Here's How to Clean Car Seats — the Right Way

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When it comes to how to clean your car seats, it's understandably hard to know exactly what's right. It's easier to focus on cleaning a home, the space you live in and spend most of your time in. But it can be really easy to let the tidiness of our cars slowly float to the mental back burner. When we're driving, we might remind ourselves to look up how to clean car seats — but as soon as we reach our destination, it's out of sight, out of mind.

There are many reasons your car interior may be a little on the dirtier side, from outdoor hobbies to snacks that got away from you to little-kid grime. Whatever the culprits, car seats often take the brunt of the damage. Car seats often take and hide away trash, stains, and dirt, both on the seat itself and in the cracks. So knowing how to clean car seats is a must; clean car seats can make your whole vehicle feel fresher.

Whether it's on your spring-cleaning checklist or you just suffered a major spill, we've got everything you need to know about how to clean car seats in general, how to clean cloth car seats, and how to clean leather car seats. From what fabric-car-seat cleaner to use to how to DIY your own cleaner, these tips will have your car feeling brand new.

How to Clean Cloth Car Seats

To begin the process of cleaning your car seats, no matter the material or make, you'll want to start with vacuuming. For this step, you'll want to use a small, portable, cordless, hand-held vacuum to make sure you can reach all of the corners and crevices. Once you've vacuumed, you'll want to use a dry upholstery brush to sweep off the freshly vacuumed seats, to make sure your surface is completely free of crumbs and excess dirt.

Then, take your all-purpose upholstery and fabric cleaner to spray onto your seats, and gently rub in the cleaner with a clean soft or cloth brush. Once the mixture is fully absorbed by the cloth seats, take the vacuum again and run it over the seats one more time to make sure everything is clean.

For the more noticeable and tougher stains, use the same process but reapply the upholstery cleanser and let it sit for a minute, then make sure to really scrub in the product. This should lift most of the stain.

The Best Fabric-Car-Seat Cleaner

You're already doing all the work of cleaning your car. So why not buy a ready-made car-seat cleaner? The Chemical Guys Nonsense Invisible Cleaner ($10) is a favorite on Amazon. It's colorless and odorless, great for lifting stains, and safe for almost all car-seat surfaces. There is also the Bissell Tough Stain Spotlifter ($5), which has a built-in scrubber.

If you want to make your own fabric-car-seat cleaner at home, though, this all-purpose recipe works great: mix one-fourth cup of vinegar, warm water, and a couple squirts of dish detergent, then pour it into a spray bottle. You can spritz this formula onto your fabric car seats, and use a cloth brush or rag to scrub it into your seats. But test the solution on a small, discreet spot first by spraying it on, scrubbing it in, and letting it dry all the way to make sure it doesn't affect the color or fabric of your seats.

How to Clean Leather Car Seats

Just like the cloth car seats, you'll also start your cleaning with vacuuming. But for leather car seats, it's important to note that you'll want to use a leather cleaner and microfiber cloths. Once you finish vacuuming, take a leather cleaner to the seats, and use a damp microfiber cloth to gently rub in the mixture. We recommend approaching it one small area at a time; while it's a little more time consuming, we promise it'll be worth it.

Take another microfiber cloth, dampen it slightly with water, and rinse the seats to make sure all of the excess cleaner is removed. Finally, take one more clean and dry microfiber cloth and buff out all of the areas you've cleaned. Then, take a leather conditioner and go over all of the newly cleaned areas, so it can serve as a protectant.

The Best Leather-Car-Seat Cleaner

There are lots of great leather-car-seat cleaner options out there, and they're relatively affordable and accessible. We recommend Weiman Leather Cleaner ($17), which is great at getting rid of stains and leaving behind a shiny look. It also comes with its own microfiber cloth. There is also Meguiar's Ultimate Leather Detailer ($14) with UV protectant; it leaves a nice apple smell.