How to Remove Car Seat Stains

How to Remove Car Seat Stains

They are nasty, they are stubborn and they damage the look of your car – Stains are one of the worst things to happen with any car’s interior upholstery, especially the seats. As a car owner, you may overlook the removal of car seat stains because of your busy schedule. If you are a mom who is enthusiastic about trying new car seat cleaning hacks, you will be seeking some guidance on how to do the job rightly. In any case, car seat stain removal is a complete process which is done only be performing a series of steps in the right order. The good thing is that you can easily learn car seat stain removal with the help of this guide.

Are you ready to learn how to remove car seat stains? Let’s take a look at the whole car seat stain removal process:

Common types of car seat stains

Car seat stains are sorted into different categories depending upon the type of stain, the source of stain and the duration for which the stain has been sticking to the car seat upholstery. The overall car seat stain removal process is based on different factors like the type of cleaning method you choose and the type of upholstery you have on your car seats. As far as the different types of car seat stains is concerned, the types include:

  • Beverage stains
  • Food stains
  • Sauce stains
  • Cigarette stains
  • Cosmetic stains
  • Dust and dirt
  • Pet hair and fluids

Things you need to remove car seat stains

Car seat stain removal is a step-by-step process of applying different products and different techniques to get rid of the stain as well as to impart a uniform finish to the car upholstery. One of the most common methods of cleaning car seat stains is to use a car seat cleaner. Most of the mobile car wash and interior detailers tend to use substandard car stain cleaning equipment and chemicals which include:

  • Spray bottle
  • Good quality car seat cleaner
  • Lukewarm water
  • Hard bristle brush
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Microfiber towel
  • Car vacuum (optional)
  • Sunlight or fan

Steps to Remove Stubborn Car seat stains

Car seat stains are nasty and they can totally damage the look of your car. Apart from damaging your car’s upholstery, the stains tend to affect your car’s resale value negatively. Nasty car seats or not only a turn off for the passengers but also ruin your first impression on different kinds of people. If you are a businessman or a formal dealer of any sorts, it is necessary to keep the interior of your car, especially seats, as clean as possible. The inside of your car should be so clean that once anyone enters your car, he finds it hard to resist maintaining your car’s upkeep.

Coming to our actual point, here are the steps to follow to remove stubborn stains from car seats

Analyze the stains

The first step to do during a car seat stain removal process is to analyze the stain to identify its type and estimate the time duration for which it has been sticking on the car seat. Many car owners bring months’ old car seat stains for removal which is a very hard job to do and may damage your car’s upholstery. Once you have analyzed the stain types and condition, you can easily determine which cleaning products will you use in which series of method to clean the car seat stain in a jiffy.

Spray lukewarm water on stains

Take some lukewarm tap water and fill your spray bottle with this water. Lukewarm water is useful in loosening the bonds between the stains and your car seat’s upholstery. You can spray lukewarm water mist over the affected areas of car seat and let it soak for about 5-10 minutes. You will notice the car seat stains will start to lose their place and it will be best time to scrub a little and see whether the stain is coming off or not. Make sure that you only spray water mist and do not soak the seat in too much water.

Saturate stains with seat cleaner

Once you are sure that your car seat stains have loosened up, it is time to apply the car seat cleaner. In most of the cases, manufacturers recommend to dilute the car seat cleaner to ensure that it does not damage the car seats in higher concentrations. Spray the car cleaning over the car seat stains and soak the stains thoroughly. A great-quality car seat stain removal loosens the remaining bonds between the stain and the car seat’s upholstery.

Scrub gently with brushes

Use a soft and hard bristle brush to scrub the stains. Scrub, scrub and scrub till the stains are out. Use the hard bristle brush to loosen up the stains and remove the stubborn patches. Use the soft bristle brush most of the time and use it to scrub the entire seat. Establish a pattern of scrubbing with the brushes and applying more car cleaner solution on the affected area to get rid of extremely stubborn stains. Make sure that you use gentle strokes to scrub the car seat.

Start from edges

Just like any other car detailing technique, the car seat stain removal process also requires the hit and trial method. When it comes to stain removal from seats, there are no hard and fast rules, just some expert-made recommendations. Once you have saturated the stains, always start scrubbing the seat from the edges of the seat. The corners of the seat are very hard and will resist any damage due to inexperience. Once you are done with the edges, move on to the center of the seat and scrub the stains to clean the seat.

Clean with microfiber towel

The microfiber revolution in car cleaning and detailing welcomes all the car cleaners and auto detailers to use only high-quality microfiber towels. When you have removed the car stains by scrubbing using the brushes, it is time to clean the dirty layer of cleaner and water from the surface of car seat upholstery. Use a clean microfiber towel to clean the seat thoroughly. Always use a single side of towel for cleaning the car seats.

Clean the whole seat

Once you clean the dirty patches present on the car seat, you will notice that the clean patches show slight discoloration from the rest of the car. This discoloration is basically because your car seat’s clean patches do not have dust whereas the other parts of car seat have a lot of dust. In this case, apply a mist of lukewarm water and a car cleaner all over the car seat. Use a microfiber towel to clean the seats and there is no need to scrub the whole seat. This step will help in making the coloration even and impart a cleaner look to your car seats.

Dry the seat

At the end of car seat stain removal, the car seat will be slightly damp due to the application of water and cleaner solution. You can open the window next to the just-cleaned car seat and let the sunlight and air do the job for you. Alternatively, you can setup a portable fan to dry the seat if there is no sun or if you need to sit in the car quickly.

Homemade tips for Cleaning Cloth Seats

Cloth upholstery on seats can be a stain magnet especially if you have kids or just a clumsy attitude. Staining your cloth car seat is okay but what is totally not okay is to let the stains sit for months instead of removing them immediately. You can ditch expensive car interior washing and detailing and do the cleaning job from your home by following some homemade car cloth seat stain removal tips:

Club Soda

Spray a mist of club soda on the stain and use a soft bristle brush to scrub and remove the stain. Use a clean microfiber towel to clean he surface in the end.

Baking Soda

One of the cheapest ways to remove cloth seat car stains is to use baking soda. You can mix ¼ cups of baking soda in a cup of water. Mix the solution and apply a thin layer of solution on the seat using a spray nozzle. Use a soft bristle brush to scrub away the stain. For stubborn stains, let the solution sit on cloth stain for half an hour before scrubbing it again.

Vinegar Mixture

It works equally well for cloth car seats as well as leather car seats. You can mix a few drops of dish soap in vinegar and a gallon of hot water in a bucket. Mix everything and spray the mixture on the stain. Use a soft bristle brush to scrub the seat clean and use clean water soaked microfiber towel to get the mixture off from the seat.

Laundry detergent

It is one of the least recommended methods of cloth seat stain removal. However, you can use it in case of emergencies. Mix some laundry detergent in hot water and spray the mixture on stain. Use a microfiber towel to remove the detergent along with stains from the fabric seat.

Shampoo Seats

Premix a spray bottom with a car seat fabric cleaner and water, spray a good amount on the stained area then lightly scrub with a soft brush.  Use a wet-dry vacuum to help remove dirty excess liquid from the stain.  Repeat the process until the stains are completely removed.

Homemade Tips for Cleaning Leather Seats

Did you finally get those dreamy leather seats in your car? Don’t worry if you have stained the leather seats as there are tons of ways to clean the leather car seats and remove stains easily. Leather seats are expensive and they need more care as compared to the cloth seats. Since only premium quality leather is used in the making of upholstery, you need to be very cautious during the cleaning of seat stains and mess. Here are some of the best ways to clean your leather car seats from stains at home:

Nail Polish Remover/Rubbing Alcohol

 Pick a cotton ball and soak it in nail polish remover/rubbing alcohol and bloat the stain using the wet cotton ball. Rub it gently and the cotton will slowly lift off the stain from the leather seat. Use warm water and mild dish soap to clean any residual alcohol or nail polish remover. Do not let the chemicals sit on the leather seats.

Lemon Juice & Cream of Tartar paste

Mix equal parts of cream of tartar and lemon juice in a bowl and create a thin paste. Apply this paste on the stain and let it sit for half an hour. Use a leather-grade damp sponge to remove the paste and lift off the stain from the leather seat due to the bleaching effect of the paste. Do not use this paste on light-colored seats.


Rub a small amount of vinegar on the leather sits for quick and easy seat stain removal.

Non-Gel Toothpaste

Dap a pea-sized amount of non-gel toothpaste over the stain. Take a clean toothbrush and scrub it gently over the leather stain until it goes away. Use a damp microfiber cloth to clean any residual toothpaste.

Common car seat stain cleaning mistakes to avoid

As someone who is new in the world of interior car detailing, you will probably make a lot of mistakes. However, the important thing to do is to keep a note of your mistakes and avoid repeating them so as to avoid any damages to your car’s interior. When it comes to car seat stain removal, as mentioned, there is no hard and fast method to follow. Just like most of the self-detailers, you will be working on hit and trial basis until you figure out what works the best for your car. Making mistakes is okay but what’s even better is to avoid making the same mistakes other people have made. Here are some common car seat stain cleaning mistakes you need to avoid in the future:

Using Stiff brushes too much

Undoubtedly, the whole process of car seat stain removal suggests the use of hard bristle brushes for scrubbing. However, stiff fiber brushes are pretty harsh on your car seat and may cause damages to the car seat upholstery. Use a stiff brush too much and you will wind up with a worn out car seat upholstery ready to tear at any time. Use soft bristle brushes to clean the car seats as the soft bristles are gentle on the upholstery but outrageous on the stain removal.

Excessive scrubbing

One of the most common mistakes car owners and inexperienced car detailers make is excessive, harsh scrubbing of seats for the sake of stain removal. Remember that once you have saturated the stains with lukewarm water and car cleaner, the stain should come off easily after a few gentle scrubs. Instead of damaging your upholstery with extreme brushing, it is wise to move sideways gently and scrub the car stains.

Soaking seat in excessive water

Another common and unnecessary mistake new car detailers make is that they pour a whole container of water over the seat just to clean it. If you drench your seat with unnecessary water and cleaner, you will end up having wet seats for next 1-2 days even after vacuuming. Apart from long drying periods, the direct pouring of water on the seat will also lead to damaging the durability of material used in the manufacturing of the seats.

Moving from middle to edges

If you are doing car seat stain removal for the first time, you should start cleaning the harder contours and edges of the seat and move on to the middle parts of the seat. If you move from middle to corner, you will not only damage the middle of car seat due to your lack of experience but also lead to poor cleaning action. Always start experimenting from hard contours, learn and move to the delicate central parts of any car seat.

Using sub-standard materials

Saving money is good but saving money by putting your car seat’s life at risk is not at all good. As a car owner or a car detailer, you must use approved and high-quality auto detailing materials. Using sub-standard materials for car seat stain removal will only lead to more damages to the car seats. Do not use chemical detergents to clean the seat’s upholstery or you will end up with extremely harsh textures and loss of shine from car seats.

Not cleaning the entire seat

Once you are done with stain removal, it is not recommended to leave the other parts of the car seat. Small clean patches on my seat look like discoloration of upholstery if you fail to clean the entire seat of the car. Cleaning the entire seat with a cleaner application and microfiber towel will not only even the color of the seat but also add shine to the car seat upholstery.

Leaving stains sit for months

When it comes to car seat stain removal, the quicker is the better. If you leave the stains sitting on your car seat for years, you will find it very hard to get rid of the stains once you take it to an auto detailer. Once a stain appears on your car’s seat, it is best to get it removed within next couple of days. Getting timely stain removal is the key to keep a car that looks fresh out of dealership. When you leave the stains sit in the car seat material for months, they tend to develop strong bonds with the upholstery material and their chemical nature. You must do all you can to take your car for seat stain removal unless you want to sit in a car which has a lot of stubborn, hard-to-get car seat stains.

The Bottom Line

Cars are one of the biggest investments you will ever make in your life. Whether you send most of your time travelling or use your car occasionally, the chances of getting car seat stains are high in both cases. Car owners who have kids find it even harder to prevent car seat stains. However, you can install cup holders and ashtrays to eliminate the chances of spilling on and burning the car seats. Still, if you get stains on your car seat, you can easily get rid of them by spending only a few minutes. Follow the above-mentioned steps to learn how to remove car seat stains.



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