Car Leather Cleaner
Why most suck and what you can do about it

I hear it all day long- "Darren I just bought this car leather cleaner and it hardly touched the dirt on my leather car upholstery!" What we have here folks is a common problem in many areas of life. First, we have the manufacturers who are trying to cover their ass. In order to avoid lawsuit's and other problems in general, they are forced to "dumb-things-down".

This means they have to formulate things to be overly mild and safe; they can't control the idiots of the world with no common sense so they must formulate things to compensate for the morons of society!

Car Leather Cleaner:
Managing expectations

best car leather cleaner

Disappointment is a common theme when it comes to people and cleaning the car leather within their cars. The other half of the problem is unrealistic expectations...and it usually plays out something like this:

  • You have car leather interior.
  • Your pretty sure it should be cleaned just like anything else, but you remain a little hesitant due to the inconvenience of it along with general ignorance as to what to use and how to do it.
  • Day after day goes by and your car leather continues to get dirtier and dirtier.
  • Finally you can't take the insult any longer and you go in search of the best car leather cleaner.
  • Since you remain mostly ignorant, you make a decision founded on ignorance.
  • You get said car leather cleaner, you use it, it doesn't work, you get frustrated and annoyed...and now you are here.

Understanding the Nature of the Beast!

What do I mean by this?

It means you must understand that since most car leather cleaners are formulated to be overly mild so manufacturers can protect themselves, we must apply this knowledge to the situation and move forward from there.

How to Clean Car Leather Tips and a Simplified Approach

For the sake of clarity and simplification, it will be necessary to break this down into (2) basic categories of car leather care and cleaning; don't panic, it is only two!

  1. Basic car leather cleaning for new cars, or car leather that has minimal dirt build-up.
  2. Leather car upholstery cleaning for moderate to heavy build-up of dirt.

Basic Leather Car Upholstery Cleaning and Maintenance

Working under the knowledge that as a rule, most auto leather upholstery cleaners will be formulated to be necessarily mild, let's address the situation of car owners with brand new cars who's car leather is in pristine condition... or close to it.

Basic Car Leather Cleaner:

Leather Cleaner - For Furniture, Sofa, Shoes, Car Care, Handbags, Purses, Apparels, Seat Covers, Bags, Couch, Chair, Gloves, Saddles, Jackets and more - 18 oz - Free Microfiber

  • Top rated leather cleaner on Amazon.
  • Ideal for any new car owner to keep new car leather clean.
  • Ideal for any light leather cleaning duties.
  • As usual; the labeling and marketing of car leather cleaners are filled with their share of hype and misrepresentation. (just accept this and know that the cleaner will still work)

Basic Car Leather Conditioner:

TriNova Leather Conditioner and Restorer with Water Repellent Formula, 8 oz

  • After you clean; time to condition.
  • Not a necessity; but most people prefer to condition if they are going to clean.
  • Top rated car leather conditioner on Amazon.

Car Leather Scrub Brush:

COLOURLOCK Leather & Textile Cleaning Brush for car interiors, alcantara car seats and leather furniture upholstery

  • For anyone looking for "gentle" yet effective.
  • German made.
  • Also effective and safe for other car upholstery and Alcantara material.
  • Top rated car leather cleaning brush.

The Next Level of leather Upholstery Cleaning and Conditioning:

Darren's Tips: We have to remember that virtually every car leather cleaner off the shelf (or Internet) will be on the mild side. Not every car is going to need heavy duty car leather cleaner; it's just that most people in my experience wait entirely too long before they attempt to clean their car leather. If you keep it clean from the start, the products above will be all that is required.

Another part of the problem is that most people think the car leather is overly delicate and are afraid to get aggressive in their cleaning of it. So getting clean car leather is part product and part technique. Car leather can handle more aggressive scrubbing than most people would think. If you do get the leather cleaner and conditioner from above, just know that if your car leather is dirty enough, you will be required to do repeat cleaning applications.

The good news is that what a cleaner lacks in aggressiveness, can be made up for in a large part with repeat applications of the cleaning process. I have had to scrub some car leather 4 and 5 times for complete removal of unwanted dirt that was heavily embedded.

Heavy Duty Car Leather Cleaner

Welcome to the answer for probably 90% of you reading this. Like I said earlier, unless you have car leather that is brand new or has less than say 5K miles on it, the products, tools, and tips that follow will be the winning ticket. So let me break it down into the individual auto leather cleaner, tools, and techniques that will provide dramatic results when needed.

Before and during Heavy Duty leather Cleaning

car leather cleaner

After Heavy Duty Car Leather Cleaning

car leather cleaner

The dramatic pictures above show the kind of results possible when the right products and techniques are applied. The example above required multiple cleaning applications to achieve these kinds of results. Just know this is normal.

Heavy Duty Car Leather Cleaner

Chemical Guys CLD_101_16 All Clean+ Citrus Based All Purpose Super Cleaner (16 oz)

  • For that next level of performance when you know your car leather is really "just that dirty"!
  • Yes; it really is safe for your car leather.
  • An all-purpose cleaner suitable for endless cleaning jobs for all materials found within your car.
  • A highly rated and versatile cleaning product.
  • Concentrate formulation; can be diluted.
  • After using this cleaner, you can then use the car leather conditioner above to condition your car leather.

Car Leather Cleaning Scrub Brush

Genuine GM Accessories 88861425 Soft Bristle Interior Cleaner Brush

  • Simply spraying your car leather cleaner and wiping with a rag is not going to cut it; especially if your car leather is really dirty.
  • You gotta' scrub it; and I mean scrub!
  • If at first it doesn't come clean...scrub, scrub and scrub some more.
  • Ideal when you realize you have some seriously dirty car leather and you know that "soft" is really too soft.
  • This brush will dial up your results with heavier duty bristles without damaging your car leather.

Darren's Tips: Only you can decide how dirty your car leather is and what it will require to get it clean. You need to remember that often people simply have unrealistic expectations due to lack of experience.

If your car leather is dirty enough due to neglect, there may be permanent damage that will be revealed once you have cleaned the dirt away. Eventually dirt will permanently damage just about anything.

  • Always read label instructions as your starting point. (It is amazing what you can learn by simply reading instructions...I know; BORING!)
  • Always test any new product in an inconspicuous area first to verify results. Then proceed or change course based on what you observe. 
  • When it comes to cleaning car leather and you are doing your initial testing, make sure to allow the area to fully dry as part of verifying your results before moving forward.
  • Any of the products from above can be used on car leather and any material that "looks" like leather. Most leather upholstery has leather that is "selectively" used within your car. This means that your seat may only have sections that are truly leather. But all these products can be used safely, regardless of it being true leather or synthetic leather.

Auto Leather Cleaner Recap

The ideas and info presented here on this page will be very revealing to many of you. So for the sake of clarity, I am going to recap this page in a bullet point way to highlight the important take-a ways:

professional car leather cleaner

  • Modern day car leather is much more durable than we have been lead to believe and able to handle far more aggressive techniques than most people would imagine.
  • Modern day car leather has been designed and made to better withstand every day use; this also means more aggressive cleaning techniques are also appropriate and suitable.
  • If you are the cautious type and rarely venture of the beaten path in life then you will want to go with the first car leather cleaner.
  • If you are open to new ideas and like simplified and effective techniques, then I would go the Chemical Guy's All-purpose cleaner since this one product has hundreds of uses whether this be on your car or around the house.
  • Once you have cleaned your car leather to satisfaction, maintaining it is far easier if you simply do so consistently before it reaches levels of extreme dirt.
car leather cleaner review
  • I love rules but for every rule there is always going to be exceptions to that rule. So it is always advisable to test any new product in an inconspicuous (this means in an area that is not in your face, hidden, partially hidden, etc., etc.) area first for results. Most modern day car leather is coated with a water-based clear coating that protects against harmful chemicals and normal use. But like I said, there are always exceptions.
  • When testing, you need to carefully determine if the cleaner is pulling up dirt, or pulling off color. Sometimes it is hard to tell. This is rarely the case due to most leather being coated, but it is wise to verify first.
  • There will be areas of your leather car upholstery that gets excessive use; eg. side bolsters, seat cushion edges, etc. These areas may have permanent damage beneath the excessive layer of dirt that has accumulated. Once you start removing the excessive dirt, it may reveal this permanently damaged area. You as the owner will have to make a judgement call as to how aggressively you are going to clean these areas if they exist. The more dirt you remove, the more the permanent damage will be revealed. Once again, this will generally only apply to car leather that is truly excessively dirty and perhaps older than a few years old.

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