How To Clean Car Seats Fabric Yourself

Do your car seats look dirty and feel gritty? Don’t worry – with the right techniques and products, you can clean your car’s fabric upholstery and have it looking brand new again. Keep reading to learn how to deep clean your car’s fabric seats yourself without taking them to the pros.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Vacuum the seats, pre-treat stains, scrub with an upholstery cleaner, and use a wet/dry vacuum to extract the dirty solution. Allow seats to fully dry before using again.

Assess the Current Condition of Your Seats

Before diving into the process of cleaning your car seats fabric, it’s important to assess their current condition. This will help you determine the best cleaning method and products to use. Here are a few things you should look for:

Look for stains, dirt, grit, odors

Inspect your car seats for any visible stains, dirt, grit, or unpleasant odors. These can be caused by spills, food crumbs, pet accidents, or everyday wear and tear. Identifying the specific areas that need attention will allow you to focus your cleaning efforts on those spots.

Check for wear and fraying

Examine your car seats for any signs of wear and fraying. Over time, the fabric may become worn out or develop small tears. It’s important to address these issues before cleaning to prevent further damage.

If you notice any major damage, it may be necessary to consider repairing or replacing the fabric.

Consider steam cleaning for heavy soiling

If your car seats are heavily soiled or have deep-set stains, steam cleaning can be an effective option. Steam cleaning uses the power of hot water vapor to remove dirt and grime from the fabric. It can penetrate deep into the fibers, lifting away stubborn stains and eliminating odors.

However, it’s important to note that not all car seats can withstand steam cleaning, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations before proceeding.

For more information on assessing the condition of your car seats and determining the best cleaning method, you can visit Consumer Reports. They provide valuable insights and tips for keeping your car interior clean and fresh.

Thoroughly Vacuum the Entire Area

When it comes to cleaning car seat fabric, the first step is to thoroughly vacuum the entire area. This will help remove loose dirt, crumbs, and other debris that may have accumulated over time. By doing this, you’ll create a clean surface to work with and make the next steps more effective.

Use crevice tool to vacuum creases

One important area to focus on when vacuuming car seat fabric is the creases. These are often the spots where dirt and dust tend to accumulate the most. Use a crevice tool attachment on your vacuum cleaner to reach into these tight spaces and extract any trapped debris.

This will help ensure a thorough cleaning and prevent any build-up in the future.

Use brush attachment on fabric areas

Next, use a brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to thoroughly clean the fabric areas of your car seats. This will help loosen any dirt or stains that may be embedded in the fibers. Gently scrub the fabric using the brush attachment, paying extra attention to any stubborn spots.

This method is especially effective for removing pet hair from car seats.

Vacuum floor mats separately

While cleaning your car seats, don’t forget about the floor mats. These can accumulate a lot of dirt, dust, and debris over time. Remove the floor mats from your car and vacuum them separately. This will ensure a more thorough cleaning and prevent any dirt from transferring back onto the car seats.

Remember, regular vacuuming and cleaning of your car seat fabric is essential to maintain its appearance and prolong its lifespan. By following these steps, you can keep your car seats looking great and create a more comfortable driving experience for yourself and your passengers.

Pre-treat any Stains

Before cleaning your car seats fabric, it’s important to pre-treat any stains to ensure a thorough cleaning. Different types of stains require different approaches. Here are some effective methods for pre-treating common stains:

Liquid dish soap for grease stains

If you have grease stains on your car seats fabric, don’t worry! Simply mix a small amount of liquid dish soap with warm water and apply it to the stain. Gently scrub the area with a soft brush or sponge, and then wipe away the soap with a clean, damp cloth.

This method works well for removing grease stains without damaging the fabric.

Baking soda paste for odors

Odors can be a common problem in car seats fabric, especially if you have spilled food or drinks. To tackle odors, create a paste by mixing baking soda with a small amount of water. Apply the paste to the stained area and let it sit for about 15 minutes.

Then, use a damp cloth to gently scrub the paste into the fabric. Baking soda is known for its absorbent properties, making it an effective solution for removing odors from car seats.

Vinegar or enzyme cleaner for pet stains

If you have pets that frequently travel in your car, you may encounter pet stains on your car seats fabric. To remove these stains, you have a couple of options. One option is to mix equal parts white vinegar and water, and apply the solution to the stain.

Let it sit for a few minutes, then blot the stain with a clean cloth. Alternatively, you can use an enzyme cleaner specifically designed for pet stains. These cleaners break down the organic matter in the stain, effectively eliminating both the stain and odors.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to test any cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric before applying it to the entire stain. This will help ensure that the solution doesn’t cause any damage or discoloration to your car seats fabric.

Clean with Upholstery Shampoo

When it comes to cleaning car seat fabric, using upholstery shampoo can be highly effective. Upholstery shampoos are specifically designed to remove dirt, stains, and odors from fabric surfaces. They are formulated with powerful cleaning agents that can penetrate deep into the fabric fibers and lift out even the toughest dirt and grime.

Test on inconspicuous area first

Before applying upholstery shampoo on the entire car seat fabric, it’s important to test it on an inconspicuous area first. This will help ensure that the shampoo does not cause any discoloration or damage to the fabric.

Choose a small, hidden spot on the car seat, such as under the seat or on the side, and apply a small amount of upholstery shampoo. Gently rub it in with a clean cloth and wait for a few minutes. If there are no adverse reactions, such as color fading or fabric damage, you can proceed with cleaning the rest of the car seat fabric.

Work foam into fabric with brush

Once you have tested the upholstery shampoo, it’s time to start cleaning the car seat fabric. Start by spraying the upholstery shampoo onto the fabric surface, making sure to cover all the stained or dirty areas. Then, take a soft-bristled brush or a sponge and gently work the foam into the fabric.

Use circular motions and apply gentle pressure to help the upholstery shampoo penetrate the fabric fibers and loosen the dirt and stains.

Rinse with wet vacuum extraction

After working the upholstery shampoo into the fabric, it’s important to rinse it thoroughly to remove any residue. One effective method is to use a wet vacuum extraction machine. These machines use water and suction to rinse and extract the shampoo from the fabric.

Simply fill the machine with clean water, and then use it to rinse the car seat fabric. Move the machine slowly over the fabric, allowing the water to penetrate and extract the shampoo. Repeat this process until all the shampoo has been removed from the fabric.

Cleaning car seat fabric with upholstery shampoo can be a great way to restore its cleanliness and freshness. By following these steps and using the right tools, you can achieve professional-level results and have your car seats looking great again.

Allow Seats to Fully Dry Before Use

After cleaning car seats fabric, it is crucial to allow them to fully dry before using the vehicle again. This ensures that the seats are not only clean but also free from any excess moisture that could lead to mold or mildew growth.

Here are a few steps to follow to ensure your car seats dry properly:

Open windows and doors to allow airflow

One way to speed up the drying process is to open the windows and doors of your car. This will allow fresh air to circulate inside the vehicle, helping to evaporate the moisture more quickly. If the weather permits, you can also leave the car parked in a sunny area to take advantage of the natural heat and airflow.

Use towels to absorb moisture

If there is excess moisture on the seats after cleaning, use towels to absorb it. Gently press the towels onto the wet areas, allowing them to soak up the moisture. Repeat this process with dry towels until no more moisture is being absorbed.

This will help to remove any remaining water and speed up the drying time.

Run car with heat on high

In colder climates or during the winter season, running the car with the heat on high can help to dry the seats faster. Turn on the heat and direct the airflow towards the seats. The warm air will help to evaporate the moisture and accelerate the drying process.

Just make sure to keep the windows slightly open to allow any excess moisture to escape.

Remember, patience is key when it comes to drying car seats fabric. Rushing the process may result in damp seats, which can lead to unpleasant odors and potential damage. By following these steps and allowing sufficient time for the seats to dry, you can ensure that your car seats are clean, fresh, and ready for use.

Tips for Maintaining Clean Seats

Use seat covers or blankets

One effective way to keep your car seats clean is by using seat covers or blankets. These protective covers act as a barrier between the fabric and any potential spills or stains. They are easy to remove and can be washed separately, ensuring that your car seats stay in pristine condition.

Seat covers also come in a variety of styles and materials, allowing you to customize the look of your car’s interior while keeping it protected.

Remove debris and dirt weekly

Regularly removing debris and dirt from your car seats is essential in maintaining their cleanliness. Use a vacuum cleaner or a handheld vacuum to remove loose particles from the fabric. Pay special attention to the crevices and corners where dirt tends to accumulate.

Additionally, consider using a soft brush attachment to gently scrub away any stubborn dirt or pet hair. By incorporating this into your weekly cleaning routine, you can prevent dirt from becoming deeply embedded in the fabric.

Spot clean messes immediately

Accidents happen, and when they do, it’s important to act quickly to prevent stains from setting into your car seats. Whether it’s a spilled drink or a smudge of food, make sure to spot clean the mess immediately.

Start by blotting the affected area with a clean cloth or paper towel to absorb as much liquid as possible. Then, apply a mild upholstery cleaner or a mixture of water and dish soap to gently remove the stain. Avoid scrubbing vigorously, as this may damage the fabric.

Always test any cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area of the seat before applying it to the stain.

For more detailed instructions on how to clean specific types of car seat fabric, such as leather or suede, consult the manufacturer’s guidelines or visit reputable automotive websites like or


With some basic cleaning supplies and a little elbow grease, you can get your car’s fabric seats looking like new again. Just remember to fully vacuum, pre-treat stains, shampoo with an upholstery cleaner, thoroughly extract all the moisture, and allow ample time for drying.

Follow these steps and you’ll be able to save money on professional detailing while still having clean seats to enjoy driving in.

For best results, make fabric seat cleaning a regular habit rather than just tackling it when dirt has really built up. With weekly maintenance and immediate spot cleaning as needed, you can keep your car’s upholstery in great shape for the long run.

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