Your car’s leather seats are a huge part of its aesthetic, comfort, and resale value if you ever decide to get rid of your vehicle. But, cracked or dried leather seats are both unappealing and uncomfortable to sit in. Although new or soft leather is preferable, it can be tricky to maintain leather of that quality, even if you thoroughly clean the leather frequently.
Enter leather conditioner. If you use a leather conditioner product regularly, you’ll be able to preserve the look and feel of your leather car seats for a long time to come.
Let’s break down how to condition leather car seats yourself instead of forking over tons of cash for a car detailing service.
Things You’ll Need
To properly clean and condition your leather seats, you’ll need a few materials and tools. You can’t just use regular car wash soap or regular interior cleaning on your leather seats.
- Leather cleaner
- Leather conditioner
- Microfiber cloths – these cloths are important since they won’t damage your leather material and won’t leave any fibrous strands behind
- A handheld vacuum or shop vac that it’s a hose attachment
You won’t need any water for cleaning your leather seats. In fact, you’ll want to avoid getting your leather seats too wet and letting that moisture sit around. Doing so can lead to your leather cracking or denting over time.
Now that you have the required materials, let’s break down how you can condition your leather car seats without visiting a full detailing service.
Step One – Vacuum Thoroughly
The first step is to get rid of any surface-level dirt and debris that you wouldn’t want to rub into the leather material of your seats. While you can theoretically do this by hand, it’s infinitely easier and faster to use a vacuum.
We’d recommend purchasing a hand vacuum for the purpose of sucking up dirt and debris in your car's interior if you don't already have one. If you have a more industrial-sized shop vac, you can also use that, provided it has a hose that you can use to extend the vacuum into your car’s interior.
Either way, be sure to thoroughly vacuum the leather seats. Use a hose attachment or nozzle to get deep in the crevices and nooks of your seats. This will, again, prevent you from accidentally rubbing dirt and oil into your leather seats and ruining their appearance and durability.
This is also a staple part of any thorough car wash or detailing job.
Step Two – Use Leather Cleaner
After making sure you’ve vacuumed up every bit of dirt you can reach, all that should be left on your leather seats are smears or stains that have accrued over time. To take care of this, you’ll want to use your microfiber cloths and dedicated leather cleaner.
Leather cleaner is basically just a softer soap that’s suitable for leather materials. It’s not too different from regular car soap, but we wouldn’t recommend using the latter since you might damage or strip the leather of its texture or color. It’s also not the same thing as interior cleaner, which is meant to be used for harder interior surfaces.
In lieu of a microfiber cloth, you can also use a very soft bristle brush. This will gently agitate away any stained or smeared areas and should get rid of all the dirt or stains over time. Just be sure not to rub too hard, as this can overly distress the leather and ruin it if you aren’t careful.
Step Three – Wipe Everything Dry
After applying the leather cleaner and rubbing it into your seats, use a new and dry microfiber towel to dry the leather seats and get rid of any excess moisture. It’s okay if the leather seats stay a little damp, but you want to get rid of any puddles or droplets you can visibly see to avoid lasting damage.
Now comes the hard part – waiting! That’s right, you’ll need to wait for about 24 hours for your seats to fully dry. During this time, we wouldn’t recommend driving your car. Because of this, it may be easier to condition your leather seats during a long weekend when you don’t need to go anywhere.
Step Four – Apply Leather Conditioner
After waiting for your leather seats to fully dry, it’s time to apply the conditioner. Leather conditioner is essentially a treatment that can penetrate leather fibers deeply and protect it from damage. It’ll seal away moisture and keep your leather looking new and durable for much longer than if you didn’t condition it. It can also protect your seats from UV damage and from cracking.
Our proprietary formula is actually a two in one product that can clean and condition your leather in a single step. You can use Shine Armor’s Leather Conditioner if you want to skip the 24 hour waiting period described above since one product can clean and condition all in the same step.
Step Five – Wipe Everything Dry
After conditioning the leather, give the seats between four to six hours to fully absorb the treatment. Only after this time frame has passed should you take another dry microfiber cloth and wipe everything down. Again, be sure to get rid of any extra moisture, then let the seats dry themselves.
Since leather conditioner isn’t as wet as regular leather cleaner, your seats should only need about an hour or so to become fully dry, so you should be able to ride in your car’s leather seats on the same day that you condition them.
Things to Avoid
As you can see, conditioning your leather car seats is pretty easy and straightforward. But there are still some things to avoid to ensure you don’t accidentally damage the seats or give yourself a harder time.
- Don’t spray the cleaner or conditioner directly on the leather seats. Instead, spray the solutions onto your microfiber cloths. This is gentler on the leather and prevents you from spraying the solution around your car’s interior, where you’ll have to clean it up later.
- By the same token, don’t soak your microfiber cloths. For most seats, a very small amount of either cleaner or conditioner (or both, if you use our proprietary 2-in-1 formula) is quite enough.
- Don’t let any of these solutions dry on the seats. This can cause moisture damage over time.
- If you decide to use a brush instead of a cloth for the cleaning phase, avoid brushes that have hard bristles. This can damage the leather and cause surface-level scratches you won’t be able to buff out.
You can use the same leather cleaner and conditioner for other leather components or locations in your car, like the dashboard or covers for your consoles. Just follow the same rules and advice above to avoid damaging those leather materials and you’ll be all set!
If done correctly, conditioned leather seats should outlast the car that they sit in! Leather conditioner really does a miraculous job of protecting leather seats and other materials from UV damage, water damage, and from general stress and wear and tear from people sitting in them all day.
We’d recommend cleaning and conditioning your car’s leather seats between every three to six months depending on how many seats you have and how frequently you use the car. If you stick to this regimen, you can almost guarantee that your leather seats will never crack or fade no matter how often they are used.
Give our 2-in-1 leather cleaner and conditioner bottle a try – we think you’ll be more than impressed, especially since it lets you finish cleaning more quickly so you can get back to cruising!