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How to clean car seats correctly: without damage

clean car seats correctly

How do you clean car seats correctly without damaging them? Our guide outlines how to do it for leather, vinyl or fabric seats. Stains on car seats are extremely annoying. We show you what you have to consider when cleaning.

Food, dust and dirt can cause car seats to lose their shine after a short time. This can still be removed quickly with leather, but with fabric there can be unsightly spots for life unless you clean car seats correctly.

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Clean car seats correctly based on the material used

In cars, two types of upholstery are usually used for the upholstery: leather and fabric. With leather, it may appear that you just have to wipe it with a damp cloth, but far from it, because in-depth cleaning is also recommended here. Otherwise the seats will look dull after a few years and are simply no longer nice to look at.

Stains are usually much easier to remove from leather than from fabric. In the next sections, we describe how to properly clean both materials.

Before cleaning

Before you start with the actual cleaning, it makes sense to pretreat the car upholstery. First you will remove all loose objects from the car, then vacuum the upholstery with the vacuum cleaner. This is how the first, rough dirt is removed. The step is not to be neglected, so that loose dirt is not worked into the upholstery later when cleaning.

If the upholstery is made of leather, you should work with a soft vacuum cleaner attachment so as not to damage the material. The typical upholstery brush, which has soft bristles on the edge or a velvety surface, is usually suitable for this.

Clean leather car seats

Cleaning car seats - leather
Leather seats should get leather care after cleaning

If the upholstery is covered with leather, it is important to note a few things when cleaning. We have some tips for you on how best to clean your leather upholstery in the car, and, above all, by what means:

  • When choosing the cleaner, make sure that it contains no acid. Because this has the property of separating the color from the leather.
  • Too much pressure damages the material. Therefore proceed as gently as possible.
  • A recommended mixture for cleaning consists of water, a mild detergent, a rag to wipe off and a lint-free cloth to dry. A soft sponge may also be used for dried stains.
  • Since stains can easily be wiped off the leather, the water does not have to be too hot. If a stain is a little tighter, moisten it and let it soak briefly. Do not wait too long, otherwise the water will penetrate the leather.
  • Then the upholstery is wiped with the damp cloth.
  • The upholstery should now be dried with the lint-free cloth.
  • Afterwards, treatment with special leather care is recommended. It protects the leather and ensures that it does not become brittle and remains supple. Such products are available in specialist shops. A good substitute for this is colorless shoe polish.

One more thing: If the cover is so-called Alcantara leather, it can be treated with a normal upholstery cleaner, since it is a synthetic material.

Carefully clean fabric car seats

On the other hand, if the car seats were covered with fabric, cleaning is a little more complicated. Because dirt often sticks to it much better. It is advisable to first remove the coarsest dirt before starting the actual cleaning. Here’s how:

  1. After vacuuming, take a terry towel and a ten liter bucket of hot water. A small amount of mild detergent goes into the bucket. This not only gives the car a nice fragrance, but also gently cleans the upholstery
  2. The cleaning mixture is now spread over the car seats with the towel. Circular movements ensure that the care product penetrates a little deeper into the upholstery. The upholstery is even intended to be soaked through.
  3. To achieve the depth effect, let the whole thing act for a period of ten minutes.
  4. After the time has elapsed, take a clean towel and rub the dirt out of the upholstery. Thanks to the absorbency, most of the water in the upholstery is also extracted. The remaining moisture evaporates over time.
  5. Once the seats are completely dry again, the only thing left to do is to give the fabric new freshness and shine. This requires a bucket of water and a dash of vinegar.
  6. With this mixture, the seats are rubbed – but not so strongly that the fabric is soaked again.
  7. Then the fabric car seats should look good again. No further cleaning is required.

Special cleaner required?

There are special cleaning agents for fabric seats. These usually develop a foam and penetrate particularly deep into the tissue. They also ensure that unpleasant smells disappear.

When using these cleaners, however, it is always important to follow the procedure that is explained on the packaging. As a rule, the agents are either applied with a special device or simply sprayed on. After a contact time of several minutes, they are then simply removed with a vacuum cleaner.

This treatment is not absolutely necessary, as there are all kinds of alternatives for odor removal. If you want, you can definitely use such means.

Additional tips for upholstery cleaning

In addition to the basic cleaning, there are other tools on the market that can sometimes save money. Here is a tabular overview:

optionexplanation
steam cleanersA steam cleaner is ideal for seats that are covered with fabric. The device emits a hot steam, which penetrates deep into the tissue and thus removes most stains. With it you treat the seats for about ten minutes and then let them dry. Usually the steam cleaner is only filled with water. However, with the addition of an additive, it is also possible to remove stubborn stains.
shaving creamIt is a cheap option if you don’t want to use special foam. Most stains can be treated with it. In addition, it leaves no traces, edges or an unpleasant smell. Simply rub the stains in, leave to soak and wash out after about ten minutes.
vinegarIt is particularly suitable for removing stains if you apply it to the same with a sponge. After a few minutes you wipe it off with a damp cloth. Also helps to remove unpleasant smells.
coffeeIf you want, you can also use freshly ground coffee to combat an unpleasant smell in the car. It is usually sufficient to place it in a bowl on the front of the dashboard and let it work overnight. If necessary, however, he may stay there for several days.

In addition to these utensils, there are other pieces of advice that we would like to provide:

❖It is best to testan unknown cleaner first in a place that you cannot see directly. This way it can be determined whether it does not damage the upholstery.

❖Fresh stains should not be rubbed. Instead, the remains are carefully picked up with a cloth.

❖When cleaning, it is sufficient if little water is used. If the windows start drying from the inside, it was too much.

❖To prevent stains, it is advisable to cover the seats with a blanket or an alternative cover. These catch at least part of the liquid.

❖If there is a sour or musty smell in the car, there may already have been mold in the upholstery.

Professional cleaning

If nothing works to clean car seats correctly, professional cleaning may be more appropriate. For example, if you want to sell your car, you should thoroughly clean and recondition it beforehand. Older stains in particular can be removed by service providers if common cleaning attempts fail.

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