Easy and Cheap Ways to Clean Cloth Car Seats

Chloe Murphy 5 minutes Published: 26/08/2021

Of all the car interiors, cloth typically takes the top spot for least forgiving. Those lucky enough to have dark coloured fabric might get away with the odd spill here and there, but you can otherwise be left with a pretty grimy looking car. 

Most garages will offer full detail cleans, but having your car professionally cleaned can get expensive when you need it done regularly. Fortunately, you can do it yourself for just a fraction of the cost. 

Whether you want to save cash or just try out some DIY, our guides on how to clean car seats can help you out. First up, we’re going over all the dos and don’ts of cleaning cloth interiors to get your car looking like you went professional! (See our posts on how to clean leather car seats or how to clean vinyl car seats if you're in the wrong place!)

Can you wash car seat fabric?

Even if you’re not regularly taking long trips in the car, it’s easy to accumulate dirt, sweat and grease from your regular journeys. Whether it’s yoghurt, juice or your takeaway coffee that’s stained your seats, a buildup of stains and spills make for a pretty unpleasant interior, and can bring about unpleasant odours.  

Luckily, you really don’t need a professional to work out how to clean your car interior. Most cloth car seat fabrics are easy enough to wash, and there are a number of methods you can try for even the stubbornest of stains. 

How do you get stains out of cloth car seats?

The first thing to do before getting down to the nitty gritty cleaning is to give your car a good tidy, and vacuum up loose dirt. If you have any dirt or mud stains, wait for them to dry then gently scrape or brush off any excess

It’s a good idea to then check how thoroughly your seats need cleaning. If your seats are in good condition other than a small stain or two, you could be fine to quickly spot treat the individual areas. If there’s an overall decline in condition, you’ll likely have to spend a little longer.

For set stains, there’s various products you can choose from to get your seats back looking spick and span. Though there’s a number of cleaners on the market, you can make your own cleaning solution and treat stains in just a few steps: 

  1. Mix some warm water with a small cap of laundry detergent or washing up powder. 
  2. Dab the solution on.
  3. Using a cloth, blot or gently wipe until the stain has lifted. 
  4. For extra stubborn stains, use a soft brush or toothbrush.

For bigger stains, an empty bottle can come in handy, as you can use this to spray the solution over larger areas. You may want to use a larger brush, but we’d recommend applying pressure gradually to avoid any unnecessary wear. 

Whether you’re treating a small or large stain, or just sprucing up your seats, be wary of using too much water. This can actually be counterproductive and wear away the fabric. You also risk ending up with a damp car for days or weeks.

What is the best cleaner for fabric car seats?

If you’ve searched for cleaning solutions for your car before, you have likely come across the hundreds of different solutions offered online. But whether you’re a cleaning novice or aficionado, there’s no need to run off and buy expensive cleaners. 

Homemade Car Seat Cleaners

Homemade solutions are typically the most tried and tested, so we’ve rounded up some of the most popular. You can try:

  • Baking soda paste - For extra tough stains, mix a small amount of baking soda with a few drops of water. Apply the paste, leave for a few minutes, and then gently scrub off with a brush.
  • Vinegar Solution - Mix one cup of vinegar with two cups of water and apply to the seats through a spray. You can lighten the scent by adding a few drops of your favourite essential oil scent.
  • Shaving foam - Apply shaving foam directly onto the seats or stains, leave to settle, then gently blot or wipe till the stain has gone.

Shop Bought Car Seat Cleaners

Not convinced by homemade suggestions? For the car cleaning enthusiasts out there, you can get a mini carpet cleaner to easily access all areas of your interior. This will probably give your seats the most thorough clean, and can be worth the investment if you’ve got light fabric that needs cleaned regularly.

If you’re just looking for something you won’t have to mix up yourself, you can also use items you might find in your cupboard. Vanish offers a great method using some of their foam products. Just shake the can and spray over your seats, work in using a brush or sponge, leave to dry, and then vacuum the fabric.

Regardless of the solution you’re looking to try out, we always recommend testing in an unnoticeable area first. Though you might not see whether it’s going to lift your stain, you can check whether it has any adverse effect on your car seat material. 

How do you make cloth car seats look new?

The best way to get your car seats looking brand new is to keep up frequent cleaning, and avoid significant wear in the first place. Having wipes handy can help stop stains in their tracks, and quickly blot up any liquid spills. Including cleaning in your regular car maintenance checklist can also reduce the effort you’ll have to put in in the long run. 

If you know from the get go that you’re going to struggle keeping your interior clean, you can invest in car seat protectors. Though they might not be in keeping with the look you hoped for, they can prevent lasting wear from mucky dogs and kids.

For advice on how to wash a car or clean other car interiors, check out our posts on how to clean leather car seats, and how to clean vinyl car seats.