How to Clean Your Seat Covers

Man cleaning car seat.

Spills happen, no matter where you are, especially in your car. When they do, your car seats get messy. Sometimes, the stains are difficult to remove. Cleaning your car seats and their covers is a definite must for any car owner. Cleaning car seats, just like the interior of your house, means that you keep your car interiors sanitised and mess-free.

Cleaning the car seats is necessary for many reasons:

  • You have a more presentable car. Your friends or co-workers may catch a ride with you one day. So, if the seats are filthy, expect them to avoid riding your vehicle altogether.
  • Clean seats smell fresh. You probably spend hours driving every day, which means you inhale that unpleasant stench. You could even get used to the smell, but other people will easily notice it.
  • Dirty seats can mean unhealthy surfaces. University of Nottingham researchers swabbed places in car interiors, including floors, handbrakes, and seats. They discovered a variety of pathogens, including E. coli, yeast, mould, and staphylococcus. All these microorganisms can make you sick.
  • Keeping car seats clean can help retain the vehicle’s value. Since cars are among your largest investments, you want to maintain the interior’s condition, which ensures you get a good offer when you’re ready to sell or trade it.

Let’s not forget that leaving bottles of soft drinks, children’s toys, and other things on your car’s plush seats can damage them. Not only that, it’s distracting to drive when there are bottles or toys rolling around and going under the brake pedal. It can even lead to an accident. Removing them from your car is certainly a good idea. Following it up with a suitable cleaning product will keep the car seats and covers fresh and healthy.

Cleaning car seat cover with vacuum.


Cleaning Different Types of Car Seat Fabrics

Car seats have varying requirements when it comes to the cleaning process and the product to use. It depends on the type of fabric you have. Some seat covers are quite sensitive and easily destroyed if you use a certain cleaning product. Let’s take a look at the suitable cleaning items and methods for each type of car seat fabric:

  • Leather: Find a car seat cleaner that’s specifically designed for leather, or you can use mild soap. Wipe the soap or special leather cleaner using a soft, damp cloth. Work on a small area at a time and then rinse the seat using a clean, wet cloth. Repeat the process until you see all the soap removed. Finally, buff the area using a dry cloth. You can also apply a protectant, which will condition the leather to make stain removal much easier in the future. Please note that you should try to use as little liquid as you can if you see perforations in the leather seats.
  • Vinyl: Vinyl is less tricky compared to leather. You can use an all-purpose cleaner for your vinyl upholstery car seat. Make sure to focus on trouble areas, particularly those with stains. Then, allow the product to dry before using the car seats again.
  • Cloth: If you have a cloth car seat, you can choose an all-purpose cleaner as well. The process is similar to vinyl. If some spots have already settled, you can use a carpet cleaner and a medium-stiff brush. You can apply a bit of pressure if the stains are more severe. Using an absorbent cloth, start blotting to encourage the surface to dry faster.
  • Canvas: You should vacuum the seat covers first, which will eliminate foreign debris. Some dirt may be stubborn, so you can use a soft bristle brush for easier removal. You can then remove the seat covers and use cold running water over the material, which will wash away the dirt. Avoid wetting the underside of the car seat cover. Wipe the surface with a clean towel and let it dry before you put it back on.
  • Mesh: Cleaning mesh covers is easy, but make sure to remove them first. Hand-wash them using a mild laundry detergent. Avoid using your washing machine and ironing the cover, even though it would make your task a lot easier.
  • Neoprene: This fabric is waterproof. It’s similar to wetsuits and comes with special treatments, so they resist ultraviolet damage, spills, mould, and mildew. However, crud can settle in the material, making the cleaning process more challenging than other types of fabric. You will need to remove the seat cover first, use a shampoo designed for neoprene, and a lint-free cloth for scrubbing. Rinse using fresh water, wipe with a towel, and air dry.
  • Suede: The method of cleaning is similar to your pair of suede shoes. Brush the seat covers first using a suede brush, ensuring that you go over the whole surface. You can use a product specifically for suede to remove stains. You may have to repeat the process several times until you get rid of all the blemishes.

By cleaning your car seats and covers, you can ride in clean comfort with minimal effort.

Wiping car seat cover.


What about Kids’ Car Seats?

Before you clean the kids’ car seat, read your owner’s manual first for the complete instructions. It also helps to avoid removing the car seat itself since it’s often difficult to put it back. It helps to take photos, so you know the correct way to reinstall the parts if you decide to remove the seats.

When it comes to the cleaning process, some allow machine washing whilst others accept handwashing only. Refer to the manual to get complete instructions. Use a mild detergent and follow the water temperature guidelines. It may be tempting to use bleach to remove stains and for heavy cleaning, as well, but it could damage the seat cover. Don’t forget the harnesses and straps, which you can clean using the same mild detergent and water temperature. Let the whole seat and cover air-dry, although some allow tumble drying. Again, read the manual to know what you can and cannot do.

View our range of Seat Mate Set Covers here.


Maintenance Tips for Car Seat Covers

Over time, car seat covers will fade, even if you clean them regularly. They will fade faster the more you clean them. However, cleaning and washing the covers should be a part of your car maintenance routine. The good news is that car seats do not need frequent cleaning. Usually, you only have to clean them in case of a spill or the smell causes you to get sick.

You can make the job easier by vacuuming first. Use stain treatments, so you do not have to scrub aggressively, which can do more damage than good. After cleaning, we recommend that you leave the car seats alone for 12 to 24 hours. That way, they get enough time to dry fully.

Seat mate car seat cover.