Most of us have been there – we're driving along and suddenly our kid drops their grape juice on the seat, leaving a nasty stain that is sure to be a pain to get out. Or maybe we're the ones sipping our coffee and, as we go to take a sip, we suddenly have to stop because someone cuts us off at the intersection. The coffee goes everywhere, and the seat next to us is ruined.
Talk about annoying! But although car seat stains can seem to be impossible to remove, they're really not. You also don't have to fork over hundreds of dollars to get your car professionally detailed just to get your car seats looking like new.
Let’s break down how to remove stains from car seats no matter what material they are made of. The first outline of steps will deal with cloth or vinyl car seats instead of leather seats, which require a special treatment.
Step One – Vacuum
The first step to removing any stain from any car seat is to vacuum the area thoroughly. This just makes sense – you don’t want to rub any dirt or debris further into your seat’s material. Use a handheld vacuum that you can also use for vacuuming the other nooks and crannies inside your car, or use a larger vacuum that has a hose attachment. Either way, we’d recommend some kind of vacuum that has a nozzle or nose that makes it easy to dig deep into a carpet’s fibers or material.
Step Two – Apply Car Seat Cleaner
The next step is to apply a dedicated car seat cleaner. This isn't quite the same thing as a regular interior car cleaner spray, as it's usually formulated closer to laundry detergent or similar since it’s designed to remove stains from fabric. We have a great version of this that does wonders on harder interior materials – give it a try for all your other car interior cleaning needs.
Car seat cleaner is a type of soap specifically formulated for cloth or vinyl like the kind that is used for typical car seats.
When applying the car seat cleaner, be sure not to spray or soak the seat with a solution directly.
Instead, we’d recommend using microfiber cloths (very soft cloths that won’t leave fiber strands behind when you scrub with them) to get rid of any stains on your car seats. Our cloths are a particularly good choice and come in a pack of 10 for your convenience.
Spray the car seat cleaner directly onto the microfiber cloth, then start scrubbing.
As you scrub, go in small and concentric circles. This will ensure that you don't miss any stained material and don't waste the cleaning solution. Feel free to use a little elbow grease as you won't be able to damage your car seat material with regular car seat cleaner.
Step Three – Alternative Cleaning Solutions
If you don’t have car seat cleaner, or if you’re just interested in solutions based on natural products or household ingredients, you’re in luck. There are a few different formulas you can make right in your kitchen that are excellent for getting rid of all kinds of stains in your car seats and other types of fabric.
- As we said, regular car seat cleaner is pretty similar to laundry detergent. So, you can use the laundry detergent you have in your laundry room for the same purpose. The important thing to keep in mind is that you need to dilute the laundry detergent so it doesn’t wear away the color of your car seats. Mix a very small amount of detergent with warm water and dampen your microfiber cloth before scrubbing away at the stain on your car seat.
- You can also make a solution from vinegar and water. Vinegar is quite acidic so it should scrub away any stains or contaminants without too much issue. The solution should be half vinegar and half water. Use a spray bottle and apply the solution to your microfiber cloth, then start scrubbing away.
- Lastly, you can make a baking soda solution. Mix about one-fourth of a cup of baking soda with 1 cup of warm water, then stir thoroughly. Take this solution and scrub the stain with a toothbrush or another brush with relatively stiff bristles.
For any of these solutions, you can also let them soak into the car seat material if the stain gives you trouble. This will make the stain easier to scrub away in about 15 minutes.
Step Four – Dry the Seats
The last step is to thoroughly dry the seats. You don’t want to leave the material beneath your seats wet or soaked, so take a fresh microfiber cloth and pat the seat thoroughly to soak up as much moisture as possible.
Leather Car Seat Stain Removal
If you have leather seats, the process is largely similar. But you shouldn’t use any of the natural home products described above.
Instead, get a dedicated leather cleaner and stain removal solution. Shine Armor has a great version of this product. Unlike many others you can find, it doubles as a leather conditioner. This essentially protects the leather from further damage and dirtiness and will ensure that your leather seats last for a long time to come. Give it a try and tell us what you think!
Either way, dab the leather cleaner solution onto a microfiber cloth and pat the stain gently a few times to let the solution soak into the leather material. Then wait between 15 and 20 minutes so the leather cleaner can go to work on the stain.
Afterward, take a microfiber cloth or a bristle brush and start scrubbing. If you decide to use a bristle brush, don’t use a brush with bristles that are too stiff. This can damage the leather material and cause premature cracking. You can alternatively use something like a toothbrush, which allows you to put significant force on a concentrated area without damaging the leather so long as the toothbrush bristles are relatively soft.
Once scrubbing out the stains to the best of your ability, be sure to thoroughly dry the leather. This involves using a fresh microfiber cloth and dabbing the spot dry as best you can. Depending on the size of the stain, you might want to let the leather seat dry through air exposure for a few hours before sitting in it again.
What About Home Formulas?
In a pinch, the vinegar/water solution above can work. But be sure that you don’t put too much vinegar in the solution since that can wear down the leather over time and weaken it due to UV damage or from stress from general wear and tear. Even if you use a leather conditioner, you don’t want to go overboard.
Leather looks great, but only if you take care of it.
Ultimately, removing a stain from a car seat is far from an impossible task and it’s something you can probably accomplish with less effort than you realize. This is especially true for those who have cloth or vinyl seats, as many household items can create an effective stain removing solution you can start scrubbing at right away.
If you find yourself constantly having to scrub away stains, consider getting a seat protector or treating your leather seats with our Leather Conditioner. Again, the conditioner can protect your leather seats from further damage and dirtiness, and keep your seats looking great for literally years to come.
Either way, thanks for reading and good luck clearing away those stains!