How to Clean Car Seats Like A Pro: Advice for Cloth, Leather, and Vinyl

Chloe Murphy 5 minutes Published: 26/08/2021

Whether it’s kids, friends, or pets that you’re constantly carting about, there’s no easy way to keep your seats looking pristine. When we eat and drink on the go, it’s inevitable that things get spilled and splashed on the seats eventually.

Even for the most clean conscious car owners, it can be difficult to avoid the accumulation of dirt over time. 

But taking your car to be cleaned professionally is time consuming, and can feel like a wad of cash wasted on something you could do yourself. So if you’re keen to get started on how to clean car interiors easily and for less, just follow our DIY guide.   

If you want to skip right to the details for your specific interior, head on over to one of these more detailed posts:

What household items can be used to clean car seats?

If your interior cleaning hasn’t been quite up to scratch, the first thing you’re likely to do is search up the best products for cleaning. But in the majority of cases, there’s no need for expensive upholstery cleaners. 

There’s a whole host of items just sitting in your cupboard that you can use to clean your car. Did you know you can use these household products:

  • Baking soda - For tough stains, mix a small amount of baking soda with a few drops of water and dish soap to create a cleaning paste. Dab the solution onto your stain, leave for a few minutes, then carefully scrub off with a brush. You can even use a toothbrush for smaller stains.
  • Vinegar - To create another homemade cleaning solution, mix one cup of vinegar with two cups of water, adding a dash of your favourite essential oil scent. For easy application, pour into a spray bottle.
  • Shaving foam - Apply shaving foam directly onto the seats or stains, leave to settle, then blot until your stain has lifted.
  • Cornflour - If unpleasant odours are lingering even after you’ve cleaned your seats, cornflour can be a great natural solution. Just sprinkle a light coat over your seats and floor mats an hour or so before vacuuming. 

As with all cleaning products, remember to test your solution on a small area first. This can save you the heartache of using a solution all over just to realise your interior’s material reacts badly. 

What do professionals clean car upholstery with?

If you’re sitting at home wondering whether you really need a professional to tell you how to wash a car, the answer is probably not. 

It might seem nice to have your car whisked off and returned all shiny, but it can cost between £100-200 to get a full detail car wash. With this in mind, why not just use what the professionals do?

Some of the most popular products among professionals include:

Simoniz Upholstery & Carpet Cleaner 

With a 4.3 Amazon rating and over 2000 reviews, you can’t go wrong with this upholstery cleaner with built in brush. Plus, you can get it for as cheap as £5!

Meguiar’s Carpet & Interior Cleaner 

A little more expensive at around £12, Meguiar’s product claims to have odour eliminating technology alongside it’s cleaning powers. In their review of the product, AutoExpress confirmed that “the ‘professional’ claims are justified”.

Regardless of whether you use a homemade or shop bought product, it’s always smart to check what the best products to use on your particular interior are (using our handy guides of course). You can otherwise proceed yourself, and get started on reviving your car interior.

How can you clean really dirty car seats?

In an ideal world we’d all have car cleaning on our car maintenance checklist, cleaning our car interiors about once a month. But in reality, it sometimes takes countless groceries to be mushed into the upholstery before a deep clean really gets considered. 

If you’re not keen to use car seat covers, the best way to avoid especially dirty seats is regular cleaning. But we won’t pretend we’ve never promised to do it another day too. Luckily, there are a bunch of easy methods to get your car’s interior back in great shape.

Whether you have cloth, vinyl or leather car seats, here’s our top tips for deep cleaning:

  1. Vacuum your car - It seems like a simple step, but emptying out your car and using a vacuum cleaner can really speed up your cleaning process. You’ll be able to get into crevices and remove any pet hair, grime and loose dirt that could pile into your cleaning product.
  2. Use warm water - Particularly for vinyl and leather, you want to be using water that’s just warm enough to clean. Boiling or hot water could cause additional damage or wear, which you definitely don’t want when you’re trying to improve things!
  3. Get a Microfibre cloth - Cleaning cloths like this Halfords Microfibre Interior Cloth can be used for all surfaces inside your car, and even has a mesh pocket for stubborn stains. Most are lint free so you can use on cloth interiors without worrying about trying to pick off the fibres later. 
  4. Use water in moderation - If your interior is in a poor state, it can be tempting just to chuck a bucket of soapy water over it all. But using too much water is one of the fastest ways to wreck your interior. You’ll likely end up with water stains, and it could take weeks waiting for your car to air dry out. Instead, have some warm water handy for a damp cloth.
  5. Consider your material - You may want to use slightly different methods and products based on the material of your interior. For example, you’d likely use a more soft-bristled brush that’s less abrasive to clean leather car seats than you would to clean cloth car seats. You may also opt to use a specific car upholstery cleaner like cloth, vinyl or leather cleaner.

Cleaning your car seats involves a little elbow grease, but when you know how to do it properly, the results are spectacular.

If you're ready to get stuck in, we've written a more in-depth guide on how to clean the specific types of car seats below, including cloth, leather, and vinyl.

And while you've got the momentum to get your car looking squeaky clean, we've gathered some excellent car maintenance tips from experts, as well as some top car maintenance apps you should consider downloading to keep you right!