Car Upholstery Cleaner
Darren's simplified approach

best auto detailing tips tag line

Finding a top rated car upholstery cleaner is really an easy find, as most of them will produce acceptable results. But what if you are looking for something that is better than just "acceptable"?

The good news is that the industry has an almost endless selection of car interior cleaners to choose from. But with that said, the industry would also like to see your garage shelf filled with endless products; dedicated products for each material and each section of your car. And likely, many of you have already fallen prey to the industry and its endless slick marketing and advertising tactics.

"Darren, do I really need a dedicated car upholstery cleaner, a separate car leather cleaner, and a carpet shampoo? Surely there must be a product that can do more than a single job and do it effectively"

The Industry Has You Chasing Your Tail!

car upholstery cleaner bmw m4

The most basic thing you need to learn about this industry and virtually every other industry is that big business has one goal and this goal is at the very top of their list....

figuring out ways to separate you from your money. Through fancy names, colorful packaging, and catchy slogans, car care companies have become very savvy at their quest to further empty your wallet every time you walk down the car care aisle of your favorite retailer or go online in search of the best car upholstery cleaner.

"What if I could show you a way to simplify your life by letting you in on a secret any professional detailer knows and uses in their business to become more efficient and more effective."

Darren's Top Rated Picks:
Concentrate's for the professional, or the person shopping for added value of a larger quantity.

Darren's Professional Tip: Once you have learned what I recommend professionally with these car interior cleaners, see my page on auto upholstery protectors to see how I am able to make my life easier as a professional, and how you can keep your cars interior looking new for as long as you own your car.

Below are my top two picks in what I consider the best car upholstery cleaners; regardless of how they are labeled.

The first section includes concentrates that you dilute down to the desired strength and are package with the professional in mind. Professionals will be going though far more car upholstery cleaner than a driveway detailer working on a single car or two.

The second section contains what are called ready-to-use (RTU) car upholstery cleaners designed and packaged for the enthusiast or driveway detail who will have limited use as compared to a professional in the business.

With that said, all these auto upholstery cleaners can be used to achieve truly professional grade results.

Meguiar's All-Purpose Cleaner

Meguiar's D10101 Detailer All Purpose Cleaner Gallon

  • My "go-to" product for cleaning virtually anything and everything in your car's interior.
  • Shampooing carpeting, floor mats, leather upholstery, vinyl parts.
  • A quality concentrate allows you to custom blend to suit your specific needs and requirements.
  • Can be diluted down from 4:1 - 10:1 (this means for every single part of concentrate, you add equal parts of water based on dilution you are mixing)
  • I dilute mine 10:1 for all of my cleaning/shampooing.
  • For heavy duty car upholstery cleaning, I use super degreaser.
  • No sticky residue; no rinsing necessary.

3D Upholstery and Carpet Shampoo

Upholstery & Carpet Shampoo 16 oz

  • Another excellent car upholstery cleaner.
  • From shampooing to all-purpose cleaning of your car's interior.
  • Smaller sized concentrate for more limited use than purchasing the gallon concentrate from Meguiar's directly above.
  • Professional grade results.
  • Smaller container will save on any shipping costs using this link.
  • Between the Meguiar's APC and this shampoo from 3D, they are my top two picks for a car upholstery cleaner.
  • No sticky residue; no rinsing necessary.

Darren's Other Top Picks:

Ready to Use (RTU) for the driveway detailer, enthusiast, or a general all-around car owner.

If you are a driveway detailer or simply a car owner looking to keep your car's interior show room fresh, then a ready-to-use product will be more suited for your needs due to your limited use in maintaining only your personal cars.

The samples below are excellent products and will perform to professional level standards.

Chemical Guy's Nonsense Super Cleaner

Chemical Guys SPI_993_16 Nonsense Colorless and Odorless All Surface Cleaner (16 oz)

  • For the car enthusiast or driveway detailer looking for the convenience of a ready-to-use car interior cleaner.
  • Safe for use on all interior materials.
  • Carpeting, velour, leather, vinyl, rubber.
  • No sticky residue; no rinsing necessary.

Ultima Interior Shampoo Gel

a rel="nofollow" target="blank" Ultima Interior Shampoo & Cleaner Gel for Interior Finishes on Auto, Truck, RV, 22 fl. oz.

  • Another quality ready-to-use carpet cleaner that is suitable for use on all your interior cleaning and shampooing.
  • Perfect size for the enthusiast or driveway detailer.
  • Professional level results.
  • No sticky residue; no rinsing necessary.

Darren' Professional Tips:

  • If you have a brand new car and are looking to keep it looking brand new; you don't need to over-think your choice in any of the above car upholstery cleaners.
  • Preventative maintenance is always easier and less painful than the cure; so keeping your car upholstery clean from the beginning is the best plan.
  • From your car floor mats, to vinyl, to cloth, to leather, any and all these materials can be cleaned very easily and simply with any of the products above.

Car Upholstery Cleaning Brushes

This is yet another area that doesn't need to be over-thought. And since it is straight forward, I am only offering a couple selections instead of burying you with many.

OXO Cleaning Brush

OXO Good Grips Heavy Duty Scrub Brush

  • My "go-to" scrub brush for virtually any car interior cleaning.
  • The winning balance between too soft and too stiff.

Mothers Carpet and Upholstery Brush

Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Brush

  • Definitely a stiff brush I would reserve for cleaning floor mats and other heavy duty cleaning.
  • As a rule, too stiff for use on leather, velour, or other sensitive fabric like materials.

3M Non-abrasive Scrub Pads

3M Commercial 4-5/8X10 Wht Clean Pad (Pack Of 5) 8440 Scrub Pad

  • Non-abrasive scrub pads perfect for scrubbing large areas.
  • Safe for use on all leather, vinyl, plastic, car interior parts.
  • Identical to the one's I buy at my local retailer.
  • As safe as safe can get.

Darren's Upholstery Cleaning Tips:

car interior cleaners
  • Vacuum any area you plan on cleaning FIRST!
  • Removing as much dry and loose debris is always a plus and will deliver better finished results as well as get you to the finished product quicker and easier.
  • You can also use scrub brush while vacuuming to further loosen and remove extra dirt before application of car upholstery cleaner.
  • Always follow manufacturers directions first; it's best to learn the rules first before you learn to break them with off-label uses.
  • Spray pre-vacuumed area with a light misting of upholstery cleaner, scrub with brush, mop up area with cloth. (as a rule, I prefer micro-fibers over cotton or terry cloth)
  • Repeat as necessary.
  • It is always better to do repeat applications rather than unrealistically think you are going to get everything in one overly saturated single round of upholstery cleaning.
  • Renting, using, or buying a heavy-duty and industrial hot water/carpet extractor is in most cases never, ever necessary. We are talking extreme cases of liquid spills if ever.
  • If your carpeting or upholstery is heavily soiled, it may require as many as 4-7 applications/steps in order to achieve acceptable results. Still much better and easier than using a carpet extractor or the traditional scrub and hose out floor mat with pressure water method. (as if you could do that with the rest of your car's upholstery anyways)
  • If you are one of those people in fear of using a car upholstery cleaner thinking that it will leave a sticky residue and "attract" dirt...forget about it. It's just not the case.
  • Vacuum cleaned area after it has dried completely to remove loosened dirt and lint from your cleaning efforts. If you have cleaned heavily soiled areas and you vacuum before the area has been allowed to dry, you will suck wet dirt to the top and will have to repeat your steps.
  • And let me be a voice of reason: there is no car upholstery cleaner or shampoo, cleaning method, or carpet extractor that is going to remove every last trace of dirt; it's just an unrealistic expectation. So if we are looking for a certain level of cleanliness and visual appearance, then why over-think the situation. I have used these methods for decades with superior results.
  • I have seen floor mats so heavily soiled that if this carpeting was in your house, any carpet cleaning professional would simply tell you that it will be cleaner, but still look dirty as the carpet has become permanently stained due to prolonged exposure to dirt and would need to simply be replaced. So let's once again keep a realistic perspective if you are dealing with excessively dirty floor mats.

Darren's "How to" Video

Darren's Professional Tip:
Prevention is better and easier than the cure

Carpet and Upholstery Protector

Most people underestimate the power of fabric protectors. It is one way I am able to produce the results I do over and over again for my long term customers when it comes to upholstery cleaning.

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