How to Clean Car Seats: The Ultimate Guide

If you are reading this, chances are that your car seats need a good cleaning. The seats can get dirty pretty quickly if you have an unruly toddler who spills sticky juice everywhere. They also come in contact with dirt from outside as well as food crumbs, pet hair, spilled drinks, and everything else we bring into our cars. How to clean car seats, you might be thinking. Well, there are DIY solutions for cleaning both leather and cloth car seats.

How to Clean Car Seats: Leather and Cloth

If you are wondering about the best way to clean car seats, wonder no more! Follow these tips and tricks for cleaning car seats, so they look shiny and new. Ready? Let’s get started!

Choose the right cleaner.

Get a microfiber cloth and some car seat cleaner. The best cleaners are the ones that have both water and soap in them, so they work to break up stains. Use a leather cleaner and conditioner for leather seats while an all-purpose cleaner will be enough for cloth seats.

Vacuum the seats.

Get all the dirt out with a vacuum first before spraying anything on the seats. Vacuuming will clean all dust and pet hair. Had not been removed, these things would have been pushed deeper into the lining and padding. The small gaps and interstices should be cleaned with a crevice tool.

best way to clean car seats
Vacuum to remove all dirt and debris. (Credit: peeonelove / PixaBay)

Cleaning leather seats.

Whether you are cleaning leather or cloth seats, it’s imperative to use high-quality cleaning products. The first step is to wipe the leather surfaces with leather cleaning wipes. After that, apply a leather cleaner and conditioner with a paper towel or soft microfiber cloth. You can also use mild soap instead of a cleaner.

Rub with another damp towel and then polish with a dry cloth. Finish it off by applying a leather protectant.

How to clean cloth car seats.

You will need to use an all-purpose cleaner to clean cloth seats. Don’t spray wet chemicals directly onto the padding as this can lead to staining. Spray the cleaner on a soft cloth and use it to rub the seat surfaces.

Scrub any stains that are visible on the surface of your seat. Rinse out the damp cleaning cloth in warm water before applying it again if necessary. You’ll want to do this until there are no more marks left on either side of the microfiber cloth.

Once everything is clean, use a soft, dry towel to pat down the seat surfaces. Make sure that everything is as clean and shiny as possible.

How to clean car upholstery.

An important part of how to clean car seats is cleaning the upholstery. It’s no secret that your car upholstery is subject to a lot of wear and tear. But before you reach for those harsh chemical cleansers, think twice. Chemicals are not the only way to clean your car upholstery. In some cases, they may be doing more harm than good by stripping away important protective coatings.

If it’s vinyl upholstery, an all-purpose cleaner will be enough for cleaning it. You just have to spray the cleaner and then wipe it with a soft cloth. Give the areas enough time to dry up. If necessary, use the cleaner one more time for a proper clean-up. However, don’t overuse these cleaning agents.

Otherwise, use a vacuum cleaner with an attachment designed for seats (many vacuums have one that looks like a brush). These attachments can lift dirt from deep within crevices between seat cushions or cracks around headrests where it’s hard to reach when using just a regular handheld vacuum. Use them on every surface of the fabric! This is also how you get those pesky pet hairs without having to break out the lint roller first. A damp microfiber cloth will help remove any remaining particles left behind by your well-intentioned vacuum.

Give your vehicle some love every few weeks. It’ll be difficult to maintain a well-kept ride without some regular upkeep.


How to Get Stains out of Car Seats

Removing the stains is a basic part of how to clean car seats. If the seats have set-in stains, you will need to do some extra steps to get rid of them. It can be frustrating to see how quickly and easily stains form on your car seats. Whether you have a toddler in the backseat or just a few spills, there are ways to tackle those pesky spatters without having to worry about overusing chemicals that could harm them.

Avoid using harsh cleaners like soap because they can cause damage when left unattended for a long period. Instead, use a cleaning agent or water mixed with vinegar and dishwashing liquid if possible.

Pre-treat the stains.

For a food or mud stain, use an upholstery cleaner and scuff with a scrub brush. For a dye-based stain, make a paste with water and oxygen-based bleach. Dampen the smudged area and apply this cleaning powder. Let it sit at least an hour before vacuuming away.

cleaning car seats
Pre-treat the stains for easy removal. (Credit: Delta News Hub / Flickr)

Use a high-quality cleaning agent.

Apply the cleaning agent on a soft towel and rub it on the blemishes. Take a medium-stiff brush (the bristle should not be hard) and brush on the stained spots. Apply more pressure if the smudges are severe. Once all of those are taken care of, use a cloth to wipe away any residue you may have left behind.

Use a vacuum for stubborn spots.

If there are still some stubborn spots that need cleaning up, it’s time to use a wet vac or vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment. These tools work great at capturing anything that might come loose while scrubbing. It also minimizes the spread of dirt and grime that may get pushed around or distributed throughout your car as you clean.


This is an easy DIY method for how to clean car seats. These tips will help you keep them looking good and smelling fresh for a long time. The last thing you want is to get into the car only to find out how bad of condition your seats are actually in. With these tips, there’s no reason why they can’t stay looking good as new for years.