The Ultimate DIY Guide to Clean Leather Car Seats

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Automobiles are expensive, so it’s important to keep them clean and in good condition in order to prolong their life and to make them worth more at resale time. Many people remember to perform regular maintenance like changing the oil and fluids under the hood, but they neglect the visible surfaces in the car – the leather seats. If you want to keep the interior of your valuable car looking new, or if you just want to spruce it up before trading it in or selling it, cleaning and conditioning the leather seats will make the car look new again.

You don’t have to be a professional car detailer to do a great job on your car’s leather upholstery. Just follow our handy tips and you’ll learn how to clean leather car seats and have the interior of your car looking great in no time. We’ve listed down three different methods for cleaning leather cars seats and you can use any depending on the tools you have at hand and the amount of grime your seats have picked up over the years. Now get started and learn how to clean your leather seats.How to Clean Leather Car Seats

Remember if option 1 works perfectly fine, then stop. If it doesn’t clean the leather to your desired results then you can use the other options.

Working by Hand

How to Clean Leather Car Seats by HandWhat you’ll need:

  • Latex gloves
  • Microfiber towels
  • Brush with soft bristles
  • Leather cleaner
  • A vacuum
  • Microfiber sponge

Step by Step Instructions:

  1. Start by giving your seats a quick vacuum.
  2. Use a soft brush to remove all the dirt and crumbs that have accumulated in the seams and rolls of the leather car seats. This gritty stuff can act like sandpaper and can grind away at the soft surface of the leather. Which can also lead to premature failure of the seams when the grit finally wears through the stitching.
  3. Once your vacuuming is complete, begin working on your leather seats one section at a time. Take your leather cleaner and spray it on your microfiber towel, then wipe off the worst of the grime.
  4. Now spray the leather cleaner over the entire area. Take your soft bristle brush and start scrubbing in a circular motion. This should bring up foam that will act as what’s called a surfactant. Surfactants dissolve and then bring dirt and oils to the top of cleaning solutions where they can be wiped away. By gently abrading the surface with the brush, you’re bringing the years of dirt and oil to the surface.
  5. It’s important to wipe off the foaming residue right away. If the cleaner dries on the surface, all the dirt you brought up will be re-deposited into the leather, and leaving any kind of fluid on the surface of the leather can leave it spotted. The leather should already be looking much better, and much less splotchy and shiny as you remove all the oils and grime that have been deposited in the seats over the years.
  6. If you have a few spots that need more attention, you can spot clean them by using a microfiber sponge, but be very careful when scrubbing the leather; it’s easy to rub too hard with a sponge and ruin the surface.
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Bring on the Power Tools

How to Clean Leather Car Seats by Orbital PolisherWhat you’ll need:

  • Orbit sander with a soft, bristle disc
  • Microfiber towels
  • Latex gloves
  • Leather cleaner
  • Microfiber sponge

Step by Step Instructions:

There are many different brands and models of car buffers and orbit polishers on the market. These tools work in a circular motion, and have a random pattern of loops that keep them from leaving swirls in the surfaces they’re used on. The most important part of the tool is the disc with bristles that you install on the tool.

These discs can quickly ruin a car’s upholstery if the bristles aren’t soft enough. A good way to test the bristles is to hold them up to your cheek before you mount them on the tool. If they feel even the slightest bit rough, don’t use them!

  1. Spray a generous amount of the leather cleaner on the soft bristle disc attached to the orbit polisher and area you’re cleaning.
  2. Then turn on the orbit polisher and move it around. Make sure to not let the orbit polisher stop in one area; always keep the orbit polisher moving. The seat will lather up quickly from the rotating brush, and the cleaning process will go much faster than working by hand.
  3. Remember to wipe off the area immediately so dirt doesn’t re-deposit back into the leather.
  4. You can carefully touch up any particularly bad spots with a microfiber sponge and the leather cleaner.

Steam is the Ultimate Weapon

How to Clean Leather Car Seats by Steam CleanerWhat you’ll need:

  • Steam cleaner
  • Microfiber towels
  • Latex gloves
  • Leather cleaner
  • Brush with soft bristles
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Step by Step Instructions:

Most carpet and upholstery steam machines have brushes that are too stiff to use on leather upholstery. If so, you can wrap the steam head with a microfiber towel to protect the leather from too much abrasion.

  1. Once you’ve got the steamer up to temperature, you can scrub it vigorously over the seat’s surfaces. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it brings up all the dirt and grime.
  2. Once again, remember to wipe off the moisture and dirt before it dries.
  3. Then spray some leather cleaner on the seats and gently scrub with a brush with soft bristles.
  4. After you’re done scrubbing with the brush, wipe down the area right away with a clean microfiber towel.

What to Do with Perforated Leather Seats

How to Clean Perforated Leather Car SeatsCleaning perforated leather seats present different problems than cleaning regular leather upholstery in your car. In many cases, the perforations in the seat are there to allow heating and ventilation, so you don’t want to use a lot of leather cleaner that will get into all the holes and interfere with the proper function of the seats.

Lastly, the orbit sander and steam machine can be used on perforated seats if needed.

What you’ll need:

  • Leather Cleaner
  • Microfiber towels
  • Brush with soft bristles
  • Latex gloves
  • A vacuum

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Start off by vacuuming the car.
  2. Spray the leather cleaner on your microfiber towel only, not directly on the seat. Give the seats a quick wipe to remove the worst of the grime. Now you’re going to work on the perforated parts more heavily.
  3. Spray the leather cleaner directly onto the soft bristle brush, not on the seat directly. You want to avoid filling up the perforations with the cleaner.
  4. Scrub the leather sections in circular, figure eight motions.
  5. Now wipe off the seat.
  6. Some leather cleaner is bound to get into the holes in the seat, which is why to remove it you can turn on your vacuum and lightly go over the seat to suck the cleaner out.
  7. Then wipe down the leather car seats with a dry microfiber towel.
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How to Safely Clean Leather Car Seats – A Complete DIY Solution

Bottom Line

Now that you’ve learned how to clean leather car seats you need to understand the importance of applying a leather conditioner after the leather seats have been cleaned. Scrubbing the leather seats with a leather cleaner, or steaming them, can remove natural oils in the leather, making the leather dry and brittle. A quick wipe with a quality leather conditioner is fast and easy insurance against cracking and flaking, and it will impart a rich, low sheen.

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