Cleaning car seats is far easier than most people realize. Forget about bulky and troublesome carpet extractors and special equipment.
With the products, tools, and techniques I am going to help you get fantastic results with very little effort. Your car seats are the first things you tend to see as you get into your car. Having dirty car seats gets annoying very quickly for most people.
We are going to put an end to that!
I have found that most people are not looking for perfection when it comes to their cars. Not that we can't reach pretty close to perfection, but what we are after here is simple ways to achieve acceptable results.
And regardless if you have leather car seats, cloth car seats, or velour cloth seats, the products, the tools, and the techniques are all the same.
Cleaning your car seats along with the rest of your car upholstery really is far easier than most people have been lead to believe.
If you are looking just to find a great car upholstery cleaner for cleaning car seats and want super simple, then the ready to use upholstery cleaners are the way to go.
Adam's Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner 16oz
CarGuys Super Cleaner - Effective All Purpose Cleaner - Best for Leather Vinyl Carpet Upholstery Plastic Rubber and Much More! - 18 oz Kit
Darren's Tips: Either one of the above ready-to-use car upholstery shampoos will be ideal for cleaning car seats. These products are as simple as simple can get as they come in an effective formulation in their own dedicated sprayer bottle.
Match either one up to my recommended scrub brushes below and you are ready to go!
Don't underestimate how important this step is! Whether you are cleaning car seats and need to break loose the dirt and vacuum it up, or shampooing your car floor mats, it is always easier to vacuum up dry dirt and debris than it is once you have introduced your choice in a car upholstery cleaner.
I recommend that you use your selected choice in a car upholstery scrub brush and break loose the dirt by scrubbing the area you plan on shampooing first, then vacuum up any of the dirt and debris you have broken loose in this initial scrubbing.
You can also simultaneously vacuum while scrubbing the material as part of the pre-vacuuming task. Most people are truly amazed at how much dirt they are able to release by using this method before introducing any car upholstery shampoo.
Once you have pre-vacuumed, now you can spray area to be cleaned with a light application of chosen upholstery shampoo. I recommend 3-5 full sprays of upholstery cleaner. I prefer to break your cars interior down into sections to be shampooed and cleaned.
This prevents you from feeling overwhelmed by your dirty car interior as well as help you become more detailed in your car cleaning efforts. I recommend you do this with not just your cars interior as a whole, but even when cleaning car seats I recommend you break the actual seat into smaller areas or sections and concentrate your efforts on each area at a time, and then move on to next section.
Most people get into trouble in this stage of applying the car upholstery shampoo with heavy amounts of cleaner thinking that the more cleaner they apply, the cleaner the area will get.
Just know that lighter, repeat applications are better than heavier applications of your car upholstery cleaner.
At this point you are ready to come back in (assuming you did any scrubbing during the pre-vacuuming) and use your chosen scrub brush to break loose the dirt now that you have applied the upholstery cleaner.
Choose what you think would be the most appropriate scrub brush based on the material you are cleaning and the amount of dirt you are attempting to clan away.
Cleaning car seats is only part of this equation as you will quickly realize your cars interior is made using many types of materials, and the levels of dirt can vary dramatically based on the area of your car you are attempting to shampoo.
Regardless of the scrub brush you have chosen, remember you remain n control. So if there is any fear on your part, simply start sift, check your results, and make any adjustments needed. Since car seat upholstery can come in endless varieties, cleaning car seats will be a case by case task and you should test a small section first to determine if your cloth/fabric upholstery of your car seats needs to be shampooed cautiously so as to not cause the fabric to become frayed or damaged in the scrubbing process.
Now you have vacuumed, sprayed, and scrubbed the area or your car seats. The dirt is broken up and you need to mop up the dirt and upholstery shampoo. I recommend using micro-fiber cloths (see link below) for doing literally any detail or car cleaning task!
No other cloth material will preset the wining balance of features than a micro-fiber cloth:
If you have ever shampooed your car seats or cleaned any fabric within your car with any other type of cloth material, there is a an adjustment period. because of the unique material of micro-fiber, the cloth will be harder to use when mopping up the dirt and upholstery shampoo. Don't be discouraged by this as you will get used to it.
Once you realize the winning benefits of using micro-fiber, you will never go back. It took me a little while to adjust as a professional detailer, but I cannot imagine going back to any other type of cloth material!
As I said above; light applications of this process in cleaning car seats or any other material in your cars interior is all about light, repeat applications. The more car upholstery cleaner you use will not mean the dirt is going to magically come clean easier or quicker.
Most of you will be dealing with heavy amounts of dirt in cleaning your car seats that repeat applications is simply going to be a requirement. You also don't want to over-saturate and cause more drying time to then become an unwanted factor.
Just know that as a professional detailer, there have been plenty of cars I have detailed that were so dirty, that cleaning the car seats literally required me to go in with repeat applications as much as 10+ times. Only you will know when enough is enough based on the material, the level of dirt, and your expectations.
Darren's Note: Many people have unrealistic expectations due to inexperience. If you are cleaning car seats that have years of accumulated dirt, it may be likely you are not able to remove all the discoloration that will be a natural byproduct of dirt allowing to remain on your car seating for years. Eventually even "normal" dirt will discolor light colored car seating if allowed. For this reason it is always better to do casual or hasty car seat cleaning at regular intervals than to be tempted to kick the can down the road thinking you will eventually get to cleaning your car seats at some point in the future. This point in the future as a rule is usually very far into the future which means the dirt starts to stain and become permanent.
Imagine if your car upholstery was in your house; would you think that the level of dirt present before cleaning your car seats was realistic or would you accept that the material would need replacing due to the excessive dirt? This is just a way to have realistic expectations, not a way to discourage you from attempting to clean your car seats.
Cars are certainly different than your household carpeting or furniture, so your expectations will naturally be different with your car than with a comparison to your household furnishings. Just know that virtually in every case I have seen in my professional world, that cleaning car seats in the exact manner I have laid out always produces much wanted and needed results that will put a smile on your face!
If you have made it this far into this page you are an anomaly! Most people simply want short-cut answers which only deliver short-cut results.
This is a one way ticket to disappointment and frustration!
I will take a break from my further recommendations when cleaning car seats to answer many of the questions that are popular on this subject, but only deliver bad results from websites that clearly do not speak from any actual real world experience.
The easiest way to clean any cloth or leather seat is as outlined so far on this page.
Yes, but I wouldn't recommend it. And since you ask, you could literally use any all purpose cleaner for cleaning car seats. But dedicated car upholstery shampoos and all-purpose cleaners are designed to be used by hand, by both non-professionals and professionals.
Laundry detergents are designed to be used in washing machines where lots of water will also be used to clean and rinse your clothes.
Water stains and other liquid spills represent unique challenges when cleaning car seats that are made of cloth. Cloth seats are porous and gravity also works to draw liquid spills down, and into every fiber of your cloth car seats.
This is called "wicking" in the industry. For any liquid spill or water stains in particular, I recommend the following:
No, no, and no!
Just like your house or your clothes, there are certain stains and certain materials that simply will not come completely clean.
This is where realistic expectations are needed. Of course if you have no experience you will be unsure as to what realistic expectations mean.
Often people forget that if the carpeting upholstery in their house was as dirty as their car seats, they would accept they would need to replace that carpeting or upholstery.
Often people think that cleaning car seats is somehow different and therefore develop unrealistic expectations for cleaning the upholstery in their car.
This would be the same answer as the laundry detergent to clean car seats. Well..almost.
Since there are numerous spot cleaners made for spot cleaning carpeting, you could actually use one of these products in cleaning car seats.
But if you are going to buy one of those products (unless you already own some) then why not buy an actual car upholstery shampoo. I am certain this will not be the last time you want to clean your car seats.
Not only is this one of the most common questions for anyone looking to clean car seats, but it is often part of the cleaning process that many people over-think.
If we are cleaning car seats, everyone of us would naturally want to find the best car upholstery shampoo, but the reality is that most upholstery shampoos deliver the same results.
There are far more critical factors that will determine your end results than the actual upholstery shampoo.
The point being as that the material itself and the exact type of dirt or stain on your car seats will be a much bigger determining factor than trying to spend days searching for the best car upholstery shampoo.
Similar to the question above, the actual car upholstery is less of a determinant than the method a professional uses when cleaning car seats. From commercial pre-spotters, to carpet extractor machines, to steam cleaners, car detailing professional like myself have access to equipment that allow every car upholstery shampoo to produce better results.
But most of these methods would prove completely unrealistic for most car owners looking to clean car seats at home.
Yes! Any car upholstery or all purpose cleaner that works in cleaning car seats can also be used to clean the other, water safe materials in your cars interior.
below is a picture from the convertible boot cover of a BMW I used to clean using the same shampoo I used to clean the car seats; which in this case was actually car leather seats.
While a top rated car upholstery shampoo is critical, you should not over-look finding the right tool for the job
Upholstery Cleaner Scrub Brush Set Cleaning Brush and Horsehair Detailing Brush for Car Interior, Seats, Boat, Couch, Sofa and Carpet
OXO 1285700 Good Grips Deep Clean Brush Set, Orange
Maxshine Ever So Soft (ESS) Detailing Brush, Set-Small+Large
Kirkland Signature Ultra High Pile Premium Microfiber Towels, 36 Count (Pack of 1), Yellow - 713160
In review I will leave you with the following checklist for cleaning and shampooing your car seats:
I hope I have now given you the motivation to take matters into your own hands. You will truly be amazed out how much good damage you can do once you are armed with the right products, tools, and knowledge.
In a matter of a short time and some effort, you can transform your car into a level of clean you didn't think was possible!