How to Make Homemade Upholstery Cleaner

Keeping your home clean extends to your furnishings. Having a great DIY upholstery cleaner on hand can save you more than just a buck or two. Additionally, making your own upholstery cleaner also has other benefits, such as being able to make a truly organic and natural cleaning solution. Learn how to make your own upholstery cleaner here with four great recipes to follow.

3 Good Reasons to Make Your Own Upholstery DIY Cleaner

Before you rush to your kitchen and slam together some vinegar and soap, you should know why you would rather use a homemade upholstery cleaner as opposed to a store-bought cleaner. Your reasons may include the following: 

  • Homemade upholstery cleaners tend to be more natural and free from preservatives and artificial flavorings, which can trigger an allergic reaction in people and pets. 
  • Natural homemade cleaners for upholstery and other furnishings can be much more effective
  • They are also less likely to stain the upholstery. 
  • Given the cost of some cleaning products, making your own homemade upholstery cleaner can be much more cost-effective than commercial cleaners. 

Safety Considerations for Making Your Own Upholstery Cleaners

Be sure the surface you are cleaning is suitable for water-based cleaners. By checking the cleaning or fabric care guide, you will see several letters that inform whether the upholstery is suitable for water-based cleaning or requires dry cleaning. If the cleaning code contains a W, the upholstery can be safely cleaned with water-based cleaners. 

Be sure to also try a small amount of any cleaning liquid, whether homemade or commercial, to check the colorfastness of the upholstery. It’s best to use a small out-of-the-way area to test the cleaner. 

To do a cleaning test, dab a small amount of the homemade upholstery cleaner onto the upholstery fabric, allow it to soak for a minute, and then wipe clean. Let the test area dry, then compare it to the rest of the upholstery. If there is no color difference, the cleaning solution is safe to use. 

Homemade Upholstery Cleaner Recipes

Foam Cleaner Recipe

This is a great cleaner, and if applied correctly, it is also a very safe cleaner for most upholstery fabrics and even carpet surfaces. 

Mix a quarter cup of soap flakes (grated Dawn soap is a good choice) with two cups of hot water. Let the mixture sit for a minute, then whisk with an electric blender until a foamy paste has formed. Increase the whisking speed, making more foam. 

Apply the foam (not the paste) to the stained area with a stiff brush. Gently scrub, leave for a minute, then wipe clean with a lint-free cloth. Let dry and evaluate whether you need to do a second round of do-it-yourself upholstery cleaning. 

Should you need more foam, simply whip the paste again, and if necessary, add some more hot water to the paste to make more foam. Always use the foam only for cleaning as the paste may contain soapy bits that will stain the fabric. 

Pet Stain Upholstery Cleaner

Pet stains can be the worst to get out of upholstery. The smell is something that really sticks. Fortunately, good old vinegar can do the job. 

To make this upholstery cleaner, mix three tablespoons of white vinegar with half a cup of water. Use a sponge to apply, dabbing at the stain from the outside and working your way inward. This reduces the stain and the smell. 

Never use any stain removers that have ammonia or bleach as content. While this can bleach your upholstery, it can also attract your pets, and they may urinate on the patch that smells of ammonia. 

If the stain is quite bad, add a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to the mix and dab it sparingly to clean. For cat stains, sprinkle the stain with baking soda before you clean it with the solution. This will help you neutralize some of the acidic enzymes that are in cat urine. 

Homemade Car Upholstery Cleaner

Cars tend to get unpleasant stains on the seats and floor rugs. This is often a cause for consternation as a good commercial cleaner will set you back quite a bit. However, fear no more. This recipe has your car upholstery covered. 

In a spray bottle, mix the following ingredients:

  • ½ cup of soda water
  • ¼ cup of white vinegar
  • A few drops of dishwashing liquid or a teaspoon of grated Dawn soap
  • 2-4 drops of essential oil for a nice scent (we love lemon and orange, but you can try grapefruit or lemon grass too)

This homemade upholstery cleaner for your car can really help you out in a pinch. It’s so handy that we recommend keeping a small spray bottle with the mix in your car to spray onto stains as they happen. 

For deep cleaning, you will need a vacuum or steam cleaner, the premixed car upholstery cleaner, a small scrubbing brush, a lint-free cloth, and a few Q-tips. To clean, vacuum the area well. Then spray the stained area generously with the homemade upholstery cleaner mix. 

Let it sit for 3-5 minutes. 

Next, scrub gently with the brush. A nail brush works well too. Wipe with the lint-free cloth, then use the Q-tips to clean out any out-of-the-way corners or the edges of the upholstery that extends under the upholstery edging or piping. You can also use a toothpick or a dental flossing brush to clean out the small ventilation holes in faux leather upholstery seat covers. 

If you’re using this mix to clean up a stain on your car’s carpet, you can finish the session by vacuuming again to restore the carpet pile to a smooth finish. 

Homemade Alcohol-Based Upholstery Cleaner

There are certain stains that simply won’t budge, not for all the soap in the world. Pen ink and certain glue residues are a few examples of such stains. This is when you need the big guns: alcohol. Nope, not the drinking kind; instead, use rubbing alcohol. 

Be sure that when you use this homemade alcohol-based upholstery cleaner, your upholstery is not graded as WW on the care instructions–especially when cleaning a fabric such as microfiber. Also, take care to work away from any heat sources and don’t smoke while cleaning with this solution as the alcohol is highly flammable. 

Combine the following ingredients in a spray bottle:

  • 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol (non-colored)
  • ½ a cup of white vinegar
  • 2 drops of essential oils (lemon or lemon grass oil)

Spray the cleaning solution onto the stain, then wipe it with a lint-free or microfiber cloth. Wait a few seconds, then repeat if the stain is still visible. 


Making your own homemade upholstery cleaner is a great idea. Be sure to check your upholstery fabric with a small test area to ensure you are using ingredients that are safe for that particular fabric. The magic rule is to always clean a stain from the outside, working inward to stop the stain from spreading. Happy cleaning. 

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