Tips and Advice

Best car upholstery cleaner to buy 2020

Rejuvenate your car’s interior with the best car upholstery cleaners

It can be amazing how dirty your car’s interior can get before you notice. We’re not talking about discarded fast-food packaging but the sort of dust and grime that comes with daily use. Occupants will naturally bring dirt into the car over time, which gradually builds up until you forget how your seats looked when they were really clean.

Fortunately, there are plenty of car upholstery cleaners that can bring your seats back to their former glory. These will restore fabric seats but if your car has leather upholstery you’ll need a specially formulated car leather cleaner. We tested a selection to see which products cleaned up and which are best left on the shelf.

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The test

We wanted to find the best interior cleaner to cope with both ground-in grime and also the muck and spills encountered in everyday life on the road. We applied butter, ball-point pen ink and ground chocolate into a neglected rear set, and gave each cleaner the same chance to get to work.

We followed the instructions and kept wiping to a minimum, assessing the result when the seat was dry. The best performing were the winners, although we took price into consideration.

The best car upholstery cleaners to buy in 2020

1. Simoniz Upholstery and Carpet Cleaner review

Price: ~ £4Size: 400mlRating: 5/5

The Simoniz comes with a plastic brush to help remove stubborn stains but in truth it works well without it. The thick foam smells nice and it works pretty quickly, only requiring 30 seconds to penetrate before you can remove it. The Simoniz has proved a consistently effective product over the years and this is no exception. We felt the Meguiar’s product performed slightly better overall but it’s much more expensive.

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2. Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner review

Price: ~ £13Size: 545mlRating: 4.5/5

The Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner claims to be as good as professional products and our tests seemed to back that up. Even when used on pen ink (one of the hardest stains to shift), one application was enough to reduce the ink to a faint trace, and reapplying the product removed it completely. It was impressive on the other stains we created, too, but at over twice the price of the Simoniz Upholstery and Carpet Cleaner it’s a little harder to recommend. Additionally, the brush in the cap fell off a few times in our test.

3. CarPlan Stain Valet review

Price: ~ £6Size:600mlRating: 4.5/5

CarPlan’s products tend to be at the cheaper end of the spectrum but they perform well in many of our tests and the Stain Valet upholstery cleaner is no exception. It was very effective on the ink and chocolate stains, and didn’t disappoint in other areas. CarPlan seems to have tweaked the formula, as Stain Valet has climbed the rankings in 2020, helped also by a large bottle size and a low price.

4. McLaren Fabric Cleaner review

Price: ~ £8Size: 500mlRating: 4/5

McLaren releasing a range of car cleaning products is a bit like your favourite celebrity launching a low-cost perfume range, but we found the brand’s Fabric Cleaner to be a decent product worthy of consideration. It tackled the ink mark with ease and had no problems with the grime that was already in our dirty test seats, but it struggled slightly with the greasy butter stains, requiring two reapplications. McLaren introduced its range in collaboration with Halfords around the time of the 2019 British F1 Grand Prix.

5. Halfords Upholstery Cleaner

Price: ~ £4Size: 500mlRating: 4/5

Halfords has become a household name over the years and its low-priced cleaner is good enough to compete with top products, although it’s dropped from last year’s top spot. While it’s no miracle cure for the worst stains, its comprehensive ability to tackle daily grime is very impressive, removing all the chocolate, leaving only the faintest trace of butter and making a huge difference to the surrounding area. It did struggle with the ballpoint-pen mark, though, like others in our test. However, it’s cheap and the spray and wipe application couldn’t be simpler.

Buy now from Halfords

Read the best car cleaning products to buy this year in our extensive car care guides.


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