Leather Car Seat Care
Tired of getting bad results?

In today's world of cars, leather can be found in virtually every make and model. 15 years ago, Leather car seat care was exclusive to only high-end luxury automobiles.

Now even kiddy-haulin' vans come complete with interiors covered in leather. Due to much misrepresentation through advertising and marketing, as consumers we are left bewildered and confused as to what exactly is proper car leather care.

leather car seat care

The industry has you chasing your tail!

Misguided to the point of inaction, many people have simply given up in frustration not knowing where to turn or what to do. Cleaning your leather car seats is actually very simple and straight forward if dealt with from the beginning when your car leather is new. Unfortunately many of us delay proper leather car seat care from the beginning and are now faced with excessive build-up of dirt. So you run out and buy some hyped-up special car leather cleaner and the disappointment sets in!

You have questions...

  • Does car leather really require special cleaners?
  • I heard that car leather should never be cleaned but only conditioned.
  • I tried a name brand car leather cleaner and it was worthless.
  • Can you tell me the real deal with leather car seat care?

leather car upholstery

Trust me when I say you are not alone. One of the more common questions and complaints I receive from people writing in has to do with proper care for car leather in its many forms. The industry has so many people running around from one product to the next trying to find something that actually works.

What works and what doesn't...

In the name of simplicity, I am going to break down your leather car seat care into (2) categories based on the condition in which your car leather is in; meaning, how dirty is it and the level of cleaning involved with getting to a level of clean you are happy with.

Leather Car Upholstery Cleaning Made Simple

The following are my recommendations based on keeping things simple:

  • For people with brand new cars.
  • Car leather kit that contains everything needed.
  • Also for cars that are not new, but not excessively dirty.

Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner and Conditioner Complete Leather Care Kit (16 oz) (2 Items)

  • Kit contains everything needed for light to medium duty car leather cleaning.
  • From car leather cleaner to leather conditioner.

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

  • Ideal for any and all types of car leather.
  • Stiff enough to be effective, soft enough to be safe.

Heavy Duty Car Leather Cleaning

Car leather interiors that have become excessively dirty will require more "extreme" measures...cleaning leather car seats in a way that most people would never consider due to the following reasons:

  • Car leather is not the fragile material we have been lead to believe from the industry.
  • Car leathers of today are made to withstand heavy use.
  • Most leather cleaners are formulated to be overly mild and will not work on heavy layers of dirt.

Before (with partial cleaning)

heavy duty car leather cleaners

After (complete cleaning)

heavy duty car leather cleaner

The dramatic before and after pictures from above illustrate what is possible if the right techniques are combined with the right products. The amount of dirt on the above seat is very common and normal. Most people wait until their car leather seating has reached this point of dirt build-up before they take action, and the disappointment goes as follows:

  • Gee, my car leather is looking very dirty.
  • I really should have kept it cleaner from the beginning but I didn't.
  • I think I will get some car leather cleaner and clean it myself.
  • I got some name-brand leather cleaner online, but it really sucks as it barely touched the dirt.

Don't feel too badly as this is generally how it plays out for most people. For this reason I offer some tips from the world of professional level car leather cleaning tricks.

The Heavy Duty Leather Cleaner That Isn't

Since most retail dedicated leather car seat cleaners are "watered-down" to be extra safe rather than be extra effective, most people find that a more aggressive all-purpose cleaner will be the ticket when it comes to leather car seat care and cleaning.

This all-purpose cleaner is my recommendation if you feel your leather is sufficiently dirty to warrant a more aggressive cleaner.

CarGuys Super Cleaner - The most effective All Purpose Cleaner available on the market! - Best for Leather Vinyl Carpet Upholstery Plastic Rubber and much more! - 18 oz Kit

  • Not only an effective heavy duty cleaner for your car leather, but an all-purpose cleaner for so many other car cleaning tasks.
  • Top rated all purpose cleaner on Amazon.
  • Not just for leather car seat care, but clean virtually any material, and surface within your cars interior. (see labeling fro specific directions)

OXO Good Grips Heavy Duty Scrub Brush

  • Having the right tool is the other half of getting professional results.
  • Use to scrub your leather car seating when using the all-purpose cleaner from above.
  • It is definitely more aggressive than the car leather scrub brush from above, but still very safe for more aggressive cleaning that most people will be up against when trying to clean leather car seats.

How to Clean Car Leather Tips

how to clean car leather

Between the industry marketing hype and misinformed people repeating bad information, there is little mystery as to people's ignorance when it comes to car leather in its many forms. Most people would look at this picture taken from the car leather seating of a Chevy Corvette and simply throw their hands up in frustration when they attempted to clean with any number of the traditional and special car leather cleaners available on the market today.

With that said, I am going to bullet point the specifics of your leather car seat care so as to bring clarity to the moment:

  • For brand new leather or for mild to medium duty cleaning, the leather care kit at the very top of this page will suffice.
  • For anything past that, you will need to take more aggressive action and use the all-purpose cleaner from Car Guys.
  • As a rule, repeated applications and scrubbing will be required for complete cleaning of your car leather. In the case of the pictures I use here, I had to repeat the application and scrubbing process anywhere from 3-5 times depending on the level of dirt and will vary from not only seat to seat, but from section to section of the car leather seating.
  • When it comes to leather car seat care, I use micro-fiber cloths to mop up the dirty mess as I am working; but any cloth will work.
  • Always test each seating area first for effectiveness and results. There are so many types of car leather on the market, no hard fast rule applies and ultimately is a case by case judgement call. Most modern day car leathers are what is called semi-aniline or full-aniline leather which means they have been finished with a water-based clear coating for protection. This is the good news as it allows your car leather to withstand day to day use and makes cleaning easier.
  • Some car leathers will change color once you get them wet but will dry to its original color within a few minutes. This is not only normal, but one of the reasons to test first as you will need to determine of color is coming up onto the rag or if it is dirt you are seeing on the rag; or in fact it is just the leather changing color temporarily due to it being wet.
  • If your car leather is excessively dirty, you may find that you clean the original finish right off due to the fact that the dirt has been allowed to remain for so long as to permanently destroy the finish. This is not the fault of the cleaner, but dirt will always do permanent damage if it is excessive enough or allowed to remain too long before cleanings. Sometime you will have to make a judgement call as to leaving a certain amount of dirt remaining that will cover these damaged areas, or cleaning completely and exposing these permanently damaged areas. (if you look at the last pic above of the Corvette seat, you can see where the top layer of leather seating has been worn off due to permanent damage.

Leather Car Seat Care:
Car leather dye transfer

leather dye transfer removal

Removing color and dye transfer from car leather is also a common problem when it comes to light colored car leathers. Whether it may be from blue jeans, belts, news print, ink pens, etc.

The picture to the right highlights an example of some dye transfer that has taken place inside the leather seating of this Lexus. The reddish dye transfer on the seat back of this car seat could use the treatment as a separate step to complete car leather cleaning.

Car Leather Dye Transfer Remover:

Leather Master Leather Dye Transfer Cleaner (8.45 oz)

  • Use as a separate step in your car leather cleaning tasks.
  • Formulated for use on light colored car leather where dye transfer can be seen.
  • Follow manufacturers labeling.
  • Not all dye or leather dye transfer is created equal, so you may find this product completely ineffective. It ultimately is a case by case as there are simply some types of transfer and dye that simply cannot be removed.

Leather Car Seat Care Summary

Since leather car seat car is a top priority for any car owner with leather car seating, I hope you have become a much more informed consumer and car owner. If you know anyone else you think might benefit from this info, please forward the link or use the socialize it buttons below to share at your favorite site.

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