How to Clean Cloth Car Seats in 5 Easy Steps

How to Clean Cloth Car Seats in 5 Easy StepsWe spend countless hours in our cars and trucks so, keeping the interior upholstery clean and fresh is essential to a comfortable ride. But, over the long haul, spills can happen, and dirt piles up. If you are wondering how to clean your cloth car seats best, we've researched all the methods to get the answer for you.

Follow these simple steps to clean your car’s cloth seats:

  1. Vacuum the seats.
  2. Apply a fabric cleaner to the area.
  3. Scrub with soft to medium bristle, interior brush.
  4. Wipe excess suds and dirt from the area with a microfiber towel.
  5. Allow the seats to dry completely.

Now that you know the process let's shake out the details. Keep reading to learn how to complete each step of this upholstery cleaning process. We'll also share with you some of the best products available to keep your car's cloth seats clean and stain-free.

How Do You Get Stains Out of Cloth Car Seats?

With a bit of perseverance, you can remove stains from your car’s cloth upholstery. Start by using fabric cleaning products and following these cleaning techniques. You might need to repeat the cleaning process until the stain is gone.

1. Vacuum

First, vacuum the upholstery. You will want to remove all the loose dirt and debris from the seats. Use your fingers to separate the seams of the seat, and maneuver the vacuum nozzle between stitching, crevices, seat-buckles, and buckle straps. Vacuum the seat-backs and floors to prevent loose dust from falling onto the area that you are cleaning.

2. Apply Fabric Cleaner

Next, apply a fabric cleaner to the stained upholstery. Follow the instructions provided by the cleaner. You will want to avoid saturating the upholstery, to prevent the cleaner from soaking into the seat cushions. Excess fabric cleaner soaking into the seat cushions can be challenging to remove or dry entirely and can result in musty smells or mold.

3. Gently Scrub

Using an interior brush with soft to medium bristles, scrub the area where you applied fabric cleaner. The cleaner might foam or generate suds. Scrub gently because too much pressure can damage the cloth fibers in the upholstery. You might need different sized brushes to reach all the upholstery’s smaller, hard to reach places.

4. Wipe

After scrubbing the upholstery, wipe the area with a soft, clean towel. It is essential to pat or blot the area to carefully wipe up any excess fabric cleaner and dirt. Try not to push the towel or roll the towel against the upholstery, or you will push around the dirt that has just been scrubbed loose. You want to pick up the loose soil, sediment, and cleaner with the towel.

5. Dry & Vacuum

Finally, allow the cleaned upholstery to dry completely. Vacuum the area to suck up any remaining dirt that you might not be able to see. A wet-dry vacuum is an excellent tool to pull any residual fabric cleaner or excess moisture from the upholstery.

What Household Products Can You Use to Clean Cloth Car Seats?

Everyday household products can be used to make a homemade upholstery cleaner:

  • Dish Detergent
  • Laundry Detergent
  • White Vinegar
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Baking Soda
  • Club Soda
  • Corn Starch

Here are three of the best homemade upholstery cleaner recipes that we’ve found. CAUTION: Always test homemade cleaners on a small, hidden area of the upholstery before you apply the cleaner to the entire dirty area. Results may vary due to the concentration of the cleaning agents and the type of fabric.

Dry Cleaner

  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • water (as needed to form a paste)

This homemade cleaner can be used dry, combining baking soda and corn starch, or made into a paste by adding small amounts of water. Sprinkle dry onto the dirty area of upholstery or apply the paste and allow it to dry. Wait for approximately 1/2-hour then, gently brush and wipe or vacuum to finish cleaning.

General Use Cleaner

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon liquid (dish or laundry) detergent
  • 1 cup water OR club soda

Combine ingredients into a spray bottle. Follow the upholstery cleaning process to vacuum, apply the cleaner, scrub, wipe, and dry the area.

Stain Remover

  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 cup vinegar

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Apply the cleaner to the stained area. Gently scrub. Blot using a clean cloth. Repeat as necessary to remove the stain.

If you are pleased with the outcome of using homemade upholstery cleaners on car seats, you will be happy to know that homemade cleaners work just as well on furniture upholstery. Remember to spot test your homemade cleaners before you apply the cleaner to the entire surface.

How Do You Get Water Stains Out of Cloth Car Seats?

If you have ever spilled water on your car’s seats or left a window open during rain, you probably did not expect that you would have to clean the upholstery. But, a water stain can appear after the wet area has dried. How does clean, clear water leave a stain?

Water Leaves Contaminants

Water contains varying amounts of minerals and contaminants that can be left behind from a spill after the water evaporates. You might see a white or rust-colored ring around the edge of the area where the water spilled.

Water Redistributes Dirt

Clean water can lift dirt from beneath the cloth’s surface and redistribute the dirt toward the edges of the spill area. In other words, the spilled water created a clean spot on the cloth, pushing dirt onto the now observable perimeter of the spill.

Blot Water Spills Immediately

If water spills on your upholstery, the best way to prevent these unsightly, residual lines from appearing is to blot the wet area with a clean cloth immediately. Try to pull up as much water from the upholstery as you can, soaking it onto the clean cloth. Then, let the area dry completely. Blotting can remove minerals or sediment from the area while the upholstery is still wet.

Remove Water Stains

Clean a water stain by using the same steps that you would use to clean cloth upholstery. Vacuum the area. Apply a fabric cleaner and scrub the area with a soft to medium bristle, interior brush. Repeat the process until the water stain is no longer visible. Let the upholstery dry completely.

How Do You Clean Between Car Seats?

Cleaning down to the nitty-gritty between your car’s seats and seat tracks can be tricky. These hard to reach areas are ideal hideouts for grimy food debris, hair, and dirt. But, it is possible to clean between car seats if you have the right tools.

Car Vacuums

Car vacuums are versatile car cleaning tools. These vacuums have powerful suction, are compact, and lightweight. Using 12V power means you won’t have to find an extension cord or power outlet to clean your car.

Black and Decker makes a 12V, super flexible car vacuum.

Click here to find this on Amazon.

Stanley makes a three gallon wet/dry vacuum that is ideal for quickly cleaning spills.

Click here to find this on Amazon.


A variety of vacuum extensions help you to reach those difficult nooks and crannies between and beneath the car’s seats:

  • Extension Wand
  • Crevice Nozzle
  • Brush Attachment
  • Upholstery Attachment

Use GIBTOOL’s attachment kit to adapt your vacuum for car cleaning.

Click here to find this on Amazon.

What is the Best Cleaner for Fabric Car Seats?

Several multipurpose and fabric cleaners have been known to provide the best results for cleaning car upholstery. Read the product’s recommended use to determine if it is the right product for your car’s upholstery. You can find these cleaners at most automotive stores, Walmart, and Amazon.

CarGuys Super Cleaner

This multipurpose cleaner brilliantly cleans fabric and can also be used safely on any of your car’s interior surfaces, including vinyl, leather, rubber, and plastic. Keep fabric cleaning simple with this no-rinse, deep cleaning formula.

Click here to find this on Amazon.

Chemical Guys Lightning Fast Stain Extractor

Using a specialized, hyper-concentrated formula, this cleaner eliminates stains from your car’s fabric upholstery. Safe to use on a variety of durable fabrics, including carpets and indoor/outdoor upholstery.

Click here to find this on Amazon.

Turtle Wax Power Out!

This deep cleaning formula has the added bonus of being a powerful odor eliminator. Safe to use on multiple interior surfaces like vinyl, carpeting, and plastic.

Click here to find this on Amazon.

Tuff Stuff Multi-Purpose Foam Cleaner

A versatile cleaner for your car’s interior and exterior features, this foam tackles the toughest jobs on upholstery, vinyl, and carpets. It can also be used on chrome, painted wood, and metal. Try Tuff Stuff inside your home for appliances and bathroom fixtures.

Click here to find this on Amazon.

Black Diamond Carpet Spot Stain Remover

Get a professional strength cleaner that is safe to use around children and pets. This formula will not only clean spills and stains from your upholstery and carpet but will also keep your car smelling fresh.

Click here to find this on Amazon.

Cleaning your car's cloth seats should be fairly routine. As you can see, the process is simple. But, just in case a tough stain appears, you now have all the information you need to extract the stain to keep your car's upholstery looking new.

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One comment

  1. It is very important that vacuuming should be the first step to remove dirt and other debris before moving to the next step. Cleaning your car is a must, especially in this pandemic where we have to be extra careful and avoid the virus. Thank you for sharing this informative article!

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