How To Clean Car Seats Like A Pro (Skip The Valet!)

How To Clean Car Seats Like A Pro (Skip The Valet!)

Let's face it — the interior of your car doesn't stay clean for long. Whether you have kids who muddy the seats with their boots or you treat yourself to a McDonald's drive-thru, the truth is that car seats get dirty quickly. So, if you want to make sure your car looks good, you need to clean it. But how do you clean car seats properly?

If it's been a while since you fetched out the vacuum and gave the seats a good once over, this is your sign to get started. The following guide will look at how to clean car seats like a professional. Read on to learn our new, expert-backed tips, tricks and advice now.

Identifying the material of your car seats

Before we go any further, there's one thing that you should note here. You need to figure out what your car seats are made of. As you might imagine, you should approach cleaning leather seats differently than you would fabric.

Since those are the two main types of car seats, we will focus on them in this guide. Once you have learned how to clean car seats at home, you will need to make this a regular part of your vehicle maintenance. Add it to your car cleaning routine, and do it often! 

How to clean fabric car seats: 5 steps

Many cars have fabric car seats, and you need to take extra care when cleaning them. Regardless of the material, you must ensure you are gentle with it. As you might imagine, replacing car seat fabric is a costly way to go. You don't want to make the mistake of having to do that. With that in mind, follow our six steps.

Step 1: Get rid of the big bits

First things first, you need to get rid of any big bits on the seats. We're talking about everything from knickknacks to crumbs. You might find small things like coins, hair clips, bobbles, and even receipts in your car. Take the time to remove these so that you have a clear base to work on. If these things are cluttering up the space, the job will seem bigger than it is.

Step 2: Use the brush attachment of your vacuum

Next, you need to get your vacuum out and get to work. You should use the brush attachment on the end of your vacuum cleaner — if it has one. If it does not, you can always use the nozzle.

Make sure that you get right into the crevices of the car seats. You might need to use your hands to part the seams to stick the nozzle right in there. This is the step that most people miss when it comes to knowing how to clean car seats at home.

When you've done the above, you can vacuum the rest of the seats. Ensure that the nozzle picks up any large pieces and removes most of the dirt and grime from your seats.

Step 3: Wipe down your car seats

Now that you have removed most of the dirt, you want to wipe the car seats. We recommend using a clean cloth, warm water, and a few drops of fabric conditioner to do this. Not only will this help you clean your car seats, but it will also ensure that the inside of your car smells great.

Step 4: Treat any stains directly

As you vacuum and wipe your car seats, you may encounter a few stains. Don't panic. Knowing how to clean car seat stains is easier than you might imagine. Get yourself an upholstery stain remover, such as the Vanish Carpet Care Foam, and follow the instructions. Usually, with these products, you need to apply the product to the stained area using 4-5 squirts. Leave the product for a few minutes and pat off with a clean cloth.

If you don't want to use a commercial product, you can also combine water and white wine vinegar in a spray bottle. Apply this directly to the stain, leave to soak, and then wipe away with warm water. Keep in mind that the vinegar may have an odour to begin with. To neutralise the smell, you can add baking soda or lemon juice to the concoction.

We love using white vinegar for cleaning. Find out more in our other article!

Step 5: Repeat all or any of the above

After you have done the above, your car seats should be clean. However, if they look less than attractive, you can always repeat any of the above steps.

How to clean leather car seats: 5 steps

Of course, your car may not have fabric seats. If the seats are leather instead, you should take a slightly different approach. This mainly means that the cleaning products you use should be leather-friendly. The good news about this material is that it can "wipe clean" in many cases. Follow these steps to make sure that your leather car seats come up as good as new.

Step 1: Get rid of the big bits

Once again, you need to remove any big bits from the seats. To do this, follow the advice we shared in our first step-by-step (above).

Step 2: Vacuum the seats completely

Next, you should vacuum your leather car seats. If there are gaps between the seats, make sure that you get the nozzle down in there. This is where much of the debris and grime collects in a car. You want to clean it out as best you can before you move on to step three.

Step 3: Use a leather-safe product

Spoiler: Not all products are safe to use on leather car seats. When choosing which cleaning products to use, you need to make sure they are suitable for leather material. The best leather cleaners and conditioners include Dodo Juice Supernatural Leather Cleaner, Angelwax Heaven for Leather, and Autobead Leather Cleaner. Of course, you should do your research before deciding which to use. You may also want to do a patch test here.

When you have chosen the right product, it's time to get to work. You should read the instructions on the back of the product to see what you should do. However, most of the time, you can use a few squirts of leather cleaner and a cloth to wipe down the leather seats.

Step 4: Deal with any stains on the leather

Removing stains from leather seats is not always possible. If the stain has been there for quite some time, you might find it too late. However, there are some approaches you can try that will help you to remove the stains. You can use cornstarch or even just warm water to get it right. Your approach will largely depend on the type of stain you are dealing with.

Step 5: Leave the leather to dry

Generally, you can afford to let leather get much wetter than other car seat fabrics. However, that also means you need to leave the fabric to dry when you finish cleaning it. When you are done, wipe down the car seats with a clean cloth. Then, leave the leather car seats to dry for a few hours before using the car again.

Learning how to clean car seats doesn't have to be complicated. This guide offers a couple of simple options depending on the type of car seat you have. Make sure that you do this chore regularly so that your seats always look as good as new.

Next, find out how to maintain your car during winter, how to use t-cut, and learn some clever tips for travelling in the car with kids


Should you wash your car seats?

Most car manufacturers state that it is perfectly fine to clean your car seats. However, you should always look this up before you get started. If you have a specific type of vehicle, there may be a process you don't want to miss out on. Make sure you do some research first.

Does shaving foam clean car seats?

The short answer here is no. You may have heard that using shaving foam is a secret "hack". However, most car seats are porous and the foam will sink right into them. You want to avoid that at all costs. Use cleaning products that are designed for car seats instead.

How do you clean baby car seats?

If you want to know how to clean baby car seats or "booster" seats, it's not that hard. You can take these seats inside your home and wash them there. Follow the same process outlined for the fabric car seats above. If you can remove the lining of the baby car seats, you can put it in the washing machine, let it dry, and then refit it to the seat.

Had success cleaning your car seats? Let us know in the comments below!

Joanne A


Expert in finding beautiful solutions for small and rented spaces. Would happily spend the rest of my life shopping for homewares and watching Disney movies - I only wish I had Cinderella's army of mice to help me clean!

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