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How to Clean Fabric Car Seats?

7 Proven Methods to Remove Stains from Fabric Car Seats


There are many stains that can get your fabric car seats dirty, such as coffee spilled over, chocolate smudges from a child’s snack, mud from a rainy hike, or the unavoidable accumulation of dust and dander. 

Be Aware of the Types of Fabric Car Seats

Before cleaning your car seats, you need to know what fabric you’re dealing with. Nylon and polyester are common materials used in car upholstery. 

Nylon is durable and resilient, making it a popular choice for car seating; it’s also porous and thus prone to absorbing liquids and stains. Polyester, alternatively, tends to be more water-resistant. Knowing the fabric type is essential because it dictates which cleaning solutions and methods will be most effective. 

For example, polyester might need a milder cleaning agent to avoid damaging its water-resistant coating.

Here some some ways to clean your fabric car seats. 

1. Vacuum the Seats

Whenever you clean your fabric car seats, begin with a thorough vacuuming. This will remove all the loose dirt, dust, and debris, making it easier to see and treat the stains.

Make sure to vacuum getting into the crevices and seams, where crumbs and dirt love to hide. Use a brush attachment if possible, as the bristles can help loosen stubborn particles. 

A strong suction vacuum is best for drawing out deeply embedded crud that could interfere with stain removal processes later on.

2. Club Soda

Ah, the versatility of club soda—it’s not just for sipping! This carbonated wonder can be a first-rate ally in tackling fabric seat stains. 

Club soda is particularly suitable for fresh spills or light stains. Its carbonation helps to lift the stain particles from the fabric fibers, and it’s gentle enough not to damage most materials.

To use club soda, lightly dampen the stained area with it, then brush gently with a soft brush. The trick is to not saturate the fabric; you want just enough moisture to loosen the stain. 

After brushing, blot the area with a clean, dry towel to absorb the stain and soda. Repeat this process until the stain fades. Afterward, let the seat dry before use.

3. Baking Soda

When it comes to removing unpleasant odors and tough stains, baking soda is a highly effective, natural cleaning agent. It’s particularly good for combating strong smells and lifting greasy stains.

Create a paste of water and baking soda—three parts baking soda to one part water should do the trick. Apply this paste directly onto the stain and let it sit for a few minutes (up to 30 minutes for tougher stains). The baking soda will work to break down the acids and absorb any odors.

Once the paste has had time to do its job, use a soft brush in a circular motion to gently scrub the area. Take a wet cloth or a sponge to wipe the paste away; then, with a dry microfiber towel, press down on the damp area to absorb any residual moisture. This process can be repeated for persistent stains.

4. Vinegar

Vinegar is a powerhouse when it comes to stain removal due to its acidity, which can break down the compounds in stains. This method works best for preventing a set-in stain from becoming permanent.

Mix a one-to-one solution of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Lightly spritz the stained area and let it sit for 15 minutes. After the time has elapsed, use a soft brush to gently agitate the area. Blot dry with a cloth or towel. Additionally, for a more refreshing scent and greater cleaning power, a few drops of dish soap or essential oils can be added to the mix.

5. Laundry Detergent

If the stain on your fabric car seat resists other treatments, laundry detergent could be your go-to solution, as it’s designed specifically to deal with a variety of stains on fabrics. Opt for a gentle detergent that won’t bleach or discolor your car seats.

To utilize laundry detergent, mix a small amount with warm water to create a sudsy solution. Dip a microfiber cloth into the mixture, wring it out, and gently scrub the stained area in circular motions. 

This method allows for a controlled and focused cleaning. Rinse the microfiber cloth with clean water, wring again, and wipe away any soap residue. Finish by blotting with a dry towel to absorb the remaining moisture. 

6. Car Seat Cleaning Product

Sometimes, the best solution might be a product specifically designed for cleaning car interiors. Car seat cleaning products are formulated to tackle the unique types of stains found in vehicles without harming the fabric.

Before you use any product, test a small, inconspicuous area to ensure there’s no discoloration or damage. Once you’ve ascertained the cleaner is safe, spray it onto the stain, then use a brush to work it into the fabric gently. 

Follow the instructions on the product label, as some may require a certain amount of time to sit before wiping it off. After brushing, use a clean, damp cloth to remove any remaining cleaner, then blot with a dry towel. Allow the seats to air dry completely—keeping the doors open or windows down can speed up this process.

7. Steam Cleaning

For a deep clean that not only addresses stains but also sanitizes fabric car seats, steam cleaning is an excellent option. Steam cleaners use hot water vapor to penetrate deep into fabric fibers, loosening dirt, grime, and allergens without the need for chemicals.

If you choose to steam clean your car seats, either rent a machine or employ a professional detailer. When using a steamer, follow the instructions carefully. 

Typically, you’ll pass the steamer over the fabric slowly, allowing the steam to do the work without saturating the material. Always complete with a thorough vacuuming once the fabric is dry to remove any dislodged debris.

How Often Should You Clean Cloth Seats?

The answer to this question varies depending on your lifestyle. If you often eat in your car, transport pets, have children, or drive in work clothes that attract dirt, you might need to clean the seats every few months. 

Regular vacuuming can extend the time between deep cleans and should ideally be done weekly to prevent debris from working deeper into the fabric. Spot-cleaning spills the moment they occur can also minimize the need for labor-intensive cleaning later on.


The longer stains sit in your fabric car seats, the harder they are to remove. 

And with the right cleaning method, you can keep your car’s interior looking and smelling great.

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