Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

How to Clean Car Seats With a Commercial Cleaner, or a DIY Solution

how to clean car seats custom graphic

For hygienic reasons and overall maintenance, your car needs to be cleaned routinely to keep it in great condition. Just as you would keep your living space free of dirt, stains, and odours, you should maintain the same rules for your car's interior as well.

While most things in a car interior are hard surfaces that are relatively easy to clean, the seats tend to be a little more troublesome. Car seats can catch sweat, spills, and all kinds of dirt, so it's a good idea to give them a thorough cleaning on a regular basis.

The good news is, you don’t need to hire and pay for a detailing service to get your car seats cleaned; with a little effort, and a few tools, you could do the job yourself without spending too much of your hard-earned money in the process. Read on to learn how.

What You'll Need

man wearing white gloves cleaning seats with bristled brush and cleaning solution

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Soft/medium bristle upholstery brush
  • Commercial upholstery cleaning solution
  • Clean, dry microfibre cloths

How to Clean Car Seats Step by Step

man cleaning white leather car seats with a yellow microfibre cloth

Ensure that you have all the items required to get through the job quickly and efficiently without any interruptions. When you have organised everything you need to clean your car seats, go on and follow the instructions below.

Vacuum the Material

The first step here is to get rid of all kinds of particles that are stuck in the seats. All the dust, debris, dirt, crumbs, etc, must be removed thoroughly to get the perfect end result. Work the vacuum nozzle around the edges and seams of the seat, and try your best to squeeze it into the nooks and crannies as well. Once all the particles have been removed, you can begin cleaning the fabric.

Apply the Cleaning Solution

Whatever cleaning solution you purchase, double-check that it is a dedicated fabric cleaner so that it will work well with your specific type of car seats. Store-owners may recommend all-purpose car cleaners, but those products won't be as effective.

Once you've vacuumed your seats, lightly spray the solution over one section of the fabric. A good approach is to try four to five sprays over the area. This is to ensure the solution gets into the fabric, but doesn't soak all the way through to the cushion. Remember, any liquid that can't be dried quickly enough can cause mould and a stale odour in the car.

Brush the Seat

As soon as you apply the cleaning solution, take the soft/medium upholstery brush, and begin working the area with it. Use a bit of pressure as you do this to ensure that stubborn car seat stains are removed; however, not too much that you risk damaging the fabric itself. Brushing the seat and working the cleaning solution into the fabric will draw the dirt to the surface, thus making it easier to remove.

Wipe Away the Dirt

Once you've brushed the area, take the microfibre towel, and wipe away the dirty lather from the area. Make sure that the cloth you use is clean and dry so that you are not transferring more moisture and/or dirt to the seats. Moreover, you will be able to see how well the car seat is being cleaned when the cloth is clean and dry. Besides this, keep in mind that the seat must be wiped immediately after the brushing to prevent the dirt from drying out and staining the seat.

Repeat Until Cleaned

Now that you're aware of the process, it's time to repeat steps 2 through 4 until you have gotten rid of all the dirt and staining on all the seats. Working with small areas and then moving on to repeat the process allows you to pull the dirt out quickly before letting it settle back into the seat.

Vacuum Again

Finally, vacuum the seats once more. This pulls any residual moisture out of the seat, and helps prevent saturation. Once done, allow the seats to dry well before using the vehicle again.

Alternative DIY Cleaning Solutions to Clean Car Seats

In the event that you do not want to, or cannot use a commercial car seat cleaner, you could try any of the following alternatives:

Laundry Detergent

Since the seats are covered in fabric, laundry detergent should yield similar results as a dedicated cleaner. 

All you need to do is mix the detergent with hot water, and dampen the seats mildly with a sponge or spray bottle. From here, wet a microfibre cloth and squeeze out any excess water. Using the cloth, scrub the area well to get rid of any dirt. Wipe down again with a dry cloth once done.

Distilled White Vinegar

Another great alternative is distilled white vinegar. Add one cup of the vinegar and a teaspoon of liquid dish soap to 4 litres of water. This solution can now act as a cleaner for your seats. Spraying or dabbing the solution onto the seat, brush the area afterward to draw the dirt out. You may then use a wet towel to rinse the area, followed by a final wipe down with a dry towel.

Baking Soda Solution

Even baking soda is something worth considering since it can help fight unpleasant odours really well. With a solution of quarter cup baking soda and one cup warm water, you can scrub the smell out of your car seats with a soft brush. 

If you are dealing with tougher stains, consider leaving the solution to soak over them for about 30 minutes, and then dab with a clean towel to remove the dirt.

How to Maintain Clean Car Seats

close up of man wiping down car seat with yellow microfibre cloth

Finally, keeping your car seats clean will eliminate the need for frequent deep cleaning. Moreover, the buildup of dirt and bacteria in your car can really make it an unsanitary space which no one wants.

Follow these simple tips to keep your car seats clean:

Vacuum Often

Vacuuming your seats on a regular basis ensures that the dirt does not build up over time and, subsequently, become lodged in the fabric. In doing so, you will run less of a risk of odours and stains building up.

Clean immediately after a mishap

In case of spills, soak them up as soon as possible with a bunch of paper towels. The longer you wait, the more likely they are to stain; therefore, it is crucial to act fast when any type of spill or mishap with the potential of staining occurs. Dealing with things like mud or grease early goes a long way as well; here, it is best to use a dedicated fabric cleaner as soon as you can.

With that, you should be able to handle almost any dirt, stains, or smells in your car seats, all while avoiding the expense of paying someone else to do the job for you! Don’t forget to pay heed to the maintenance tips so that your car seats will remain cleaner and fresher for longer stretches of time.

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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