Just like the rest of your car’s enhancements, such as chrome exhausts, spotters, and custom suspensions set-ups, your car’s leather seats are important add-ons that enhance your auto’s integrity. Since your car is your home on wheels, your leather car seats can easily get stained by pet litter, spills, and leaks caused by kids. Now, if you’re a busy office worker in a professional setting, learning how to clean leather car seats is quite inevitable as it can save you from embarrassment in case your colleagues ask for a ride.
Now, we all know that leather car seats are luxurious add-ons that help to enhance the appearance of your car. Though beautiful, the main challenge creeps in when it comes to cleaning and maintaining their lasting beauty without causing any damage. Thankfully, in a bid to find the solution, we’ve consulted expert detailers with years of combined experience to create this ultimate guide. In this guide, we’ll not only discuss how to clean your car’s leather seats but also how to maintain and condition them.
How to Clean Leather Car Seats: DIY Guide
First, Let’s Discuss the Different Types of Leather
Learning the different types of leather is a critical step in finding the right way to clean your car’s leather seats. Thankfully, there are only four types of leather used on most car seats in the market so there’s nothing to worry about. They include Aniline leather, Semi-Aniline leather, Full Grain, and Corrected Grain Leather.
This type of leather uses the finest hides that give it a rich color and soft touch. It also has a luxurious appeal that makes it synonymous with classic cars such as Ferrari. The only downside to aniline leather however, is that it doesn’t have a protective coating on its surface making it susceptible to regular wear. There has also been a decreased use of this type of leather so it’s quite unlikely to find it being used in modern car seats.
This type of seat leather is usually considered an improvement of aniline leather. It’s often colored with aniline dyes then supplied with a protective coat to protect the dye and the leather fabric from regular wear. This type of leather enjoys the fluffiness of regular leather and it’s more resistant to spills, scratches, and wear thus protecting your car’s seats.
Semi-Aniline leather and Full-Grain leather are usually found in luxurious and most high-end cars. Here, the leather texture itself is not corrected but rather supplied with more protective coating and pigmentation to enhance its beauty.
Corrected Grain Leather:
Just as its name suggests, this type of leather has been corrected thus giving it a slightly different feel from the other three leather fabrics. However, though, one huge advantage with this type of leather is that it’s the most resistant to wear. That makes it the best for car owners with kids and pets.
Which Important Tips Should You Remember When Cleaning Leather Car Seats?
In case you spill something on your car’s leather seats, there are those proven do’s and don’ts you’re supposed to observe. These tips offer a smart way of removing stains from your car’s leather seats without damaging the fabric. Let’s find them out.
- Whenever you spot a stain on your leather car seats, always start by blotting the stain using a microfiber towel. Since microfiber is soft and exceptionally absorbent, it doesn’t scratch your seats meaning there are fewer chances of damage.
- Before you deep clean your seats, always vacuum them first thoroughly to remove abrasives, sand, and loose grime that can cause scratches.
- Always clean slowly in small sections. This helps to minimize strain, which can cause discoloration of the dye.
- Always use non-toxic cleaning agents while avoiding commercial chemical cleaners at any cost.
- Finally, always clean and condition your leather car seats regularly to maintain their luxurious look.
- Although it might sound logical, avoid using petroleum or wax-based conditioners on your leather car seats. Such conditioners usually cause residual buildup which eventually ruins the finish on your leather making it look dull.
- Don’t wait until wet residue, such as spills, dry up on your leather seat. Use a dry microfiber cloth instead to blot them ASAP or else they’ll form stains that will be virtually impossible to remove.
- If your seats have perforated leather, avoid spraying cleaning agents directly. Instead, spray the cleaners on a microfiber cloth then use it to wipe the affected areas clean.
- For the case of deep cleaning, avoid using hard-bristled brushes and instead use soft-bristled brushes to clean the areas.
- Finally, don’t shy away when it comes to prices. Since leather car seats are expensive, don’t expect to find cheap cleaners. Always be ready to spend when it comes to purchasing the right cleaners for leather seats.
Now that we’ve mentioned some basics, this tutorial will now go straight to the topic where we’ll discuss how to clean your car’s leather seats. Here, we will discuss how to clean light stains, and tough stains. In the end, we’ll discuss some proven DIY methods you can try at home to clean your car’s leather seats.
Gather Your Supplies
Whether you’re cleaning spills from drinks, grease stains, or body oils/sweat, here are the main supplies you’ll need.
- All-purpose cleaner
- Soft-bristled brush
- Non-abrasive scrub pads
- Soft absorbent microfiber cloths
- Car leather conditioner
Part One: Cleaning the Seats
Check for Perforations: Before you can commence with the cleaning process, the first step you need to take is to inspect the seats to see whether there are any holes or perforated areas. Although it’s considered an aesthetic design feature, perforated leather seats, especially heated seats, can demand a totally different cleaning procedure to prevent water buildup in the holes.
So, if your car’s leather seats are perforated, the cleaning process will require you to use damp non-abrasive scrub pads and brushes instead of spraying the cleaner directly on the seat. However, if the seats are not perforated, then you can spray the cleaner directly.
Vacuum the Seats: The next step is to vacuum the seats. The reason why this step comes first before you start the deep cleaning is to remove any abrasive such as sand particles to prevent scratching the leather and causing punctures.
So, to vacuum the seats, you’ll have to use a wet/dry vacuum with a soft-bristled brush attachment. Vacuum the seats slowly and carefully while paying more attention to the seams and perforations. In case a blower is available, you can also make good use of it by blowing particles that have gathered in between the seams.
Remove any Surface Dirt: Before you begin the deep cleaning process, it’s wise to inspect the surface of your seats first before you can clean them. Simply spray a microfiber cloth with a cleaning solution then use it to wipe the seats. By wiping off the surface dirt, the stains will be more visible making it easier for you to clean them.
Start the Deep Cleaning Process: But before you start, it’s always a good practice to peruse through the manual to see which cleaners are recommended for your specific leather seats. You can also check the manufacturer’s website to see what they’ve said regarding cleaning your car’s interior. If you feel like you’re not convinced, then you can try to spot clean a hidden section of your seat’s leather to see the reaction. In case the results are impressive, then you can proceed with the cleaning.
So, assuming your car’s leather seats are not perforated, simply start by spraying the leather cleaning solution straight on the surface and use a soft-bristled brush to scrub the tough stains. Always scrub in a soft gentle motion to agitate the dirt and bring it to the surface. Remember, the last thing you’d wish is to scratch your leather seats so you need to be really careful.
Although we’ve already mentioned it severally, cleaning perforated leather seats will demand you to spray the cleaning solution on your brush then scrub rather than spraying directly on the seat.
Wipe the Seats: Once you’re through with the scrubbing, the next stage is to clean each leather seat with a soft microfiber cloth. This will help to soak any excess cleaning solution from your seats. However, if you notice stubborn spots leftovers on the seats, then you might consider repeating the scrubbing step once more then wipe the seats with another clean microfiber cloth.
Part Two: Conditioning the Seats
Select the Right Conditioner: The last thing you’d wish to do here is to choose a low-quality conditioner that will ruin your luxurious leather seats. Besides, you should avoid choosing conditioners that contain wax, silicone, or petroleum in their formulation. Such conditioners can discolor your seats, especially at a time when you need to retain their natural oils.
So, what’s the best conditioner for leather seats? Well, always choose a water-based conditioner with the right pH balance. This will help to restore your leather seats’ natural oils after a deep scrubbing. Just like your skin, leather can essentially dry up after a deep cleaning. To replenish its natural oils, you need to find the right conditioner. In fact, a conditioner with sunscreen as part of its formulation can work perfectly well.
Apply the Leather Conditioner: Start by performing a spot test to see the outcome. If you’re convinced, then apply the conditioner on a dry microfiber cloth, or a sponge, then start rubbing it on the leather seats in a gentle massaging motion. Apply the leather conditioner sparingly as too much of it can make your seats greasy.
In the case of perforated seats, you need to be even more careful as applying too much conditioner can clog the holes.
Drying Time: After a lengthy process of vacuuming, wiping, scrubbing and conditioning, it’s now time to give your seats a little time to breathe. As a rule of thumb, always find a shady area to park your car to prevent your “healing” seats from being interfered with by the harmful UV rays. Here, you can let your car sit for about 12 hours.
Buff the Seats: Once the conditioner has entirely soaked up into your leather seats, it’s now time to buff them up. This is done by using a dry microfiber cloth and rubbing it gently on the seats in a circular motion. Wipe off any excess conditioner until the seats are sparkling clean. Once you’re done, you can now sit back and admire your hard work and effort.
Are There Any DIY Options You Can Consider?
Although it’s not the best idea, those of you who dislike chemical cleaners can take the DIY cleaning route of using cheap homemade solutions to clean the seats. Here are two proven methods you might consider.
Mixing Vinegar, Olive Oil, and Water
In this method, all you need to do is add a ½ cup of olive oil to ¼ cup of white vinegar then mix it with a small portion of water inside a spray bottle. From there, spray the mixture on affected areas and let it soak for about 5 minutes before wiping it with a clean dry microfiber cloth. Now, although this method is effective, it doesn’t seem to work well on perforated leather seats as you’re not supposed to spray any liquids directly. Other than that, this method can yield positive results.
Toothpaste or Baking Soda
This is our next DIY method that works as an alternative to spraying vinegar + olive oil + water solution directly to your seats. If your car’s leather seats are perforated, then you can consider this alternative method. The first step is to spread toothpaste or baking soda directly on the affected areas.
Next, use a damp microfiber cloth to rub against the toothpaste or baking soda then let it sit for a few hours. Once it has totally dried up, wipe off the powder/toothpaste with a clean dry microfiber cloth or simply vacuum it up.
Next, use another damp cloth to remove any toothpaste or baking soda stains in the area then dry it all up with a dry cloth.
To prevent fading and cracking, use the right leather conditioner (especially those with sunscreen formulation). This also helps to replenish your leather seats’ natural oils making them look young and new.
Regardless of whether you’ve chosen the professional or the DIY cleaning route, cleaning your car’s leather seats is a sensitive endeavor that should be left to professional detailers. However, if you decide to do it at home, then ensure that you follow this ultimate guide to the latter.
Remember, leather is a porous fabric that absorbs any oils and greases it gets into contact with. It’s also susceptible to damage if you don’t use the right cleaners and conditioners. Finally, leather seats should not be cleaned and conditioned often. Doing it a few times in a year is enough to avoid ruining the integrity of your car’s seats.