Your car might look like a dream on the outside. It might have a fully waxed exterior, or a durable ceramic coating that improves its shine and makes the paint really pop. But as soon as you open the door, you’re reminded of the shoddy status of your car’s interior. Maybe there are stains on the car seats or on the floors.
Either way, you remind yourself, again, that you really ought to clean those seats sometime. It’s a bit uncomfortable, to say the least, to sit in a dried puddle of oil dirt and grease, and it can even ruin certain pants.
The good news is that cleaning your car seats is pretty easy, especially if you have a great cleaning solution. You don’t have to take your car to a detailing shop to make your seats look brand-new.
Let’s break down how to clean car seats no matter their material.
General Cleaning Tips
For starters, there are a few general cleaning tips you can use no matter the material on your seats. For instance, it’s a great idea to have a shop-vac or at least a small, hand-held car vacuum cleaner that will let you suck up any loose dirt and debris in your seats. It does you no good whatsoever to rub dirt into your seats by scrubbing.
That being said, you should still scrub most seat surfaces after doing a thorough vacuuming job. This will help you clean away stains and other dirt that might have already been smeared in over time.
If you ever spill something on your car seats, don’t wait forever to begin the cleaning process. Stains become tougher to buff out the longer they’re allowed to soak into any type of material, even vinyl. However, even stains made by fluids or foods that are notorious for being difficult to scrub out (like juice from your kids’ not-so-secure cups) can be removed with a little elbow grease and the right cleaning solution.
Lastly, if you find that your seats become dirty all the time, you might consider using seat covers. These are plastic. cloth, or vinyl covers that go over your regular seats and act as barriers against spills or regular dirt. When they become too dirty, cleaning them is a lot easier than scrubbing out a stain.
But this does change the look and feel of your car’s interior, so it’s not the perfect solution for everyone. In fact, seat covers are best used if you have kids that are more likely to spill stuff than adults.
Let’s break down the ideal cleaning procedure for different car seat types.
Cleaning Cloth Car Seats
Cloth seats are vulnerable to having dirt, juice, food, and just about any other type of debris rubbed into their fabric over time. This can create nasty stains or terrible smells that stick with your car for a long time. So we’ll focus on getting rid of stains in this breakdown.
There are two types of cloth car seats: ones made with nylon material and others made with polyester.
Nylon is the most common since it’s fairly durable, but the downside is that the nylon material soaks up spills really quickly. This may necessitate multiple washing sessions before you really get rid of any stains.
Polyester fabric (usually microfiber or microsuede) feels great to the touch but is a little tougher to clean. It’s also a bit more fragile to over washing, so be sure to use a similarly soft cloth, like one made of microfiber, to avoid scrubbing away the fabric and damaging the look of your vehicle.
First, be sure to vacuum your cloth car seats. You can get rid of pet hair and larger dust in this way. Most car vacuum cleaners will come with a crevice tool that can help you reach between your seats or behind them. Others will include upholstery brushes that will lift the fibers of the fabric for a deeper vacuuming job.
Next, it’s time to pretreat the stains. Most stains work fine with some upholstery cleaner – you can use a typical scrub brush to work the cleaner into the stain. Let it soak for about 15 minutes, then try to wipe away the stain with another fresh rag or cloth.
You may need to mix the cleaning solution with warm water depending on the exact product. Spray bottles are the way to go, as they prevent you from totally soaking the interior of your seat but will help the cleaning product along.
Be sure to use a microfiber cloth to wipe away any extra moisture that stays behind after scrubbing out the stains you can remove. If your cloth car seats are still dirty, don’t panic – sometimes, it takes multiple attempts with upholstery cleaner and warm water to thoroughly remove the stain, especially an old one.
Regardless, be sure to let your seats dry before using your car again. This can take up to two or three hours – open the windows if it’s a nice day to accelerate this process.
Cleaning Leather Car Seats
Leather car seats require a slightly different process since you can’t use the same type of cleaner.
Shine Armor’s Leather Cleaner and Conditioner is a particularly good choice since it lets you clean and condition your leather in the same step. This means you'll spend less time cleaning your car and more time enjoying it! It’s safe for any type of leather and a single treatment will condition your leather for about six months. This can prolong the life of your car’s seats and keep the leather from becoming damaged or moistened over time.
Here are the steps!
Once you select a good leather car cleaning treatment, use a soft and damp cloth to work the cleaner or conditioner into the leather material. After letting it sit for a few minutes, you can rinse the leather with another damp cloth. Make sure that the second cloth is clean so it absorbs the cleaning and conditioning material.
Dry and Condition
Next, buff the leather dry with another, dry microfiber cloth. Don’t let leather dry on its own, as this could weaken the leather material. If you don’t use the above 2-in-1 conditioner and cleaner, be sure to use a separate conditioner product. This will make it a lot easier to remove any future stains and prolong the life of your leather.
What about if your leather seats are old and have a lot of perforations, or small holes? In this case, use as little liquid as possible to prevent damage to the leather’s inner materials.
Cleaning Vinyl Car Seats
Vinyl car seats are arguably the easiest type to clean. You can use most all-purpose cleaners over vinyl material without damaging it. Use a microfiber cloth and scrub away any stains or dirt after thoroughly vacuuming the area. Then use a dry cloth to wipe away any excess moisture, or let the vinyl car seats dry by themselves.
Shine Armor’s Interior Cleaner can be used to this effect. Plus, it’s perfect for dealing with dirt anywhere else on the inside of your vehicle, too!
At the end of the day, cleaning car seats is a little time consuming and requires you to use a few tools, including a vacuum cleaner and a few microfiber cloths. But if you use a bit of elbow grease, you can make your car seats look like new and avoid any embarrassment when you pick up your date in your freshly waxed ride. No one wants to sit in a seat with an obvious stain.
Remember to consider Shine Armor's Leather Cleaner if you have leather seats, and check out the rest of our products to help you keep your car in tip-top condition while still having money leftover for new car parts!