Clean cloth car seats make me happy. Why? Because I spend a lot of time in my car, and keeping it spick-and-span suggests (even if it’s not true) that I’m orderly and organized. Put simply, clutter in my car causes clutter in my brain. What can I say? I’m easily overwhelmed.
That said, keeping your car seats clean is important for other reasons, too. If you have kids, grandkids, or pets, there will be spills, and they’ll often seep into the nooks and crevices between your car seats. Knowing how to properly clean up spills before they become set in stains has both an aesthetic and a hygienic purpose. (You want your car to be presentable, and you want it to be sanitary – for the next time the kids, grandkids, or pets take a ride with you).
Below are expert instructions for how to clean cloth and leather car seats, as well as techniques for deep cleaning and the best products for relieving your car seats of everything from coffee stains to pet hair.
For Fabric Car Seats
Picture this: You’re driving to work, iced coffee in hand, when the car in front of you stops short and your drink goes flying. Hello, brown stain on your formerly clean cloth passenger seat!
Thankfully, with the right tools, you can quickly clean up this and other stubborn stains. The key is to act fast. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the liquid will soak into the fabric and the harder it will be to remove the stain from your cloth seats.
For Liquid Spills
For liquid spills, use a clean cloth, microfiber towel, or paper towel to soak up as much liquid as possible. Avoid rubbing the stain, as this can cause it to spread or become more ingrained in the fabric. (Save the scrub brush for later.) Rather, dab the stain repeatedly before using other cleaning products.
Once you’ve blotted the excess liquid, use a cleaning solution specifically designed for stain removal from cloth car seats. Follow the instructions on the upholstery cleaner carefully, and test it on an inconspicuous area of the seat first to ensure it doesn’t cause discoloration.
The cleaning tips on your car upholstery cleaner may recommend using a microfiber cloth on the area or letting the cleaning solution soak before scrubbing. Here is where you can use your brush — to work the solution into the stained area. Just be sure to use a soft-bristled brush like a toothbrush, and be gentle so you don’t damage the fabric.
For Dry Stains
If you’re cleaning dirt or a dried stain off your cloth car seats, start by removing any loose dirt or debris and vacuuming the seats thoroughly. This will prevent dirt or dust from pressing further into the fabric during cleaning. After you vacuum the seat, use a cloth car seat cleaner just like you would for a wet stain.
What about leather seat hacks?
For leather car seats, the cleaning process is different. Leather is more delicate than cloth, so you need to be careful with your products and techniques. While DIY advice for cloth seats might recommend using a cup of vinegar, laundry detergent, or even bleach to address the stained area, leather car interiors should not be cleaned with these solutions.
Instead, wipe down the seats with a clean, damp cloth to remove surface grime and debris. Then use a handheld vacuum to siphon away crumbs or surface dirt for dried stains (as you would on cloth seats). Finally, use a leather-specific stain remover.
Just like when cleaning cloth car seats, using a cleaner designed for the material on your car seats is essential. For leather, avoid harsh chemicals and household cleaners, as these can cause discoloration or cracking. A protectant that conditions the leather is a good idea.
Apply the leather cleaner to a clean, soft cloth and gently work it into the stain. Avoid using too much water or cleaner, as these will damage leather when oversaturated. Once you’ve removed the stain, wipe the seat down with a clean, dry cloth to remove any excess cleaner.
Protecting Your Car From Future Messes
The best way to keep your car seats pristine is by preventing spills and stains from happening at all. One way to do this is with a car seat protector or cover. They’re also great for pet parents who like taking their doggos for a drive.
And speaking of pets, there are a few different techniques for removing pet hair from car seats. Use a lint roller or a damp rubber glove to pick up the hair for cloth seats. You can also use a vacuum cleaner with a pet hair attachment to remove stubborn hairs ingrained in the fabric.
For leather seats, a soft-bristled brush or dry microfiber cloth work well. Be gentle and avoid using water or cleaning products, which can damage the leather. The gentler you are, the better.
In a pinch, you can use home remedies likebaking soda and vinegar in lieu of cleaning products. Below are instructions for turning these pantry staples into car seat cleaners.
Cloth Car Seats
To clean up cloth car seats with baking soda and vinegar, follow these steps:
- Blot the spill with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove as much liquid as possible.
- Sprinkle baking soda generously over the stain and allow to sit for a few minutes. (Baking soda is a natural absorbent and will help lift the stain.)
- Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spray the solution onto the baking soda. (The mixture will fizz and foam, which is what you want — it means it’s working to lift the stain.)
- Use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the stain in circular motions. Be careful not to scrub too hard and damage the fabric.
- Carefully wipe away the baking soda and vinegar solution using a damp cloth. Repeat the process until the stain is gone.
And voila! You’ve cleaned your car with nothing but the products under your sink.
Leather Car Seats
For leather car seats, follow these steps:
- Mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto a soft cloth and gently wipe down the leather seat. Avoid using too much liquid, as it can damage the leather.
- If the stain is stubborn, mix a small amount of dish soap with water and dip a soft cloth into the solution. Gently rub the stain in circular motions until it lifts.
- Rinse the cloth with clean water and wipe away any soap residue.
- Use a dry, clean cloth to dry the leather seat.
One important note: Test that cleaning solutions won’t damage your car seat fabric before applying in full. To do this, dab solution on a discreet part of the seat and allow it to set overnight.
Clean Car, Happy You
Whether you have cloth or leather seats, keeping your car seats clean and looking their best is vital to maintaining your car’s appearance and value. Plus, having a clean car is like having freshly washed sheets or a clean kitchen: It’s just nice, and you deserve nice things.
So, next time your grandchild spills their snacks on the car seat, or you sneeze mid-sip of your coffee to-go and get splatters on your passenger seat, don’t panic. You can easily clean cloth and leather car seats with the proper tools and a little patience.
What's the Best Way To Clean Cloth and Leather Car Seats? The Answer, Here, From Professionals? ›
Mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto a soft cloth and gently wipe down the leather seat. Avoid using too much liquid, as it can damage the leather. If the stain is stubborn, mix a small amount of dish soap with water and dip a soft cloth into the solution.How do you clean leather and cloth car seats? ›
Use a vinegar mixture. Mix a cup of vinegar, a few drops of dish soap and about a gallon of hot water in a bucket. Then dab the mixture into the stain and use a brush to scrub it out of the seat, use clean water to rinse the seat off. Use laundry detergent.What is the best product to clean and condition leather car seats? ›
|Best leather cleaner and conditioner||Brand||Name|
|Overall||Leather Honey||Leather Conditioner & Cleaning Kit|
|For the money||Lexol||Conditioner and Cleaner Kit|
|All-in-one||Chemical Guys||Sprayable Leather Cleaner and Conditioner|
|Leather cleaner||Carfidant||Ultimate Leather Cleaner|
You can use rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover to get rid of stains on your leather car seats. Get a cotton swab and dip it in rubbing alcohol. Use the cotton swab to get rid of the stain. You can then use warm water and liquid dish soap to clean the area and dry the area with a cloth.
Mix two cups water, one cup vinegar and approximately a tablespoon of dish soap in a spray bottle. Spray lightly on any stains or especially dirty spots, scrub gently and rinse lightly with clean water. Finish by dabbing the spot with a microfiber cloth to absorb excess moisture.What do detailers use to clean? ›
Dishwashing detergent is simply too harsh. It sucks important oils out of your car's finish and can actually shorten the life of your paint. A car detailer will use car wash soap for professional car detailing, like Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash.Are Armor All wipes good for leather seats? ›
Armor All® Leather Wipes are perfect for use on most leather surfaces, including treated leather furniture, clothing and of course, car seats. Our specially formulated products condition your leather, whether in your car or house, helping to keep your leather looking like new.Can you use Dawn dish soap to wash leather car seats? ›
If you want to make your own leather cleaner, mix warm water and either liquid dishwashing soap or Castile soap (a specific type of vegetable oil-based soap) at a ratio of 5 to 1 (five parts water, one part soap).What not to clean leather seats with? ›
First, vacuum the seats, being careful to remove dirt and debris from the crevices. Next, apply a cleaning solution to the seats. Do not use bleach or ammonia-based cleaners as they can damage the leather. You can use a commercial leather cleaner, or you can make your own.What are the do's and don'ts of leather car seat cleaning? ›
Don't spray anything directly on seats, especially perforated leather. Dampen your microfiber cloth with the solution instead. Don't use conditioners that contain petroleum or waxes as they can cause product build-up and dull your leather's finish. Don't let the wet solution dry on the seats.
What do professionals use to clean leather? ›
Oil + Vinegar: Mix 1/2 cup olive oil with 1/4 cup of vinegar in a spray bottle. Spritz on the stain, let sit for five minutes and wipe. Whatever you do, avoid bleach or ammonia-based cleaners as they can damage the leather. Toothpaste: Wet the stained area with a damp cloth.How do I clean my car like a pro? ›
- Wash Weekly. You might be asking yourself, “How often should I be washing my car?” Well, if you wait for your car to get dirty, you've waited too long. ...
- Use the Right Soap. ...
- First Rinse. ...
- Use the Three-Bucket System. ...
- Clean the Wheels. ...
- Lather and Scrub. ...
- Wash the Headlights. ...
- Final Rinse.
- Remove loose items. ...
- Start from the top. ...
- Look for the dust. ...
- Slide the seats forward. ...
- Brush and vacuum carpet and upholstery. ...
- Deep clean carpets and upholstery. ...
- Clean hard-to-reach places. ...
- Wipe and wash plastic surfaces.
Olive Oil and Vinegar
An excellent home remedy for cleaning leather car seats is a solution made of a quarter cup of olive oil and half a cup of distilled white vinegar. No water base is needed for this concoction; just pour the two ingredients into a spray bottle and mix them together by shaking the bottle thoroughly.
Everyday stains on fabric seats can be removed very simply. Often, the use of household products like shaving foam or a universal cleaner from the supermarket will do. Use a household brush for rubbing the detergent into the fabric in order to soak dried stains.How do you dry car seats after washing? ›
- Towels. Cloth towels are very effective at absorbing water, and they should be your starting point for dealing with a wet car seat. ...
- Harness the Power of the Sun. ...
- Fans. ...
- Blow Dryer.
Cleaning the seats is just as easy. Spray glass cleaner such as Windex onto the seats and simply wipe them down with a clean microfiber cloth. If the vinyl is particularly dirty, a mixture of water and baking soda will help clean and polish the seats.What is the best cleaner to get stains out of car seats? ›
The standard array of tools—club soda, baking soda, and vinegar—can also be used on cloth and vinyl car upholstery. Laundry detergent, stain sticks, and spray-on stain remover are also safe, which means you can even take care of smaller stains with something like a Tide To Go pen applicator.What do professional car valeters use? ›
Professional valeters only use non-caustic, mild citrus degreasers or ph neutral snow foams and only ever on pre-rinsed, wet vehicles.What do car detailers use to remove stains? ›
Using Specializes Soaps
Detailers do not use ordinary soap. They will instead use a specific extractor soap. It is a unique soap designed for automobile interiors for those unfamiliar with extractor soap. The soap penetrates the fabric of the seats and carpet and begins to dissolve stains.
What kind of soap do you use to clean car seats? ›
Castile soap or dish soap: Castile soap is a gentle, vegetable-based cleaner that works for most messes. But regular dish soap is the better option for tough stains, like from zinc-based sunscreen. Toothbrush or small scrub brush: Removing stains—especially stubborn ones—will require some scrubbing.What kind of wipes are safe for leather? ›
Weiman Leather Wipes were designed to clean, condition and protect leather. 6 natural oils rejuvenate, moisturize and restore leather, while the UVX-15 sunscreen protects it from the damaging effects of the Sun. Weiman Leather Wipes are premoistened and can be applied directly onto smooth, finished leather surfaces.Can you use Weiman leather wipes on car seats? ›
Leather car seats require care to prevent fading and cracking from sun exposure. It's important to clean loose debris and dirt with a microfiber cloth or leather wipe. For a quick dusting, we recommend Weiman Leather Conditioning Wipes, as they are formulated to safely remove dirt, soil, and residue.What are the best leather wipes for car seats? ›
Meguiar's Leather Wipes – Meguiar's Gold Class rich leather wipes help maintain leather car seats. They come in a 25-count pack and are soaked in aloe-based moisturizers to clean, condition, and protect leather seats.What is the best homemade leather cleaner? ›
Make Your Own Solution
The best way to clean a leather couch and the entire surface, mix 2 parts white vinegar with 1 part olive oil in a spray bottle and shake well. (You can also add a few drops of fragrant essential oils to cut the vinegar smell).
Use the oil soap like a leather conditioner on leather furniture or your vehicle's dashboard area or upholstery (not cloth). Use the product at full strength and apply it to a dry cloth. Work it over the area, then use a second cloth to buff it.Is Windex safe to use on leather car seats? ›
Do not use petroleum-based cleaning products to clean leather as they can erode the stitching on the leather piece. Harsh cleaners (such as Windex or bleach), furniture polish (such as Pledge), alkaline cleaners, baby wipes, waxes, and silicone may also damage leather, leaving it feeling sticky.Can you use Clorox wipes on leather? ›
We don't recommend cleaning your leather with any sanitizing wipes or sprays as that can damage your leathers finish.Does dish soap dry out leather? ›
Mild dish soap, on the other hand, possesses a basic pH level between 7-8, and other general cleaners, such as Borax, usually find their way to around a basic 10. The contrast between leather pH levels and the cleaners' during contact damages leather fibers and can weaken its integrity over time.Can I use Clorox wipes on leather? ›
We don't recommend cleaning your leather with any sanitizing wipes or sprays as that can damage your leathers finish.
What should you not use to clean leather car seats? ›
Don't spray anything directly on seats, especially perforated leather. Dampen your microfiber cloth with the solution instead. Don't use conditioners that contain petroleum or waxes as they can cause product build-up and dull your leather's finish.Is Windex good to clean leather car seats? ›
Save your Windex for your car windows. It is not suitable for your leather seats, as its ingredients could dry out the leather and cause discoloration.Why you should stop using Clorox wipes immediately? ›
Though they will disinfect your plates, Arthur Andrew Medical says the chemicals left behind by the Clorox wipes can be harmful to consume. According to the Missouri Poison Center, bleach can aggravate your skin, mucus membranes, and your gastrointestinal tract.Can you use baby wipes on leather? ›
NEVER USE BABY WIPES TO CLEAN LEATHER
These are often highly alkaline and are harmful to leather products. Many baby wipes contain chemicals, or other ingredients, that may cause leather to peel and crack over time.
Armor All® Leather Wipes are perfect for use on most leather surfaces, including treated leather furniture, clothing and of course, car seats. Our specially formulated products condition your leather, whether in your car or house, helping to keep your leather looking like new.What can damage leather car seats? ›
- Food/Drinks. It's a good idea to avoid eating and drinking in your automobile if you have leather upholstery. ...
- Heat/Sun. Another thing that will damage your leather upholstery is excessive heat and the sun's UV rays. ...
- Ink. ...
- Dirt/Dust. ...
- Wrong Cleaners. ...
You may be tempted to pull out the Clorox or Lysol wipes to combat germs in your car. If you have leather car seats, the answer to whether you can use Clorox wipes on leather is a resounding NO.