The Best Way to Clean Cloth and Leather Car Seats, According to a Car Enthusiast

published Oct 30, 2022
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Cropped Hand Of Man Using Vacuum Cleaner In Car
Credit: Nicole Lienemann / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm

Most of us spend quite a bit of time in our cars, which means it’s important to keep them clean. The problem? The more time you spend in your vehicle, the more likely it’s going to get dirty. 

Getting a car wash and removing clutter are just two of the initial steps in this process. You’ll want to do a deep clean occasionally, which includes cleaning your car’s seats. Exactly how you do that depends on what type of upholstery you have, but the good news is, no method is too time-consuming — especially if you tackle spills and stains right away. 

Here’s your step-by-step guide to cleaning your car seats, according to Peter Dzaja, founder of Car Detailing Planet and hobby car detailer who drives (and cleans!) five cars regularly. 

What you’ll need for cloth car seats: 

  • Vacuum with hose or upholstery attachment
  • Fabric or upholstery cleaner 
  • Soft brush 
  • Microfiber towel 
  • Fabric protectant (optional)

How to clean cloth car seats

  1. As always, remove debris before using a cleaning product. Dzaja recommends thoroughly vacuuming your car seat with a hose attachment to remove crumbs, dirt, dust, and other debris. Don’t miss the areas around the stitches, which tend to collect dirt. 
  2. Spray the car seat with your choice of fabric or upholstery cleaner like Duragloss 451 Fabric and Carpet Cleaner or Chemical Guys Fabric Clean. If the seats are extra dirty with set-in stains, use a bit more of the product, and let it sit for a minute or two. 
  3. With a soft brush, agitate the seat as much as possible to remove dirt from the fibers. You may want to use more upholstery cleaner and brush more in dirtier areas. 
  4. Take a clean microfiber towel and wipe the seat, using pressure to allow the microfiber to soak as much moisture and dirt as possible. 
  5. Let the seats dry for a few hours. If it’s a sunny day, leave the windows open for fresh air!
  6. Lastly, Dzaja suggests applying a fabric protectant like Scotchgard to the totally dry seats. These products cause the fabric to repel liquid, making the seats easier to clean in the future. 
Credit: Lightcontrol / Shutterstock

What you’ll need for leather car seats:

  • Vacuum with narrow hose attachment 
  • Leather cleaner 
  • Soft leather cleaning brush 
  • Magic Eraser (optional)
  • Microfiber towel
  • Leather conditioner

How to clean leather car seats

  1. First, thoroughly vacuum on and around your leather car seat using your vacuum’s narrowest hose attachment to remove crumbs and other debris from crevices. 
  2. Spray the seats with a dedicated leather cleaner, such as Obenauf’s Clean It Leather Cleaner, per the product instructions. Never use harsh cleaning chemicals on leather, because they can damage the fabric. 
  3. Agitate the seats with a soft leather cleaning brush or a Magic Eraser. 
  4. Wipe the cleaner off the seats with a clean microfiber towel. 
  5. Lastly, apply a leather conditioner — such as ZYMOL Factory Original Leather Conditioner — on the seats to moisturize the material. If you don’t do this frequently, the seats may start to crack due to dehydration.