How to clean a car seat like a pro — tips and tricks

Cleaning a leather car seat
Cleaning a leather car seat (Image credit: Shutterstock)

No matter how hard we try to keep our cars spotless, you’ll need to know how to clean a car seat. In fact, knowing how to clean a car like a pro is just as important as knowing how to clean every room of your home. When you think about it, car seats are subject to food crumbs, spills or even children being sick, making it the perfect hotbed to conceal germs and bacteria. Plus, you want it to be a hygienic and pleasant environment for you and your passengers.

By learning how to clean a car seat thoroughly, you'll reduce grime, unwanted odors, and give your car's interior a hygienic, refreshed appearance. While the easiest solution is a trip to a professional car cleaning service, you can easily learn how to clean a car seat like a pro using simple household products. What's more, it’s quick and easy to do, and will save you money in the long-term. So, follow our top tips and tricks on how to clean a car seat and keep it in top shape.

Here are 9 mistakes to avoid when you clean your car as well. You may also want to check out the best automotive emergency car kits and the best OBD II scanners to keep your car running smoothly.  

How to clean a car seat

1. First, vacuum the seat with a soft brush head to get rid of all the surface dirt, dust or any food particles. Be sure to get into all the crevices and corners, and ensure you can clean those awkward places. If you have any dirt or mud stains, wait for them to dry before gently scraping or brushing off. 

2. Next, tackle any stains on the seat with a baking soda solution. Simply make a paste of two to three parts baking soda to one part water and apply to any stained areas with a clean cloth. Then, leave on for a few minutes to allow it to soak in before gently scrubbing off with a soft brush or an old toothbrush. 

Vacuuming car seat

Vacuuming car seat (Image credit: Shutterstock)

3. Then, mix dish soap and water in a spray bottle to make a cleaning solution. Hold the bottle about 8 inches away and spray directly on the stain. Gently brush the fabric with a soft brush before rinsing with warm water and drying with a clean microfibre cloth. Remember to avoid using colored cloths that may stain the fabric. 

4. Alternatively, you can repeat these steps by mixing one cup of white vinegar with two cups of water into a spray bottle to remove dirt or stains. If you want a fresh scent, you can add a few drops of an essential oil.  

Spraying car seat with cleaning solution

Spraying car seat with cleaning solution (Image credit: Shutterstock)

5. If you want to get rid of unpleasant odors, sprinkle a light coat of corn flour or baking soda on the car seat. Leave for about an hour before vacuuming it all up. These will naturally absorb odors and leave your car stink-free.  

6. After cleaning a car seat properly, always allow to dry for at least one hour before setting off on your journey. If possible, keep the doors and windows open in warm weather, but this may take longer to dry during the winter season. 

If all else fails, there are good car upholstery cleaners such as Adam's Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner ($10, Amazon). 

Cleaning a car seat

Cleaning a car seat (Image credit: Shutterstock)

How to condition a leather car seat

Conditioning leather cat seat

Conditioning leather cat seat (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you have leather seats, you need to coat them with a protective conditioner after cleaning. For a homemade solution, mix one part vinegar with two parts linseed oil or flaxseed oil in a spray bottle and apply. Then, leave to sit for around 10 minutes before blotting the surface with a clean microfiber cloth. This will protect the leather car seat from future damage or stains, and should only be conditioned once a quarter. You can also find store-bought products like these Weiman Leather Wipes - 4 Pack ($49, Amazon) or Weiman 3 in 1 Deep Leather Cleaner & Conditioner Cream ($11, Amazon). 

TIP: If the leather car seats have perforations or small tears, use as little liquid as possible.

How often should I clean my car seat?

While frequent cleaning is essential for a grime-free car, it’s recommended you should deep clean your seats once a month. However, this depends on how often you use it and whether you have a lot of school-runs to make.

For more cleaning tips check out how to clean a leather couch and how to remove red wine stains from carpet. Also find out the 10 things you didn't know you could clean with baking soda and also Can I use malt vinegar for cleaning? — here is the best vinegar to clean with

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!