Skip to content
Liquid error (snippets/cart-drawer line 69): Could not find asset snippets/loading-icon.liquid
Cleaning fabric car seats

How To Clean Fabric Car Seats

Once, leather was king when it came to car seat covering and indeed is still available today, but increasingly leather is being replaced by modern, often man-made fabric alternatives.

These materials in the main are hard-wearing, look good and are ecologically more acceptable; but the one material that can stay clean throughout its life, shrugging off spillages and other soiling, has yet to be invented.

It is not necessary to see dirt to know that it is there through general use. That’s why cleaning vehicle seat upholstery should be part of any car detailing regime.

How Often Should Car Seats Be Cleaned

It depends upon use. These days we have all become accustomed to think more about hygiene so if the car is fully detailed outside and inside twice annually then maybe that will suffice. If it’s a working vehicle, more frequent cleaning may be required.

Remember though, a clean, fresh smelling interior makes for a nicer environment. Cleaning car seats is neither expensive nor time consuming. With just a couple of household tools and a decent product the upholstery will return to that brand new look in no time. Here’s our thoughts on how to do it:

What You Will Need

  • A vacuum cleaner
  • A bucket of clean water
  • A soft-bristled brush
  • A suitable cleaning product
  • A waffle or microfibre cloth


The first step is to remove all the detritus that accumulates in the car. Tidying up in other words. Use the brush to loosen any stubborn marks and then deploy a vacuum cleaner, thoroughly removing any dust and loose particles, making sure to get into the cracks and crevices. Only now is the seat ready for washing.

For very dirty interiors, optionally, a steam-cleaner may help initially to aid lifting stains, removing mould, bacteria and smells prior to deep cleaning.

Ideally, washing fabric car seats should be done outside with the doors open, preferably in mild weather. The danger here is that it is easy to over-soak material, meaning that drying will take an age so apply any cleaning product sparingly.

There are several ‘old-school’ remedies for cleaning car seats. For example, vinyl seats can be cleaned simply by washing with a baking soda solution. Avoid using washing-up liquid because it is way too soapy. It is however far better to use a high-tech, spray-on product specifically designed for the job; one that will not make the fabric too wet and that is easy to both apply and wipe away.


Following the instructions on the product to the letter, apply the cleaning product evenly to small areas at a time; that way the product will not be on any given area for longer periods. Don’t over-do it. Using the soft brush, agitate the cleaner, paying particular attention to any stubborn ingrained stains.

Once satisfied use a waffle or microfibre cloth, dampened but not soaking wet. Waffle cloths are particularly good for this task thanks to extra absorption, the microfibres working through capillary action, drawing dirt into the cloth.

Rinse the cloth in the clean water frequently and wring out. The idea is that throughout the procedure the fabric car seats don’t get soaked which may create water stains after they have dried out. If the cloth gets soiled, change it for a fresh one. They can be laundered later.


Obviously, even a very wet car seat will dry out in time, but if a seat has been drenched it will be wet all the way through the fabric and onto the interior cushioning material. It could take between 24 and 48 hours for the seats to dry completely. In an enclosed space that is a car interior this may encourage mould and that ‘wet dog’ smell. Mop up any excess with a car drying towel, pressing down gently to extract as much moisture as possible. Where safe to do so, in your driveway say, leave the windows or doors open to let the air circulate and remove moisture.

A damp interior, as mentioned, encourages mould. You can smell it. If the worst does occur - wearing a mask to prevent breathing in spores - wipe over the infected area with a weak water/white vinegar mix and vacuum when dry.

Good Practice

Cleaning upholstery should be seen as another weapon in the car detailer’s arsenal. It helps to keep the interior fresher, smarter and healthier, while also enhancing the resale value when the time comes to move the vehicle on to a new home. Going to all the trouble of making the exterior look pristine, it seems a shame not to do the same inside.

Previous article How To Clean A Car Interior
Next article Applying Ceramic Coating For Your Wheels