Tips and Advice

How to clean car seats

Dirty car seats? Whether you’re maintaining or selling your car, cleaning its seats will keep it looking fresh and boost its value

Your car’s cloth or leather seats will inevitably become dirty over time from normal use. This happens to even the most careful owners who manage to avoid spilling drinks or dropping crumbs. Most modern car interiors are finished in dark materials, as they’re better at hiding dirt, but they can still lose their lustre over time.

Occasionally cleaning your car seats properly is a good idea. Your car’s interior will look better and smell fresher, and even more frequent cleaning (advised for cars that see a lot of use) will help prevent permanent discoloration of the upholstery, which can in turn protect the resale value of your car. Keeping car seats free of debris is a good way of making the car safer for babies and toddlers too, as it prevents them choking on anything. Coronavirus has highlighted the benefits and increased the importance of keeping the things we touch as clean as possible.

Read on for the best way to clean car seats...

How to clean cloth car seats

Before shampooing your car’s seats, you first need to make sure the upholstery is free of debris and crumbs; use a vacuum cleaner or soft-bristled brush to do this. For embedded pet hair in the seat material itself, use a pet hair brush to lift it out so it can be vacuumed up.

Once free from visible dirt, take a bottle of upholstery cleaner or shampoo and spray one part of the seat, following the manufacturer’s directions. Usually it’s best to make the area damp, but not soaking wet, and gently agitate the cleaning solution with a soft-bristled brush. Mild weather is best when tackling this job, as this will help the seats dry more quickly than a cold winter’s day.

Once the cleaner has been left to work on the seat for a few minutes (unless otherwise stated on the bottle), take a clean microfibre cloth – that you set aside just for jobs inside the car – and mop up or gently rub the damp area to dry the seat as much as you can.

We recommend concentrating on small areas so that the product isn’t left in one spot for longer than others and to ensure each part of the seat is thoroughly cleaned before moving onto the next. It’s also important to ensure an even spread of upholstery cleaner or shampoo to avoid water stains when the seat dries.

Take a look at our guide to the best car upholstery cleaner to buy today.

How to clean leather car seats

While cleaning leather car seats is similar to maintaining cloth seats, there are a few important differences. While leather can be good at repelling stains, it can also be delicate and prone to abrasions, so you will want to be especially gentle when vacuuming it with a plastic nozzle. Another difference is that you’ll need to use a specific leather upholstery cleaner, which could be a cream rather than a spray or shampoo.

Follow the directions on the product and once it has been applied and left to work its magic, lightly rub the treated area of the seat with a clean microfibre towel. You should be able to see the leather becoming brighter and less shiny, because clean leather is typically matte in appearance. As above, observe the transfer of dirt onto your towel until you're satisfied it’s a job well done.

Take a look at our guide to the best car leather cleaner to buy today.

How to dry clean car seats

Once you've finished cleaning the car seats with upholstery cleaner and a microfibre towel, they should only be slightly damp to the touch. Most products recommend being left to dry naturally, so always plan to clean your seats when you aren’t planning any journeys, or can use another vehicle or method of transport.

It’s best to clean upholstery early in the day, when the weather is mild and there’s no rain forecast. If there’s no risk of theft and you can keep an eye on the car, it can be helpful to leave your windows open a crack; to prevent moisture from being trapped inside the car.

On a warm day, the seats should be dry in just a few hours and you’ll be able to take your fresh-smelling car for a spin.

How to keep car seats clean for longer

Once you’ve cleaned your car seats, it’s a great idea to protect them as well. For cloth seats this will ward off stains and repel dirt, meaning you won’t have to clean them as often.

In a car with leather upholstery, conditioning the leather will not only help it stay clean, it’s an essential part of their maintenance. Because leather is a natural product, if it dries out too much. it becomes cracked and loses its supple feel and great smell.

To read more about protecting and conditioning your seats, check out our guide to the best car seat protector to buy today.

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