How to clean car seats

Picture this, you’re on your way to work or an errand. You decide to go to a drive-thru for a quick pick-me-up, or to a convenience store for some refreshments. You make your purchase, go through the motions, and accidentally spill whatever food or drink onto your car’s seats. 

Either that or your passenger makes a mess. In any case, spilling any substance on your car’s seats is a hassle, and requires immediate attention, or should be a part of your general vehicle maintenance practice. With that in mind, here are a few tips and tricks on how to clean your car’s seats. 

Cleaning kit

Before you start cleaning your car’s seats, it is important to gather all the kit that you need. Take note that the items that you will need will vary depending on your seat material and the nature of the stain or dirt on your seats. As a general rule of thumb, here are the basic items that you need for most cleaning duties: 

For all seats 

  • Vacuum Cleaner 
  • 2 Microfiber towels 
  • Warm water 
  • Brush/Toothbrush 

Other items that you might need to take on more stubborn stains will include the following: 

For cloth

  • Carpet or fabric cleaner 
  • Baking soda  
  • Vinegar 
  • Dish soap
  • Laundry detergent

For leather 

  • Leather cleaner 
  • Nail polish remover
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Vinegar

For suede 

Carpet or fabric cleaner 

Leather car seats

The second list is for more stubborn stains. However, regardless of what material your seats are upholstered with, you will want to gather all of the items on the first list. Regardless of the seating material, be sure the vacuum all the cracks and crevices of your seats, and perhaps clean your carpets while you’re at it. Crumbs and dust particles will accumulate in your seats over time, and getting out those bits of debris is the first and simplest step to tackle. After that, dab your microfiber cloth in the warm water and give your seats a good wipe down. This will allow you to get a bit more dirt off your seats, and some film that may have accumulated on the top of your upholstery. 

Cloth car seats

Cloth is tough to clean and keep clean. Dark-colored interiors will hide stains easier, but if you have light-colored upholstery, you will have your work cut out for you. 

To clean your seats, make sure to have some carpet or fabric cleaner on hand. Add some cleaner to the affected area, scrub it with your brush, then wipe it off with your microfiber cloth. 

You can use baking soda to get stains off your seats. Just mix ¼ a cup of baking soda with ¾ cup of warm water. After that, apply a thin layer of the solution then scrub with a brush over the stained area. If the stain is stubborn, leave the solution for 30 minutes. Following this, use your microfiber cloth to dry the surface. 

If you have vinegar on hand, you can also use that to clean your cloth seats. What you need to do is mix a 1/4 cup of vinegar, with about 1 liter of warm water. This solution will do, but you can go a step further and add a few drops of dish soap to the mix. Get your microfiber cloth, dab it on the surface, and then scrub it. Afterward, wipe the surface off with a clean and dry cloth. 

You can also use laundry detergent. Put laundry detergent in about a liter of warm water. Mix the solution, then dab the affected area. Scrub the stains then wipe with a clean and dry cloth. 

Bonus: Carpets 

You can use the same tricks and solutions on your carpet as well. You can use the same processes used for cloth seats to clean your car’s carpets. Whenever you spill something in your car, there is a high chance that your carpet will also take a hit. 

Leather car seats

If your car comes with leather seats, your job will be very easy especially if you are dealing with dark-colored leather. However, light-colored leather will also be pretty easy to clean given that leather is hardier and less absorbent compared to cloth. 

For more stubborn stains, you can use leather cleaner to remove the tougher bits of dirt. Apply the leather cleaner on your brush, then start scrubbing your upholstery. Let the leather cleaner foam up, then wipe it off with your microfiber cloth. 

If you don’t have leather cleaner, you can use some rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover to remove some leather stains. Apply the alcohol or polish remover on your microfiber cloth then wipe the leather. After that get a clean and dry cloth and dry the surface. 

A more unconventional cleaning solution would be to used non-gel toothpaste. You know you have the right toothpaste if it’s white or a solid color. You don’t want any translucence or flakes in the toothpaste as these could discolor your seats if they are a lighter hue. Saturate your brush in water, apply the toothpaste to your brush and scrub the stain away. After that, get your clean cloth and wipe the area dry. 

Suede Car Seats

Suede is a bit trickier to clean since it is somewhat like cloth, but similar to leather in durability. The only con is that suede tends to be more absorbent compared to leather, but a little less so than cloth.

Use a fabric or carpet cleaner and a brush. When cleaning this kind of surface, grab your brush, and try to agitate the surface to get all the dust and dirt out. Following this, use a microfiber cloth to pick up the loosened particles. If there are stains,  Apply a thin layer of cleaner on the suede surface, and also apply it on your brush. Scrub the area gently as to note remove the top layer of your suede. Following this, use your microfiber to dry the area, and you should be good. 

Whenever you clean your seats, it’s important to make sure that you are gentle with wherever surface you are working on. Don’t apply too much cleaning solution at once, instead, be patient and repeat the process as needed. 

If you can’t get the stain out, it will be best to bring your car to a professional detailer to have the issue sorted. While household cleaners and solutions are pretty effective, more invasive stains will require a professional touch. 

Also, while you’re cleaning your seats, don’t forget to give the rest of your interior a good clean.

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