How To Remove Body Odor From Leather Car Seats

Leather is luxurious and elegant, perfect for a high-end ride. But it isn't particularly simple to take care of. It's absorbent and soaks up smells and stains --and if it gets wet, it only makes those smells penetrate deeper. Luckily, we've checked with leather experts for everything you need to know to take care of your leather car seats! So how do you remove smells like body odor from leather car seats?

You can remove body odor from leather car seats with a few standard methods. Some are ideal for body odor specifically; others are good methods for cleaning leather seats no matter what the problem is.

  • Use silica gel, which absorbs moisture—including sweat.
  • Wipe or spray the seats (lightly) with a cleaner made from vinegar and water.
  • Use a leather cleaner to remove dirt and grime from the seats, and a leather conditioner to preserve the quality and integrity of the seat.

Keep reading and we'll cover exactly how each method works and how to do it. We'll also cover whether leather car seats are real leather or just leather-like. We'll cover why new leather smells so bad, and what you can do about it. Finally, we'll cover what cleaners work for a different kind of smell problem—smoke. Follow along for all the tricks you'll need to have great smelling leather seats!

Car interior luxury brown seat and wood decoration, How To Remove Body Odor From Leather Car Seats

How To Remove Body Odor From Leather Car Seats?

There are two big problems when you're trying to remove body odor from leather car seats. First, leather absorbs smells easily, making it hard to get a bad smell out. Second, leather is tough to clean. You can't get it very wet, you can't be too rough, and you can't use harsh chemicals. 

But there are still a few methods for removing body odor from leather car seats. A few of these suggestions are best for removing body odor, specifically. Later suggestions are still valid cleaning methods, though you may find them useful for any kind of smells that plague your leather interior. 

Silica Gel

These little packets can be placed strategically around the seat to absorb moisture like sweat. When there is nothing left for the bacteria to feed on and grow, odors will go away as well.

Click here to see silica gel on Amazon.

Vinegar And Water Cleaner

Vinegar can also help kill bacteria, the main source of body-odor-related smells. It's highly acidic, though, and may damage your leather. Always spot test in a small, hidden area first. 

Mix a solution that is half vinegar, half water. Use a rag or a spray bottle to apply the cleaner all over the seat. A rag is preferable since you can wipe the seat down and immediately wipe it again with a dry rag. This lessens the chance of water damage or water spots on your sensitive leather seats. 

Use Leather Cleaner and Conditioner

Leather cleaner works to break up grime and dirt on the surface of leather. It's the best way to clean --really clean-- the leather, and as a natural result, also remove any lingering odors. You can learn more about how and why to clean leather seats here: "How to Clean Leather Car Seats? [Step-by-Step Guide]."

Follow up the cleaner with conditioner. This helps replace any moisture removed by the cleaner. It keeps the leather strong and in good shape.

Not only does this help the leather last longer, but it actually prevents odors. The better condition of your leather seats, the less likely they are to absorb and accumulate sweat, bacteria, and other nasty smells. 

Click here to see this Leather Kit on Amazon.

Are Car Leather Seats Real Leather?

White leather car seats. car detailing with clean brown leather seats

Wondering whether your car's leather seats are real or faux leather? To be honest, it could be either. Real leather seats remain popular and are available in a lot of cars. 
However, many car manufacturers have also found ways to make high-quality fake leather or leatherette. This gives the consumer the high-end leather-like seats they desire. At the same time, the seats are actually easier to clean and maintain. Some consumers would argue it's not leather, it's better!
In either case, car manufacturers are required to be honest when representing their products. Look over the information on your car, particularly features listed by the dealer. They can't call it "real leather," for example, unless it is.
Most companies have a fancy-sounding brand name for their fake leather. BMW refers to it as Sensatec. Mercedes Benz calls their pseudo leather MB Tex. At Volkswagen, it's V-Tex

Can You Use Febreze On Leather Car Seats?

The manufacturer for Febreze doesn't recommend using it on leather car seats. The biggest problem is that Febreze can leave water spots --something that's a real issue with leather.

Anecdotally, some people will swear that they use Febreze, and it works just fine. It's likely that these people use it quite sparingly. Again, the biggest obstacle you want to avoid is water spots, so don't soak the material.

Even with faux leather, Febreze isn't the best choice. Some people do spray it without any long-term harm to their seats. But other methods do a much better job at fixing bad odors, like using the above water/vinegar spray instead. 

Why Does New Leather Smell So Bad?

Interior of a luxurious car with leather car seats and gorgeous lining on the dashboard

The tanning and processing of new leather use a lot of chemicals. The International School of Tanning Technology says that as many as 48 different chemicals are commonly used in the processing of leather. As you might imagine, that can lead to some pretty bizarre and strong smells. One of those chemicals is even formaldehyde!

Does Leather Smell Go Away?

Real leather does come with a rather strong odor. Even without heavy chemicals like formaldehyde, brand new leather smells...well, like leather. It does dissipate in time. Try using a fan or another form of ventilation to speed it up.
You can also try using dry newspaper, which will absorb some of the leather smell. Baking soda can help as well. Just set it nearby or dust it lightly over the surface, letting it soak up the odor. Then you can vacuum or sweep it away.

Can You Get Smoke Smell Out Of A Car With Leather Seats?

Smoke is one of those lingering smells that seems like it'll never go away. Months after, you'll still catch a whiff of it here and there. Meanwhile, leather is highly absorbent. This is a tough combination, but don't give up hope.
There are a few methods for removing the smell of smoke from your leather seats. The ideas listed elsewhere to clean leather seats can work on smoke as well. For example, wiping a vinegar and water mix over the seat or sprinkling baking soda over the seats can help. Leather cleaners and conditioners may also be able to remove smoke odors.
There are some methods more specific to smoke, however. These include:

Ozium Smoke & Odors Eliminator

Just put this under your seat for a few days. The gel inside absorbs the smoke smell while releasing an air freshener of its own. Plus you won't have to worry about it damaging or discoloring your leather seats. 

Click here to see this odor absorber on Amazon.

Vinegar and Linseed Oil

Using vinegar and water to clean your leather seats, as described above, can work for smoke odors as well. You can also use one part vinegar mixed with two parts of a quality leather oil. The vinegar can help break down the smoke odor, and the oil covers it up. Note that this isn't a good choice for leatherette or faux leather seats. Vinegar and water is a better option for those. 

Just use a cloth to rub it into the seat. You can gently use a soft brush to rub it in as well. Then use another soft cloth to wipe the seat clean. As always, be sure to spot test first to make sure your cleaner won't discolor your leather seats. 

Click here to see this leather oil on Amazon.

In Closing

Car interior luxury brown seat and wood decoration, How To Remove Body Odor From Leather Car Seats

While leather seats can be a bit sensitive and hard to clean, you can still remove most strong odors with a little extra care. Body odor, smoke, and even just too-new leather smells can be removed by sprinkling baking soda. Let it absorb unwanted smells, then simply vacuum or sweep the baking soda away.

Body odor and smoke odors can also be dealt with by using leather cleaners and then conditioners to remove dirt, grime, and odor-causing bacteria. Another option is to wipe the seats with a vinegar and water mixture.

There are lots of good methods for cleaning leather and removing odors. Just take special care to avoid staining the seats with harsh chemicals, doing spot tests in an inconspicuous place first. Also, watch that you are not oversaturating the material with moisture, which leaves water stains and spots.

If you enjoyed this article, try:

How to Repair Leather Car Seats?

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