How to Clean Leather Car Seats

How to Clean Leather Car Seats

clean car seatsLeather car seats are a comfortable option for any vehicle. But, in order to keep your leather car seats in excellent condition, you should clean them regularly. Fortunately, cleaning leather isn’t as difficult as some companies might have you believe. The reason that misconception exists is because the companies that make cleaning products want to make more money. 

In this guide, we’ll cover several different methods for cleaning leather seats, using both commercial and household products so you can decide whats best for you.

Click these links to jump to the related section:

Using Commercial Products

Before you try any commercial product, always do a patch test on a small section of the leather to see how it responds. If you notice any color-fading or staining, avoid using that product.

There are many great leather cleaning products on the market, as well as some not-so-good ones. Avoid using silicone, wax, or oil-based products and always apply products sparingly. It doesn’t take much to get a good clean.

Follow these steps for cleaning your leather seats:

  1. Using an upholstery attachment, vacuum the seats to remove any potentially abrasive dust or debris.
  2. Apply the product of your choice following the directions listed on the container.
  3. Wipe the seats with a soft cloth. Use enough water to ensure all of the cleaner is removed, but don’t over saturate the leather.
  4. Let the seats dry naturally.
  5. If you’d like to, follow with a conditioner to give the seats a shiny and smooth appearance. When you apply the conditioner, massage it into the seats using circular motions. Some conditioners even have sunscreen in them to protect against potential damage from the sun.

For a quick clean, you can opt for leather wipes. These are usually sold at auto parts stores. What’s great about these is that they contain both the cleaner and the conditioner. However, don’t rely only on these. They’re primarily for upkeep, not regular cleaning. 

To wipe the seats, you can either use a soft cloth or a leather cleaning brush. Most people avoid leather cleaning brushes because they can be abrasive. They are safe to use on heavier textures because the bristles allow you to get a deep clean.

The key to cleaning your car seats using commercial products is to follow the instructions listed on the product and to use a gentle hand. Leather is easy to clean, but it is also easy to damage. Here are some additional tips to consider:

  • It is best to dilute the product you are using unless the container specifies not to.
  • If your seats are very dirty, clean small sections at a time. Repeat the steps until you achieve the desired results.
  • If you do not clean your car frequently, there may be some sections of the leather that are permanently stained. Do not scrub hard if there are sections that will not become clean.
  • If you are trying to clean the seats of a pre-owned car, make sure that the seats have not been re-dyed.

Using Household Products

To clean leather seats, you don’t even need an arsenal of store-bought products. There are so many household items and do it yourself methods that can do the job just as well. Here are some household items you can use to clean your car seats:

Laundry Detergent

What’s tricky about cleaning the seats of your car is that you may have a harder time reaching some parts of the leather. Laundry detergent is great because it simplifies the cleaning process so you can achieve a deep clean in a short amount of time. Follow these steps if you plan on using laundry detergent to clean your car:

  1. Use a vacuum to remove any crumbs, dust, or debris, that may be left on your seats. Use an upholstery brush attachment to avoid scratching the leather. Remember to target between the cushion and backrest since crumbs tend to collect there.
  2. Fill one spray bottle with water and a teaspoon of detergent. Fill another spray bottle with only warm water.
  3. Spray your seats using the bottle that has detergent in it. Scrub the seats using a soft cloth and then rinse with warm water.
  4. Leave to air-dry.


red car seatsVinegar

Vinegar is a great, homemade leather cleaner that will work wonders on your seats. This do it yourself method has been used for years and it produces great results. Follow these steps to clean your seats using vinegar:

  1. Fill ¾ of a spray bottle with vinegar and fill the rest up with warm water. 
  2. Spray the seat from about 20 cm away.
  3. Gently rub the solution into the seat using a damp cloth.
  4. Spray the seats with warm water to rinse.
  5. Leave to air-dry.

To protect the leather from heat, apply leather conditioner after you’ve cleaned your seats. You should let the seats air-dray for at least 12 hours. Park it in a shady spot to prevent harmful UV rays from damaging the leather.

Clean Regularly

The most important piece of advice about leather seats is to clean them regularly. Since leather is a porous material, it absorbs oil quite easily. This includes the oil on your skin. Because of that, leather seats can quickly become dirty.

Set aside some time every few months to clean them so they can always look brand new. If you spill something, clean it immediately to avoid staining. 

Some people wrongly assume that leather seats are difficult to take care of when that isn’t the case. While it may seem like a lot of maintenance, it’s more about avoiding the wrong habits and preventing damage.

A gentle clean with some vinegar and warm water is sufficient enough to give you the clean you’re looking for. It’s all about making a routine of it and not neglecting to give your seats the proper attention.

We hope you found this review helpful, and we encourage you to check out some of our other organization guides.

How to Keep Your Car Clean

If you frequently have children in your vehicle, there are some precautionary steps you can take to lower the amount of clean up needed.

  1. Make sure the child is using the correct care seat. (infographic)
  2. Before buckling their car seat into your vehicle, place a high quality car seat protector under it to guard your seat's material from harm. We sell some waterproof protectors online. (link below)
  3. As soon as you've safely arrived somewhere, check to see if the child has spilled anything on the protector. If so, unbuckle the car seat and do a quick clean of the seat protector. That will ensure nothing builds up and makes the cleaning job hard later.

Here you can see all the features of our Protector for car seats and our container for Car garbage. As an added benefit, many customers love this car organizer used on the Middle car seat.


Back to blog