How To Clean Car Seats

How To Clean Car Seats

Keeping your car’s interior clean is important for both aesthetics and health. Car seats in particular can accumulate a lot of dirt, crumbs, and spills over time. Cleaning your car seats regularly will not only keep your car looking great,

but will also help prevent the buildup of germs and allergens. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to clean both cloth and leather car seats.

Supplies Needed

  • Vacuum cleaner with hose attachment
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Microfiber towels
  • Mild soap such as dish soap or laundry detergent
  • Leather cleaner (for leather seats)
  • Degreaser (for heavily soiled seats)
  • Small scrub brush
  • Steam cleaner (optional)

Safety First

  • Open all doors and windows when cleaning the interior to allow for ventilation. Never mix cleaning products!
  • Test cleaners in an inconspicuous area first if you are unsure how it will react with the seat material.
  • Avoid using too much water when cleaning cloth seats, as excess moisture can encourage mold growth.
  • Do not use harsh chemicals like bleach, ammonia or abrasive cleaners.
  • Read all product labels and instructions carefully.

How to Clean Cloth Car Seats

How To Clean Cloth Car Seats
How to Clean Cloth Car Seats

Vacuum Seats Thoroughly

Use the hose attachment to vacuum all crevices of the seats. Vacuum the seat bottom, back, sides, seams, pockets and creases. Use the soft bristle brush attachment to help dislodge debris stuck in the upholstery fibers.

Check seat tracks and slider rails for trapped debris. Use a crevice tool or stiff brush to remove it. Remove floor mats and vacuum the floor underneath to eliminate all loose dirt.

Spot Clean Stains

Mix a mild soap like dish detergent with warm water in a spray bottle. Test on an inconspicuous area first to ensure it does not discolor the fabric. Lightly spray stained or soiled areas of the seats and let soak for 5 minutes.

Use a soft bristle brush or microfiber cloth to gently scrub stains. Avoid harsh scrubbing as this can damage the fabric. For more stubborn stains, use a targeted stain remover or degreaser. Use a small amount and rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Blot cleaned areas with a dry towel to soak up excess moisture. Allow seats to completely air dry before using.

Deep Clean Entire Seats

Vacuum seats again thoroughly after spot cleaning. Fill a bucket with warm water and add a small amount of mild detergent. Alternatively, use an interior vehicle upholstery cleaner.

Working in sections, use a sponge or soft brush dipped in the soap solution to scrub the entire seat surface. Avoid oversaturating the upholstery and do not immerse any removable seat cushions.

  • Rinse scrubbed areas with a clean damp towel to remove suds and residue. Wipe down plastic and metal parts too.
  • Allow seats to completely air dry before replacing cushions or sitting. Aim a fan at hard-to-dry areas.

Deodorize Seats

Sprinkle a light coating of baking soda over the seats after cleaning. Allow to sit for 15 minutes before vacuuming away. Baking soda will help absorb odors. Place bowls of baking soda or activated charcoal in the cabin overnight to help remove smells.

Use an odor eliminator spray after cleaning for lasting freshness. Avoid heavily perfumed sprays.

Steam Clean for a Deep Clean

Use a handheld steam cleaner to deep clean cloth seats and effectively lift dirt from deep in the fibers. Fill with distilled water and add cleaning solution if required by machine instructions.

Pass steamer over seats, working in sections and taking care not to oversaturate seats. The heat will help sanitize and deodorize. Make a final pass with a dry towel to absorb excess moisture.

Tips for Cleaning Cloth Seats:

  • Clean up spills as quickly as possible before stains have time to set.
  • Vacuum seats frequently to prevent dirt buildup in upholstery.
  • Pretreat heavy stains and odors with a targeted cleaner before washing.
  • Test cleaners on a hidden spot first to check for colorfastness.
  • Avoid excessive moisture and do not immerse removable seat cushions.
  • Clean door panels, seatbelts, tracks and sliders too for a complete clean.
  • Allow seats to dry fully before use to prevent mildew growth.

How to Clean Leather Car Seats

How to Clean Leather Car Seats

Vacuum and Wipe Down

Vacuum leather seats thoroughly to lift away loose dirt. Pay attention to seams and tufts. Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe down the seats. This will lift surface dirt before washing. Allow seats to air dry. Wipe away any excess water for faster drying.

Mix a solution of lukewarm water and a mild dish soap. Dampen a cloth and gently clean entire seat surface. Rinse leather with a damp cloth to remove any soap residue, which can dry out leather over time.

Remove Stains and Blemishes

Purchase a specialty leather seat cleaner and strictly follow instructions. Test on an inconspicuous spot first. Apply a small amount of leather cleaner to a cloth. Gently rub stained or soiled areas to lift dirt. Avoid over-scrubbing.

For more stubborn stains, use a soft bristle brush or sponge with leather cleaner. Rinse thoroughly afterward. Blot wet spots dry with a microfiber cloth so they do not leave water marks on the leather.

Condition the Leather

  • Conditioners replace oils in leather to help keep it supple and prevent cracking.
  • Use a soft cloth to apply a thin layer of high-quality leather conditioner.
  • Massage the conditioner into the leather working in sections so it penetrates the material.
  • Let it soak in for 5-10 minutes then buff away any excess. This leaves leather soft without over-conditioning.
  • Avoid oil and petroleum-based conditioners which may damage the finish.

Protect the Leather

Treating leather seats helps protect the finish from UV rays, stains and abrasions. Wipe seats down with a leather protection spray. Apply lightly using a spraying motion per product instructions. Do not saturate the leather.

Wipe away any excess liquid for an even application. Re-apply a protection treatment every 6 months or after deep cleaning leather.

Tips for Cleaning Leather Seats:

  • Vacuum leather frequently to prevent dirt from scratching the finish.
  • Wipe spills immediately before they can soak in and stain.
  • Test cleaners on an inconspicuous spot first. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Over-conditioning leather can damage it – use conditioner sparingly.
  • Stuff cushions with rags when cleaning to allow vents to dry and prevent mold.
  • Apply UV protection cream or tinted windows to protect from sun damage.
  • Get professional detailing for severely soiled or damaged leather.

Cleaning Car Seat Belts

Dirt buildup on seat belts can affect retraction and functionality. Clean regularly. Wipe down with a mild soap and water solution using a soft cloth or cleaning wipes. For engrained dirt, use an interior cleaner and small scrub brush. Rinse thoroughly.

Avoid harsh chemicals or bleach that may weaken the belt fabric. Never immerse the seat belt retractors in water. Simply wipe down. Allow seat belts to dry fully before retracting to prevent jamming and mildew.

Cleaning Car Seat Headrests

  • Headrests accumulate oils, hair products and dirt. Remove and clean separately.
  • To remove, press and hold the headrest release button while pulling up.
  • Wipe down with an interior cleaner and rinse with a damp cloth. Scrub with a brush.
  • For cloth headrests without removable covers, spot clean with upholstery cleaner.
  • Air dry fully before re-attaching. Reinstall by pressing firmly down until it clicks into place.

Cleaning Seat Adjustment Tracks

Check slider tracks for dirt, crumbs and other debris which can jam movement. Remove larger pieces by hand or with a hose attachment brush. Use a vacuum crevice tool to extract particles from track cavities. Next use a stiff bristle brush and interior cleaner to scrub tracks.

Compress seats back fully and spray tracks with cleaner. Extend seats to distribute cleaner while scrubbing with brush. Rinse tracks out with clean water to prevent residue buildup. Wipe dry with a cloth before adjusting seats. Lubricate rub points if needed.

Cleaning Under and Behind Seats

  • Lift seats fully to access and clean debris accumulated underneath.
  • Remove trash, leaves and other debris by hand or with a hose or crevice tool.
  • Use your vacuum wand and soft brush to clean carpet and frame where seats make contact.
  • Spray down mats and carpet with an interior cleaner. Scrub with a soft brush.
  • On cloth seats,

mistakes to avoid when cleaning cloth car seats

  • Using harsh chemicals that could damage fabric
  • Overly wetting fabric leading to mildew growth
  • Not pretreating set-in stains before washing
  • Scrubbing too hard causing wear and tear
  • Forgetting to vacuum before washing
  • Missing hard-to-reach crevices and seams
  • Exposing fabric to excessive heat from steamers or sun

Allowing seats to stay wet leading to mold. Mixing cleaning products that are unsafe. Improperly applying protectants. Neglecting regular light cleaning allowing stains to set

mistakes to avoid when cleaning cloth car seats

mistakes to avoid when cleaning leather car seats

  • Using harsh chemicals that damage leather
  • Over-conditioning causing deterioration
  • Forgetting to pretest cleaners first
  • Scrubbing too hard causing scuffs
  • Allowing stains to set in
  • Skipping vacuuming before washing
  • Exposing leather to excessive heat

Failing to apply protective treatments. Over-wetting leather leading to warping. Leaving conditioner on too long causing buildup. Missing hard-to-reach crevices and seams


What is the best way to clean fabric car seats?

The best way to clean fabric car seats is to vacuum thoroughly, pretreat set-in stains, mix a mild detergent with water to make a cleaning solution, scrub the seats with a soft brush and the solution, rinse with clean water, blot dry with a towel, and allow to fully air dry before using again.

How can I clean stains from my car seats?

To clean stains from car seats, start by acting quickly to blot up any fresh wet spills. For set-in stains, vacuum the seats, pretreat with a targeted stain remover, allow it to soak in for 5 minutes, then gently scrub the stain with a soft brush and rinse clean with water.

Does baking soda clean car seats?

Yes, baking soda can be used to clean car seats. Sprinkle it liberally over the seats, allow to sit for 15 minutes to absorb odors and lift stains, then vacuum away. The abrasive texture of baking soda can help scrub away grime.

Are car seats easy to clean?

Car seats can be challenging to fully clean because they contain many crevices, seams and folds where dirt, crumbs, and spills can accumulate. It takes some time and effort to regularly vacuum, spot clean stains, and deep clean the material using the proper cleaning methods and products for your seat fabric or leather.

how to clean car seats at home without vacuum

While a vacuum is ideal for thoroughly cleaning car seats, you can still effectively clean your seats without one. Remove large debris by hand and use a stiff bristle brush to dislodge dirt from fabric. Mix a mild soap with warm water in a spray bottle and thoroughly spray down the seats.


Cleaning your car’s seats regularly is important for keeping your vehicle looking great and limiting the buildup of germs, allergens, and odors. Both cloth and leather seats accumulate dirt over time and require proper cleaning techniques.

When cleaning cloth seats, be sure to vacuum thoroughly, pretreat stains, use only mild, approved cleaners, scrub gently with soft brushes, blot excess moisture, and allow time to completely air dry. Avoid saturating the material.

For leather seats, vacuum first, wipe down with microfiber cloths, use specialty leather cleaners and conditioners sparingly, test products first, avoid harsh scrubbing, and apply UV protection when finished.

Pay attention to seat belts, tracks, headrests and under the seats when cleaning. These areas easily accumulate grit that needs to be extracted. Always read product instructions and never mix cleaners. With regular, thorough cleaning using gentle techniques suited to the material, you can keep your car’s seats looking fresh.

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