Leather car seats look and feel fantastic, lending a touch of luxury to your vehicle’s interior. But only if they’re properly maintained! Otherwise, they’re likely to become cracked and stained eyesores, or worse – fodder for a major re-upholstery project.
If you drive a car with leather seats or you’re in the market for one, this is our guide. Read on to learn how to care for leather car seats and keep your ride looking pristine from day one.
The first step in caring for your leather car seats is to remove surface dirt and debris with a vacuum. Otherwise, you risk grinding dirt and debris into the material when you apply cleaning products later on.
Vacuuming can also help reveal stains and imperfections that need further attention.
If possible, use a shop-vac with a hose to get in all your car seats’ cracks and crevices. These hard to reach areas often hold the most grime, and the last thing you want is all that dirt working its way back out onto your clean seats.
Mix Your Cleaning Solution
Next, you’ll want to mix a commercial leather cleaner according to its package directions. Or, if you’d rather make your own, you can mix either liquid dishwashing soap or Castile soap at a ratio of five parts water to one part soap. Look for products with natural and non-toxic ingredients, as these are better for your car, your body, and the planet!
Use a bucket to mix your soap, and avoid applying it directly to your seats. Instead, you should use a clean microfiber cloth to gently clean and wipe your car’s leather surfaces.
Carefully read the ingredients of pre-made cleaning solutions to avoid harsh chemicals like bleach and ammonia, as these can damage your leather. You should also perform a spot test in a hard to see area to ensure that your cleaning product of choice won’t discolor your car’s leather.
Wash and Wipe Dry
Now it’s time to get into your car seat cleaning.
Dampen your microfiber cloth and begin to scrub your seats, taking care not to saturate the leather. A soaking wet surface may take longer to dry, leaving your car smelling damp or even moldy.
Next, you’ll want to gently scrub your seat’s entire surface, taking care to remove any stains or dark spots that you find along the way. These will likely require special attention once you’re done with surface cleaning.
Work in small sections to avoid leaving any areas wet or over-cleaning to the point that you cause discoloration. And, even if you’re removing stuck-on grime, don’t switch to a more abrasive cleaning tool like a scrubber or sponge. Only a microfiber towel is guaranteed to clean your car’s leather without scratching it!
No matter how well you care for a car’s leather interior, there’s always a chance that you’ll wind up with a few mild stains.
You’ll have the best luck removing these if they aren’t allowed to set. But, if it’s too late for that, you’ll want to apply a liberal and sudsy amount of your cleaning solution and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, scrubbing hard in a circular motion without stretching the leather, you’ll want to slowly work them out of your car seat’s material.
You can also purchase commercial stain removers, but be sure to test them in a hard to see area first. These products are more likely than soaps and cleaners to discolor your leather.
Conditioners and treatments
Leather car seat cleaning is most effective if you condition and seal the material afterward. Using a leather conditioning product can protect your seats and keep them looking pristine for longer, preventing dirt and grime from getting ingrained into their surface.
Think of this final cleaning step as similar to applying wax to your car’s exterior. And, just like with cleaning and stain removal products, remember to spot test your conditioner before applying.
You’ll notice all kinds of leather conditioners for sale, from saddle soap to expensive furniture upholstery sealants. Instead, opt for a product specifically designed for vehicle interiors. You’ll likely see better results, and these products are designed to absorb fully, preventing staining to your clothes and seat covers.
Your Car Care Routine
Just like your car’s working parts, including the oil and brake systems, you’ll want to commit to a regular routine when it comes to care for leather. Set time aside once a month for a full cleaning, and be sure not to let spills and other messes sit around for too long.
If your car regularly comes in contact with discoloring solutions like the chemicals used on roads where you’ve been driving in snow or mud from offroad adventures, you might need to perform your cleaning more frequently. It also helps to ask guests not to eat, drink, or smoke inside your vehicle, as all of these activities can lead to staining and discoloration.
When possible, park your car out of the sun to prevent bleaching, cracking, and peeling from overexposure. You should also try to store your vehicle in a clean, dry place to reduce the amount of dirt being tracked in and out each day.
How to Care for Leather Car Seats
Now that you know how to care for leather car seats, it’s time to make some changes to your routine. And, you’ll likely need to go shopping.
Remember, it’s best to follow these instructions as closely as possible and avoid using substitute products or techniques.
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