How To Clean Car Seats Correctly!

by Apr 15, 2020Auto Body/Detailing, Interior Cleaning/Restoration, Routine Maintenence0 comments

car restoration

How To Clean Car Seats The Correct Way!

How to clean car seats and obtain like new results! Keeping your vehicles interior in top shape not only looks great but also preserves how long the interior will hold up as well. Car seats dry out, get stained, and show signs of tear and wear over time.

To clean car seats the correct way, start by vacuuming up dirt/debris. Afterwards manually scrub your seats by hand using the correct product for the correct application. You may use a home made baking soda and water solution as well. Protect your seats using the correct protection product based on your seats (Cloth/Leather/Etc.) Repeat steps as needed.

There are many different methods to cleaning car seats correctly. You can use vacuums, brushes, cleaners, etc… to clean your car seats. Since this is DIY focused, we will show you some of the many examples to clean your car seats correctly.

Simple And Easy!

Simple and easy ways to clean your car seats usually produce the least amount of results but they do get your car seats clean. In this section we will be going over all of the easier methods to clean your seats.

General Cleaner And Rags!

How to clean car seats chem guys

This is the simplest of all seat cleaners. If you are in a rush then this is the perfect quick cleaning you need. Simply start by vacuuming up all the loose debris from your seats.

Once you have removed all the dirt/grease from your car seats you will then want to use a leather or fabric cleaner (depending on your style of seats) to actually clean them up.

Find the product that works best for you (we personally like Chemical Guys, Meguires, and Rupes) that is specific to the application of your seat. Don’t use a leather cleaner on a cloth seat just as an example.

Using a brush spray your cleaning product onto the BRUSH not the seat. Make sure it is soft bristled and work/agitate your seats surface to remove any stains or dirt.

If you have leather seats, rather than using a brush, use something soft like a microfiber towel. Make sure you have a brush/rag for cleaning and one separate for removing. Anytime you clean something on your vehicle you will always want a tool to apply cleaner, and a separate tool to remove cleaner.

This will at least get your seats clean but wont quite restore or make them look “like new” more on that later.

If you are someone that just needs to quickly get your car seats clean, this is the perfect option for you. Typically it only requires 1-2 different products with 1-2 different rags for application and removal.

Super fast, and super easy, for a economical all in one cleaner, try out Tuff stuff or the Chemical Guy’s Nonsense cleaner. Both work great and are pretty cost effective products.

How To Clean Car Seats – Medium Level!

So if you have a little more time on your hands and want to kick it up a notch, this is where the middle level falls. You don’t just want a quick clean, you want to get the stains all the way out and make your seat fabric/leather look like new!

Well that’s great and all, but how do you achieve those results?

To get started on this tier, you’re going to need some extra goodies!

We recommend at least a wet vacuum for this process because you will be getting your seats a little bit wet in this example.

Wet Vacuums And Stain Remover!

How to clean car seats

Your seats will collect dust, dirt, and natural stains over time. If you have leather seats the UV rays from the sun will typically start to “eat” at the leather/cloth causing it to fade, and possibly dry out/crack.

You will need a wet vacuum, 2 brushes, 2 towels, seat cleaner and seat treatment to this section correctly. However by following these steps you will get “like new” results out of your seats.

Just like you did in the first step, make sure you suck up as much of the dirt/grease first before actually cleaning. Once you have the dirt removed go ahead just like you did before and apply some cleaner to your brushes.

Always remember to use a light to medium bristled brush. Selecting an aggressive brush can damage your seats by ripping/pulling fibers.

Scrub your seats and remember to use multiple passes. If you want some extra cleaning power, pick up a “drill brush kit” and use a drill with the brush attachments to really scrub those seats. Just remember to be simple careful.

Scrubbing by hand works great as well just remember to put plenty of elbow grease into it. This time though instead of just coming back through with a towel, we are going to use a wet vacuum and suck everything up again.

Repeat this same process as necessary all the way around your car seats. Get into each section and really scrub/remove all the dirt and grease. It might take a couple of passes to achieve those like new results but eventually you will get there.

Seats Are Clean! Protect Them!

Now that you have your seats clean by scrubbing and vacuuming multiple times. We need to “treat” them from the UV rays and other airborne particles that transfer dust and such.

Leather users you have got it super easy here. There are many types of leather conditioners and protection products available to you. Cloth users have it a little more difficult.

Using any form of leather conditioner, go ahead and buff them in with a clean rag and just like before, remove the residue using a clean rag. Some of the products require you to wipe it on and let it setup for a minute or 2 before removal.

Always make sure to do a small test area first. Every cleaner is different and will have different effects on different surfaces.

If you are a cloth seat user there isn’t too much you can do here other than a fabric restoration product or stain removal product. Cloth seats are much harder to clean than traditional leather.

Seats are clean, vacuumed, dirt removed, and are now treated. You should have some pretty good looking seats at this point, but how can you go further? Simple! By cleaning the trim around them.

Going Expert Level!

how to clean car seats, brush kit

The biggest difference between someone that cleans there car and a detailer is simple. The amount of detail and wide variety of product knowledge is what sets us detailers apart from the rest of the world.

Going above and beyond takes that clean from “that looks nice” to “that looks like new”. You know how to clean the general surface of your seats but you still missing one critical area that most people don’t think about. Your seats housing/tracks.

Most people clean the surface where they sit and that’s about it. What about the lever that moves you up and down or tilts you back? What about the plastic/metal housings the your actual seat sets on.

You don’t want that to be covered in dust and have your cloth/leather look like new do ya! No! So let’s get cleaning!

Depending on what you have you may need different types of cleaners (more on that below) some seats are in metal housings some are in plastic.

If you have plastic sidings/housings just go ahead and use your favorite dash cleaner for plastic on it. Once again we stuck with the Nonsense cleaner from Chemical Guys.

If you want to clean the metal tracks and slides around the seat, Tuff Stuff works great here as well. Any form of versatile cleaner typically will work, the only thing you have to watch for is if it can be used on plastic.

Some cleaners out there don’t typically like plastic and will actually warp/melt the plastic rather than clean, please be careful!

Using a brush, get in all the small crevices just like you would on your dash panels etc… Once you’ve worked your product in, let it set for a few and remove any excess residue with another clean brush/towel.

How To Clean Car Seats – Products.

Using the right products is a must when it comes to cleaning your car seats. Above we went over how to clean car seats, this section is dedicated to all about the best products for cleaning car seats.


how to clean car seats correctly - tan

Your cleaners are the bread and butter in your detailing/cleaning arsenal. Cleaners can range in scents, types of surfaces they work best on, concentrates/diluted, the list goes on and on.

Your cleaners are your “base” the purpose of your cleaners is do to just as it sounds, clean. What you don’t typically know is some of these cleaners vary in strength. Some are just apply and go, some recommend a mixture of water, and some are straight concentrates.

Above we stated to do a small test area first to make sure it’s okay for use after reading the labels. This is to make sure the product doesn’t stain or possibly even eat at the surface you are working on.

When the question “how to clean car seats” get’s asked, it’s pretty simple. It’s just the right amount of time, product knowledge, and dedication. Anyone can make seats look like new, it’s knowing how and what you need that makes it a little more complicated.

Make sure you read the label thoroughly, we always use the Non-sense cleaner from Chemical Guys and even on the back of the label it says it works best diluted. It also says to allow it to set for 10-60 seconds to penetrate grease and dirt.

One more giant factor to take in is what the product will do to the surface. Some products have moisturizer in them, some need a protection layer or a moisturizer put on after.

Failing to follow the directions CAN lead to damage to your interior. This could be in any shape of stains, or warping of the surface. Take their instructions seriously so you can get serious results!

Cleaning Types!

Your cleaners will come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and uses. Make sure you are ALWAYS using the correct product for the correct surface. If you have leather seats don’t go using a plastic interior cleaner on it.

Use a specific style of product designed for that specific style of application. You wouldn’t put aluminum wheel cleaner on plastic would ya?

You may however go with any scent you want, do what works best for you! There is no such thing as the “best cleaning” product, but there are some that just generally work better than others.

Find out what works best for you and your budget and gets you the results that you personally love.

And we will repeat it one last time, ALWAYS use the right product for the right application.

Surface Protection!

Your surface is cleaned and it might not have any protection on it anymore. This is where your moisturizer/protection products come in. They help prevent damage from ultra violet rays and help with prevent dryness/cracking in the surfaces.

Some of your cleaning products may have this built in so if you went with a all in one you may skip this. However if you went with something a little more aggressive and need to add some protection/color clarity back in. This is for all of you!

Believe it or not, some products will actually cause your car seats to dry out and crack quicker if not protected regularly. This is why product research is always important. We give you many of our favorite companies out on multiple occurrences for this reason.

As an example: Leather seats typically see sunlight frequently. The heat and the UV rays cause it to dry out and rip/crack easier. By keeping them clean and protected we can keep this from happening.

Protection products for your car seats will come in many different varieties. Some examples of this will be scent, glossy/wet/matte look, etc… it’s once again up to you to find the right product that works great for your needs.

Make sure you protect your investments though. You just spent all that time cleaning everything, you want to make sure you protect them from future damage now as well!

Brushes/Small Tools.

how to detail a car interior like a pro

These small must have accessories completely change the game when it comes to cleaning your car seats. These not only allow you to get into the small crevices that can be hard to reach, but they also help apply cleaner evenly and deeper into the surface.

Getting into all the small cracks and areas that are easily missed is what separates a quick cleaning from a professional cleaning. If you really take the time and get all the dirt/grease/dust out of all the small cracks, the difference is night and day.

Do yourselves a favor and grab yourself some small brushes and larger brushes to help scrubbing your seats that much easier!


A vacuum is a necessity when it comes to cleaning your car seats. If your wondering how to clean car seats correctly, a vacuum is your first starter point. We HIGHLY recommend something that can vacuum and suck up fluids.

In case you have excess cleaner or moisture in your surfaces, this can easily extract the debris and the fluid from the surface you are working on safely. We understand not everyone is for a wet vacuum, however for typically a $10-$15 difference, the fluid suck up feature is well worth it.

Additionally you will also have access to steam cleaners, wet vacs, blowers, etc…

If you are going for just an entry level clean, you should be fine with just your wet vacuum and your cleaning products/brushes. When and if you decide to move up to a medium grade or higher grade of interior cleaning, then you should focus on adding more tools.

You don’t need to have electrical products to detail or to clean car seats in general, however they do speed up the process significantly. They also can help you achieve a deeper and more thorough overall clean as well.

Here’s a quality example of someone cleaning a whole car with electrical tools:

Not only is he going in there with his steam cleaner, extractor, and his brushes, notice his attention to detail as well. Especially when he gets to the area of removing the stain from the seats.

He’s agitating the surface with brushes and cleaner and carefully extracting all the stains/dirt from the effected area.

Figuring out which electrical devices will work for you is a great start if you want to move up into the higher levels of seat cleaning. Every device will have different attachments, operating instructions, and will all have different features.

Some may be different and some might be the same just a different maker. Do your product research well when you start to move up into things like this. Find the machine that meets all of your needs for your budget.

Also make sure you find something that works well for your cleaning methods as well. If you are just cleaning seats and dashboards we would probably only recommend a wet vacuum, some rags, brushes, and cleaning product.

If you want to clean carpets, headliners, etc… than we would probably start to look at a all in one kit so you can clean your entire vehicle.

How To Clean Car Seats – End!

By this time you should now know how to clean car seats the correct way. To repeat once again or give you just one final last quick “guide” here’s the order once again we recommend following when cleaning your car seats:

Vacuum Debris/Dirt

Clean Seats Using Brushes/Cleaner

Vacuum Up/Wipe Up Fluids

Finish With Treatment

Remember to repeat processes 1-3 as many times as need in order to fully remove stains/dirt. ONLY use your treatment when you have finished cleaning, this is always your final step.

Step 1 is very simple just vacuum everything up that is not wanted on your seats.

When you move to step 2 this is also the phase where you should be focused on EVERYTHING. Don’t just focus on the seat surface, make sure you are also paying attention to the small details.

Clean crevices, rails, and if you have them, the plastic shrouds the your seat sets into.

When moving onto step 3, if you have a wet vac, you can just suck up everything left over. If you don’t have a wet vacuum, then just make sure you wipe down your seats well first to remove all the excess cleaner/residue.

Once you are satisfied with your results, go ahead and apply your leather conditioner or treatment of your choice. Always make sure to apply the product to a microfiber towel and not on the actual surface itself.

Once finished, sit back, pat yourselves on the back, and enjoy your freshly cleaned seats!

We hope you loved our guide on how to clean car seats the correct way! Be sure to check out our guide to exterior restoration as well!

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