How To Deep Clean Car Seats

Construction vehicles, taxis, shuttles, and possibly the worst of the m all, the family van generally suffer with the same problems. Dirty seats. Silicone, spilled drinks, and even half eaten gum are only some of the things you might find when trying to clean up the interior of your vehicle.

Light cleaning may remove most of the dirt, it may still leave stains present. Car seats tend to attract the most stains in any vehicle. 

 So how do you get the stains out? How to deep clean car seats?

I will be upfront, there is no magic trick to getting your seats cleaned. However with a little bit of elbow grease and the right techniques, you will have those stains 

How to Remove Stains From Your Car Seats

Even if you clean your seats often, stains will still happen. Kids, employees, friends, and family tend to spill all sorts of things on your clean cloth seats. It may be gross but accidents happen. 

Leather seats are well known to be easier to clean than cloth seats that most vehicles come standard with. If the offending material on the seats is cleaned off quickly it can generally be wiped off with a clean towel. 

If your vehicle is equipped with cloth seats however, you will not be so lucky. Cloth will hold the stain deep under the surface making it harder to be able to remove the stain properly. Let’s take a quick look at how to make sure you can remove the worst stain from your car seats quickly. 

How To Remove Stains From Cloth Car Seats

  1. The first thing that you will need to do to clean the seats is to get access to all parts of the seat that have unsightly stains. This may involve removing some trim to gain access to the whole stain. Milk stains can be the worst smelling stains in a vehicle. Make sure you gain access to the entire stain to remove the foul smell it produces. 
  1. You need to make sure all of the dirt and debris is removed from the top of the seats. Grab your vacuum and keep the entire seat a deep and thorough vacuuming. 
  1. We now need to target the stains with a proper cleaning solution. These cleaning solutions are sold as spot-removing solutions, interior shampoo, etc. Make sure you read the labels on the back of the label and test in an easily hidden area to make sure it does not damage your seat fabric before use. 
  1. I always recommend wetting the stain completely and letting it sit to break up the dirt. Once it has soaked into the stain use a stiff brush. Scrub the area in a vertical up and down direction before changing to a side to side motion. This will help break up the dirt in all directions making it easier to remove. 
  1. Using a wet-dry vacuum, remove any liquid from the seat until it is dry. Wipe the stain area with a clean microfiber cloth.
Clean cloth car seat
  1. When the seat is wet the material is going to look a different color. Let the seat dry out fully before checking to see if the stain is removed. If the stain is not removed, restart the procedure at step 1. Continue as many times as needed until the stain is removed. 

How To Remove Stains From Leather Seats

Because leather car seats do not absorb liquids and stains as cloth car seats they tend to be much easier to clean. If you get to the stain fast enough you might get lucky by just wiping it down with a damp cloth. If not, follow these easy steps to clean your leather car seats and make your cars interior look nice and fresh. 

  1. Just like with cloth seats, the first step that needs to be done is to remove any trim or components that will prevent access to the stain. We want to be able to remove the entire stain when cleaning.
  2. Using a vacuum cleaner make sure you vacuum all the dirt from the leather seats. Make sure you get into all of the nooks and crannies. This step is very important for leather seats. If you do not get all the dirt off you will end up rubbing it into the seats. This can cause damage to the leather and reduce the shine. 
  3. Make a cleaning solution that consists of two parts of white vinegar to one part of warm water. Add this vinegar mixture to the spray bottle. You can also purchase a leather seat cleaner at any local auto parts store that will clean the seats as well.
  1. Before applying the diy leather cleaner to your seats make sure you test a small panel in an inconspicuous area to make sure it will not damage your seats.
  2. Lightly spray the leather seats. Using a clean microfiber cloth or microfiber towel carefully rub the solution and then wipe clean. Repeat the process as needed to remove all the stains from the seats.  
  3. Use light pressure when you are cleaning the seats. The idea is to lift the stain from the leather. Hard pressure when cleaning can force the stain into the leather making it even harder to remove. 
  4. Let the seats fully dry before installing any previously removed components. 
  5. I use a quality leather conditioner before using the seats to ensure they are protected and conditioned for the best possible looks and long life.

Solutions To Clean Cloth Car Seats

The above steps are very simple when it comes to cleaning stains from your car seats. If you follow the instructions and with some elbow grease you will have your seats looking better in no time. 

There are many cleaning solutions that are available that are a good idea to get your seats clean. There are also some do it yourself solutions for removing stains that some people have success with as well. 

I will warn you, when you decide to use some of these solutions; test them in a small area first to make sure they do not damage the material on your vehicle’s seats. 

Sometimes the best option is to use one of these homemade cleaners if you cannot get to the store. You will be amazed at what you can clean with a cup of vinegar, some dish soap, and some club soda. 

Some stubborn stains require a unique cleaning method to get rid of the tough stains. 

Removing Lipstick Stains

If you cannot remove lipstick stains from your car seats using the above techniques,  rubbing alcohol could work. I would say please use this only as a last resort to remove the lipstick stains from your car seats. 

Removing Coffee Stains

The best way to remove coffee stains from your car seats is to use clean water to get most of the coffee out of the stain. Later, apply seat cleaner to the stained area; let it settle for five minutes, and then rinse with cold water. Use the blotting paper to absorb much water. Lemon juice or vinegar may help you remove this coffee stain. If the smell lingers in your vehicle, cover it with baking soda and let the vehicle sit. This will pull the smell out of the seats. 

Removing Oil or Grease Stains

Drops of dish soap make the oil and grease break down as it does to your utensils when you are washing dishes. Use warm water to rinse dishwashing liquid or soap from the stain after scrubbing the stain with a toothbrush.

Removing Vomit Stains (YUCK!)

Some drivers face this situation frequently, family members that suffer from motion sickness and children can make things difficult for your car seats. The vomit smell makes it hard to sit inside the car interior for even a few seconds, and the stains worsen the situation. Scrape the dried content and sprinkle baking soda on the rest. Soak the liquid after a few minutes, and repeat the process until the stain and smell are completely gone. You may need to pay special attention to floor mats when trying to kill the vomit smell.

Removing Gum or Chocolate Stains

I know my kids can quickly ruin the car seats in my van as soon as I look away from the rearview mirror.  You can find the solution to gum and chocolate stains in simple household products. Put ice on the gum and chocolate, once it is frozen it will be easier to remove. You can use a butter knife and vinegar to remove leftover stains and then complete the cleaning process described above. 

Removing Pet Stains

Your pet can cause issues to your vehicle’s interior  just like your children. You will need to use Borax powder on the pet smell and stain spot finishing it off with vinegar and baking soda.

Removing Nail Polish Stains

Removing nail polish stains can be difficult depending on the nail polish that was used. Use all of the above techniques, as a last resort nail polish remover can be used. CAUTION: Nail polish remover will damage the seat, proceed with caution. 

Removing Ink Stains

Ink stains can be difficult to remove from cloth seats. Try to rub the stained spot with vinegar or baking soda cleaning solution. 

If you cannot get any of the stains removed on your own I would suggest calling a local car detailer. They may have access to commercial grade cleaners that will be able to remove stains from your vehicle. 

How Not To Clean Car Seats

Mistakes teach you more than the guidelines, sometimes life’s mistakes are its greatest teacher. Here are some things you should avoid while deep cleaning the car seats.

 Washing Your Seat Belts

Seat belts and  harnesses are made of woven threads; your washing procedure should not include them. The woven threads offer the tensile strength needed to control the body during accidents. If you wash or soak these belts in water, the threads may loosen, resulting in the loss of function.

 Don’t Soak the Car Seats:

It seems easier to take out the car seats and drench them with a water hose. However, you may face considerable difficulty drying the seat after doing so. The seat’s hard surfaces may also rust, resulting in the gradual weakening of the seat frames and metal parts, and you may even have wiring problems after. 

Quick Tips to Deep Clean Your Car Seats

  • You can grab specialized car seat cleaning tools, brushes from a hardware store, or local auto parts store to make the cleaning task more convenient.
  •  Use the minimum amount of liquid to clean the seat, a gallon of hot water won’t work like a small amount of vinegar mixed with water. Plan your moves ahead!
  •  You may use the narrow pipe with the vacuum cleaner to reach the deeper curves of the car seats, ensuring that no corner is left untouched.
  • Make sure you do not get any cleaning solutions on the seat belts. Keep them dry and away from any damaging chemicals.
  • Ensure you air dry the interior of the vehicle whenever you are cleaning your seats. This will prevent any possible musty smell inside of the vehicle after cleaning. 
  • Spray your favorite air freshener scent in the car after deep cleaning to keep your car smelling fresh and new!

Hopefully these tips have helped you learn how to deep clean car seats. It can be difficult but with patience and the correct tips your seats will be clean in no time.

Staff Writer
Staff Writer
Our team of staff writers goes above and beyond in creating material that our readers love. They bring unique skills to the team that always provides a fresh perspective on the automotive industry.

Latest Articles