Leather seats can add a touch of style and class to the interior of your vehicle, but to keep them in optimum condition, they need a bit more work than regular car seats. And if you’re wondering how to do it, here’s our guide to how to clean leather car seats.
If you want a preview of some of the stuff we’re going to be talking about – and a couple of extra techniques – check out this video before reading on.
How to Clean Leather Car Seats
Step 1. Check for holes
The first step when cleaning your leather car seats is to check there are no holes, scratches, perforations or any other damage that will allow liquid cleaning products to penetrate inside.
If you get cleaning products inside your seats, this can damage them further, so make sure you avoid it. If you find any small holes or other damage, take care when cleaning around them. If any cleaning products do get inside, make sure you dry them out thoroughly with a hairdryer.
Step 2. Vacuum
Once you are sure there are no holes in your seats – or if there are holes, that you know where they are – you need to clean the seats with a vacuum cleaner.
This will allow you to suck up any dirt, grit and other debris from in the cracks and crevices of your seats. You need to do this before you start wiping the seats because if any grit gets onto the cloth when you wipe the seats, it might scratch them.
As you vacuum your seats, also be careful not to scratch them with the vacuum itself. If you have a vacuum with a blowing capability, this might also be useful for blasting grit out of any gaps.
Step 3. Clean mud from the leather first
If your seats have mud on them, for example from a dog’s paws, you need to clean it off before moving on to the next step.
Brush as much off as you can with a soft brush or toothbrush and sweep all the mud away (or you can use the vacuum again).
Use a cloth and a gentle detergent mixed in warm water to wipe the rest of the mud stain away – dip the cloth in the detergent mixture and then wring it out until it is as dry as possible before wiping.
Rinse the cloth and repeat until the mud spot disappears. Let the patch dry completely before moving onto step #4.
Step 4. Clean the surface of the leather
Take a cloth, ideally a microfiber towel, and using a suitable leather cleaning product, wipe the surface of your seats to clean them.
This will remove any grime from the surface of the leather. Depending on how dirty they are – and how often you clean them – the grime on your seats may or not be visible.
If your seats are visibly dirty before you clean them, it’s a sure sign that you should be doing it more often!
For this job, any gentle leather cleaning product should be suitable.
Step 5. Brush the leather clean
Using the same leather cleaning product, spray the cleaner onto the seats and brush them down. Use a soft-bristled brush for this, and don’t spray too much cleaner onto the seats – just enough to help with the brushing. You don’t want to soak them.
Step 6. Wipe down
When you have finished brushing the seats, you need to give them a final wipe-down to remove any remaining dirt. For this, the best thing to use is a microfiber towel, but use a clean one – don’t use the same one you used before to clean the grime from the surface in #4.
Step 7. Condition
To make sure your leather seats retain that professional just-cleaned look, you should also condition them with a special leather conditioning product.
Start by applying a small amount of the product to an area you can’t normally see and rub it in with a microfiber towel. The reason for this is to check if the product will stain your seats.
If all is well, set about working the conditioner evenly into your seats following the instructions on the bottle. The trick is not to use too much, or you will leave your seats greasy and unpleasant to touch.
Once this job is done, leave your car somewhere out of direct sunlight and let the conditioner dry for a few hours – or ideally, overnight.
Step 8. Buff the seats
When the conditioner has dried and has been fully absorbed by the leather in your seats, rub them down one more time with a microfiber towel to buff the leather – and you’re all done.
Which products should you use for cleaning leather car seats
Since leather seats cost more than other types of seats – and can also add value to your car if they are in good condition when you sell it – don’t be cheap when it comes to the products you use to keep them in optimum condition.
In terms of leather cleaning products, a good quality gentle leather cleaner, saddle soap or other leather soap should be fine. Make sure you check your car’s manual to see which products are recommended and if there is anything you need to avoid.
You can also make your own natural cleaner using two parts vinegar and one part linseed oil mixed together.
For the conditioner, use a water-based pH-neutral product that doesn’t contain petroleum distillates, silicone or waxes. The conditioner is designed to replenish the natural oils of the leather to keep it from drying out, so again, choose a quality product.
Microfiber towels are the best option for wiping the seats down, but a sponge can be substituted. Make sure you have several at hand before you start the process.
As we mentioned, a soft-bristled brush or toothbrush is useful if you need to clean mud from your seats. When brushing the seats down, the best type of brush you can use is a horsehair brush – although something similar can be substituted.
Make sure you don’t brush your leather seats with anything that will scratch or otherwise damage them.
Clean regularly for the best results
The best advice is to make a cleaning schedule for your seats and to stick to it – cleaning about once a month is perfect. That way, you will always have clean seats, and it will make the job easier each time you do it.