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Car upholstery: how do I clean my car seats?

Is it time to clean the seats and upholstery in your car? This article contains step-by-step guides for cleaning your car upholstery!

Key Steps:

To clean your car upholstery you will need:

  • A vacuum cleaner
  • 2 buckets
  • Laundry detergent or car upholstery cleaner
  • Leather conditioner
  • A sponge
  • A towel
  • A chamois

Car seats see daily use, and it’s important to keep them clean. Different types of seats will require slightly different treatment to suit the type of fabric. As some fabrics may need special treatment you should consult the vehicle manual to see if the manufacturer gives any cleaning or maintenance advice. Also be sure to always read the label on your cleaning product to check it’s suitable for use on your type of seat fabric. Here’s a step-by-step approach to cleaning car upholstery:

How to Clean Fabric Car Seats

Before you begin: remember to test any cleaning product on a small, inconspicuous area of the car upholstery first – this way, you can make sure that no damage will be caused.

  • First, use either your household vacuum cleaner with the brush attachment or a smaller hand-held alternative to vacuum up any debris from the seats and the rest of the car’s interior. This will prevent you from tracking any dirt onto the seats as you wash them.
  • Next, fill one bucket with cold water, and one with hot water.
  • To your hot water bucket, add a scoop of ordinary laundry detergent to make your car upholstery cleaner.
  • Soak a sponge in the hot water bucket, and then thoroughly scrub each individual seat. Remember, don’t let your seat get too wet!
  • Once your seats look clean and are evenly moistened, dip a towel into your bucket of cold water, and use it to scrub excess dirt and detergent from the surface of the seat.
  • Repeat this process once for best effect.

How to Clean Leather and Faux-Leather Seats

Always remember that leather car upholstery should be treated with a great level of care, and should always be cleaned with a specialist leather car upholstery cleaner. Feel free to vacuum your leather seats as often as necessary, though. For intensive cleaning, here is a step-by-step guide:

  • Vacuum the seats and the rest of the car interior in preparation.
  • Once you have finished vacuuming, apply sparing amounts of your car upholstery cleaner as directed on the packaging.
  • Carefully wipe down the seats with a moist chamois, taking care to make sure that the cleaning agent is entirely removed.
  • Allow the seats to dry naturally, making sure that no soap spots or stains have been left behind.

Periodically, you should also employ a leather conditioner to ensure your seats are properly maintained. Conditioners such as this serve to ensure that the leather in your seats retain and replenish their natural oils, and will prevent their surfacing from becoming dry and cracked in the course of the car’s lifespan. Always read the label to find out how and when to use these products.

Car upholstery cleaning isn’t difficult with these tips and regular maintenance: whether you have leather or fabric seats it’s simple enough to keep them looking as good as new! For more car cleaning tips, check out this article!

Top Tips


Before you start to clean your car seats, give the inside of your car a quick vacuum – this will help to remove any debris or dirt.