High-quality furnishings can cost a pretty penny, so it’s wise to protect your investment from everyday accidents. Fabric protectors create a water-repellent and stain-resistant barrier against spills, stains, odors, and sun fading. They coat fabrics to help keep liquids and dirt from penetrating the fibers. Often available in easy-to-use spray form, these protectors prevent couches, curtains, rugs, and more from looking old and dingy before their time.
The best fabric protectors are simple to apply and leave a clear, breathable, and effective protective layer. Read on to learn about the features to look for in a fabric protector, as well as select from some of the top picks available today.
- BEST OVERALL: Scotchgard Fabric Water Shield
- RUNNER-UP: SoftClad Extra Strength Fabric Protector Spray
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Guardsman Fabric Defense & Upholstery Protector
- BEST FOR CARPETS AND RUGS: Scotchgard Rug & Carpet Protector
- BEST FOR OUTDOORS: Scotchgard Sun and Water Shield
- BEST FOR CARS: Chemical Guys Fabric Guard Interior Protector
- BEST FOR LARGE AREAS: TriNova Non-Aerosol Stain Guard
- BEST SUN PROTECTANT: ForceField – UV Sunblock Fabric Protector
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Fabric Protector
There are various types of fabric protector products, ranging from multipurpose formulas for a host of materials to task-specific sprays made for outdoor fabrics, vehicle interiors, and marine fabrics. Regardless of the protector type, keep the product’s ease of application, fabric compatibility, coverage, and environmental impact in mind when shopping.
Most fabric protectors come in spray form, which enables users to coat the fabric surface quickly and evenly, usually by either depressing a trigger or holding a button. Since fabric protectors need occasional reapplying, ease of use is important.
Don’t let the simplicity of the application make you trigger-happy, however! Keep colorfastness in mind before treating any fabric, making sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on what surfaces can be treated. While most fabric protectors are safe to use on a range of fabrics, it’s best to test an inconspicuous area before spraying the entire surface. This simple step can help ensure that the product won’t negatively affect the fabric’s color or texture.
To provide proper protection, the spray will need to dry fully. Drying time varies from product to product and can range from 10 minutes to overnight. Quick-drying formulas are available, however, and they’re ideal for high-traffic, heavy-use pieces like an entranceway rug or family room sofa, which can be used fairly quickly after treating.
Different fabric protectors work on specific fabric types. You’ll find sprays designed for indoor or outdoor use, or for synthetic or natural fabrics.
Multipurpose sprays can protect a range of upholstery, curtains, carpets, and other furnishings, as well as other household items, such as shoes, hats, and backpacks. Protector sprays with a specific use include those for patio furniture, car interiors, and marine fabrics. Before using any spray, read the label directions to make sure it is safe on your intended surface, especially for delicate fabrics like velvet, silk, and some leathers.
Also consider if the spray is for indoor use, outdoor use, or both. Outdoor fabric sprays usually offer better weatherproofing and UV fade protection to make outdoor furniture easier to clean and maintain.
Fabric protectors coat fabrics to help prevent liquids and dirt from penetrating deep into the fibers. Some protectors also guard against UV damage that causes fading. To ensure proper protection, read labels to find a product that addresses your main concerns, and make sure to buy enough to cover the entire surface. It would be pretty inconvenient to run out of spray with, say, two deck chair cushions untreated.
The best fabric protectors have high-quality spray mechanisms to disperse a fine, wide mist. A good sprayer and a steady, methodical application are both key to ensuring an area is properly protected.
Aerosol spray containers and pump spray bottles are both common. Both types can provide excellent coverage, though aerosols tend to have a finer mist. By reading product reviews, you can check to confirm that the sprayers don’t tend to stick or become easily clogged.
Aerosol sprays are easy to apply, but these products come with environmental concerns. While aerosol products no longer contain ozone-depleting ingredients like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), they may still contain hydrocarbons, compressed gases, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), all known to be environmentally hazardous. Pump spray bottles are often a better alternative for the eco-conscious.
Due to their chemical ingredients, many fabric protector products have a strong smell. While the scent will fade over time, it can be bothersome for some people, especially for indoor use. Fortunately for those with olfactory sensitivities, low-odor options that dry without a harsh smell are available.
Tips for Using Fabric Protector
With the right fabric protector, your furniture will be easier to clean and more resistant to spills and stains. Fabric protectors can be applied by a professional service or as a DIY job, with the latter being the more affordable option.
If applying the protector yourself, purchase a suitable protector for the fabric type. Before spraying, test an inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn’t affect the fabric’s color or texture. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for preparation and apply the spray in steady, sweeping strokes to completely cover the surface. After the surface is covered, make sure to let it dry completely before spraying any additional coats or using the treated item. In sum, adhere to the following for a hassle-free and protective application:
- Consult the product directions to ensure it is safe to use on your chosen surface
- Conduct a colorfastness test on an inconspicuous area before applying
- Ensure the surface is fully dry before applying more layers or using the furniture
Our Top Picks
The best fabric protectors are lightweight in texture and effective at shielding upholstery and furnishings, making them easier to clean without affecting the color and finish of the material. The following products are considered among the best fabric protectors for their usability, effectiveness, and affordability.
Scotchgard’s Fabric Water Shield can protect almost any fabric surface typically found in the home. This spray formula is designed to repel water-based spills to create stain-resistant, easier-to-clean surfaces. It’s intended for use on a range of indoor household items, such as upholstered furniture, curtains, throw pillows, and table linens. It’s also suitable to use on clothing and accessories, including shirts, dresses, outerwear, backpacks, and canvas shoes.
The aerosol spray is simple to apply and creates a waterproofing shield for long-lasting protection. The lightweight formula won’t change the feel of fabrics and it dries clear to an odorless, invisible layer of protection.
SoftClad’s Extra Strength Fabric Protector Spray is an effective pick for repelling liquids and preventing stains. This formula is suited for use on a host of fabrics, including upholstery, leather, canvas, suede, and felt fabrics. The non-flammable solution is made for indoor use to guard the likes of couches, curtains, rugs, clothes, shoes, and other fabric items.
It comes in a pump spray bottle and, once applied, dries clear and odorless. Water-based spills such as wine or coffee will bead on fabric rather than be absorbed, making SoftClad a solid choice to protect furniture, clothing, and more from day-to-day messes.
Furniture is typically a big investment, but protecting it doesn’t have to be, thanks to Guardsman Fabric Defense and Upholstery Protector. Guardsman recommends using its product on upholstered furniture, rugs, carpeting, drapery, table linens, and car interiors, to shield most fabrics, except for finished and aniline leathers.
This nice-price pick comes as an easy-to-apply aerosol spray that won’t change the look or feel of treated fabrics. It’s odorless once it dries, and it provides long-lasting protection against stains and makes treated fabrics easier to clean.
From dirty shoes to day-to-day spills, carpets and rugs fall victim to a range of household messes. Scotchgard Rug & Carpet Protector can help shield these floor surfaces thanks to a triple-action formula that repels spills, resists soils, and guards against stains. Once applied, the protector repels liquid spills so they won’t sink deep in carpet fibers, making them easier to wipe up.
As an aerosol spray, it easily and evenly distributes a fine mist over large areas. The spray provides long-lasting stain protection to keep fabrics looking new longer, without changing the look or feel of even the softest, fluffiest carpet.
Outdoor fabrics face their own set of challenges. Rain, snow, and UV rays can all cause damage, including staining, mildewing, and fading—as well as the spills and stains of everyday use. Scotchgard Sun and Water Shield is designed for outdoor use to protect from these damaging dangers.
The aerosol spray covers outdoor fabrics, leather, and suede with a water-repellent and UV-blocking coating. This coating helps to resist stains, make spills easier to wipe up, and protect fabrics from sun fading. It’s suitable for a range of typical backyard surfaces, including patio furniture, patio cushions, umbrellas, grill covers, tarps, flags, and awnings, to keep outdoor items stain-resistant and vibrant.
Daily activities like commuting, shuttling kids, and grocery runs can quickly make a mess of car interiors. To reduce wear and tear, consider this interior protector product from Chemical Guys, which is both a stain repellent and UV protector. The product’s hydrophobic technology prevents spills from soaking deep into car seats and carpets.
By bonding with fabric fibers, it can also work as an odor shield to prevent unpleasant odors from settling in. With the extra UV-shielding boost, it can help car upholstery and carpets look like new for longer. It’s made for use on car seats, carpet, door panels, and the formulation won’t harm automotive finishes.
Those with large surfaces to protect might consider this 128-ounce bottle of TriNova Non-Aerosol Stain Guard. Its bulk size provides enough protection to cover multiple pieces of furniture or several rooms of carpeting. Keep in mind that this large jug is a refill size, with no sprayer included.
This non-flammable fabric protector is safe for use on indoor and outdoor surfaces, and one application is adequate to waterproof and safeguards surfaces against stains. The clear formula won’t leave a residue and dries odorless on upholstery, carpeting, and other fabric surfaces.
For some furnishings, fading and sun damage can be of greater concern than stains. Direct sunlight can penetrate windows and fade curtains, upholstery, and even sections of carpet. ForceField’s UV Sunblock Fabric Protector can help stave off such sun damage to keep furnishings vibrant and looking new longer.
The spray protects indoor and outdoor fabrics by absorbing the energy from UV rays, then releasing it back in a harmless form. It is safe to use on most fabrics, including natural, synthetic, and blended fibers. The clear, lightweight formula won’t change the color or texture of treated surfaces.
FAQs About Fabric Protectors
A fabric protector can provide your couch, rug, car interior, and other surfaces with an extra layer of protection against spills and stains. Once you’ve selected the best fabric protector for your needs, consider the following frequently asked questions and answers for the most effective use of the product.
Q. What can a fabric protector be used on?
Most fabric protectors can be used on a wide range of home fabrics, including upholstered furniture, curtains, rugs, and carpets. Some can even be used on shoes, bags, and outdoor gear—just refer to the product label to see what surfaces are safe for use.
Q. Are fabric protectors safe for all fabrics?
Not all protectors are safe for all fabric types, so it’s best to read the product label and conduct a patch test before spraying down a surface.
Q. How long does fabric protection last?
Many fabric protectors will last upward of 6 months. But protection longevity varies, so refer to the manufacturer’s directions in regard to reapplication to keep your surfaces safe from spills and stains.
Q. Can you wash a fabric that has a protector on it?
Yes, but the fabric protector may need to be reapplied after laundering.
Fabric protectors create a water-repellent and stain-resistant barrier against spills, stains, odors, and sun fading. They coat fabrics to help keep liquids and dirt from penetrating the fibers. The best fabric protectors are simple to apply and leave a clear, breathable, and effective protective layer to prevent couches, curtains, rugs, and more from looking old and dingy before their time.