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DIY Upholstery Cleaner vs Bissell Cleaning Solution: What Works Better

DIY Upholstery Cleaner

Should you use a DIY upholstery cleaner solution or a name brand cleaning solvent like Bissell?  Will a homemade upholstery cleaning mix really work as well as a store bought one?  Well, we have your answers!

Links in this post may be affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you make a purchase from any of them.  You can read my full disclaimer HERE.

Why We Needed An Upholstery Cleaner

Due to an unfortunate accident involving half of a medium milkshake, my 10-year old, and the back seat of my car, we recently became the proud owners of a Bissell Spotclean Proheat Pet carpet and upholstery cleaning machine.  

It was about 6 pm on a Saturday night when the milkshake incident occurred.  We were driving home from Sonic when I heard the ominous calls of “Oh, no!!!” coming from my back seat.  

When I pulling into my driveway, sure enough, my worst fears were realized.  My child had somehow lost his hold on his half full milkshake, spilling the contents ENTIRELY onto the cloth seats in the back of my car.  

I immediately starting calling around, trying to find a detailing shop that could clean my seats ASAP, before my car started stinking like sour milk.  

Of course, since it was after 5 on a Saturday, the few places that were still open were unable to clean the upholstery of my car until Monday or Tuesday, and were quoting us prices of anywhere from $85 to $125 to shampoo the seats.  

So it was on to plan B. 

The Bissell Spot Cleaner

We quickly ran out to our local Walmart and purchased a Bissell Spotclean Proheat Pet for around $100. I was looking for a Bissell Little Green Machine, but our local store was completely out of those.  

I figured if it saved the back seat of my car for the same price as a one time professional cleaning, it would be well worth the purchase.  

We brought it home, and got to work immediately, using the samples of the cleaning solution provided with our new Bissell. 

The Bissell Spot Clean Proheat worked like a DREAM!  It cleaned all the milkshake residue and left my car smelling lovely.  

Just to be sure it wouldn’t stink, we cleaned the entire area twice, and never had any bad smells in my back seat.  

I HIGHLY recommend this machine!  We’ve used it all over the house, including cleaning my dining room chairs, a sofa, several lounge chairs, and the ottoman in this experiment (more on that in a minute!)

You can get your own Bissell Spotclean Proheat here:


 

Why We Created A DIY Upholstery Cleaning Solution

While the Bissell machine itself was affordable and worked very well cleaning up the milkshake mess, the upholstery cleaning solution sold by Bissell seemed kinda pricey and didn’t go very far.   

After using up the sample sizes on that first emergency clean up, I discovered that refill bottles weren’t cheap.  They run around $10 a bottle at our local Target or Walmart.  

Now that I was on a roll and wanted to “clean all the things,” $10 a bottle just wasn’t going to cut it for me.  So I started doing a little research.  

After cruising around the internet for a while, a found a formula for a DIY upholstery cleaning solution that I thought would work just as well as the Bissell version for my purposes. 

It used ingredients I already had on hand and was EXTREMELY cheap to make.  So I decided to give it a shot. 

Putting Our DIY Upholstery Cleaner To The Test

To test out this newfound formula, I decided to clean the dirtiest piece of furniture in my house:  the dog ottoman.  

This grungy piece of furniture started out as a lovely pale green velvet ottoman that coordinated with a lovely pale green velvet chair.  

But when we adopted a small beagle from a local rescue, she quickly claimed it as her own, to spend her days lounging on it, gazing out the window at the squirrels.  

She spent hours at a time rolling around on it, really grinding in the dirt and germs. 

She also made a habit of chewing her favorite toy on top of it, leaving little bits of whatever it was for her to lick up later. 

An extremely dirty light green ottoman, ready to be cleaned by our Bissell

As you can see from the picture, it really was quite gross after she’d been using it for about a year.  

Being that it was the most disgusting piece of furniture in my house, I figured it would make a good test subject for these two different formulas of upholstery cleaning solution.  

I sectioned off three areas of the top of the ottoman to help me compare my work.  One section for the Bissell brand cleaning solution, one section for the DIY cleaning solution, and one section left dirty as a “control” (’cause I’m scientific like that!)

I covered whatever area I wasn’t cleaning with plastic wrap to try to prevent bleed over from the other area and get a good comparison of the different solutions.  

I started by filling the tank with the recommended ratio of hot water to Bissell cleaning solution.  Then I sprayed the entire dirty area with the solution from the machine, and got to work with the brush and the suction.  

I only used tools included with the machine.  No additional brushes or scrubbers were used to clean any part of the areas.  

Between sections, I ran hot water through the machine to make sure I flushed out any residue from the Bissell solutions. 

I then repeated the process with the DIY solution.   I took about the same amount of time to clean both sides (possibly a little extra time on the Bissell side)

What happened astounded me. 

DIY Upholstery Cleaner results of both formulas

The DIY Upholstery Cleaner vs. Bissell Solution Results

The Bissell solution did a decent job of removing the grime.  It still looked a bit dingy to me on that side once it was completed and dried.  

But the DIY upholstery cleaner solution did a tremendous job of cleaning the ottoman.  

As you can see in the picture, the DIY section looks tons better than the section left in original condition.  And I can promise you, it smelled better too!  

It also seemed to take less elbow grease to get the intended results.  I’m all for working smarter, not harder!  

I bet you’re wondering what this amazing DIY upholstery cleaner is!  You’ll be amazed to know it’s made with just four simple ingredients you likely have around your home right now!

Ingredients for A DIY Upholstery Cleaning Solution

It only takes hot tap water, hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, and dish soap.  

That’s it!  

You can get the full recipe for the cleaning solution on the printable card at the bottom of this post.  

I was scared they peroxide might bleach out my furniture, but it was so watered down, it didn’t do anything of the sort.  

Once I saw the results, I went back and cleaned the entire thing with the homemade solution.  Here’s the before and after picture of the completed project:

Before and after results from a DIY Upholstery Cleaner

I can definitely tell you, I’ll never go back to using the store bought formula!  

You can use this formula in just about any upholstery cleaning machine, the Bissell ProHeat, the Little Green Machine, or whatever upholstery cleaning machine you own.  

The results of this little experiment made me super happy!  I cleaned the entire chair and brought it completely back to life with this inexpensive DIY formula.  

Yield: 1 Bottle of Cleaning Solution

DIY Upholstery Cleaner

DIY Upholstery Cleaner: A before and after picture

Mix up this DIY Upholstery Cleaner to use in your Bissell carpet or upholstery cleaning machine! Save money and clean efficiently!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $1.00

Materials

  • 6 cups HOT Tap Water
  • 1/4 cup Hydrogen Peroxide
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon White Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon Dish Soap

Tools

  • Bissell Upholstery Cleaner

Instructions

    1. Mix all ingredients together. No need to use boiling water, just get it as hot as it will go from your tap.
    2. Pour directly into your carpet or upholstery cleaning machine, as you would any name brand cleaning solution & water mixture.
    3. Use machine according to manufacturer's directions.
    4. Watch it magically remove dirt and grime.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

We make over and rehab A LOT of furniture in this house.  I’d say at least 80% of the furniture in our home is second hand.  

I’ve used this DIY upholstery solution to rehab so many pieces, and it has never failed to clean really well for me.  

I’ve removed weird stains and smells from lots of vintage pieces, and enabled us to really get a mid century look to our home by using actual vintage furniture.  

Try it on your dirtiest piece of furniture!  Let me know how it works in the comments!

Check out my other post on how to instantly remove permanent marker from your skin!

 

DIY Upholstery Cleaner vs Bissell Cleaning Solution: What Works Better

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Olivia Yancey

Wednesday 20th of January 2021

Hi there,

How big was your water tank? I'm trying to figure out if I need to add more for a 96 oz tank on the Bissell SpotClean Pet Pro machine.

admin

Thursday 21st of January 2021

I have the 37 oz tank on my machine. I hope that helps.

Wendi K Keller

Saturday 5th of December 2020

Do you know if this will work as well with pet accidents, like urine and vomit? Looks like it's great with dirt/grease, but I'm wondering how it does with pet odors and bacteria. I'd love to not have to buy the expensive solutions! Also, has it hurt your machine at all? Bissell says not to use other solutions, but of course they want you to buy their stuff. Thanks

admin

Saturday 5th of December 2020

Hi Wendi! The ottoman I used in the pictures smelled really bad before I cleaned it. It was our dog's favorite hang out spot. I have to say the smell was WORLDS better after I used this solution on it, and it didn't smell chemically or weird. I haven't used it on her urine or vomit, but I would expect the same results.

I've been using this solution in my machine for about a year now and have noticed zero issues with my machine. I do run some plain old water through my machine every time I'm finished to clean it out, but otherwise, it still works great.

I hope this helps!

Marty

Monday 12th of October 2020

I do not have an upholstery cleaner. Would this solution work in a spray bottle and use a clean cloth or brush to work it in? Also, does it remove body oils as well as dirt from upholstery? Thanks.

admin

Tuesday 13th of October 2020

I haven't tried it that way, but it might work. The issue you might run into with just a spray bottle and a brush is removing the solution. Using a cleaning machine of some type sucks out the dirty water and cleaning solution from the furniture, leaving the furniture clean. Without that feature, the mixture might just sit on the furniture and not work as well.

Shirley Mckeen

Sunday 20th of September 2020

Can this be used on carpet?

admin

Sunday 20th of September 2020

I have never used it on carpet myself, so I can't really give you a definitive answer on that. You could give it a shot, but I'd try it in a closet or something to make sure it doesn't cause any problems. If you do use it, let me know how it turns out!

Sandy

Sunday 13th of September 2020

Your post is very thorough. Well done! I am trying this right now on or sofa & loveseat. I have the Bissel “PROheatPET” for both carpets & upholstery. It occurred to me (only after I started) that I should have clarified with you on whether to use the solution in the small soap tank, still filling the main tank with plain hot water or, using the soap mixture in the plain water tank. I put the 6 cups cleaning mix directly into the plain water tank. Hope that’s what you meant! It seems fine - not too soapy, which would be bad - you don’t want soapy residue on carpets or upholstery, as that actually attracts dirt. My furniture is not terribly dirty, but our giant puppy dog has recently decided he likes sleeping on the sofas, and much as I love him, I don’t want them to smell! I mention this because I thought of sending before/afters, but it’s not going too look noticeably different - and no smell-o-vision yet!

María Rodriguez

Wednesday 17th of February 2021

I absolutely love your GREAT words of advice on cleaning. I have 5 more adults and a cat and dog. This sounds amazing to do and cleannnnn. Thank you kindly.

admin

Tuesday 15th of September 2020

Hi Sandy!

Glad the mixture is working for you. It sounds like you did it exactly the same way I did. Just put the mixture recipe from my post directly into the tank, no additional water needed. Dogs are the best, just a little on the smelly side sometimes! Happy cleaning!!