How To Clean Car Upholstery Seats Yourself

Throughout the day, car seats collect all sorts of debris and gunk. You’ll find wrappers, food particles, accumulated dust, stains and unexplained bits and pieces hiding in the seams and folds. Regularly cleaning the upholstery will help your car’s interior look better and smell fresher. It is also important health wise especially if your kids are frequent passengers.

Cleaning car seats is neither expensive nor time consuming. With a few tools you’ll have the upholstery feeling brand new in no time. Here is a quick guide you can follow.

Brush and Vacuum the Upholstery

Before you use any cleaning solutions or sprays, it is important to first get rid of all the debris stuck in the seats. You’ll need a soft bristle brush and one of those car-friendly handheld vacuum cleaners.

Use the brush to loosen any embedded particles on the upholstery. Then use the handheld vacuum cleaner to pick up all the dirt and debris. I highly recommend you get a vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool. This allows you to reach into hidden areas where a lot of gunk tends to accumulate.

When you are done with all the seats, it is time to freshen them up with a cleaning solution. The type of cleaner you use will depend on the type of upholstery in your car and whether you are feeling adventurous enough to make your own solution at home.

How to Clean Car Upholstery Seats Yourself

Here are some of the options you have.

1. Use a dishwashing liquid and washing soda (Fabric seats)

Your upholstery is most likely fabric. Use dishwashing liquid and washing soda to remove any stains and give the surface a clean wipe.

Mix two equal parts of dishwashing liquid and water (you can use hot water). Dishwashing liquid is ideal because it cleans well without subjecting the upholstery to harsh chemicals. Add two tablespoons of washing soda to remove tougher stains.

To clean the upholstery, use either a soft-bristled brush or a soft cloth. Note that you should only wipe down the surface of the seats so don’t soak them with water. Be gentle, making sure you have reached every inch and paying more attention to stained spots.

Give the seats a final vacuum with a handheld vacuum cleaner and then roll down the windows to air dry them.

2. Use baking soda (vinyl seats)

Unlike fabric, vinyl only needs a quick wipe down to get clean. Use baking soda to clear away any stains and give the seats a fresh look and smell.

Make a paste by mixing baking soda and water. A half cup of baking soda and a few tablespoons of water should get you the right consistency. Add more baking soda and water to cover all the seats.

Apply the paste on a single seat and then wipe it away with a cloth soaked in a mixture of water and dishwashing liquid. Move on to the next seat.

When you are done, use a vacuum cleaner to remove some of the water and then roll down the windows to completely dry the upholstery.

3. Use commercial upholstery cleaners

If you don’t want to keep mixing solutions at home, there are plenty of ready-to-use upholstery cleaners in the market. When shopping, make sure you buy the right one. There are cleaners for fabrics, others for vinyl upholstery and others specifically for leather.

While commercial upholstery cleaners tend to be more effective at removing stains and dirt, they often use harsher chemicals. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instruction for safety and to get the best results.

4. Use a leather cleaning kit (for leather seats)

Leather upholstery requires much more caution and care. I wouldn’t recommend using any homemade cleaning solution on your leather car seats. Instead, invest in a good quality leather cleaning kit.

The kit will usually include a gentle leather-specific cleaning solution, often in form of a spray. There should also be a conditioner. This is applied on the leather to protect it and improve its appearance. Some kits also come with stain removers for specific types of stains.

Alternatively, you can buy these items separately.

5. Use a steam cleaner

A steam cleaner is great if you want a deep clean. On the downside you most likely have to rent one and learn how to use it properly.


Bonus tip: when making homemade cleaning solutions, consider adding 2 or 3 drops of your favourite essential oil. It makes the drives much better.

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