How To Clean Leather Car Seats

How to Clean Leather Car Seats

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Leather is the material of choice for anyone that wants a classy interior because of its comfort, breathability, and durability. Most car owners tend to give better attention to their car`s exterior forgetting the interior leaving the seats to fade and accumulate grime. It is quite expensive to invest in leather seats but the wide range of benefits is well worth the cost if you can keep it in good shape. Leather needs to be attended properly to keep the great look on your car`s interior which is why every car owner should know how to clean their leather car seats and condition them. You also have to keep up the trend by giving deep cleaning your seats at least four times a year and regularly applying a leather cleaning solution at least once a month. While this may sound like a messy job, it is quite easy and fun if you know how to do it right. Here are the steps to doing it properly.

  • 1. Assemble All the Necessary Gear

It is very important to collect everything needed to get your leather seats shining before you get anything started. Here is a list of the basic items you will need.

  • 2 sponges or 2 soft pieces of microfiber cloth
  • 2 buckets of clean water
  • 1 soft brush
  • A vacuum cleaner with a leather brush
  • Leather cleaner
  • A PH balanced Leather conditioner
  • 2 sprayer bottles

Before you start cleaning, here are some important tips to adhere to:

  • Test your leather cleaner and conditioner on a small inconspicuous place on your seats before you can apply it on the seat. Rubbing a small portion and giving it at least one minute to see the effect will help you understand if that is the wrong product for your leather seats. Look out for signs of staining, fading or peeling. If the products react with your seats, you need to drop it for another option. You should avoid cheap cleaners and conditioners because they tend to react with your seats or leave a greasy feel on the surface after cleaning.
  • It is advisable to complete cleaning one seat at a time for the best effects. Leaving one seat for too long after applying your cleaner while doing other seats may cause staining or reaction between your leather seats and the cleaning agent.
  • If you decide to use natural products instead of a leather cleaner, stick to detergents and vinegar. A mixture of water and vinegar at the ratio of 3 vinegar to 1 water is the most potent for cleaning stubborn spill stains and grime without hurting your leather. Leather reacts to silicone, wax and oil-based cleaners which is why you should avoid them at all costs. 3 tablespoons of detergent in 1 liter of warm water can also work well as a cleaner.
  • You need to be extra thorough when cleaning the seams and space between your backrest and cushion. These areas tend to hide more dirt and they are the most vulnerable to absorbing leaks and accumulating grime.
  • Be slow on the water and the cleaner to avoid saturating your foam. Using too much water and cleaner may ruin both the leather and the foam below or need more time dry. You can use a hair drier to absorb excess water from your seat in case you happen to leak too much water into the seat making it damp.


  • 2. Pick Out the Rubbish

Before you start cleaning the seats, you have to ensure that large-sized trash such as papers and greasy objects are not in the car. The large visible trash is likely to mess your vacuum or grease your seats if you move them after you start brushing your seats. This is why you need a clean cushion and carpet to give you enough room for cleaning your leather seats all the way to the base. You should also recline the seats to check for bolts and coins that tend to get stuck on the sides or between the backrest and the seat. Once the surface is free of large solid trash, you can now get down to deep cleaning.

  • 3. Check for Holes

Perforated seats require a more careful hand when vacuuming because high pressure can rip the leather apart ruining the seats. Checking for holes also comes in handy while deep cleaning because you are able to avoid saturating perforated areas to keep the foam in good condition. If your seats have holes, it is advisable to avoid spraying water and your cleaning agent, you can instead use your microfiber cloth to apply it gently all over the surface.

  • 4. Vacuum the Seats

Debris is the main cause of scratches and chipping especially while you brush your seats which is why you really want them out of the way before applying any liquids. You need to ensure that your wet and dry vacuum is fitted with a brush head to avoid peeling or scratching your seats. Run the vacuum gently all over the cushion and seams. You should give more attention to the joints at the carpet and the space between your seats and the backrest. When you are sure that all crumbs and pebbles are out of the way, then you are now ready to apply the liquids.

  • 5. Wipe All the Visible Dirt on the Upholstery

You may be tempted to apply the liquid all over the surface after vacuuming but it may not give you enough time to handle all ugly grimy spots and old stains. Some of them may be too resistant to be removed by the gentle action of the cleaner which is why they need this special attention. Use your first microfiber cloth or sponge to apply a soaking portion of the cleaner on the spots then gently brush it off with your soft brush until the original look of your leather seat is restored. You should target hidden joints of the seat because they are the most vulnerable to grime accumulation and greasy spots that you may miss when cleaning regularly.

  • 6. Apply Your Cleaning Solution and Brush Gently

Once your stubborn stains are dealt with, it is now time to apply your cleaning solution all over the seat. The directions on your product will tell you the amount of cleaner to use but if you don’t know, just apply a little solution at each spot to prevent overreaction with your leather. Your sprayer bottles will help you apply the solution uniformly at each point of your seat for perfect results. You can use your second microfiber cloth to apply the cleaner if your seat has holes or scratches that may allow the cleaner to leak onto the foam.

Once the surface is uniformly covered in your cleaner, it is time to brush. Your soft brush helps activate the cleaner and weaken the dirt making it easier to wipe off. It is important to start brushing within a minute of applying the cleaner before it dries onto the seat which makes it harder to activate causing more stains. This is why you should apply on the backrest first and brush then move on to the seat. You should also take caution not to scratch or chip your leather while brushing.

After a thorough cleaning on the surface, you have to wipe off all the dirt and excess cleaner from the seats. You should use your wet and clean microfiber cloth to wipe off all the dirt on the surface. After thoroughly wiping away the cleaner from your seats, you need to check if there are any stubborn stains for which you will need to give another portion of cleaner plus another brushing. If your cleaner is powerful enough, all the dirt on your seat should be absorbed up in the cleaner and wash away when you wipe with your wet cloth or sponge.

Move from seat to seat repeating these steps until all your seats are free from any stains and dirt.  It is also important to recline the seats when brushing to catch all the stubborn grime at the seams and joints. Starting with the headrest allows you to catch all the dirt and wash away any cleaner that may spill onto the seat.

  • 7. Condition the Seats

You are generally done with cleaning your seats and now it is time to ensure that your leather seats remain beefed and shiny. Applying the conditioner needs a very tender touch to prevent leaving a greasy finish on your seats. Use a sponge or another dry microfiber cloth for conditioning. For the conditioner, you only need enough to give a shine without stains on the leather. This is done by massaging the seats gently until all the conditioner on the cloth is absorbed into the leather.

If you haven’t used the conditioner before, you should also test it on an inconspicuous spot on the seat to determine if it is viable. If It leaves a greasy feeling, causes the leather to fade or it seems to tenderize your leather, just drop it for another conditioner. It is safer for the leather to remain without a conditioner than using the wrong one especially wax and oil-based conditioners.

  • 8. Dry the Seats

You are basically done cleaning your leather car seats but proper drying is important for the car. You need to pack your car under shade to dry because direct sunlight causes the leather to weaken and fade quickly. 12 hours of shaded drying is enough to restore the original feel of your leather and allow all the moisture to leave the seats and the foam. Once dry, you can now spray your air freshener for a comfortable feel in your car`s interior.

  • 9. Keep up the Routine

As we mentioned earlier, this process should be done at least 4 times a year to keep your car seats in good shape. If you keep up this routine regularly, your leather seats will be able to last the entire lifetime of your car giving you value for the cost of the car.


Final Note

The interior look of your car is important for both your comfort and its resale value and a leather interior is the best option, even so, if you can keep it new and shiny. Leather is the dream material for many car owners and being expensive, it is very important to ensure that it lasts. Buying a high-quality leather cleaner and a conditioner are the first steps but you really need to take your time to clean and tone the upholstery. These steps will help you keep the original look of your car seats and seat covers for as long as your car lasts which is why they are worth the sacrifice.

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