Have you dropped a glass of red wine on your gorgeous cream-colored couch? Did your cute doggie put his muddy paws on your white ottoman? If so, you might want to look into an upholstery cleaner. It's 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 that you don't accidentally 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 have plenty of options to keep your home clean. Let's take a look!
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
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 minimize the need for any effort and elbow grease while it takes out stains—that's why it's our top pick.
In a home setting, we 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. It was up for the challenge, and we were impressed with its effectiveness and easy-to-use design. The built-in handle allowed for easy positioning over spots to clean, as well as moving it around when necessary. Plus, it's a light enough to lift and stow away on a shelf.
Like other models in the Bissell SpotBot lineup, this version features automatic and manual cleaning modes. With dirty couch cushions, we used the manual mode and the included tough stain tool (which is conveniently stored on the SpotBot, along with the hose). The trigger made it easy to dispense cleaning solution when necessary, though working on vertical surfaces (like the back of the couch) required a little effort to keep the solution from running down the couch. After some trial and error, we found that 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 we were 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.
Price at time of publish: $186
Type: Machine | Dimensions: 13.5 x 17 x 9 inches | Weight: 14 pounds | Capacity: 30 ounces | Cord Length: 15 feet | Heat Time: Not applicable | Run Time: Not listed | Surface Type: Carpet and upholstery
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 model.
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 is filled with cleaning solution—is smaller than what you’ll find on portable or full-size upholstery cleaners. On the plus side, that does help make it one of the lightest models on the market, at just 4.4 pounds. 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 beneath low pieces of furniture or seats in your car. Still, it makes an effective grab-and-go option for cleaning up messes, and it stores easily.
Price at time of publish: $134
Type: Machine | Dimensions: 8.5 x 16.46 x 5.67 inches | Weight: 4.4 pounds | Capacity: 8 ounces | Cord Length: Cordless | Heat Time: Not applicable | Run Time: 20 minutes | Surface Type: Carpet and upholstery
Best for Stains
Bissell 1400B Little Green Multi-Purpose 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, it's also an excellent upholstery cleaner. We're impressed that 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's easy to maneuver and features a handle, earning it a perfect rating for portability. We also didn't need to make a lot of adjustments or attachment swaps, unlike with other cleaning machines we tested. When removing dirt from a cushion, the Bissell Little Green initially seemed to be spreading the dirt around. To our pleasant surprise, it went on to clean the mess in an impressive one minute and 15 seconds.
This upholstery cleaner wasn’t as speedy at cleaning up a sticky ketchup stain, requiring about two minutes of application and some hands-on scraping, so we docked points for that. Expect to put in more work to pre-treat sticky stains, and spend a few extra minutes when using this upholstery cleaner, but we think that's a reasonable trade-off given how effective and compact it is.
Setting up the appliance for the first time also took longer than expected, but that was partially because we accidentally 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 the instructions could be clearer. Keep in mind that this is designed for cleaning soft surfaces only, but if that matches your needs, it's a worthy choice.
Price at time of publish: $124
Type: Machine | Dimensions: 12.5 x 17.25 x 8.25 inches | Weight: 9.65 pounds | Capacity: 48 ounces | Cord Length: 15 feet | Heat Time: Not listed | Run Time: Not listed | Surface Type: Upholstery and carpet
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
Instead of banishing your four-legged friend from the couch, you might want to get the right equipment to keep your furniture clean. And because heat is generally not recommended for most pet messes (it can actually set in certain stains and odors), that rules out most steam cleaners as a good pick for pet-related stains. Enter this handheld machine. The Hoover CleanSlate Pet Carpet Spot Cleaner was comparable to a “water vacuum” in our experience, and it performed well on soiled surfaces during testing.
We prepped cushions with two different types of stains—a saucy, sticky stain and a dirty spot. Removing the soil stain was actually a fun experience, with one member of our testing team describing the process as being like “a car wash for a cushion.”
In just one 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. We were still overall satisfied with the process, but we docked a few points to reflect the extra effort required to remove a sticky stain—but it’s nothing that would hold us back from recommending this model.
During use, we especially liked the 7-inch wide cleaning tool. It distributed cleaning solution well 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 still easy to use and very portable.
Price at time of publish: $140
Type: Machine | Dimensions: 13 x 10.5 x 14 inches | Weight: 9.4 pounds | Amount: 40 ounces | Cord Length: 18 feet | Heat Time: Not listed | Run Time: Not available | Surface Type: Carpet and upholstery
Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Oxy Stain Remover
Safe for people and pets
Fresh minty scent
Requires double application for darker stains
For some people, owning another fancy gizmo is just another storage headache. That's why we also considered sprays and other cleaners as potential upholstery cleaning remedies.
Hands down, the Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Oxy Stain Remover blew us away with its effectiveness at removing all types of stains. The oxygen-infused formula helps to lift even the oldest of stains out of fabric for an easy, no-scrub process. This remover only took 12 minutes to remove all of the spots in our testing—barbecue sauce, dirt, urine, pre-treated wine stains, and mud!
While it needed a second spray on gooey barbecue sauce and mud stains, we don't consider that a drawback, as our testing method did not call for any pre-removal of staining agents before applying the remover spray.
In addition to this spray's effectiveness, we were pleasantly surprised by its minty aroma. Compared to the smell of harsh chemicals, the subtle, clean scent was nice. Although this spray is slightly more expensive than others, the amount you receive in a bottle, coupled with its effectiveness, make it definitely worth the price.
Price at time of publish: $20
Type: Spray | Dimensions: 10 x 5 x 2 inches | Weight: 2 pounds | Amount: 32 fluid ounces | Cord Length: Not applicable | Heat Time: Not applicable | Run Time: Not applicable | Surface Type: Carpet, upholstery, and laundry
Best for Leather
Weiman 8 oz. 3-in-1 Deep Leather Cleaner & Conditioner Cream
Will not darken finished leather
Doesn't require buffing
Available in wipes and sprays
Not safe for suede, nubuck, or unfinished leather
Leather might not absorb all stains as easily as fabric, but it can still become dirty, stained, dull, or cracked. Steam cleaners saturate leather with too much moisture, and the same is true of most spray formulas. To properly preserve the appearance of leathered pieces, we recommend using a specifically formulated product. One of our top recommendations is Weiman Deep Leather Cleaner & Conditioner Cream.
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. Our research shows it to be effective and easy-to-use, because you don't need to buff or rinse after applying it to your beloved surfaces. (This saves you 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. In addition to the cream, Weiman carries leather conditioning wipes and sprays.
Price at time of publish: $15
Type: Cream | Dimensions: 7.87 x 3.54 x 2.64 inches | Weight: 0.5 pounds | Amount: 8 ounces | Cord Length: Not applicable | Heat Time: Not applicable | Run Time: Not applicable | Surface Type: Leather
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.
It comes with a removable scrub brush to help you really tackle tough stains. This is another choice that we haven't had a chance to test, but once again, our research has us confident in its ability to lift away common annoyances, such as coffee stains and dirt from your car's interior.
The Armor All 3-in-1 cleaner cleans, lifts away stains, and eliminates odors, leaving behind a "new car" scent. The scent may be too strong, so if you're sensitive to smells, keep that in mind when you're scoping out this foaming solution. You might have to turn to an upholstery machine for super-tough stains because this cleaner doesn't perform as well on caked-on stains. For the price, this cleaner and scrub brush would make great additions to your car cleaning supplies and basic interior cleaning needs.
Price at time of publish: $6
Type: Foaming solution | Dimensions: 11 x 3.9 x 2.8 inches | Weight: 1.7 pounds | Capacity: Not applicable | Cord Length: Not applicable | Heat Time: Not applicable | Run Time: Not applicable | Surface Type: Carpet, upholstery
After sifting through all of our testing insights and 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 numerous modes for cleaning your favorite surfaces with total ease. If you're looking to spend less and don't mind a process that's a bit more hands-on, Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Oxy Stain Remover is another great option that effectively cleans up stains, and it's easy to use, and smells delightful.
How We Tested the Upholstery Cleaners
To find the best upholstery cleaners for you, we spent days rigorously testing picks at The Lab and at home. We evaluated machines, spray cleaners, foaming solutions, and more. In The Lab, when we tested machines, we first considered the ease of setup of each cleaner and timed how long it took to prepare the product for use. We noted whether the instructions were clear or confusing, and how easy it was to fill the water tank and heat it up. Then, we evaluated each model's effectiveness against ketchup, soil, and orange juice stains that had set overnight. We indicated how many passes it took us to clean up each stain, and we worked with each cleaner's features and attachments to rate its versatility, usability, and portability. To wrap up testing of machines, we rated the noise level of each model.
For non-machine picks, like an upholstery-cleaning spray, we tested the effectiveness by tasking the spray cleaners with red wine, barbecue sauce, mud, and wolf urine stains on carpet and upholstery. The ease of use of each product was rated, and we noted its scent and whether the application process was simple or messy. For all machine and non-machine cleaners, testers used their entire experience to rate the overall value of a product.
At home, testers rated additional picks on the same attributes after putting everyday, real-world problems to them, like salsa spills and crayon marks. We then boiled down all of our testing insights and research to choose the cleaners we believed to be the very best.
What to Look for in an Upholstery Cleaner
All upholstery cleaners share a common purpose, but there's lots of variation 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.
"With this type of cleaning, also known as 'vacuum extraction method,' we introduce a solvent (water) and a surfactant (soap) to the material we want to clean," says Wayne Edelman, CEO of Meurice Garment Care and CLEAN by Meurice. "Mechanical action helps remove the stain, and the solvent and surfactant allow it to be carried away, in this instance vacuumed away. A machine with variable levels of power is optimal as you can clean heavier fabric with it on a powerful setting and then lighter fabrics on a lower setting."
Aside from appliances, you can opt for a spray, wipe, or cream, like the Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Oxy Stain Remover, which is our "best spray" pick, or the Weiman Deep Leather Cleaner & Conditioner Cream, which is our "best for leather" pick. These products will require more effort to use, but they may be more cost-effective if you're cleaning small spots around your home or treating a specific type of material, like leather. Just be prepared to put in more elbow grease.
While upholstery cleaners are designed to work on soft surfaces, be sure to confirm that the product you are considering is a match for the surfaces you plan to use it on. Katie Berry, The Spruce's Cleaning Review Board member, advises that upholstery cleaners not be used on some fabrics, like velvet and velour, as they can permanently damage them. You can check the upholstery care label's codes before using an appliance to ensure that you're caring for it the proper way (or ways).
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, too. "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. Because every machine has its own directions for use and best practices, she 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 rather than 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 for agitating stains. For an example of what sort of attachments are available, check out our best for pet owners, the Hoover CleanSlate Plus Carpet & Upholstery Spot Cleaner. It includes a WidePath Tool, Tight Spot Tool, and Hose Rinse Tool to help you manage your chores.
How do you clean upholstered furniture?
For day-to-day cleaning and to keep dust at a minimum (as well as prolong the life of your furniture), thoroughly vacuum your upholstery. Be sure to dig out your vacuum's nifty attachments, such as the crevice cleaner or brush. Then, take the time to go over each section of your sofa and cushions with your vacuum. If you want to address pesky spots or discoloration, use a handheld or upright appliance with a handheld attachment, and follow your manufacturer's guidance for how to best utilize its features.
If your sofa is the focal point of your home, and you snuggle up on it every single day, plan to actually remove the cushions and vacuum the interior on a monthly basis. This is a good time to pull out a spray cleaner to treat a recent spill or tiny food stain.
Here's what to do: Start by blotting up the moisture with a clean cloth. Then, apply a small amount of cleaner, and continue blotting (or gently scrubbing) to remove the stain.
If you're unsure about what kind of stain it is, you'll want to consult with an expert to double check that your method is effective and safe for the fabric you're working with. 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 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. "Non-porous surfaces can be sprayed with a cleanser, then wiped clean," says Wayne Edelman, CEO of Meurice Garment Care and CLEAN by Meurice. Liquid formulas with acetone or bleach might cause discoloration or affect the texture of the material.
Edelman recommends using a gentle, anionic, wet cleaning detergent on upholstery, because that type of detergent does not need to be rinsed and is safe to use on almost all fabrics. "Detergents and additional bleaches and stain removers are contingent on the fabrics you are cleaning," he says. "What is safe on a white Sunbrella or microfiber material will destroy a wool mohair."
American-made furniture should have a tag on it with a proper cleaning code to help guide you in your cleaning endeavors. These codes include: W, S, W-S, or X.
Here's a quick breakdown: W means you should use water-based cleaners only. S means that 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, always test a small patch of fabric in a hidden spot before using a cleaner on a larger, more noticeable 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.
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, Puisis 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.
This article was updated by Erin Johnson, a commerce editor for The Spruce who focuses on appliances, cleaning, and organization. Johnson considered additional lab insights as well as new and tried-and-true upholstery cleaners to add to this roundup.
Emma Phelps, an updates writer for The Spruce, also reached out to Wayne Edelman, CEO of Meurice Garment Care and CLEAN by Meurice, for additional insight on the best application methods for upholstery cleaners and to learn the difference between commercial and residential machines.
What Is Spruce Approved?
Here at The Spruce, we want to ensure that we fully stand behind every product we recommend, and that when we say something is the best, we mean it. You might have noticed The Spruce Approved badge next to the products on this list. Every product with this badge has been rigorously tested in person and carefully selected by our expert team of lab testers and editors. In most cases, we buy all of these products ourselves, though occasionally we get samples provided to us directly by companies. No matter how we procure products, they all go through the same tests and must meet the same strict criteria to make the best-of cut. We also pride ourselves on transparency and will always let you know if we received a product for free.