You’ll Want to Make a Batch of This DIY Upholstery Cleaner

While we have lots of DIY cleaner recipes in our “Everyday Cheapskate” arsenal, a reliable upholstery cleaner was missing. Now, we can check it off the list with this new handy, effective DIY recipe for homemade upholstery cleaner.

You’ll need: Fels-Naptha laundry bar soap, borax, and boiling water (the former two are available in most supermarkets in the laundry aisle).

Using a cheese grater, grate about 1/3 of the Fels-Naptha bar. Place 6 tablespoons of grated soap, 1 tablespoon borax, and 2 cups of boiling water in the mixing bowl. Using an egg beater or whisk, carefully mix until all ingredients are dissolved and well incorporated.

Let it sit on the counter for about 30 minutes, or until cool enough that the mixture begins to gel.

Using an egg beater, whisk, or electric mixer, whip the mixture until it looks like whipped cream or shaving cream. It will start out bubbly and then become foam.

To use by hand: Dip a clean, white cloth into the foaming cleaner and then scrub it into the stain in a circular motion. (For a very stubborn stain, you may need to use a brush.) Use a separate clean, wet microfiber cloth to rinse and remove the soiled foam, and allow the spot to air-dry.

To use by machine: I use my Bissell SpotClean Machine and this DIY cleaner on stained upholstered chairs, sofa cushions, and even area rugs. First, I fill the machine reservoir with clean, hot water. Then, I apply some of the foam to the spot. Without pulling the machine’s trigger (which would normally dispense water and cleaner from the reservoir), I go to work with the scrubbing action on the spot. In most cases, the spot disappears after only a few seconds. Lastly, I pull the trigger to dispense the water for a thorough rinse, followed by the suction to soak up the water. It works like a charm!

This recipe makes a big batch of DIY cleaner. If I’m not anticipating a big job, I use what I need and then transfer the remaining amount to a food storage bowl with a tight lid. I store it in a cupboard in my laundry room. It stays foaming and useful for at least three weeks.

If you don’t want to make more cleaner than you need for a specific job, you can easily cut this recipe in half: 3 tablespoons grated Fels-Naptha, 1 tablespoon borax, 1 cup boiling water.

The cost to make the full recipe is less than a buck. By comparison, Hoover Upholstery Cleaner Aerosol Spray runs about $7. While that’s a loose comparison, this homemade product is one more way to keep money in my pocket while also having a job well done.

Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Mary invites you to visit her at her website, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Copyright 2021

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