How to Clean Car Upholstery – 5 Pro Tips

Do you want to know some easy ways for how to clean car upholstery? Below, I’ve listed some basic tips and effective tools from the pros – that you can use on your own vehicle.

1. Cleaning Fabric Car Seats

Interior Seats of Sedan
courtesy of
If your seats are made of fabric, cleaning them is very similar to how you would wash your car carpet floors. First vacuum any loose debris, and then take your carpet cleaning solution and start scrubbing the entire seat with a sponge. Some people even use a drill brush for larger, tougher cleaning jobs.

With the carpet floor, we use a scrub brush and are not afraid of saturating the floor. Seats, on the other hand, we don’t want to get too wet. Plus, we want to avoid using hard-bristled brushes than might damage the upholstery. Start by blotting rather than scrubbing.

Tip: Dirt and debris can also get stuck in fabric seams. Therefore, WikiHow suggests using a toothbrush to get in small cracks and lift out dirt.

Next, then we go back for spot treatments that we were not able to get out. We wait to treat spots because many times we can get out average stains and marks with a more gentle cleaning mixture. Thus, we don’t have to purchase a special cleaner. Hey – I love saving money!

Tip: Speaking of saving money, Road and Travel recommends applying paint thinner on greasy stains and then covering with salt until the remaining grease is absorbed. (Make sure you test an inconspicuous area first).

2. Vinyl Seat Cleaning Tips

Angie Hicks says that instead of using an oil or mineral-based cleaner for vinyl, try regular old baking soda with a damp rag. Then, rinse with soap and water. This method costs less and actually extends the life of your vinyl.

3. How to Clean Car Upholstery that is Leather

In this case, we use a leather upholstery cleaner designed specifically for leather. Every 6 months we apply a leather conditioner to prevent drying and cracking. This is a worthwhile investment if you want your car’s interior looking newer for longer. Plus, it can also help to increase resale value.

4. Vacuum. Vacuum. And then Vacuum again.

Shop Vac with Parts: how to clean car upholsteryThe sooner you can remove loose dirt particles from your vehicle, the less chance they have to get embedded in your car seats. First, use a vacuum for this and make it part of your routine car maintenance. This quick task doesn’t take long. Plus, you can get rid of debris that you didn’t even know was there.

I personally keep a small shop vac in my garage right next to my car. Therefore, I can quickly clean up after a day at the beach, a trip to the home garden center or hauling around a bunch of kids. In addition to keeping me sane, this little trick has ended up saving me a bunch of time.

5. Fabric Protector

Last, consider using a fabric protector to prevent spills from becoming stains that are hard to remove. If you have a lot of eating and drinking going on in your car, this is a no brainer.

Resolve Triple Action Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner