Lean, clean, driving machine! How to disinfect car seats

Crumbs in the passenger seat driving you mad? Discover our go-to guide for how to clean car upholstery and disinfect your car interior. Keep your driving space clean and hygienic – cleaning auto upholstery doesn’t have to be such a chore

Updated 23 August 2022


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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person in gloves cleaning grey car seats with a spray bottle and a cloth

Different types of seats will require you to adjust your cleaning technique to suit the type of fabric. Read on to discover how to sanitise leather car seats, clean fabric seats and even how to get water stains out of car seats and leave your car upholstery looking good as new. Let’s get started on cleaning car upholstery.

Key steps

  • Start by vacuuming your seats

  • Always follow instructions on cleaner labels

  • Test your cleaner on an inconspicuous spot first

  • Use leather wipes for a quick clean, or a leather upholstery cleaner for a deeper clean

  • Laundry detergent or vinegar mixed with water will clean fabric seats

How to clean your car seats: Important things you need to remember

Before you get started learning how to sanitise car seats with our simple go-to guide, in order to ensure you achieve the best results there are a few points you need to remember:

  • We recommend you vacuum your car seats every 1-2 weeks and deep clean at least once a month. This will help minimise the job of cleaning car upholstery!

  • Check the car manufacturer’s guide as some offer advice for specific ways your car upholstery needs to be cleaned.

  • When you’re learning how to clean car seat fabric yourself, always Read the label to check a cleaning product is suitable for cleaning your car upholstery and follow the steps given.

  • Before using any new cleaning products for cleaning and disinfecting your car seats, take care to test it on a small, inconspicuous area first. Do not use the product if you notice any:

    • Colour fading

    • Bleaching

    • Staining

  • If your car seats are made from leather, avoid products with wax, silicone, or oil-based ingredients as these can cause damage to your seats.

  • Work slowly and gently to minimise the chance of causing any accidental damage.

  • Make sure that you use a soft, lint-free cotton or a microfiber cloth when following our steps for how to wash car seats to avoid scratches or damage.

  • Don’t forget to clean and disinfect the rest of your car interior to prevent dust, dirt and debris transferring back to the seats.

How to clean car seat fabric yourself: What you’ll need

Before following our guide for how to disinfect car upholstery, there are a few things you need to have at the ready:

  • A vacuum with upholstery attachment

For fabric or cloth seats you will need:

  • Spray bottles

  • Laundry detergent

  • A soft, lint-free, cotton or microfiber cloth

  • A suede brush for suede fabric seats

For leather seats you will need:

  • Leather wipes

  • Leather upholstery cleaner

  • A chamois

  • Leather conditioner

How to clean car upholstery: A guide to cleaning different types of car seat fabric

This simple guide will provide you with all the information you need for how to disinfect car seats regardless of the material they're made from. You can use Surf disinfectant

  • How to disinfect leather car seats: A step-by-step guide

    Read on for our simple 5 step guide for how to clean leather car seats.

    1. 1

      First, you need to ensure you vacuum all of your seats.

      Always use an upholstery attachment. Take particular care in areas with creases and seams. And don't forget the area between the headrest and the back of the seat. This will remove any crumbs, dirt and dust which could scratch your seats.

    2. 2

      Check your car manufacturer’s guide

      and follow any advice provided.

    3. 3

      If you’re looking for how to clean leather seats fast, we recommend you try using leather wipes.

      In general, these wipes will contain both a leather cleaner and also a conditioner, allowing you to complete both jobs at once. They can be bought from local auto parts stores and sometimes hardware stores too.

    4. 4

      The best option for cleaning your car leather is to use a bespoke product. Follow these steps for how to clean dirty leather car seats and restore that factory-fresh feel to your leather car seats:

      Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines which can be found on the label. Once you have cleaned the seats, use a damp chamois leather to rinse off your seats. Take care to ensure you don't oversaturate your seats, only use enough water to remove the cleaner. Allow the seats to fully air dry before sitting in them to travel anywhere!

    5. 5

      Don't forget to use a leather conditioner after cleaning.

      This way you can extend the life of your car seats and protect them against damage from the sun and more.

  • How to clean fabric car seats with laundry detergent

    With the steps below we’ll show you how to clean cloth car seats quickly, using products you can already find around your home! Vacuum the seats first.

    1. 1

      Mix warm water and detergent in a spray bottle.

      Fill a second spray bottle with fresh, clean warm water.

    2. 2

      Use a fragranced detergent, to leave your car seats smelling fresh.

      This also reduces the need for an air freshener.

    3. 3

      Use a soapy solution.

      Spray your seats with the soapy solution. Pay particular attention to any particularly dirty areas.

    4. 4

      Be gentle.

      Use a soft, cotton cloth to gently scrub the soap and clean your seats.

    5. 5

      Use water.

      Spray the clean, fresh warm water over the seat to rinse off the cleaning solution.

    6. 6


      Allow plenty of time for the seats to air dry ahead of the car being used again.

  • How to clean fabric car seats using vinegar and water

    Sometimes natural is best. The following steps will show you how to disinfect fabric car seats using vinegar and water:

    1. 1

      Fill a spray bottle three-quarters full with vinegar.

      Top it up with warm water.

    2. 2

      From a distance of 20cm, spray the solution over your seats.

      Use a damp chamois leather to gently rub the solution into the seats to clean them.

    3. 3

      Spray clean, fresh, warm water over the seats to rinse them off.

      Allow your seats time to air dry.

    For steps for how to clean suede car seats, follow the methods above with an additional step. Use a suede brush to give the suede fabric its life back once the seats are dry.

  • How to get stains out of car seats: An easy step-by-step method

    With the following simple guide, we'll show you how to clean car seat stains, whether they’re caused by liquid, mould or other spillages.

    1. 1

      Step one for how to remove stains from car seats is to mix up a cleaning solution. We recommend:

      1 cup of water and ¼ cup of baking powder

    2. 2

      Rub your cleaning solution into the stain using a toothbrush.

      If the stain is proving hard to shift: Make a paste of water and baking soda, leave it to sit on the stain for 20-30 minutes and use a soft toothbrush dipped in water to gently scrub the stain to lift it from your car seat upholstery.

    3. 3

      Rinse the cleaner off using a clean, damp, soft cloth.

      And you're done.

Using our simple guide for regular maintenance you can be sure you have all the tips and tricks for how to sanitise car interior upholstery or even how to get mould off car seats. Now you can be sure to keep your car looking good as new.

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