiny stain.
When using a spray, start by blotting up the moisture with a clean cloth. Then, apply a small amount of the cleaner and continue blotting (or gently scrubbing, if needed) to remove the stain. No matter which type of upholstery cleaner you use, always let the fabric dry completely and away from direct sunlight, before using it again.
How often should you clean upholstery?
To minimize dust and remove crumbs, hair, and any other debris from the fibers of the fabric, weekly vacuuming is recommended. However, if you notice stains and discoloration in one area, or when liquid spills onto the material, address it as soon as possible with a spot treatment.
As for deeper cleans with an upholstery cleaner, steam cleaner, or professional service, once or twice per year is ideal.
Are there any types of fabric that shouldn't be cleaned with an upholstery cleaner?
If you have leather, suede, velvet, or microfiber furniture at home, you'll want to be careful about the products you use to clean it. Liquid formulas with acetone or bleach might cause discoloration or affect the texture of the material.
American-made furniture should have a tag on it with a proper cleaning code: W, S, W-S, or X. W means you should use water-based cleaners only. S means a water-free solvent can be used. W-S stands for water-based solvents, and X is a sign to avoid all household cleaning products and consult with a professional. When in doubt, test a small patch in a hidden spot, before using a cleaner on a larger area.
Can you use an upholstery cleaner on other surfaces or fabrics?
Many upholstery cleaners can be used on multiple surfaces, though it can vary from one product to the next. For instance, steam cleaners, upright appliances, and other machine options are typically suitable for cleaning carpets, curtains, and sometimes hard flooring.
Additionally, multi-surface liquid formulas can often be used on carpets as well as drapes, car interiors, car seats, and strollers. Be sure to check the intended use, before using a product to clean any surface.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Erica Puisis has been researching home products for The Spruce since 2017, delivering insights and advice on the latest innovations in cleaning products and technology. When writing this article, Erica relied on testing insights from The Lab and our at-home product testers to compare attributes such as usability and effectiveness, in addition to each product's features. For more insight, she spoke to Lauren Bowen, Director of Franchise Operations at Two Maids & A Mop. Bowen provided insights on the best practices for using an upholstery cleaner and advice on abiding by fabric care labels. During the days of house-training a puppy and dealing with spills and stains from dinner, a bottle of Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover is an absolute necessity in Erica's cleaning closet.
Marisa Casciano is a senior commerce editor for The Spruce, and was in The Lab for our test. She has first-hand knowledge of how our tests were both developed and performed. When selecting models, she considered verified customer reviews, new technology, and practicality, and pulled picks from a variety of brands and retailers. This article was updated by Erin Johnson, a commerce editor for The Spruce focusing on appliances, cleaning, and organization. Erin considered additional lab insights as well as new and tried-and-true upholstery cleaners to add to this roundup.