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How to Clean Leather Car Seats

Published by Mark Peter on November 04, 2019

We’ve been told countless times that what counts is what’s on the inside, but that takes a whole new angle when it comes to automobiles, specifically car detailing.

I can’t count the times that I see a great-looking car. Shiny, clean, as if it was driven out of the agency…

Then I get in and the spell breaks, the fantasy crumbles, as those potato chips crumbled and no one had the decency to clean it out.

Am I here to raise awareness?


I’m here to URGE people to learn about interior car detailing.

So I’ll share my A-Z guide to keep car interiors as clean as a whistle.

Not to brag about it, but I’m certainly the most capable person I know to talk about this topic...

As a professional car detailer, a clean-freak and a disappointed woman, I know what I’m talking about.

I roll my eyes every time someone comes into the workshop and requests just exterior detailing to save a couple of bucks. But that’s ok, at least I’ll try to give you the tools today so you can do it at home.

And yes, that may cost me some clients, but at the same time, it saves me the nausea every time I get into a car that’s not mine.

If you’re interested in how to detail your car, you’re in the right place.

Alright, so let’s start this interior detailing journey with the basics…

  • What Is Car Detailing?
  • How is it different from a carwash?
  • Is cleaning the rug with a vacuum cleaner, car detailing?

Oh, man…

To begin with, I do have to make the big distinction between exterior detailing and interior detailing.

Exterior detailing takes care of the external components of the vehicle, mainly the body of the car, specifically its paintwork.

It also takes care of tires, windshield and windows, the grill, headlights, etc.

I have met a lot of people that think of detailing as an exterior affair ONLY and think that by simply vacuuming the inside, they’re good to go.

But there’s certainly way more than that, and that’s what auto interior detailing takes care of.

Also, it is very important to mention that interior detailing can even get to be a health matter.

Humidity and organic waste (I know it sounds like some sci-fi thing, but I’m still talking about those chip crumbles that have been there since 2008) are a focus of infection.

Mold easily develops in these environments, which can cause respiratory problems in the long-run1.

So it’s not just me being picky, it is a real health hazard.

That being said, let’s get started…

And you want to read this whole thing because I’m revealing to you my secret weapon for leather seat cleaning.

Now, before we get started… let’s say you really have no time or simply you don’t have the patience for interior detailing.

For that, there are professionals like me who will fully take care of your car while you relax, then you come back and you’re vehicle is good to go.

Now, you might be wondering…

How Much Does Car Detailing Cost?

That really depends.

If a detailer quotes you a specific price before they check on the condition of your vehicle, hang up the phone and block the number…

Yes, they can quote you an average based on your car size, but there are really multiple things to take into consideration.

For starters, I charge 5 extra dollars for every potato chip crumble I find…

I actually don’t, but as you might’ve deduced by now, I really have some trouble with food crumbles.

We especially check on the current state the car comes in. If we periodically detail that same car, it doesn’t have that much time to accumulate dirt, therefore it is way easier for us to clean.

Also, packages are usually the way to go. Hiring the same workshop for both exterior and interior detailing will save you some bucks.

We also provide with different “levels” of detailing, and we charge for extra services such as steaming.

You have to take into consideration as well, auto detailing tools, the location, size, demand, and experience of the detailing workshop you’re hiring.

Tenure costs money, and so does rent and bills, and that will be for sure added to the final price.

Having this cleared out, you might imagine that pricing might vary severely taking into consideration all of these factors.

But I know you’re here for a number and a number is what I’m giving you.

I would say for a basic service, you should expect to pay about 75 USD.

If your vehicle is really dirty, you will have to fork out an extra 50 USD approximately.

Steaming is a very effective, but kind of expensive procedure.

Expect to pay around 150 USD if your service includes steaming. Also, expect your car to be almost as sterile and clean as if there was surgery to be performed in the back seat2. Highly suggested.

Now, if you are considering to get full interior and exterior detailing, maybe about 300 to 400 USD for the entire service.

This, I’m quoting you for a mid-size standard car. If you have an SUV, I would say an extra 30% to what I mentioned earlier.

Now, this question I’ve been asked like 3 or 4 times among my years of experience as a detailer...

But there are people kind enough to ask:

How Much to Tip a Car Detailer?

First of all, our salaries are usually enough, this is not a minimum wage job like your typical waiter or fast-food employee.

(No offense).

A tip is not really mandatory, it is not even expected on most occasions.

But, if you’re feeling like it and you truly feel your detailer went above and beyond…

The golden rule of restaurants never fails, 10-15% will be perfectly fine. It can be more though, I personally wouldn’t complain.

I know, I know…

Detailing is not cheap, and although tipping is not a must, the service itself is already pretty pricey.

Take into consideration the hours that we spend inside your vehicle, the expensive equipment we own, the bills, rent, training, years of experience, etc., etc, etc.

Yet again, if you feel brave and patient enough, you can get pro-results at home. Just keep in mind you will spend several hours inside your garage.

You’ve been warned. Now, let’s start to discuss what do you need to purchase in order to get started in this DIY experience:

What Do You Need to Detail A Car?

Grab a pen and paper…

Or bookmark this article…

Or copy-paste this in a document…

You know what I mean.

So here’s the list of car detailing tools I highly suggest to get handy before even getting started:

  1. A screwdriver or anything “stick-like”, with a rag over the tip. A rubber band will be useful to keep it attached. Of course, we have more “professional” gadgets at the workshop, but here between us, they do the same.
  2. Swabs. It’s not called “detailing” for a reason. Attention to detail is key, and your car has more nooks and crannies than you will ever expect. There are certain places nothing else would reach besides a good old swab.
  3. A hand vacuum cleaner. That’s a must! If you’re not willing to invest in one of this you better pay someone to do it. If you already have a normal vacuum cleaner, you will get the job done but it is certainly very impractical.
  4. Detailing brushes. You MUST buy a professional set of detailing brushes. Just kidding, the ones at the local art supply store work just as well, so go for whichever is cheaper, they do the same.
  5. Microfiber cloths. Plenty of them. Loads and loads. You can use them for both interior and exterior detailing, they always come in handy.
  6. Compressed air can. Again, really useful to get rid of the dust where it’s hard to reach or you can’t even see it.
  7. Bucket, sponge, water, soap…. that kind of stuff. High foaming soap for rugs is an investment I do recommend to make.

Give or take, those items will be enough for you to get a complete interior detailing experience.

Now that the checklist is complete, let’s get our hands into it:

How Do I Detail the Interior of My Car?

First, you want to take all the major visible dirt off.

Any big particles will be absorbed by your hand vacuum cleaner. For all of the small crevasses in the dashboard, the air conditioner vents, etc., use your cloth-screwdriver high-tech gadget and your brushes.

For the smallest places, use the swabs.

Go back into al small areas and blow some pressured air with the compressed air can to make sure no dust remains.

Now, time to wash.

Try not to soak the rugs and seats too much, or they will take forever to dry.

Once they’re damp, use the special shampoo to clean everything. Sponge or microfiber towels work perfectly fine, but microfiber holds way fewer bacteria3.

Let dry. If you have some spare microfiber towels you can help the drying process with them.

Now, 2 car detailing tips:

  • If you happen to own one of those steam irons at home, you can use that as the last step for cleaning.
  • For crystals, clean like you would a window and then rub with just a damp microfiber towel to make sure no soap residues remain.

Now, if you’re willing to take the big step and open the hood to clean what’s in there, you’re free to do so.

But you’ve been warned.

Dirt and grime in there can be way more stubborn than you think, which is something you have to take into consideration before even opening the hood.

I highly suggest getting a professional detailer to take care of this part, it is not even needed to do this that often.

Hiring someone for machinery detailing every 6 months to a year is good enough.

Now, there are plenty of tutorials online on how to get rid of specific types of dirt, oxidation, mineral deposits, etc.

I can’t really get into detail about that, since it would take me forever, but if you’re sure of what you’re doing, browse YouTube for some help.

Now, I do highly suggest to take your scraper to get rid of any sort of accumulation that’s not THAT difficult to take out or hasn't really incrusted into the metallic components. This you can do periodically yourself without professional help.

If you want the real scoop of what I do as a professional detailer, let me tell you about the products that I use:

What are the Best Car Detailing Products?

I have to be very honest with you about this topic. I firmly believe this is way more about the human hand behind it than the product.

I usually go for Maguire's for most of my work, it certainly gets the job done and we as a professional detailing workshop get special deals from them, so it is a win-win for us.

But I certainly don’t find most products as “Holy-grails”, they do a good job and that’s it.

Go for the brand that seems best, don’t be scared to buy an affordable product (affordable, not cheap).

Now, I do have one product I swear by, remember I told you about.

At the very beginning of this article, I promised you to teach you about how to clean leather car seats?

VERY simple, my go-to product is Shine Armor´s Leather Cleaner and Conditioner.

Why Shine Armor’s Leather Cleaner and Conditioner?

People are quickly leaving their old product for Shine Armor’s Leather Cleaner and Conditioner as soon as they get to see how this game-changer improves their car detailing experience.

Once you go Shine, there’s no going back!

And we’re sure that soon you’ll join the complete leather care experience this product delivers...

Shine Armor Leather Cleaner and Conditioner will single-handedly clean, protect and bring the shine of your car’s leather to make it look brand new without spending the amount of time and money you would if you do it with another process

It’s very simple and easy to apply and long-lasting.

Its powerful pH-balanced formula contained provides a 2 in 1 solution to both clean and condition your car’s leather entirely, ensuring a longer lifespan for it and having your car looking its best.

Shine Armor’s Leather Cleaner and Conditioners qualities are:

  • A cost-efficient 2 in 1 formula.
  • It’s safe for cars, interiors, furniture, and accessories.
  • One treatment lasts 6 months.
  • It greatly prolongs the life of leather.
  • It’s PH balanced to ensure the best results.

What’s there to think about?