Three things in life are guaranteed; death, taxes and someone will spill something in your car. Whether it be coffee, food or something far more disgusting, nothing can so quickly ruin the look of your interior. What you'll need is a proper car upholstery cleaner or car seat cleaner.
Fortunately, there are a load of car upholstery cleaners that will restore the look (and smell) of your car. We'll break it down by fabric so you know you're spraying the correct product onto your seats and you won't be left with a permanent greasy stain or damaged fabric. From the industry-standard leather and fabric to the more niche Alcantara and even a blast to the past with some vinyl, we've found upholstery cleaners that will clean a variety of stains away with ease.
The best car upholstery cleaner for fabric interiors
The standard interior material of choice for most modern cars, fabric is tough-wearing and inexpensive. It can come in a multitude of colours and patterns and chances are you've owned a car with fabric seats at least once.
However, fabric interiors will collect and proudly display stains from spillages. Thankfully, there are a number of effective products, both general and specific, that will properly clean a fabric interior, the best of which are below.
Autoglym Interior Shampoo
Incredibly effective on synthetic fabrics, this spray from Autoglym will remove most stains with a single application. The shampoo contains deodorising agents too to remove any nasty smells that may be present. For cleaning stains and removing bad odours from a fabric interior nothing can beat this. It is also effective for stains on carpets, Alcantara and vinyl, but not leather.
Car Gods Fabric Reviver
Best for fabrics
Equal to the Autoglym product is this. Not only will it erase most marks in carpet and upholstery, but it will also cut through smells that have penetrated fabrics, such as the odour left by smokers. Like the Autoglym shampoo, this isnu2019t to be used on leather.
Simoniz Upholstery Cleaner with Brush
This snazzy upholstery cleaner comes with a built-in brush for aggravating stains and removing them with ease. It's effective on fabric, carpet, vinyl and even leather so if you're after a single product for your entire interior this is your best bet. It supposedly also gives off a new car smell after you've done cleaning.
The best car upholstery cleaner for leather
The default choice for a luxurious car interior, leather is an incredibly hard-wearing material but will need a good clean from time to time. Regular car upholstery cleaner shouldn't really be used on leather as it can leave greasy marks. For more information on how to care for your leather seats (including wipes and brushes) read our guide right here.
Autoglym Leather Cleaner
The best way to clean leather
This pH neutral formula from Autoglym is the best way to clean leather seats. It'll gently clean the leather, removing stains and marks but without damaging the leather. It does this by retaining the essential oils needed to keep the leather supple and crack free. It will also help deodorise the leather too, removing any nasty odours.
Meguiar's Gold Class Rich Leather 3in1
Clean and protect your leather
A step up from the Autoglym product, this 3in1 solution from Meguiar's not only cleans the leather, but it'll also condition it and even help protect it from harmful UV rays (which can crack and fade leather). It'll remove stains and is infused with aloe to retain the soft, supple feeling of leather after you've cleaned it.
The best car upholstery cleaner for carpets
Something that pretty much every car comes with these days is a carpeted interior. From the most basic city car right up to the Rolls Royce Phantom, carpet will fill the footwell and boot of your car. And it's these two areas that are magnets for spillages and stains. That spilt coffee from the centre console will make its way south into the carpet and all it takes is one leaky bottle from the weekly shop to leave the boot a soggy mess.
There are two choices you can make for cleaning your car's carpet. The first is to invest in a proper carpet cleaner (the expensive but very effective choice) or to buy one of the cleaning products listed below.
A quick word of warning to 4X4 owners, some of the more rugged variants will feature rubber mats so you can legitimately hose the interior out after an off-road adventure. You'll know they're rubber just by looking at them and it goes without saying that carpet cleaners won't be effective here.
Dr. Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover
The best carpet cleaner on the market
A simple but effective way to clean a carpet, the Dr Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover is designed to effectively scrub away stains and eliminate horrible odours. It's excellent on pretty much anything you can throw at it and you can easily use it around the home too.
Tested 2021: "This bottle of stain remover is excellent for removing stains without leaving any residue. I've managed to get ketchup out of a white carpet while keeping the carpet white. The brush head is sturdy but won't damage the fabric when you use it. All I will say is that the formula can take some persuasion to get it out and onto the stain."
Greased Lightning Stain Shifter
Top stain remover
This dedicated stain remover is one of the more powerful ways of removing stains from your car. Spray it and let it soak in (test on an inconspicuous area first, of course), then wipe it with a cloth. Grease, coffee, and food stains are all dealt with. The large one-litre bottle means it lasts, too.
The best interior detail cleaners
Your interior has more to it than just soft surfaces, look around and you'll more than likely find some plastic/metal/wood (delete where appropriate) trim, some buttons and if you have a more modern car, a great slab of glass that forms your infotainment system. Regular upholstery cleaners can't be used here because they can leave nasty marks.
Chipex Interior & Dashboard Cleaner
Best all-surface cleaner
The idea of detailing products is to remove fingerprints, grease, dust, and dirt from anything. You can use the Chipex Interior & Dashboard Cleaner on basically any surface: fabric, wood, leather, rubber, and screens. Being able to use it on leather is one of the major advantages it has over the upholstery cleaners above. It means you donu2019t have to get yourself a dedicated leather cleaner.
Best car upholstery cleaner for other materials
It seems a little unfair to lump Alcantara (cool, grippy, used on fast cars) with vinyl ('70s-tastic, hot, loves sticking to your legs in the sun) but the fact remains that these fabrics are rather niche and so are the cleaning products available. As such, this is probably the only time you'll see a Porsche 911 GT3 RS owner share a shopping basket with a Morris Marina fan.
Autobrite Direct Alcantara and Suede Surface Cleaner
Spray-on Alcantara cleaner
Alcantara is a suede-like microfibre fabric that looks fantastic, is grippy and is used in some of the tastiest performance cars on the road today. The problem is that Alcantara soaks up sweat and other fluids and can leave horrible marks that are difficult to remove. This is made worse by the fact that Alacantara is often used on steering wheels which can get exceptionally sweaty. This spray is specially formulated for Alcantara and doesn't require any agitation which would damage the materials soft finish.
Autoglym Vinyl And Rubber Care
Clean vinyl properly
PVC (vinyl) seats may not be very popular in cars anymore but it was everywhere in the 1970s and a fair amount of modern cars will feature some either as exterior trim or on the interior. Vinyl may be tough but it's still best to clean it with a dedicated cleaner like this one from Autoglym. Spray it onto a vinyl or rubber surface and then buff it with a microfibre cloth for a clean surface and an extra protective layer. It can be also be used on exterior vinyl and rubber trim too.