Tips and tricks on how to clean your leather car seats

No one likes having dirty and stained car seats. Here are some tips and tricks to help you keep your leather car seats looking brand new.

Leather seats provide a touch of luxury for your car, and you will want to maintain them so that their richness can last for the life of the vehicle. A regular cleaning regimen will ensure that they remain stain-free, with the leather receiving the nutrients that it requires to remain soft, supple, and with all the original coloration.

How often should you clean your seats?

There are several factors that impact the overall cleanliness of your seats and how often you should clean them. If you live in a hot climate, your perspiration will cause body oils to seep into the seating surfaces on a daily basis and you’ll need to clean them more often. If you use your vehicle for work, there is the constant transfer of work-related dirt and grime to the vehicle, including the seats, and if you have kids, it is just a matter of time before they do some redecorating in their part of the car.

All the oils, greases, and other liquids that adhere to your seats attract more dirt, and pretty soon you have layers of filth accumulating on all the seating surfaces, so it’s a good idea to clean them regularly. Schedule a one-per-year cleaning, but if you can see dirt or grime accumulating before then, it’s not a bad idea to perform a preemptive cleaning and avoid more damage to the material.

How to Clean Leather Car Seats: Vacuum, spray, scrub, protect

Leather is a great material for car seats because they see a lot of abuse, and leather is a naturally resilient material. Plus, most leather seats in cars today have a coating that lengthens their lifespan and makes cleanups easier. Most spills can be addressed immediately and wiped clean, to avoid setting a stain, and it pays to keep a spray bottle of leather detailer in your trunk for those cases.

When it’s time to do a comprehensive cleaning of the seats, follow these steps to get the best cleaning and protection for your seats.

1. Vacuum

The first step is to remove all the loose debris from your seats, backrests, and even areas like the center console, which is usually leather surfaced. Use a vacuum with a fine tip to get into all the cracks, depressing the folds in the upholstery to release any stubborn particles. You can even use a small brush, or even a toothbrush, to agitate the material and release all the little stuff for your vacuum to suck up. If you have access to an air compressor, you can use it to blow those microscopic Cheerios pieces from the hard-to-reach places, too.

2. Spray

Once you’ve removed all the loose debris, it’s time to get at the grime that is left behind and you will use a leather cleaner for that. Start by spraying the entire surface that you intend to clean with your leather cleaner. Allow it so sit for a moment, before wiping it off with a clean microfiber cloth. Microfiber cloths work great for this application because the tiny fibers trap the dirt, oil, and grime in the cloth, but be aware that you don’t want to reuse a dirty microfiber cloth to polish something that is shiny because all the dirt in the cloth can scratch a smooth surface.

3. Scrub

If you find that there are stubborn stains, you may need to work the leather cleaner into the material with a brush before removing it with your microfiber cloth. Allow the spray to break down the soil for a minute before getting to work on it.

4. Protect

The final step in caring for your leather seats is protection. You’ll want to use a leather conditioner that protects without leaving a greasy feel or residue, and you definitely want the product to have UV protection, to block out harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Spray the entire surface of the seat with leather conditioner and work it in with a soft brush, or if the product is not in a spray format, use a brush to apply it. Let it soak for a while so that the leather can absorb the nutrients from the conditioner and then buff it out with a microfiber cloth before it dries. You’ll see a big difference in the sheen of the material once you have completed this part of the process.

What products work best for leather car seats?

A quick internet search will unearth several different possible homemade leather cleaning mixtures, and you can try those to see how they work. If you want to use a laboratory-tested and reviewed product, there are many great lines of leather cleaner and conditioner, from a variety of trusted brands, available at AutoZone. Here are some standouts:

AutoZone also has many other leather cleaning and conditioning products available, if these do not suit your application. The important thing is to take the time to clean and protect your car leather, so that it lasts over the long haul.

How to protect your cloth car seats

Use the same steps to clean your cloth seats but use an automotive upholstery cleaner spray or foam and consider using a wet or dry vacuum to suck out all the residue, for a deep clean that you won’t get just by rubbing out the cleaner. For all your seat cleaning needs, remember the following process:

  • Vacuum all the loose junk out of the seats
  • Spray or apply seat cleaner with a brush
  • Scrub the cleaner into the seat material to agitate all the dirt and grime out of the seat
  • Wipe the seat clean with a microfiber cloth, or use a wet-dry vacuum on cloth seats
  • Protect the seat with a high-quality leather conditioner, or fabric protector for cloth seats

Regardless of what your seat an upholstery material is, you can buy AutoZone leather cleaner or other cleaning products to keep your car looking and smelling fresh and clean.

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