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How to Clean Car Seats

Posted by Auto.com Staff | Dec 26, 2018

Depending on the material, cleaning the seats of your car can range from a breeze to a full-body workout. Some messes are as easy as wiping the surface with a damp cloth, while other stains may require more drastic measures. It is always advisable to check your car’s owner’s manual to see if there are any special care instructions for the upholstery.

Leather material often just requires special leather cleaner. These products contain special cleansers and conditioners that can make the material look as good as new. They often come in the form of pre-moistened wipes or a lotion-like liquid that you apply the car seats with a soft cloth or microfiber towel. Some of these leather-specific cleaning products even have special features that help protect the leather and guard against new stains. It is always best to test these products on a small patch of the leather upholstery that is hidden or hard to see to make sure that the cleaner will not stain your material. 

Cloth car seats can be harder to clean, depending on how soiled they are. Like carpet in your home, deep-set stains may require a steamer or possibly even professional assistance. You can search your area to see if there are any automotive detail service providers that specialize in upholstery. Some of these companies are mobile, which means they can come to you.

If you decide to do the cleaning yourself, you may be able to find special upholstery cleaners for fabric seats at your local automotive supply store. These are often some sort of spray formula, so you can target specific stains. You will want to vacuum up loose debris and dirt before applying the cleaner - crumbs probably won't help the spray cleaner do its job. Read the instructions carefully to make sure you do not damage the material. And it is always advisable to test a small patch of fabric in a hard-to-see place, just to make sure that the cleaner doesn’t damage the fabric.

Once you have cleaned the car seats, make sure you allow for the material to dry completely. Some cleaners may have an unpleasant odor that you will want to let air out before driving again. Once your seats are clean, you will probably want to keep them that way for as long as possible. If you are concerned about new stains, it may be worthwhile to find seat covers that will help preserve the life and look of your car’s seats.