A clean car is a happy car. Keeping your vehicle’s carpet and upholstery stain-free helps preserve your resale value. It is an endeavor that pays for itself later when it is time to sell or trade in your car, and the best car carpet cleaners can help you do just that.
Left to bake in the hot sun, stains can soon become permanent. That’s why it’s best to attack them immediately, before the liquid, grease or oil dries. Still, even when immediately attended to, almost any liquid spill can become a stain.
Why Use Car Carpet Cleaners?
The best car carpet cleaners dislodge staining materials from fabric. Ideally, they help lift the stain to the surface, where users can then blot them away with a cloth. Each product on this list has detailed instructions on its label. As those instructions vary, it’s best to follow them closely.
All of the best car carpet cleaners use some chemical or another to break up a stain. These may be oxygen-based (such as sodium percarbonate) to utilize foaming action, or they may be some type of surfactant, which will break the bond on the fabric chemically. Of course, there are other methods, and most of the formulas of the best car carpet cleaners are proprietary.
The 10 Best Carpet Cleaners for Your Car
Chemical Guys has earned a solid reputation in both the automotive and motorcycle fields for producing quality cleaning and protective solutions. The company’s Fabric Clean has become a favorite of professional detailers because it is impressively effective. This is the new Foaming Citrus version (replacing the super popular fresh scent version).
Users can dilute Fabric Clean as much as 20:1, and it remains effective. It kills microbes and contains odor-destroying enzymes. Being detergent free, it won’t leave any film behind, and it works on new or set-in stains. Fabric Clean earns it place among the best car carpet cleaners because it works and is affordable – always a winning combination.
- Works as well as anything and better than most
- Dissolves the sticky mess from insects, oil and other residue
- Foaming action uses oxygen, not detergent
- Lifts even caked-on, dried-on stains
- Leaves behind a pleasant citrus aroma
- Citrus smell not everyone’s favorite
- Needs to be mixed and diluted with water in another container (spray bottle is best)
The Turtle Wax brand should be familiar to any car owner–at least those who care for their vehicles. Turtle Wax Power Out is a foaming cleaner intended mainly for carpets and floor mats. It is simple to use, requiring only a simple and immediate spray-on/wipe-off process.
The Power Out can also has a detachable nylon brush for working it deeply into carpeting. Its oxy-infused foam also aids in penetrating carpet fibers and can be left on a minute or two longer for tougher, set-in stains. The product is also useful on rubber floor mats and trunk liners.
Power Out also contains Turtle Wax’s popular Odor-X odor eliminator. The Odor-X odor eliminator kills the microbes that feed on spills and cause bad smells in the first place.
- Scrub brush works the cleaner deep into fabric to lift set-in stains
- Odor-X eliminates stinky smells at the source
- Leaves a silicon film that protects from future stains
- Works in the fewest steps possible (spray on, wipe off)
- One of the best combinations of effectiveness and affordability
- One can doesn’t stretch as far as some (more expensive) competitors
- Strong initial scent can offend those with sensitive noses
- A separate product is needed for upholstery
Armor All Oxi Magic is an effective car carpet cleaner from a brand perhaps best known for its protectants. As the name suggests, it uses the scrubbing action of oxygen bubbles to do the hard work. Users simply spray it on and let it work, wiping off the excess and the liquefied stain.
What’s left behind (after 3 to 5 minutes of wait time and blotting) is a refreshed carpet, and a little bit goes a long way. It also works upholstery, vinyl and rubber. Its versatility and effectiveness are why many users claim Armor All Oxi Magic is one of the best car carpet cleaners for the money.
- Works on vinyl, rubber or cloth
- Lifts spilled liquids so they’re easy to blot away
- Effective on some of the most stubborn and common stains (coffee, grease, oil, etc.)
- Same popular product as Clorox Oxi Magic under a different name
- Milder formula that may require a second application but rarely stains
- Best for recent spills, stains need multiple applications
- Has a stronger odor than many on this list
- May discolor light colors when used on isolated area (use complete coverage)
Carfidant Ultimate Cleaner is suitable for use anywhere on a vehicle. It is safe on painted surfaces, engines, leather, vinyl and fabrics. It may not exactly be the best car carpet cleaner, but it will handle light duty on carpets and upholstery.
- Suitable for use on any vehicle surface
- Light scent won’t offend sensitive noses
- Liquifies dirt but gentle enough for clear coats
- pH-balanced to prevent reactions
- Does not leave a residue
- More expensive than others.
- Like every Jack of all trades, it’s a master of none
- May discolor light colors when used on isolated area (use complete coverage)
If you detail your own vehicle, you’ll know this brand. Mequiars Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is one of the milder options available. It is a foaming cleaner that dissolves stains deep in fabric. The can also has a removable brush for scrubbing, which will see plenty of use.
The New Car Scent is vague, but it’s less noticeable than typical citrus or floral scents. This product is effective but not powerful. It may require multiple applications on tougher stains, but it won’t likely cause any discoloration.
- A milder formula that won’t stain most fabrics
- Removable brush for deeper scrubbing
- New car scent is unobtrusive and pleasant
- Foaming action handles most spills by itself
- An effective product from a trusted brand
- Mild can sometimes mean repeated applications
- New car scent isn’t everyone’s favorite
Anyone who cares for fabric materials will know the brand. Like its stain repellant stablemate, ScotchGard Fabric & Carpet Cleaner does what it’s supposed to do. This foaming cleaner will dislodge, liquify and lift even the toughest of stains. It is intended for home use, but it is safe and effective in auto uses.
In keeping with the brand name, ScotchGard Fabric & Carpet Cleaner also leaves behind a protectant that helps prevent future stains. What it doesn’t leave behind is a sticky residue. Once it dries, all that’s left is renewed upholstery or carpet.
- Works as well in the home as in vehicles
- Contains ScotchGard protectant to ward off future stains
- Use on spots or the whole carpet
- Has no noticeable scent once it dries
- Non-toxic enough to trust on kids’ car seats
- Likely to harm leather if directly applied to it
- Best for light cleaning duty
From the first name in car cleaning comes just about the best car interior carpet cleaner money can buy. Sure, it won’t buy as much Lexol Carpet Deep Cleaner as it will some others, but you won’t need as much of it either.
Lexol Carpet Deep Cleaner is powerful enough to tackle even dry, set-in stains. Hydrogen peroxide supplies the scrubbing bubbles that break down staining liquids. It is safe on all carpet, but effective enough that one application normally suffices. It also eliminates odors where others just cover them.
- Neutralizes odors
- Foaming action provides the scrubbing
- Penetrates deeply, quickly
- Effective on grease and oil, as well as coffee and sugary drinks
- Trusted maker with almost a century of experience
- Can be pricey, though it will likely outlast cheaper competitors
- One-trick pony, need other products for rest of interior
Tuff Stuff relies on foaming action and powerful surfactants to break down staining particles. It dissolves stains proficiently and quickly, making short work of most materials. Its scent is strong at first, but it dissipates quickly and is gone in a few hours.
What is also gone are any stains on almost any surface. Tuff Stuff eliminates the need to keep multiple cleaners. It works on metals, vinyl and fabric in cars. It will clean most anything in a home, from faucets to sofas, making it one of the best car carpet cleaners for home use.
- Multiple uses in a vehicle and around the house
- Bonus: works great as a chrome polish and cleaner on classic cars and motorcycles
- Foaming action liquifies even caked-on and dried stains
- Also great around the house (carpet, faucets, tiles, etc.)
- Leaving it to soak longer helps remove tougher stains
- Works on a variety of surfaces but performs no miracles
- Despite advertising, only really impressive on carpets, upholstery and chrome
Mothers is a car care brand familiar to most home mechanics, as its products are available in most chain parts stores. As a stain remover, Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner may not be the most effective. But as a spill cleaner, it may be one of the best car carpet cleaners there is.
The key to success with Mothers Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner is to use it immediately after a spill. It is a mild solution, so it pays to expect stains to require multiple applications. In regular use, though, this product helps reveal a brighter shade of whatever color upholstery you own.
- Mild formula that doesn’t cause discoloration
- Useful as part of a cleaning regimen
- pH balanced so it works on a variety of liquids
- Meant for the home as well, not just the auto
- Can be used on vinyl seats
- A little pricey for a mild cleaner, though effective
- Does not work very well on dried stains
McKees is best known for its effective waxes, but this carpet cleaner is another great product from the growing brand. McKee’s Carpet & Upholstery utilizes surfactants to break the staining agent’s bond to the fabric. It is then just a matter of wiping or blotting the offending particle away.
This is a powerful product, so it is best to test it on an inconspicuous spot on your fabrics. Once you know you can trust it, use it on vinyl and similar surfaces. It works, and it doesn’t leave behind a harsh chemical smell either.
- Effective on both fresh and set-in stains
- Requires no water, simply wipe away
- Surfactants break the surface tension on stains chemically
- Excellent option to battle pet stains
- Can be used in the home also
- One of the more expensive options
- Overkill for light, regular cleaning
There seems to be as many carpet cleaners on the market as there are types of stains to clean. And therein lies the issue. While all of the products on this list are effective, only a rare few are suitable in almost any situation.
It’s for that reason that Chemical Guys Foaming Citrus Fabric Cleaner stands out among the best car carpet cleaners. Its foaming action lifts all but the absolute toughest stains, and it will at least lessen the severity of those. The stain fighting residue and sweet citrus smell are just a bonus.