How to Clean Your Car Seats in 6 Simple Steps

Bonus round: 5 more unexpected ways to clean your car sets.

You know the feeling. You notice a candy wrapper in the driver’s seat door pocket and one thing leads to another. The next thing you know, you’re pulling every last random object out of your car - the pop can, the random sock, even the fast-food straw wrapper that somehow wrapped itself around the seat belt buckle.

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If the slow accumulation of objects in your car hasn’t caused you to break down and clean your car seats, too, maybe it was something even more jarring - like a spilled cup of coffee or the pulverized cereal leftover from your toddler.

In either situation, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got 6 steps to get your car seats back to the destiny they deserve. New car smell sold separately. You’ll be posting pics of your beauty in no time. (By the way, that's not weird to us, it’s actually a sign that you’re crushing life.)

Here are 6 steps to cleaning your car seats with fabric cleaner:

Step One: Remove Everything From Your Car Seats

Like any room in your home, stuff just starts mounting up in your car. In order to get the best clean, you’ll want to remove everything that could either look junky or block your vacuum cleaner, which we’ll be breaking out in the next step. This includes quarters, hairpins, fallen cookies, and if you’ve got ‘em, baby, or toddler seats. This will give you a total blank slate.

Step Two: Vacuum In the Seat Crevices

Time to suck out all those micro-crumbs, loose hairs, and dust particles. Make sure to get into all the small nooks and crannies, for which you can certainly use the hand attachment on your vacuum. Don’t forget to get in between the seatbacks and bottoms. When it comes to vacuuming your seats, use your spare hand to separate the seams in the cloth so that you can use the other hand to press firmly down with the vacuum, sucking up everything you can’t see.

Step Three: Spot Treat Car Seat Stains

Spray a light coating of fabric cleaner on any area that needs extra attention, like coffee splatters, or muddy prints. Be sure to follow the directions on the label, but usually four or five sprays will be enough to saturate the area without overdoing it (too much spray can result in gross, mildewy smells that are even worse than the stain itself). For anything plastic, like the steering wheel, belt buckles, or parts of the dashboard, use a quality multipurpose spray like Mr. Clean Neat Freak.

If you’ve got some really gnarly stains or smells lurking on your fabric upholstery, you can apply some of our carpet cleaning tips and tricks to your vehicle’s interior.

Step Four: Brush and Wipe Down Your Seats

After you spray, use a brush to vigorously loosen the dirty particles in your seats. When you’re done, we recommend a microfiber cloth to wipe away any dirty suds. The soft fibers are more absorbent than regular towels and unlike paper products, they don’t leave behind a trail of lint. Use as many fresh microfiber cloths as it takes so that you’re not reinserting any of the dirt back into the seat.

Step Five: Keep Scrubbing and Spraying!

It may take a few times spraying with a spot treatment, scrubbing with a brush, and wiping dry with your microfiber towels to fully realize the cleaning effect you desire. Be patient and repeat until the stains are gone.

Step Six: Vacuum Those Seats Again

Vacuum any of the affected areas again to suck up any of the remaining, dirty particles. This also helps to dry the sprayed areas, an important step since wet cloth can mildew and cause an unwelcome scent later on.


If you simply don’t have any fabric cleaner at home or you’re just not that into it, there are a variety of ways you can get your car seats back to new with ingredients you have laying around the house.

Method 1: Use A Vinegar Mix on Your Seats

Is there anything a little white distilled vinegar can’t do? Keep a bottle of this stuff around to attack dirty areas everywhere—from your car seats to your shower head. Mix one cup of vinegar with about a gallon of water. Dab the mixture onto the seat and scrub with a brush. Finish by wiping dry with a microfiber towel.

Method 2: Try Laundry Detergent on Car Upholstery

Combine a tablespoon of highly concentrated laundry detergent with hot water in a bowl or spray bottle. Dunk a towel into the mixture and massage the affected area with a sponge. To remove the detergent from the seat, wet a microfiber towel with cold water, massage the area, and routinely squeeze it out.

Method 3: Some Dish Soap to Spot Clean

Add a couple squirts of highly concentrated liquid dish soap like Dawn to a gallon of water. Or you can do about 1 tablespoon of dish soap to 2 cups of water, for a smaller yield. Submerge your sponge into the liquid, wring it out and scrub the dirty area until the stains are gone. To remove the soap from the seat, wet a microfiber towel with cold water and continuously wipe down the area, squeezing out sudsy remnants until they’re gone.

Method 4: Put A Little Baking Soda On The Stain

To combat gross, unwanted smells, try mixing ¼ cup of baking soda with a cup of warm water and use a toothbrush to massage the stain. For tougher stains, leave the mixture on the stain for half an hour and return. Then, blot it dry with a microfiber towel.

Method 5: Club Soda Works For Cocktails And Car Seats

Dealing with a bad stain, like maybe vomit? Our condolences. Spritz the area with some club soda, scrub with a brush and reapply as needed.

Whether you’ve been attacked by a sudden cleaning bug or something more serious has occurred in your car, leading you to spot clean the seats, we hope this article gets you through the madness. When you’re done, the true icing on the cake will be a little spray of Febreze Fabric Auto in your car, which will make it smell even fresher than it started. Happy driving!

Feeling extra? Try cleaning your car windows next. Or finally address that lingering smoke smell that’s been haunting your vehicle from its previous owner.

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