Upholstery is the soft, padded material used to cover armchairs, love seats, sofas, sectionals, and other furniture items. Depending on the context, upholstery can also refer to thick, padded curtains or drapes. To clean this material properly without damaging the finish or the framework under the fabric, you need to use the best upholstery cleaner.
We tested upholstery cleaners to find products worth adding to your home cleaning equipment. Upholstery cleaners come in various forms meant for different purposes. The best upholstery cleaner for furniture depends on its material (such as woven fabric or leather), the cleaning option shoppers prefer, and several other variables. We tested everything from powders, sprays, and wipes to steam cleaners and upright vacuums, so whatever upholstered pieces buyers have, they’re likely to find a cleaner in our lineup that can target tough stains and manage routine cleaning.
- BEST OVERALL: Hoover CleanSlate Plus With Pet Kit
- RUNNER-UP: Bissell Little Green Portable Carpet Cleaner
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Woolite INSTAclean Stain Remover
- BEST ORGANIC SPRAY: Earthworm Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner
- BEST LEATHER WIPES: Weiman Leather Wipes
- BEST VACUUM CLEANER: Eureka NEU182B PowerSpeed Vacuum
- BEST STEAM CLEANER: Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner
- BEST LARGE-CAPACITY: Bissell SpotClean Pro Portable Carpet Cleaner
- BEST CORDLESS: Dyson V15 Detect Cordless Vacuum
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Upholstery Cleaner
Before grabbing a product off the shelf, shoppers will want to consider these critical product features to ensure that they get the best upholstery cleaner for their fabric.
Upholstery cleaners come in several different types, including sprays, wipes, vacuums, and steam cleaners.
- Upholstery sprays are one of the easiest solutions to keep furniture clean. Their deep-cleaning formulas are designed to lift dirt to the fabric’s surface where it can then be wiped away with a microfiber cloth. Sprays are inexpensive and easy to use, but they don’t offer the same results as a steam cleaner.
- Upholstery wipes do not clean beyond the fabric’s surface, but they effectively remove built-up dust and debris, especially on leather furniture. These wipes may also condition upholstery so that it feels renewed and is protected from future stains.
- Upholstery vacuums simply refer to a standard vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment designed to clean the dirt and debris from the surface and the crevices of the furniture. For tough stains, or if it’s been a long time between cleanings, vacuum upholstery and then follow up with a spray or a steam cleaning.
- Upholstery steam cleaners only use superheated water in the form of steam to penetrate the deepest fibers of furniture and push the dirt and grime to the surface where the machine then suctions it up.
- Carpet cleaners are often confused with vacuums because of their suction power. They are also confused with steam cleaners because of the water they use to clean fabrics. However, the water used in carpet cleaners is not hot enough to be considered a steam clean. Instead, these devices are better for moderate cleaning penetration and stain treatment.
To avoid damaging furniture during cleaning, shoppers will want to understand the nature and needs of their upholstery’s fabric. While just about any upholstery cleaner can safely be used on tougher fabrics such as synthetic microfiber or cotton chenille, fragile materials such as silk, wool, or nylon require products designed just for them. To choose the right cleaner, refer to the tag on the upholstered furniture and look for one of the following four symbols:
- W: Only water-based cleaning solutions
- S: Only solvent-based cleaning solutions
- WS: Water-based and solvent-based cleaning solutions
- X: Only vacuuming or professional cleaning
If the furniture doesn’t have a tag or shoppers still aren’t convinced that cleaning won’t damage the upholstery, they will want to spot clean an inconspicuous area as a test. This can include the underside or back of the furniture piece or the side of a cushion that is usually hidden from view. If the cleaner works without issue, then move on to the rest of the furniture.
When choosing an upholstery cleaner, shoppers can opt for a spray or wipe explicitly formulated for that fabric or pick a more versatile option, such as a steam cleaner or a vacuum. These devices can clean many different surfaces and fabrics, including hardwood, stairs, carpet, bedding, curtains, tents, and other materials around the home.
Corded vs. Cordless
When choosing a vacuum or steam cleaner to tackle upholstery, the difference between a corded or cordless machine may be important.
- Corded upholstery cleaners have the benefit of long-lasting power that won’t give out unless the electricity goes out. These machines are usually more powerful than their cordless counterparts, but they may also be much heavier, making them difficult to move. If choosing a corded device, make sure it has a long power cord and a handheld hose to lessen the impact of its limited mobility.
- Cordless upholstery cleaners allow users to move around the house (or other locations, such as the car) freely without worrying about getting tangled in a cord or plugging and unplugging the device as they go from room to room. These units can be freestanding but are more often seen as small, lightweight, handheld models. Cordless devices give users the benefit of mobility, but they don’t offer high power and capacity due to their small size and limited battery.
Our Top Picks
The top-of-the-line products below were all tested on the types of dirt and stains upholstery is likely to get in real life. They were chosen for their quality, efficacy, and price to help shoppers find the best upholstery cleaner for their furniture.
The Hoover CleanSlate Plus with Pet Kit came out on top in our testing for two main reasons: It’s effective at removing stains from upholstery and carpet, and its design affords easy access to its tanks and accessories when it’s time to clean the machine itself. The kit includes a cleaning solution and a measuring cup, plus measurement lines on the clean tank, making the whole process pretty self-explanatory. Though a bit boxy, the Hoover has large tanks for cleaning a good-sized area, and both the clean and dirty tanks are completely accessible to clean the machine when the job is done.
Accessories include two brushes with removable bristles and a narrow brush tool, plus there’s a 4.5-foot hose. One of our favorite features was a cleaning cap that fits over the end of the hose and forces the spray back into the suction to clean the hose after use.
The Hoover was highly effective at cleaning standard stains, including mustard, tomato sauce, soy sauce, and ground-in banana. While the narrow brush tool worked exceptionally well on delicate upholstery, it took a little practice to dispense the right amount of spray, so we suggest practicing on more rugged items before using on fragile fabric.
The cleaning power and suction are great, but the spray pressure is a little weak. And, again, what impressed us most was how easy this machine is to clean after use. In addition to the cleaning cap, the brush accessory tools come apart for easy rinsing. That’s crucial since dirt could otherwise easily build up and moisture could remain in crevices, inviting mold growth.
- Hose length: 4.5 feet
- Weight: 9.4 pounds
- Cleaner type: Upholstery cleaner
- Easy to fill using included measuring cup and fill lines on tank
- Large tank size
- Good suction
- Easy to access and clean the tanks and accessories
Get the Hoover upholstery cleaner at Amazon, Hoover, or Walmart.
This compact machine from Bissell has a carrying handle and a 15-foot power cord, and it weighs just 9.6 pounds, making it totally portable. The Little Green carpet cleaner has intense spray action that helped the hot, soapy water penetrate our test furniture’s fabric; yet while it removed most of our four test stains, its suction didn’t prove as powerful as larger upholstery cleaners. Consequently, it required a few more passes over the wet areas to remove the water, and sometimes we had to use a towel to dry the fabric fully. (Letting water remain on upholstery can cause a permanent mark.)
The Little Green upholstery cleaner has a 4-foot suction hose that proved long enough to access hard-to-reach areas and a 3-inch spot and stain tool. There’s a HydroRinse tool for cleaning the hose after each use, but unfortunately the tools and tanks do not disassemble for cleaning when the job is done. Plus, the clean and dirty tanks have narrow openings, making it impossible to get inside to dry them thoroughly, which leaves them susceptible to mold. But a nice plus is that a portion of the price of this and other Bissell products helps save the lives of homeless pets.
- Hose length: 4 feet
- Weight: 9.6 pounds
- Cleaner type: Upholstery cleaner
- Lightweight and portable
- Easy to use
- Effective at cleaning small areas
- Suction not powerful enough to remove all water
- Interiors of tanks and tools somewhat inaccessible
- Full clean tank may leak when attaching to the machine
Get the Bissell Little Green upholstery cleaner on Amazon or Bissell.
The manufacturer of this powerful stain-removal formula claims that it begins to remove stains in just 30 seconds, and in our testing, we could literally see it at work. It really did lift stains within a few seconds, although the action wasn’t uniform across entire stains, especially from acidic foods like tomatoes. The instructions advise reapplying if a stain remains a minute after the first application.
In addition to the tomato sauce, mustard, soy sauce, and banana we removed, this Woolite stain fighter claims to banish wine, vomit, mud, and even blood. Although we didn‘t test it on all these stains, we did find the product to be useful as a pretreatment prior to using an upholstery cleaner. The fresh scent was pleasant—not a heavy chemical smell at all. The two-pack includes a single sprayer for both bottles to limit plastic waste and to reduce the cost.
- Hose length: N/A
- Weight: 22 fluid ounces (each bottle)
- Cleaner type: Spray
- Visibly see changes in the stain
- Easy to use
- Adjusts to spray or stream
- Dabbing and scrubbing may be required to remove stains fully
Get the Woolite upholstery cleaner at Amazon, Bissell, or Walmart.
Those who prefer organic cleaning solutions will want to consider the Earthworm Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner. It uses enzymes, which are naturally occurring proteins in living organisms, that act as biological catalysts—in this case, to break down the likes of food, grease, and wine. In testing, we found that this enzymatic formula helped remove some stains but could not remove them all on its own; we had to dab and scrub to get the job done. Unfortunately, on our acidic tomato stain, it didn’t make much of a difference at all.
It’s designed for use on various fabrics and surfaces, including upholstery, carpets, curtains, pillows, and mattresses. Interestingly, we found Earthworm to prove more effective on upholstery fabric than on carpet. We also noticed that it cut down on stain-related odors—the label says it’s fragrance-free, but we detected a light, pleasant scent. Its naturally occurring enzymes make this upholstery cleaner safe for use around people and pets.
- Hose length: N/A
- Weight: 22 fluid ounces
- Cleaner type: Spray
- Performs fairly well on upholstery fabric
- Reduces odors
- Light, pleasant scent
- Ineffective on acidic stains
- Dabbing and scrubbing required to remove stains
Get the Earthworm upholstery cleaner on Amazon.
These Weiman wipes remove dirt, soil, and oily residue, and they leave leather feeling moisturized, smooth, and fresh. They contain six natural oils to soften and restore leather, plus UVX-15 sunscreen to protect it from UV radiation. Nontoxic and easy to use, the premoistened wipes work well on smooth, finished leather products, including furniture, shoes, boots, briefcases, and handbags. However, this product should not be used on unfinished leather, suede, or nubuck.
We tested these wipes, which come in a three-pack, on a leather sofa and car upholstery, and they performed beautifully—even on some mystery stains in a well-used minivan. The only stain that stymied the wipes was a small spot of melted candy. For best results, follow the wipe application with a clean, soft cloth to buff the leather.
- Hose length: N/A
- Weight: N/A
- Cleaner type: Wipes
- Simple and fast to use
- Conditions leather as it cleans
- Leaves the leather looking shiny and new
- Can’t be used on unfinished leather
Get the Weiman upholstery cleaner at Amazon or Weiman (single pack).
This upright vacuum cleaner is well suited for the surfaces and crevices of upholstered furniture. It weighs just 10 pounds, but with smooth, gliding wheels and five height-adjustment levels, it rarely needs to be lifted. Accessories that include an upholstery brush, a dusting brush, a 7-inch-long crevice tool, and a 6-inch-wide nozzle make it a versatile model for cleaning upholstery, carpets, stairs, and curtains. Plus, all of the accessories have onboard storage for convenience.
At first glance, we found the Eureka a little cheap looking, but once we turned it on with the foot pedal, we were impressed. The powerful motor and strong suction make tough vacuuming chores less taxing. The serious suction was so strong, it felt like it could pull the upholstery inside out!
The innovative design of the handle makes it particularly suited to cleaning upholstery: It detaches from the main body to insert the hose, and then the upholstery tool attaches to the other end. It boasts an extra-large 4.1-liter-capacity dust-and-dirt collector and a lengthy 25-foot power cord. Our only complaint is that the 3-foot extendable suction hose seemed a bit short to reach everywhere a user might want to clean.
- Hose length: 3 feet
- Weight: 10 pounds
- Cleaner type: Upright vacuum
- Innovative handle design for easy upholstery cleaning
- Seriously powerful suction
- Easy-to-empty dustbin
- Affordable price
Get the Eureka upholstery cleaner on Amazon or at Walmart.
In testing, the Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner felt like a domestic steam cleaner on steroids, thanks to all its impressive pieces. There’s a 54-ounce-capacity tank, an 8-foot 10-inch hose (it’s listed at 6 feet 6 inches, but we double-checked our measurements!), two extension wands, a Velcro microfiber pad, and even a window-washing tool.
We used the various attachments to clean an oven door, stove top, sliding glass door, and, of course, upholstery. Unfortunately, banishing upholstery stains isn’t where this machine shines. While the combo of steam and microfiber pads loosened small surface stains, without suction it couldn’t remove the tough stuff on our testing fabrics. We consider this Dupray to be a handy, versatile machine, but we can’t recommend it solely as an upholstery cleaner. Plus, it takes 8 minutes to heat up and a full 20 minutes to cool down for refilling.
- Hose length: 8 feet 10 inches
- Weight: 9 pounds
- Cleaner type: Steam cleaner
- Versatile set of tools, including extra-long hose
- Steady stream of steam
- Loosens stains well
- Large tank
- Requires additional treatment to get stains out of upholstery
- Slow cool-down time
Get the Dupray upholstery cleaner on Amazon or Dupray.
Those with a lot of large dirty surfaces to tackle may find the Bissell SpotClean Pro Portable Carpet Cleaner a true gem. It has large tanks, superior suction power, gentle brushes, an effective cleaning solution, and a 3-inch stain-and-spot-remover tool. Though it’s not cordless, its manageable weight of 13 pounds, 22-foot cord, and well-designed handle make it pretty portable. A 5-foot hose further helps the user access hard-to-reach areas.
When it comes to upholstery, the very powerful suction truly impressed, sucking up stains faster than any other vacuum we tested. The reason it didn’t earn Best Overall, however, came down to cleaning the machine after use. The tanks are big, but the openings are small, so accessing them for cleaning and drying proved impossible. Plus, fibers and dirt got caught in the brush heads, and there’s no way to open them for cleaning. Bissell suggests sucking up clean water from a bucket to clean the heads—we tried, but there were still fibers stuck inside and we feared that eventually, dirt would build up and potentially mold might ensue. However, the device is excellent for cleaning big areas—and Bissell has a big heart, since a portion of sales goes to help save homeless animals.
- Hose length: 5 feet
- Weight: 13 pounds
- Cleaner type: Upholstery cleaner
- Powerful suction cleans quickly
- Large tanks can handle big areas
- Multiple brushes clean tight spaces
- Difficult to access inside accessories and tanks for cleaning
Get the Bissell SpotClean upholstery cleaner on Bissell or at Walmart.
Dyson is well known for its powerful vacuums, and the V15 lives up to that reputation. It also boasts some high-tech features like dirt, dust, and allergen detection and a laser light that reveals hidden dirt. There’s an LCD screen built into the unit that shows the type of debris and their levels.
The V15 has an extension wand and seven heads (i.e., accessories). Some heads, like the crevice tool or dusting brush, are best used when attached directly to the motor, while others, like the Laser Slim, perform best with the wand. The Laser Slim proved to be a favorite in testing since its green laser illuminates dirt, giving the user a visible target. It sure helped us find and banish spilled sugar in a dimly lit area of the kitchen.
For upholstery, the crevice tool, combination tool, and dirt brush worked beautifully. We attached some directly to the motor unit and others at the wand; we found that while it was easier to control the heads when attached directly to the motor, the wand offered greater reach. This cordless model has three modes to help maximize battery runtime, and battery life is displayed on the screen. The dustbin is amply sized and easy to empty, but there’s only a single button to change settings, which at times was a bit frustrating.
- Hose length: 28-inch wand
- Weight: 6.8 pounds
- Cleaner type: Cordless vacuum
- Versatile uses and attachments
- Long battery life
- Excellent suction
- Easy-to-empty dustbin
- Single-button control can be frustrating
Get the Dyson upholstery cleaner at Target or Dyson.
Not every upholstery cleaner that we tested passed muster. Here are the products that didn’t make the cut.
Capture Carpet and Rug Dry Cleaner, a powdered product, did nothing for stains except make them look worse. We followed the directions and used the provided brush, which simply gave the stains a powdery appearance. Capture also failed in its claim to remove odors.
We actually tested two PurSteam Chemical-Free Steam Cleaner models. The first simply didn’t turn on, so we ordered another one. We liked the small, handy size, and the device worked well enough cleaning hard surfaces and as a clothes steamer. However, while it loosened upholstery stains, it failed to get them out.
The Hoover upholstery cleaner gets the top spot for its combination of suction, head sizes and attachments, and ease of cleaning the unit when the job is done. The lightweight Bissell Little Green upholstery cleaner is an effective device that earned our runner-up spot.
How We Tested the Best Upholstery Cleaners
We used a rubric to score the upholstery cleaners on tasks that included cleaning carpet and upholstery. If the upholstery cleaner had additional functions, we tested those, too. For example, steam cleaners were used to clean an oven and steam the wrinkles out of clothing, while vacuum cleaners were used to clean carpets and hard floors.
We stained carpet pieces and upholstery fabric with mustard, tomato sauce, soy sauce, and banana, leaving the stains to set for at least 60 minutes. We followed all instructions that came with the cleaning solution, vacuum cleaner, steamer, or upholstery cleaner.
The upholstery cleaners were scored on how well they removed the different types of stains, how easy they were to use, and how easy they were to clean. Some scored categories didn’t apply to every machine or solution. For example, runtime didn’t apply to corded vacuums. We also considered how well the upholstery cleaner performed within its designed purpose. Vacuum cleaners, for example, aren’t designed to remove tomato sauce, but they’re great at cleaning all the cracks and crevices of a sofa and removing dust and crumbs.
Continue reading below to find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about upholstery cleaners.
Q. How do you clean leather upholstery?
For leather upholstery, use a moisturizing leather cleaner or specially formulated wipes. If using a cleaner instead of a wipe, put a small amount on a microfiber cloth (do not over-saturate) and gently scrub the leather. This will clean and also help condition the leather so that it looks and feels much better. Make sure not to rinse the leather with water after cleaning.
Q. How do you use a vacuum upholstery cleaner?
Cleaning upholstery with a vacuum is not difficult, though care must be taken to avoid too much force, which could accidentally rip or damage the fabric. Connect the upholstery attachment to the vacuum, turn it on, and apply gentle pressure to suck up dirt and hair. Go over the furniture’s surface in one direction, then repeat in the other direction. If possible, remove the cushions and vacuum underneath. Finally, carefully use the crevice attachment down in cracks, pleats, and around buttons—all areas where debris can accumulate.
Q. How do you use an upholstery steam cleaner?
Before you steam-clean furniture, vacuum and surface clean the upholstery first. Then take the handheld unit or the hose attachment and spray the furniture surface with steam. Use a clean cloth to dab any stains and soak up the portion loosened by the steam. If the steam cleaner has a suction function, drag the suction hose over the damp areas to collect dirt and extra water from the fabric.
Once you’ve steam-cleaned all areas, be sure to give the upholstery enough time to dry thoroughly before a second application, if necessary. Too much steam can result in water damage. Go slowly and make sure to refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for use.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.