Many car owners spend a lot of time cleaning and prepping up the paint. But only a select few know the basic steps on how to clean car seats. In this basic guide, I will show you the ropes on how to clean both cloth and leather car seats.
More reading on protecting your vehicle interior with the best car seat covers.
How To Clean Cloth Car Seats
If your vehicle came with basic cloth seats from the factory, you’re in luck. Cloth seats are easier to clean than leather seats, and it won’t require a ton of expensive cleaning products.
In truth, you only need access to basic household items and a modicum of common sense. Here are the easy steps on how to clean cloth car seats.
Step 1: If you want to clean the seats, this is also the perfect time to clean the entire interior. So before proceeding to clean the seats, it is best to remove all the floor mats and vacuum the interior thoroughly. For this job, you need nothing more than a good car vacuum cleaner. Start by vacuuming the seats before proceeding to work on the carpets.
Step 2: Get a small spray bottle and fill it with warm water. Put a couple of drops of dish soap in the water and shake the bottle. You can also use laundry detergent for this job. I use dish soap for general cleaning. However, if the car seats have hard-to-remove stains such as lipstick, makeup, and catsup, I normally prefer a mixture of warm water and laundry detergent. You don’t need to use much. Just a pinch or two of powdered detergent will do.
Step 3: The last tools you’ll need are a soft interior brush and a best microfiber towel. Spray the cleaning solution in the seat. Remember to work in a small area and focus on the dirtiest parts. Spray enough of the cleaning liquid but make sure the seats are not soaking wet.
Step 4: Use a soft interior brush to agitate the cleaning liquid in the seats. After that, wipe off the excess with a dry microfiber towel using a firm back and forth motion. The goal is to remove as much of the cleaning solution from the car seats. Replace the towel with a new one if it gets too wet.
Step 5: Repeat until all the seats are thoroughly clean.
Step 6: Allow the seats to air dry for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Leave the windows and the doors for faster drying.
Bonus tip: If you have a wet and dry vacuum cleaner, you can use it instead of rubbing the seats with a microfiber towel. After cleaning the seats with the interior brush, use the wet vacuum to suck out the excess moisture from the seats.
How To Clean Leather Car Seats
Now comes the tricky part. The steps in how to clean leather seats will depend on the condition of the upholstery. If you have a relatively newer car, avoid using leather conditioner and harsh cleaners. The animal hide in vehicle seats is treated to a layer of clear coat from the factory. This clear coat protects the leather from wear and UV exposure. It also seals in the color of the leather to prevent staining and color-transfer.
For this purpose, I highly recommend the Aero Cosmetics Leather Soap for cleaning OEM leather upholstery. This cleaner is also great for cleaning vinyl seats. When cleaning leather seats, avoid using dish soap or all-purpose cleaners.
However, if the leather upholstery in your vehicle has been repaired or re-dyed, you should AVOID using all types of leather cleaners to prevent staining the leather.
Step 1: Vacuum the leather seats to remove loose dirt.
Step 2: Spray the leather cleaner liberally until the leather seat is damp but not dripping wet. Grab a soft detailing brush to lightly agitate the cleaner over the dirty surface. Remember to only work in a small section each time.
Step 3: Grab a damp microfiber towel to remove the cleaner from the leather seats.
Step 4: Finish off with a dry microfiber towel to remove all traces of liquid and moisture.
Step 5: Allow the leather seats to air dry for 15 to 20 minutes and you’re done!
About Leather Conditioners
But the question remains: should I use leather conditioner in my leather car seats? The answer will depend on the condition of the seats.
Remember when I mentioned earlier that leather car seats are treated with a layer of clear coat? This is the reason why leather conditioners won’t work if you have fresh leather upholstery. The conditioner won’t be able to penetrate deep into the leather due to the protective clear coat on the surface. It will also attract dirt and dust.
Leather conditioners like the Chamberlain’s Leather Milk are perfect for all types of automotive leather. However, you should avoid using this product if the leather is new. But if we’re talking about aged, cracked, or dry leather, nothing comes close to Chamberlain’s Leather Milk to heal and restore the material.
So if you have pristine leather seats, stop using leather conditioner and use the G3 Pro Leather Protectant instead. This product is like an added layer of clear coat in the leather upholstery. It basically creates an invisible barrier and leaves a lasting and non-slippery finish. After cleaning the leather, a single application of the G3 Pro will help to protect the leather seats from abrasion and UV damage.
How Will I Know If The Leather Seats Have A Clear Coat?
Easy. Grab a moist microfiber towel and rub it lightly on the leather seat. If you see signs of color transfer in the towel, this means the clear coat has faded or is beginning to fade. If this is the case, it is safe to use a leather conditioner after cleaning the seats.
But if you don’t see the color of the leather transferring or staining the towel, this means the clear coat is still present. In this instance, the leather protectant is better than using conditioners.
Read more: How To Clean The Seatbelts In Your Car.