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How to Wash Car Seat Cover – DIY Quick & Deep Clean!

how to wash car seat cover
Written by Nick Steiner

There are Cheerios that get ground in, sippy cups and even diapers that leak. Coffee gets split or that container of sauce.

Dirty car seats are nothing new to us, so you’ve probably had enough experience now too. You want to keep your seat covers in the best possible condition.

We’re here to show you how to wash both fabric and leather seat covers to avoid damaging them or setting the stain in permanently.

Things to Do Before You Clean Car Seat Covers

  • When removing your car seat cover, try to do so without taking the seat out of the car since reinstalling it incorrectly can cause numerous safety issues.
  • Take pictures as you remove the covers so you have a reference of the way it should look.
  • Consult your service manual for specific information about removing covers.

Check over the car seat manual

Be sure to read the instruction manual for the car seat covers. The book will contain a part that explains washing and drying.

If you cannot find this, you can search the manufacturer’s website for cleaning instructions.

You can also call the company who will be able to step you through what to do and what not to do when cleaning car seat covers.

Video yourself taking off the seat cover

If you need to remove the covers, it is a good idea to videotape it so you can use this as a guide if you forget how to put it back on.

Snap a picture of how the shoulder straps are positioned

You may need to detach the shoulder straps from the seat.

Take a picture so you know how they were connected so they can be put back in the correct position when washed.

Make sure the straps are not misrouting or twisted.

Things You Need to Wash the Car Seat Covers

Tools/equipment

  • Bucket
  • Sponge
  • Bristled scrubbing brush
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Upholstery brush
  • Crevice tool and vacuum
  • Spray bottle
  • Water

Materials

  • Pre-treat stain remover
  • Fabric conditioner
  • Commercial upholstery or carpet cleaner
  • Oxygen based bleach

How to Wash Car Seat Cover

Wash Car Seat Cover

**Photo Courtesy: YouTube

Cleaning fabric car seats

Vacuum the seats

Vacuum the seats

**Photo Courtesy: That Guy Carpet Cleaning

Vacuum the fabric covers which will help stop the spread of the mess around the car.

Pre-treat stains

If your car seat has really tough stains, you may need to pre-treat it. Stains can be removed with a variety of great products.

Citrus-based products are my favorite because they remove grease and oil. You can use liquid detergent on tough spots before washing if you prefer not to use other chemicals.

Apply the upholstery cleaner solution

Apply the upholstery cleaner solution

**Photo Courtesy: Family Handyman

Beth McCallum, editor of Oh So Spotless, suggests using a mild soap or cleaning spray. Clean all surfaces, paying special attention to stains.

Scrub away the dirt

If the seat is dirtier than usual, gently scrub it with a cloth or bristle brush.

Wipe away excess moisture

Wipe away excess moisture

**Photo Courtesy: Durability Matters

It’s a good idea to remove excess water with a microfiber cloth, so it has a chance to dry well.

Repeat all steps if needed

The process can be repeated if you find some stains still remaining.

Allow the seats to dry

Allow the seats to dry in the shade. Putting them in the shade can cause them to become brittle and fade.

Add a protective coating

Add a protective coating

**Photo Courtesy: Bob Vila

A waterproof coating can be put on the car seat to help repel stains and drinks.

Tips for Cleaning Fabric Type Car Seats

  • Don’t use harsh chemicals it can eat away at the seat covers
  • Make your own cleaner. It is often more effective and safer
  • Use a clean cloth and blot don’t rub which spreads the stain
  • Use a toothbrush for vinyl that is textured to reach the hard spots
  • Use a water sprayer and squeegee for animal hair removal
  • Pre-treat stains before washing to avoid setting them
  • Always spot check cleaners on a hidden spot first in case of bleaching or damage
  • Dry foam cleaner is good for car seat covers that can’t get too wet

How to Clean Leather Car Seats?

How to Clean Leather Car Seats

**Photo Courtesy: YouTube

Inspect the leather for holes

Check the leather for any holes before you start cleaning.

If you find a hole, place some tape over it to prevent the hole from becoming bigger with cleaning and avoid the cleaners from penetrating into the material underneath.

Vacuum

If you scrub the leather too hard, you may scratch it if there are food particlces. Dust and crumbs can accumulate in the seat; vacuum to remove them.

Clean dirt and debris the vacuum might have missed

Prepare a solution by mixing the vinegar with water in the ratio of two parts vinegar to one part water.

It can either be applied directly to the seat or applied to a cloth. Whichever way you do, you should use it sparingly.

Do a wipe-down

Using a damp cloth wipe over the seat to remove the soap residue and dry the cover.

Apply a leather conditioner

Apply a leather conditioner that stops the leather from cracking and helps to add a water-repelling film on the seat.

Soak the conditioner in

Let the conditioner soak in and dry for 30 minutes, then give a final wipe over.

Tips for cleaning leather car seats

  • Cleaning and conditioning should be done regularly. For example, keep your seats clean by cleaning them once a month and conditioning them a few times each year.
  • To make sure your leather cleaner is suitable for your seats, spot-test it on a hidden area.
  • First, vacuum thoroughly. Doing this will avoid scratching or rubbing your seats with dust, sand, or loose dirt.
  • To minimize the possibility of discoloration, work slowly and in small sections.
  • If a conditioner contains oils or waxes, do not use it. You may end up with build-up and dull leather.
  • Seats shouldn’t be allowed to dry out after the wet solution has been applied. It should be massaged thoroughly with your cloth.
  • Deep cleaning shouldn’t be done with hard bristles. If you want to clean your car, you’ll need a toothbrush with soft bristles or a brush designed for that purpose.
  • Prices should not be skimped on. If you want your leather to be beautiful, you should use a high-quality, natural cleaner.

How to Deep Clean Your Leather Seat Covers?

Equipment / Tools

  • Steam cleaners
  • Hot water
  • Car seat cleaner
  • Carpet cleaner or extractor
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Pre-treat stain remover for car seats
  • Scrub brush
  • Vacuum
  • Oxygen-based bleach
  • Spray-on fabric protector

Easy Steps to Deep Clean Cloth Car Seat Covers

Step 1: Vacuum the seats

Remove all padding from the car seat and take it out of the car. Vacuum to reach deep into the crevices, using a long, thin attachment.

Step 2: Pre-treat any prominent hard stain you see

If you can see obvious stains pretreat them with a safe stain remover suitable for car seat covers. Follow the instructions on the bottle.

Step 3: Deep cleaning options: cleaning with a steam cleaner or carpet cleaner

Cleaning machines

Also called extractors, are great tools for removing stains from carpets. Hot water is blown onto the fabric surface and sucked off simultaneously in this procedure.

During this process, moisture is sucked off before it soaks the fabric.

Steam cleaner

These use hot steam to list stains and dirt. Stains that are too stubborn should be agitated as needed with a separate brush.

Make sure all dirty spots are gone over and cleaned twice if needed.

Despite being less powerful than extractors, steam cleaners are excellent at removing bacteria and mold (plus, they eliminate odors too).

Step 4: Let everything dry

Remove the cleaner by rinsing with a clean wet cloth and dabbing with a rag to dry the area. Let the area air dry before sitting on it.

Step 5: Add a protective conditioner on the seats

Again add a protective coating that will repel stains and liquid, helping to keep the seat in a cleaner condition and lasting longer.

Using Shampoo to Clean Your Seat Covers

  • To begin, wipe the dirty parts with a wet cloth
  • Next, rinse with wetsuit shampoo and then rinse again with a wet cloth
  • With a soft cloth, dry the surface after it has been rinsed
  • Allow the cover to air dry

Neoprene does not need to be shaken out or vacuumed like some other seat covers. The seat covers take less time to clean since they only need to be wiped with shampoo.

Make sure you only use a mild shampoo and only add a few drops as too much will cause it to be too soapy, leaving stains.

Removing Tough Blood Stains From Leather

Use club soda

Put a small amount of club soda in a cup of cold water and apply it directly to the affected area.

Continue blotting the stain gently with a sponge. If the stain does not lighten, repeat step two.

After the sponge stops sucking up blood, you can stop blotting with it.

Use an ammonium hydroxide solution

Try ammonium hydroxide as an alternative. Wipe over with a damp cloth after adding 3 drops per liter of water. As ammonium hydroxide is very powerful and can damage leather, it is vital to spot test first.

Although it is unlikely that you would ever want to use bleach on leather, bleach and ammonium hydroxide should never be used together.

When to Hire Professionals?

If you have tried the above options and they haven’t worked for you, it might be time for a professional service to tackle the problem.

The price for a car seat cleaning service is between $50 and $150 with basic cleans or a more in-depth clean. They will also put the car seat back into the car for you if it needs to be removed.

FAQs

Q. Is it possible to clean my fabric seats with household products?

Many household cleaners can be used on fabric seats, such as citrus, dishwashing liquid, a small amount of laundry liquid, and even club soda. Depending on the stain, it will be trial and error as some household products may not work.

Q. Does shaving cream clean car seats?

Take some basic shaving cream, rub it all over the car seat covers, then scrub with warm water and a sponge. You can then take the filter out of your wet/dry vacuum and soak up the excess water. Let the seat air dry.

Q. Do sheepskin seat covers have to be hand washed?

Wash each seat cover separately in lukewarm water, using either a wool or gentle cycle (maximum 40°C/104°F). Do not use other soaps unless they also specify that they are suitable for sheepskin. Wool washes and other detergents should not be used.

About the author

Nick Steiner

Nick has been a car nut for his whole life as far as he can remember. His father was a car dealer who used to change and repair his cars himself. As a result, Nick had the opportunity to get around all sorts of cars and learned to get his hands dirty repairing vehicles from an early age.

Nick is a great fan of Japanese quality and German preciosity. His deep passion lies in older models that he believes have a flair that takes him back to his childhood. He also loves their durability and reliability when compared to the modern models.

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