How to clean car seats correctly – step by step

How to clean car seats correctly - step by step

if you have a stain, you need instructions as soon as possible on how to clean your car seats – step by step. The earlier and better you react, the easier it is to get rid of the dirt. For the first time it is important what material the seats are made of, leather and fabric need different care products, but the basic steps are not very different. We have researched this thoroughly and explain in this article how we clean the car seats – step by step:

  • Preparation of the car seats and utensils
  • Pre-cleaning with a vacuum cleaner and cleaning cloths
  • Cleaning with a brush and suitable detergents
  • Drying with microfiber cloths

in case of leather you have to do a fifth step by applying a special cleaning product. It protects the material and gives genuine leather back the strength it needs. As a result you can enjoy spotless car seats.

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What is the problem with stains on car seats??

First and foremost it’s about the visual effect, because blobs on the seats just don’t look nice. But that’s not all, because such stains usually occur in connection with a liquid or meals that accidentally landed on the seats.

Just as food goes bad, so do car seats. The consequences are unpleasant odors that reduce the overall driving pleasure. In addition, persistent high humidity in the car interior can lead to mold growth, which in the most extreme case can be harmful to health. But don’t worry, to help you get your act together, we’ve put together step-by-step instructions on how to clean car seats properly, and we’ll also tell you what role coffee powder plays here!

How to clean car seats?

Some car seats have fabric covers, while others have leather ones. Different materials require different cleaning agents and a different approach. For this reason, you should first determine what material your car seats are made of.

Cleaning fabric car seats

Car seats always have a second cover, often made of fabric. It is pleasant to the touch, does not heat up too much in the sun and supports, which gives a special touch to the interior design. But unfortunately, liquids are also quickly absorbed, which leaves nasty stains. How to get them out again?

The utensils – fabric seats

Before you start cleaning full of energy, you should prepare the necessary utensils for the job. You may also need to make a trip to the hardware store and get the missing items to make sure the stains disappear. On your list should be:

  • Brush
  • Detergent, upholstery cleaner or vinegar
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Bucket or bowl with water

Optionally, you can also put on a pair of cleaning gloves. Plastic bags of different sizes could also be useful if you want to cover the center consoles or other areas. If you are cleaning in winter or in bad weather, you should also buy a car dehumidifier.


Step 1: the preparation

As soon as you have all the utensils ready, you can start with the preparation. For this purpose, remove all objects such as child seats, cables or garbage from the car for the first time. The soiled seats should be easily accessible afterwards and the foot area must be free as well. Now cover areas such as the center console or door panels with plastic bags.

The next step is to use the cleaning agents. It depends on whether you work with detergents or special upholstery cleaners. For detergents, you can fill a bucket with a capacity of 250 milliliters with hot water. Then you add about two tablespoons of the detergent. But be careful, it should be without bleach, otherwise colorless stains will result. The use of upholstery cleaner varies slightly depending on the manufacturer. Follow the instructions or description on the back of the product to apply the cleaner correctly.

You can also use vinegar to clean your car seats. This is not only a relatively inexpensive cleaning agent, it also helps against unpleasant odors in the vehicle.

Step 2: pre-cleaning

Before you start with the water and detergents, you should vacuum the seats well. Otherwise, you may rub the loose dirt into the fabric, which will cause new stains. The best way is to use an ordinary vacuum cleaner to vacuum the entire car seat.

Now the brush comes into play, because stubborn dust is difficult to remove with a vacuum cleaner. You can take an upholstery or carpet brush and rub the dust into the seats. This will loosen it and you can vacuum it again afterwards. You may have to repeat this process several times until the car seats are really clean.

Step 3: the cleaning

Only after the pre-cleaning can you start with the actual stain removal. Use the same brush as before, holding it in the bucket or spraying it with upholstery cleaner. Rub the detergent into the seat in circular motions. You should work as wet as possible. If you are unsure whether the agent of choice is compatible with your car seats, it is advisable to try it on an inconspicuous place for the first time. It would be very annoying if additional stains were caused by the cleaning agent.

When cleaning, do not concentrate only on the places with the blotches, but always work on a large area. Use the seams of the seat so that you always clean entire areas. Otherwise, after cleaning, unsightly water stains could be the result.

It is possible that one application alone will not be enough. So if the stain is still present after several minutes of cleaning, repeat the operation several times. Only when the stain is completely solved, you can proceed to the next step.

Step 4: drying

Drying is just as important as cleaning. Otherwise you will always have a musty smell in the car, which must be prevented. Besides, the stains were only loosened with the brush, but the dirt is still there.

For drying you use the microfiber cloths, which you should not skimp on for a good result. only high quality cloths fulfill their purpose and really absorb the wetness as well as the dirt. As soon as a cloth is too wet, you have to change it. Depending on the size of the surface to be cleaned, it can take a few cloths. Only when the car seat is almost dry, you can finish this step.

There will still be moisture in the car seat, which can cause unpleasant odors or mold if the window is closed. It is best to leave the windows of your car open a little for the next two days so that the residual moisture can escape. Alternatively, you can also use the dehumidifier, which you simply place in the car.

Cleaning leather car seats

Many car seats are covered with a smooth leather, as it gives the interior a special look. Basically, leather is water-repellent, which is why stains do not appear so quickly. In this way you can react in time and prevent more serious contamination. But sometimes you don’t notice it right away, walk away from the car and only notice the mishap when you return. But how do you get rid of such stains in the leather??

The utensils – leather

leather is a very durable material, but it needs the right care. Otherwise it will quickly become porous and continuously lose its elegance. For this reason, slightly different utensils are used for leather seats:

  • Soft brush
  • Leather cleaner, saddle soap or vinegar and linseed oil
  • Leather care products
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Bucket or bowl of water

Red back passenger seats in modern luxury comfortable car

Step 1: the preparation

Just as with a fabric cover, remove unnecessary items from the leather seats first. This includes, for example, empty cans or child seats. Then you can cover sensitive surfaces like the door panel or the center console with the plastic bags. This is only really necessary if the stain is near these areas.

As soon as your car is ready, you can prepare the cleaning utensils. How to use the leather cleaner or the saddle soap, you will find on the back or in the package insert of the cleaning agent. If you prefer the homemade version, you only have to mix one part vinegar with two parts linseed oil and a little water in a bowl

Step 2: the pre-cleaning

Use a vacuum cleaner to remove the visible dirt. The best way to do this is to use the grout attachment, so that even deeper dirt can be reached. Be careful though, because scratches in the leather can easily occur. Therefore, you should rather take your time for this step and proceed carefully.

Step 3: the cleaning

For the actual cleaning, you should again follow the instructions on the product, because some you have to mix with water, while others can be sprayed on directly. Once you have applied the products, you can use the soft brush to make slow rotational movements on the seat. Massage the cleaner into the surface and use a little water if necessary for better friction. For perforated leather, never spray cleaner directly onto the material as it will penetrate too deeply into the material.

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The circular motion will slowly dissolve the stain and even deep-seated dirt will come to the surface. Similar to the fabric cover, you should always clean the entire seat and not just the stained area.

In case of bad smells, you can put a container with fresh coffee powder into the car interior for several hours or over night, this helps best with low odor formation.

Step 4: Drying

After that you can take another microfiber cloth and wipe off the cleaning agent. Trying to extract all the moisture through a small friction. To get all the moisture out, it is also advisable to leave the car windows open for the next few days. Use a special dehumidifier to get the remaining water molecules out of the seat.

Step 5: care

During the cleaning with the agents and the water you automatically attack the leather. Basically, it dries out even more, which is similar to human skin. Therefore, you should always apply a leather care product, which you massage into the seat. After a few hours you can shine the leather with another cloth.

A young man lit a cigarette in a car at speed

How to get the smell of cigarettes out of the seats?

For the drivers among us, who can’t do without a cigarette behind the wheel, the smell of smoke is probably less disturbing. Most of the time it is the passengers who make a semi-friendly comment on the current odor situation when they get in the car. Especially if you want to resell your car, odors inside the car can have a negative effect on the sales success and reduce the value of the car.

But do not worry, there is still hope, even if it requires some patience. Try it with a small bowl of coffee, vinegar or fresh apples. you can also put a bowl with a mixture of baking soda and lemons in the car overnight and repeat this for a few days.

The use of home remedies is of course the gentlest method, but may have little or no effect if the nicotine smell is strong. In this case, the only thing that helps is ozone cleaning by a professional.

How to prevent unsightly stains?

If you are traveling by car for a longer period of time, you don’t have to give up meals and drinks completely. Of course, this is the best way to prevent the stains, but there are other methods as well.

If, for example, you have children on board – who love to spill – you don’t have to put them off. just spread out a special blanket or plastic sheet before the trip, which can catch the liquids or foodstuffs.

If you also have a mishap from time to time, we recommend you to buy special seat covers. This you can easily put over the seats and clean easier. Alternatively, special impregnation sprays are also suitable, which are even available for fabric covers.

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